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Jun 23, 2017
keywords: Ashker Settlement
From Prison Focus Issue 52
We are now in the 20th month of the two year monitoring period of the settlement agreement in the Ashker v. Governor case. That case began as a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging cruel and unusual punishment and due process violations related to the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit (SHU). The settlement expanded the reach of that case, by mandating significant changes in how the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) houses prisoners whom it has deemed to be affiliated with gangs (now termed “Security Threat Groups” or STGs).
Previously, any prisoner who was “gang-validated” (determined by CDCR to be a member or associate of a prison gang) was placed automatically in the SHU for an indeterminate term. This policy has been outlawed under Ashker. Now, gang validation alone is insufficient to place a prisoner in SHU or Administrative Segregation (Ad Seg). To implement this new policy, CDCR has reviewed the cases of all validated SHU prisoners and released almost all of them to some form of general population. Some of these prisoners had spent twenty or more years in SHU, although others had been in SHU for less than a year.
Notably, gang-validated prisoners newly admitted or re-admitted to prison are automatically being placed in Ad Seg in Reception Centers while the IGI (Institutional Gang Investigators) conducts background investigations of the prisoners’ safety.
Under the settlement agreement, CDCR must issue new regulations consistent with the agreement. CDCR has not yet done so. In this manner, CDCR is in violation of the agreement. The monitoring period can be extended if there are current and systemic violations of the constitution or the settlement agreement.
Under pre-existing rules, a gang affiliate can be placed in SHU after a finding of guilt of a SHU-able serious rules violation. Of wide concern is whether CDCR will abuse its disciplinary procedures to throw prisoners back in SHU who have recently been released from SHU. The litigation team is monitoring this issue. Of note is the filing of many conspiracy charges based on confidential informants or notes. Conspiracy does not require the commission of the ultimate crime itself, only an agreement to do so and a single overt act. Therefore, it is an easy charge to allege. CDCR has revised its staff training materials on the use of confidential information and disciplinary proceedings; Ashker counsel has observed some trainings.
Under the settlement, if a prisoner is found guilty of a serious rules violation and the hearing officer finds that there is a nexus (connection) between the violation and an STG, then two years can be added to the base term for the violation. The prisoner would spend those additional years in SHU in a Step Down Program (SDP). CDCR has employed outside consultants to propose revisions to the previous SDP. Those consultants have met with prisoner representatives (the four reps). The consultants’ recommendations are a significant improvement over the previous SDP; however, CDCR has not indicated whether it will adopt them.
The settlement agreement created a new general population housing unit called the Restricted Custody General Population (RCGP), which CDCR located in B Facility at Pelican Bay. Its purpose is to provide more humane housing for prisoners who, in the past, would have been in SHU. To date, its use has primarily been to house prisoners that the Departmental Review Board (DRB) has decided have safety issues, meaning that their safety would be at risk in general population. Many prisoners sent to the RCGP adamantly oppose this placement. These placements are made on the basis of IGI reports which, in turn, are often based on confidential information, and are difficult to challenge. A second serious problem with the RCGP is that, short of debriefing or parole on a determinate prison sentence, prisoners are not getting out of the RCGP unless they are alleged to have committed a serious rules violation, in which case they are moved to Ad Seg or SHU. Finally, the placement of the RCGP in Pelican Bay has negatively impacted most prisoners’ ability to have social visits, given its remote location. Most people in the RCGP would prefer the unit to be moved further south.
The transfer to general population from SHU has generally been positive for most prisoners. Contact visits, phone calls, group yard, jobs and educational programs are enjoyed by those prisoners who have access to them. However, most prisoners were transferred to Level IV prisons, and many prisoners do not have jobs or classes there. These prisoners remain in their cells most of the time, much like SHU. Lockdowns also restrict movement and social contact.
Many longtime SHU prisoners are playing a positive role in general population. Throughout the state, they are exerting a calming influence on prison yards as they advocate for the Agreement to End Hostilities.
With the recent mass exodus of prisoners from SHUs across the state, CDCR has closed the SHUs at Tehachapi (CCI) and New Folsom (CSP-Sacramento). As of the end of March, 2017 (most current numbers available), there were 320 prisoners in Pelican Bay SHU and 116 in Corcoran SHU.
Former SHU prisoners coming up for parole are finding parole commissioners pressuring them to debrief, a pressure the prisoners thought they had left behind when they left SHU. While the settlement agreement represents a move from status-based to behavior-based placements, the parole board has not yet gotten on board with this CDCR reform.
As the plaintiffs stated in 2015 when the settlement was reached, “We recognize that achieving our goal of fundamentally transforming the criminal justice system and stopping the practice of warehousing people in prison will be a protracted struggle.“
Jun 26, 2017
keywords: Prop 57
From Prison Focus Issue 52
Big changes are on the way. Though the slow, grinding process of implementing Proposition 57 is still underway, its main features - affecting the presently incarcerated adult population - are just about to start taking effect. Right now, a new set of “Emergency Rules” are in operation, while we still await the as-yet-unannounced dates for the notice and comment proceedings. The new rates for accumulating “Good Conduct Credits” began on May 1st. Starting July 1, 2017, CDCr intends to begin implementing the revised parole consideration process. Meanwhile, advocacy groups like California Prison Focus, Families to Amend Three Strikes, and other organizations are looking out for your interests and advocating to expand the reach of Prop 57 to more people.
The process to put Prop 57 rules into practice will continue unfolding through the rest of 2017 and contains a number of upcoming deadlines which may or may not change. It’s important to bear in mind this all is still ongoing, so a great deal of uncertainty remains as to what the final changes will look like. As reported in the last issue of Prison Focus, the passage of proposition 57 did not actually change the laws affecting prisoners, but required CDCr to draw up new regulations that would put the changes mandated by Prop 57 into place. Typically with this process, the state agency must announce the changes it wants to make, and then leave open a period where the public gets the chance to comment on the proposed regulations and give feedback. Only once the agency has reviewed and responded to these comments, sometimes making changes in response, do the proposed regulations become law. Here, because CDCr announced the rule changes as “Emergency” changes, they did not open the regulations for public comment. At some point, however, they will do this, and we all will have a chance to state our opinion about the changes they are making. One issue of particular concern to advocacy groups is the inclusion of third-strikers from becoming eligible for the early parole consideration. CPF believes this is overly limiting from the intent of Prop 57 and plans to advocate for that change in the final regulations. When the final proposed regulations are announced, they should be available in every prison library, especially the law library, for review.
Below is a timeline of what’s happened so far, dates you should be on the lookout for, and what’s coming on the horizon. Bear in mind some of these dates are projections and are not set in stone, but may change:
November 8, 2016: Proposition 57 was approved California voters, requiring the CDCR to issue rules regarding new credits and early parole.
March 24, 2017: CDCR issues “Emergency Rules” for new credits and early parole.
April 13, 2017: Emergency Regulations are approved by California’s Office of Administrative Law (OAL) and go into temporary effect for 160 days.
May 1, 2017: Good Conduct Credits go into effect (effective now). These credits are for complying with prison rules and performing duties as assigned. Credit rates should now be accumulating at the following rates for the following categories:
Violent offenders (Lifers, 3 strikes, or indeterminate/determinate sentence): 20%
Non-violent offenders (2 or 3 strikes) & Lifers eligible for 1/3 credits: 33.3%
Non-violent offenders (determinate sentence), & Lifers eligible for day-to-day: 50%
Violent offenders (determinate sentence + fire camp service): 50%
Non-violent offenders (2 strikes or determinate sentence, fire camp service): 66.7%
Non-violent offenders (Minimum A or B custody): 66.7%
One can still lose Good Conduct Credits for violating prison rules and you can still be placed on Zero Credit earning status for violations (including refusing assigned housing twice or to perform an assignment, failing a Work Group C program, committing segregation-eligible disciplinary offenses, or classification under STG-I).
Summer 2017: At some point soon, the CDCR will publish a Public Notice of the proposed final, permanent regulations. A copy of this “Notice of Change to Regulations” will be provided to your prison law libraries, should be made available in SHUs, and will be published online at the CDCR website. There will be a minimum 45-day public comment period, where all members of the public (including prisoners) will be able to submit written comments on the proposed changes. The address for comments will be:
CDCR Regulation and Policy Management Branch
P.O. Box 942883
Sacramento, CA 94283-00001
After the comment period is over, the OAL will review the proposed regulations for compliance with California’s Administrative Procedures Act. If the regulations are approved, then they will be filed with the Secretary of State and become law.
July 1, 2017: Early parole consideration process for nonviolent, determinately-sentenced offenders goes into effect. The CDCR plans to start screening prisoners for eligibility on June 1st, and referring qualifying inmates to the Board of Parole Hearings on this date. As of now, under the Emergency Rules “nonviolent” felony offenses are any crime not listed in Penal Code § 667.5(c) or sex-offender crimes requiring registration under § 290. The “Nonviolent Parole Eligible Date” will be the date of completion of the “full term” (no credits applied) of the “primary offense,” (the crime with the longest sentence without enhancements) less pre-sentence time served credits. Even if your offense is eligible, you may not be considered if:
Your Nonviolent Parole Eligible Date is not at least 180 days before your Earliest Possible Release Date;
You have a current SHU term or assessment of a SHU term for a STG/disciplinary reason within the last 5 years;
You have a Level A-1, A-2 serious rule violation within the last 5 years;
You were placed in Work Group C within the past year;
You have 2+ serious rule violations of any level within the last year;
You have a drug-related rule violation or refusal to provide urine sample within the last year; or
You have a rule violation with a nexus to an STG.
If you are found ineligible based on one of the above, you will be screened again after 1 year.
If you are found eligible and referred to the Board of Parole Hearings, you should be notified that you can submit a written statement. You are strongly encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity, and: (1) focus your statement on why you do not pose a risk of violence to the community if released; (2) encourage members of your support network (family, friends) and potential employers to send letters of support to the BPH. There is no in-person hearing. The BPH officer will decide whether or not you “pose an unreasonable risk of violence to the community” and choose to grant or deny parole on that basis. If granted, you should be released 60 days after the decision. If denied, you can request review within 30 days of the decision through a special review procedure. Another BPH officer will then review the decision within 30 days of the request.
August 1, 2017: Credits for the Milestone Completion (MCC), Rehabilitative Achievement (RAC), and Educational Merit (EMC) programs go into effect. These are as follows:
MCC: Granted upon completing specific education or career training program with attendance and performance requirements. These are increased from the current 6 weeks per year cap to 12 weeks per year. MCCs are revocable for violations.
RAC: Granted for participation in self-help groups or other behavioral programming activities; these can be up to 4 weeks per year. RACs are revocable for violations.
EMC: Granted for successful completion of a GED, high school diploma, college degree or alcohol and drug counselor certification; one-time credits are awarded for each level and will be awarded retroactively to eligible inmates. These credits cannot be revoked.
September 20, 2017: Scheduled end of Emergency Regulations; Deadline for CDCR to complete formal rulemaking process (unless extended 90 days to December 19, 2017).
As you can see, the implementation of Proposition 57 is a lengthy process with multiple steps involved. Remember, this process is ongoing and things can change. Make sure you stay on top of these upcoming dates. Be on the look out for a copy of the Public Notice to come to your prison law library sometime soon. As noted, you are encouraged to submit comments yourself during the public comment period, and CPF welcomes copies of your submissions so we can incorporate your comments into our submission as well. Though it might take some time before the formal rules are fully implemented, make sure you stay involved in the process!
Feb 28, 2017
keywords: slavery, class consciousness, social revolution
From Prison Focus 51
Salutes and Respects to all the members of the society working for a better world.
Seems to me that the prison movement in California for real reform is stagnated. We have become dangerously pacified, comfortable and content. A few trinkets and privileges were thrown our way and we believed that to be victory. However, what about real changes? The California Parole Board (PBH) is still up to its old tricks of denying parole under false pretenses with no hope of a change. Something that we need to realize is that BPH will never really change because, it’s whole existence depends in the perpetual slavery of tens of thousands of society’s most marginalized segments of the population. And that is why it keeps denying parole to thousands of eligible slaves. There are plenty of cases where 70 year old men are denied parole because they represent a danger to society. The irony of the situation doesn’t escape my mind, that these same hypocrites turn a blind eye to the killings of brown and black men at the hands of corrupt police.
As long as we the slaves keep showing up to work, for free or for an extra lunch bag, we will always be doomed and I, as slaves, easily replaced by future lumpen generations. We need to wake up and realize that we are slaves. And second, that we have the keys to our freedom. Without our cooperation to willingly provide free labor, the beast will starve to death. Truly speaking no matter what we did, we don’t deserve a lifetime of slavery, decades of isolation and the occasional execution in the killing fields (At prison yards and the ghettos).
They can twist it any way that they want and sing the same old song, that we are the worst of the worst. But that is the propaganda specifically designed to feed the ignorant masses. At no point in history has this country and racist ruling class had such an obedient, peaceful, ignorant and comfortable slave population; Where they willingly get up every day to work the fields and sweatshops for free, or for a ridiculous $.15 an hour. Where is our pride, honor, power of reasoning and right to live and die as free men.
What are we waiting for; To be 70, 80 or 90 years old? No fascist regime in the world has ever conceded anything without a struggle. When every single slave says in one voice: enough, I won’t work for free anymore. And as our ancestors did, “let the crops wrought on the field.” That will get their attention, and they will come to the negotiating table, because the plantation can’t afford to be in lockdown and lose money.
The USA’s slave has been so much brainwashed and manipulated, that he looks forward to get out of his cage to go to his “work”. And when the master doesn’t open his cages door, the slave gets upset and yells. Because he doesn’t care any longer, his warrior spirit has been broken. And if someone comes along and tells him that it doesn’t have to be this way, and that he can be “free” of perpetual slavery, the slave would consider this to be dangerous thought. And he will be scared to lose his electronics, jobs, visits, commissary and telephone calls. He has become officially and comfortably institutionalized, as a slave.
The slave has been dependent for most of his life, so that sometimes it doesn’t register that he has been treated and spoken to as if you were a child. This is why realhistory books and TV documentaries with some intellectual value our band at all these plantations. This information may give the slave the wrong idea about the quality, freedom and justice. The state can’t afford to educate its enslaved population.
So garbage is played 24/7 on our TV sets and the purchase of tablets with unlimited children’s games is encouraged. Those who tried to wake up the masses are eliminated or isolated. It all depends on the individual’s capacity to lead and inform, about his understanding of the predicament in which we have become entangled. One thing is for sure, he knows that his enemy is not the slave in the cage next door.
Feb 28, 2017
keywords: prison workers' union, prison industrial complex, economic organization, prison jobs, strike, punishment clause, 13th amendment,slavery
From Prison Focus Issue 51
A Treatise To End Mass Incarceration
By Sergio M. Hyland
Editor’s Note: The following is an edited and reduced version of the full article by my comrade and fellow worker, Sergio Muhammad Hyland. Sergio is a die-hard organizer, brilliant writer, and a student of the great Russell Maroon Shoatz (Black Panther, Black Liberation Army Vet and political prisoner). The following is the explosive conclusion of his full piece which analyzed the tactics of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Enjoy!
When it comes to the prison industrial complex, those who control and benefit off of this system are in a definite minority, and are far less in human numbers than those adversely affected by it. The cost of prisons doesn’t merely affect prisoners and their families, but taxpayers as well. Those dynamics make our situation more comparable to that of Gandhi and what was taking place in India.
The best-and only-way to successfully defeat the Prison Industrial Complex, is to suffocate the economic life out of it.
The proper way to view this is to focus on the methods used by anarcho-syndicalists in Europe, who believed that the only way to earn their economic freedom was through their economic organizations (unions).
Prisons function so smoothly largely due to the cooperation of inmates. That cooperation is often incentivized through employment opportunities. The fact of the matter is that prisons cannot function so smoothly-or at all-without the cooperation and cheap-and often free-labor of prisoners.
The vast majority of jobs within prisons are filled by prisoners. Officers are outnumbered by prisoners 50-1 and sometimes more. Ten kitchen staff members supervise up to 300 inmate workers throughout the workday. Maintenance crews have one civilian supervisor for up to ten inmate workers. Prison staff make up to 100 dollars per hour on overtime, while prisoners max-out at 42 cents per hour.
Ultimately, a prisoner's power is in that prisoner’s ability to withhold their cheap/free labor (strikes). If prisoners went on a worker strike-even if only at one institution- that institution would immediately shut down. Cheap or free incarcerated labor would have to be replaced by expensive non-incarcerated labor, at non-incarcerated wages of up to 100 dollars per hour. Prisoner worker strikes would coincide with boycotts of commissary and other commodities which prisoners are forced to pay inflated rates for. Profiting off of prisoners would be in steady decline, while the cost of prisons would continue to rise; causing state budgets to balloon, hurting taxpayers’ pockets, forcing them to demand a change to the status quo.
Currently, one very large obstacle stands in the way of any potential prisoner worker unionization: the “punishment clause” in the 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution allows for legal slavery and forced labor as punishment for conviction of a crime. Therefore, a prisoner is constitutionally obligated to comply with any demand to work, and is in violation if they refuse to work for any reason. And rule violations in prison result in time spent inside of some of the most inhumane and infamous control units the world has ever known.
If prisoners were able to unionize, we would be able to demand and acquire such things as:
-High quality education and programming
-The creation of stronger bonds with family and coommunity,
And much more.
Also, prisoner workers’ unions could link with other high-profile non-incarcerated worker unions to push a political agenda which would include-among other things-giving prisoners the right to vote while incarcerated, sentencing reform, housing legislation, the return of good-time credit, presumptive parole and a slew of other important items which affect the lives of prisoners, their families, and their communities.
This isn’t a new idea. Ireland and other European nations have found success with this formula. But only because those they don't have a “punishment clause” in their constitution!
The key to our victory in this fight hinges upon our ability to apply the pressure needed in order to force Congress to strike this “punishment clause” from the Constitution. If this clause is stricken, a prisoner could then withhold their labor without fear of being thrown into a control unit. We do this by publically putting politicians’ feet to the fire by asking them if they still support slavery in 2016. Fearing alienation, even the most right-leaning conservative would disavow any support for slavery. Once we start the movement by getting the conversation started, we then begin presenting legislation which would strike the clause-much in the way that the movement started to “ban the box!”
Only after we accomplish this first step of striking the clause, can we start with the second step of suffocating the economic life out of the Prison Industrial Complex. And as the anarcho-syndicalists of Europe did earn their economic freedom, we’ll use our economic freedom to earn our literal physical freedom!
Before I close, I’d just like to reemphasize a critical point made by R.M. Shoatz: even in King’s and Gandhi’s “non-violent” revolutions, there were other external movements/ situations taking place. WWII was causing the British to deplete their resources and focus their attention on defending their homeland, leaving the Indian colony as little more than an afterthought. With King and the civil rights movement, there were also violent anti-colonial struggles going on around the world in places such as Vietnam, which forced the United States to get so heavily involved that the civil rights movement basically snuck in through the back door.
Today we see the same things taking place. With wars in lraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and the constant threat of terrorism, attention, resources, and focus are being diverted from the struggle to end mass incarceration. This movement can be a thorn in the side of the institution. The more Amerikan dollars spent on violent external forces, the more likely our non-violent anti-incarceration struggle will find success because prison reform will pale in comparison to the threat of violent external forces.
As with any other revolution, the struggle to end mass incarceration will take time, dedication, and focus. Dedicated activists and revolutionaries must realize that while prisoners will eventually be the main force behind the movement, this force hinges upon our allies on the outside of prison and their effectiveness in forcing Congress to strike the clause. Any movement without this critical element will ultimately fail. The time and conditions are perfect. Eliminating the punishment clause would essentially hamstring the Department of Corrections, taking away their ability to retaliate against prisoners for exercising their constitutional rights.
Currently, hunger strikes are being utilized to bring attention to the plight of prisoners. Also, a number of (attempted) work-stoppages have taken place. However, these efforts have been largely futile. Not tactically, but strategically, because as it stands a stoppage is still a violation of Department of Corrections rules, thus justifying the Department of Corrections’ repressive responses to these strikes. Courageous as they may be, these actions are useless without the right kind of political support-which can only come through striking the clause!
When prisoners are able to legally withhold their labor and create prisoner worker unions, we can then follow in the footsteps of the anarcho-syndicalists to create a perfect storm of organized chaos, inflating the Department of Corrections budget to unsustainable proportions. That, coupled with an economic boycott of services offered to prisoners at grossly inflated rates, would at least threaten to bankrupt the Department of Corrections of its financial and political capital.
Returning to our communities and our families is our priority. Prisoners want to live lives that matter, where we have a voice in the way we are governed. Mass incarceration destroys communities and families, and lays the foundations for following generations to fall victim to the system as well. The real cost of prisons aren’t merely financial. Mass incarceration continues to highlight Amerika’s biggest flaws-its classism, sexism, and racism. It mirrors the biggest crime against humanity: slavery-also perpetrated by Amerika, and justified through interpretation of law and religious texts. We don’t have to quote statistics; we‘ve heard enough of them. The time for talk has ended. A new era of activism has begun, and it‘s like a breath of fresh air. But we cannot be co-opted by allowing a few successes-no matter how significant-to impede our progress or lighten up on the enemy.
While the struggle to end mass incarceration must take place inside of prison walls, the movement of prisoners is contingent upon what takes place on the outside of prison walls, first. The movement to strike the punishment clause must be centered on an effort to change legislation. Some people believe that the courts should provide relief; holding onto the hope that the mere idea of slavery in Amerika in 2016 is so reprehensible that it must be considered unconstitutional. However, in previous attempts to unionize, prisoners have taken this fight to the courts, and lost on each occasion. And every court’s opinion has been rooted in the constitutionality of the punishment clause, upholding it time and again as constitutional. The courts are tasked with interpreting the law, while Congress is responsible for changing the law.
We live in a capitalist society, and in a capitalist society, only economic pressure creates change.
That pressure can be applied violently or non-violently, but due to the general perception of prisons and prisoners, as little more than criminals, any revolutionary action taken by prisoners must be non-violent. Otherwise, we risk turning the masses against us, as this violence would only serve to validate the false reputation given to prisoners, by the benefactors of the Prison Industrial Complex.?
STRIKE THE CLAUSE!
Sergio Hyland #FX 1537
State Correctional Institute Coal Township
1 Kelley Drive
Coal Township, PA 17866
Feb 28, 2017
keywords: solitary confinement, torture, step down program, SHU, Prison Human Rights Movement, retaliation, family
From Prison Focus Issue 49
Published in the San Francisco Bayview on December 29, 2017 http://sfbayview.com/2016/12/sitawa-exiting-solitary-confinement-and-the-games-cdcr-plays/
It is very important that you all clearly understand the depth of human torture to which I was subjected for 30-plus years by CDCr and CCPOA.* The torture was directed at me and similarly situated women and men prisoners held in California’s solitary confinement locations throughout CDCr, with the approval and sanctioning of California governors, CDCr secretaries and directors, attorneys general, along with the California Legislature for the past 40 years.
They have allowed for their own citizens – prisoners – to suffer horrible crimes with their systematic process of physically and mentally killing prisoners for decades, with no regard for human life.
I was placed in solitary confinement – the SHU – on May 15, 1985, on trumped-up, illegal and fabricated state documents by two leading CDCr lieutenants, Criminal Activity Coordinator (CAC) Lt. L.O. Thomas and Lt. Suzan Hubbard of North Block Housing (NBH) at San Quentin State Prison. Yes, these two leading lieutenants removed me from San Quentin general population, not for alleged criminal acts or rule violations, but for the politics of the revolutionary New Afrikan political organization and the beliefs and cultural views of the New Afrikan revolutionary leftist organization titled the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF).
I was targeted by CDCr prison officials at San Quentin during 1983 on up until I was removed from the general population (GP) and housed in San Quentin’s Control Units within their solitary confinement housing building, North Housing Unit (NHU). The sole reason for my housing there was that I was educating all New Afrikan prisoners on San Quentin’s GP about our rich New Afrikan history behind California prison walls and across the United States.
I was teaching them that we as a people shall not be forced to deny ourselves the rights in the U.S. Constitution and the California Constitution. Yes, I personally believe that every New Afrikan woman and man has the right to protest any CDCr Jim Crow or Black Code-type rules or laws which violate our human rights as a person or prisoner.
And so I was educating my people to our civil rights and human rights in the California prison system during the 1980s while I was within the GP. I continued to educate my people, the New Afrikan nation, when I was placed in solitary confinement from 1983 to Oct. 11, 2015. It was a tragedy for three decades – yes, 30-plus years I was forced to suffer all forms of torture and witness killings of human life at the hands of CDCr officials and staff for decades, aided and abetted by governors, stakeholders, the Legislature, CDCr directors and secretaries etc.
The New Afrikan Prisoner Government (NAPG) has suffered and endured the violent attacks upon our prisoner community for decades on all levels and functions at the hands of CDCr employees. We have a U.S. constitutional right to resist any form of torture, repression and violations of both our human and civil rights.
I was placed in the SHU, not for alleged criminal acts or rule violations, but for the politics of the revolutionary New Afrikan political organization and the beliefs and cultural views of the New Afrikan revolutionary leftist organization titled the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF).
I shall not be found among the broken men and women! I shall live and die a warrior for our New Afrikan Nation and humanity!
After being transferred from CDCr’s solitary confinement at the Pelican Bay SHU to its Tehachipi SHU during the period of July 10-17, 2014, including a layover in the hellish Ad Seg (Administrative Segregation) unit at Deuel Vocational Institution (DVI), it would not take long before the CDCr officials at CCI (Tehachapi) would show their collective scheme to have me assassinated as the New Afrikan principal negotiator plaintiff in the Ashker v. Brown class action lawsuit.
During our peaceful protest by the solitary confinement prisoner class (SCPC) against Steps 3 and 4 of the CDCr-CCI Step Down Program (SDP), we collectively stopped participating in the dysfunctional SDP at CCI-Tehachipi Prison on May 11, 2015. This was because the SDP has been violating our SCPC liberty interest arising from the Due Process Clause itself, and CDCr had to stop its SDP from imposing stigmatizing classifications and concomitant behavior modification. I realize now that the SDP between 2012 and 2015 violated our constitutional rights, and it still does.
In an obviously sinister campaign to undermine the collective solidarity of our historic Agreement to End Hostilities, these officials tried to manipulate the other racial groups supporting the AEH to turn against me.
First, SHU Counselor Vanessa Ybarra went to one of our 16 Prisoner Human Rights Movement representatives, Gabriel Huerta, and tried to get him and other reps to turn against me, asking Huerta, “Why do you all let that Black inmate speak for you all during this boycott of the Step Down Program? My supervisors want to know.” Correctional Counselor II B. Snider, Capt. P. Matzen, Associate Warden J. Gutierrez, Chief Deputy Warden W. Sullivan, Chief Deputy Warden Grove and Warden Kim Holland are the supervisors she was referring to.
However, things did not go as planned because Brother Gabriel saw right through what this counselor and her supervisors were trying to do in creating a hostile, antagonistic atmosphere and consensus against me by my peers. First, Gabriel asked the counselor, “Who are you talking about?” Then the counselor replied, “Dewberry.” Dewberry is my given last name.
And Gabriel told that counselor, “Dewberry is one of the four principal negotiators who represent the Prisoner Human Rights Movement’s prisoner SHU class. And he is one of the main plaintiffs in the Ashker v. Brown class action lawsuit against CDCr, and he has been speaking on behalf of prisoners from 2010 to right now and he speaks for our best interests as our principal prisoner negotiator!” The counselor turned around and walked out of the sallyport area.
In an obviously sinister campaign to undermine the collective solidarity of our historic Agreement to End Hostilities, these officials tried to manipulate the other racial groups supporting the AEH to turn against me.
Next, the second attempt was by another SHU counselor from 4B building named Vaca, who approached the PHRM representative and other prisoners, then said, “You prisoners should go back to participating in the Step Down Program or all of you who are boycotting the SDP will not be released to the general population this year (2015) or next year (2016), all because you are listening to that Black prisoner.”
When Gabriel Huerta asked Vaca, “What Black prisoner are you referring to?” the counselor responded, “I’m talking about Dewberry. By the way, Huerta, since when do you Mexicans follow what this Black prisoner says?” The Rep refused to play into that old CDCr manipulation game and terminated the conversation by telling the counselor, “You can take me back to my cell,” and left.
So neither of the attempts worked, because Brother Gabriel recognized what time it was. He summed it up in these words: “CDCr had been manipulating and playing us against each other in the past. They can’t do that any longer.”
This life-threatening CDCr campaign leading up to my release out of SHU in October 2015 would be followed by the unprofessional, illegal attitudes and actions by CDCr employees awaiting me as I entered the general population. It was necessary to understand their motives in their dealings with and around me.
Upon my preparing to allegedly be released to general population, I was notified on Aug. 11, 2015, that I would be attending my first Institutional Classification Committee (ICC) hearing in over 30 years which had any meaning. Let’s put this “ICC” into perspective as to why these ICC hearings now have merit for the solitary confinement prisoner class (SCPC).
We the SCPC had to take our struggle to the streets of this world by participating in three non-violent peaceful protests. In the first, commencing July 1, 2011, a total of 6,600 woman and men participated. And when CDCr failed to honor the agreements made to end it, we the SCPC were compelled to enter our second non-violent peaceful protest on Sept. 26, 2011, in which a total of 12,600 men and women participated across this state.
CDCr begged for us to discontinue our protest and allow for them to make the necessary interdepartmental major changes which would release the longest held SCPC first. The four principal negotiators – Brutha Sitawa, Arturo Castellanos, Todd Ashker and George Franco – along with our 16 Prisoner Human Rights Movement (PHRM) representatives decided to suspend our protest in mid-October 2011 and allow for CDCr to show their good faith efforts to reform their illegal solitary confinement policies, laws and rules and place all 10,000 SCPC women and men onto a fully functional general population by Feb. 1, 2013.
We vowed to resume our protest to death or until CDCr negotiates with us in a real way. Yes, on Feb. 1, 2013, the four principal negotiators announced to our tormentors – CDCr, the governor, the Legislature, the attorney general and stakeholders – that we would resume our protest on July 8, 2013, being that CDCr wants to wage their war of attrition against me and similarly situated SCPC.
We the SCPC had to take our struggle to the streets of this world by participating in three non-violent peaceful protests.
On July 8, 2013, we entered into the largest hunger strike in prison history. Some 30,000 prisoners participated and our just cause forced Gov. Brown, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, all CDCr secretaries between 2010 and 2016 and their stakeholders, who all had the current data, to recognize the torturous conditions we SCPC had to endure for decades. I was one of thousands held at Pelican Bay, and I don’t want another woman, man or child to be forced to suffer what I went through. We SCPC observed and suffered the cruel and devastating harm caused by CDCr.
On Aug. 11, 2015, I was approached by Building 8 Correctional Counselor I Vaca at approximately 8:25 a.m. at my cell door for the sole purpose of preparing my central files for possible release to a general population. Vaca informed me that I am the first solitary confinement prisoner class member whose case files he is currently reviewing and that I am scheduled to appear before a full ICC on Aug. 19, 2015.
Now, within a two-hour time period, this same counselor, Vaca, appeared at my cell door with a sinister smirk on his face suggesting that I could now appear before this ICC hearing “tomorrow,” Aug. 12, 2015.
Counselor Vaca was too enthusiastic for me to attend the earlier hearing, so I told Vaca, “I’ll stick to the original schedule date of Aug. 19, 2015,” instead of his suggested new schedule. This counselor was upset at me for sticking with the original ICC hearing date, which was very strange to me and it warranted me to reflect upon his previous misconduct of trying to manipulate and influence other California racial groups – Southern Mexican, White and Northern Mexican – to breach our Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH).
I was one of thousands held at Pelican Bay, and I don’t want another woman, man or child to be forced to suffer what I went through. We SCPC observed and suffered the cruel and devastating harm caused by CDCr.
Vaca had personally tried to have a leading prisoner of each racial group to silence – assassinate – my voice of prisoner activism directed at CDCr and CCI (Tehachapi) officials. These veteran prisoners did not fall for Vaca’s tactics of divide and conquer; they stayed true to our Agreement to End Hostilities.
Now, on Aug. 12, 2015, Hugo Pinell was set up by CDCr officials at New Folsom Prison and killed [by white prisoners]. CDCr delayed my scheduled hearing for over a month and during said time period, three special agents came to interview me about the murder of Mr. Pinell. These three special agents pulled me out of my Tehachapi Prison cage for an interview on Aug. 14, 2016, two days after the murder of Mr. Pinell.
These agents were dispatched by CDCr Secretary Jeffrey Beard and then Undersecretary Scott Kernan [now Secretary Kernan] to come and interview me and two other New Afrikan prisoners and others. The concern that was expressed to me was, how do I feel about the death of Mr. Pinell and would there be an all-out war between the two racial groups?
These are my thoughts in relation to Mr. Pinell’s assassination and my release to a general population: I had expressed to these three special agents, first and foremost, “Why did you all travel from another part of California to speak with me about a death that I have no facts on other than listening to the radio?” I told said agents, “I shall be engaging myself in pushing the Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH). Mr. Pinell would not want for us to enter into a war conflict, especially after we signed the AEH back on Aug. 12, 2012.
“And we, the PHRM, must see that our historical document, the Agreement to End Hostilities, remains firm to our cause and objectives, which are to radically change CDCr’s behavior directed at the Solitary Confinement Prisoner Class, and those of us who have been released to the general population are responsible for enforcing our AEH here behind the walls of California prisons and jails and to curb all community violence across this state outside of prison."
“You agents wasted a trip to come and speak with me. So, when you go back to report on my pro-AEH comments concerning Mr. Pinell’s murder, let your superiors – that is, Gov. Brown, CDCr Secretary Beard, Undersecretary Kernan and the chief of the Office of Correctional Safety (OCS) – know I shall request that you, CDCr, allow for us to be released to the general population forthwith. For we have been held illegally for the past one to 40 years.”
These three special agents never did answer my question as to why did they travel from the state capital to the mountain of Tehachapi Prison to speak with me prior to my being released to the general population. It became a concern to me, because I know that CDCr did not condone our AEH historical collective solidarity document and its objectives. This raised some serious questions in my mind as to why these government officials would direct these agents to interview me. A question they refused to answer.
As you all can imagine, I was suspicious at best about whether I could expect any good faith from CDCr supervisors, officials or staffers upon my release from Tehachapi Prison solitary confinement housing, heading toward Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP).
On Oct. 13, 2015, I arrived at SVSP receiving and release (R&R), and upon my exiting the CDCr transportation bus and entering the R&R, I was met by three Institution Gang Investigators (IGI), the welcoming crew awaiting me. I was then escorted into a property storage room where it was only the four of us.
Now, these three IGI officers wanted to know my state of mind as it related to the assassination of Mr. Hugo “Yogi” Pinell. I simply informed them that I will be pushing the AEH when I’m allowed to be released to the yard with all racial groups and especially with all of my New Afrikan Prisoner Government (NAPG) and explain to all people the importance of the AEH and that I personally signed off on that historical document. Yes, the IGI made their usual threats.
Now, within the next 10 days, I was allowed to attend the exercising yard, where all of the Afrikan tribes embraced me as their own Big Brutha! As in all situations, I went into my political prisoner activism mode in changing this modified general population prison into an actual functional general population.
There is minimal change. The CCPOA (prison guards) have been doing everything in their power to stop, delay or hinder and obstruct prisoners from being afforded work assignments and real educational opportunity. We are denied full exercising yard hours, vocational trades, the same dayroom time as other 180-design prisoners.
Correctional officers and sergeants continue verbal harassment with their Green Wall attitudes. It is clear that the above-mentioned CDCr employees have an ingrained dislike for all prisoners who are being released from California solitary confinement (SHU) chambers to CDCr modified general populations.
There is minimal change. The CCPOA (prison guards) have been doing everything in their power to stop, delay or hinder and obstruct prisoners from being afforded work assignments and real educational opportunity.
Now, just consider having to be faced with the above matters being denied to me and similarly situated prisoners, while preparing to have my first contact visit with my family in 30 years. Yes, I was compelled to close the lid on the jar and withhold all of this corruption and wrongdoing from my family.
Upon my first visit to see my Queen, my sister, Marie A. Levin, and her husband, Randy Levin, my sister Marie left home in such a rush to come see me that she left her California ID at home, and I was unable to see her that Saturday, but I did have the opportunity to have a conversation with my brother-in-law. It was a great time for the two of us. Now, the following day, Sunday, I was able to see Marie and Randy together, without that thick shield of plexiglas between us.
Now, for the first time in my imprisonment, I was somewhat shaken to the inner core of this New Afrikan revolutionary nationalist man by a simple hug from my younger sister, Queen Marie, during our October 2015 visit. A hug should be a natural form of affection between a brother and sister. However, while my sister was squeezing me so tightly, all I could think about during those moments was of the family members who died, and I will never be able to hug or speak with them again.
They include 1) Stella, my cousin, who died in 1989; 2) Leon, my big brother, who died in 1991; 3) Steven, my nephew, 1994; 4) Morris, my uncle, 1994; 5) Tanner Birk, my uncle, 1995; 6) Tutter, my aunt, 1995; 7) Lonnie, my uncle, 1995; 8) Hillard Jr., my uncle, 1997; 9) Ardis, my cousin, 1997; 10) Ardis Sr., my uncle, 2002; 11) Bobbie Dean, my cousin, 2004; 12) Clifton, my uncle, 2009; 13) James “Ba-ba,” my cousin, 2009; 14) Carol, my big sister, 2010; 15) Nathan, my cousin, 2010; and 16) Queen Mama, lost April 28, 2014.
Each one of them was denied the right and opportunity to physically touch me for over 30 years illegally, due to my political and cultural beliefs – three decades for a “thought crime,” which did not exist. Yet, my family members who have died never having had the opportunity to sit and touch me for decades, because CDC and CDCr chose to make attempts at destroying me physically and psychologically for no other purpose than to break my mind and spirit and those of similarly situated prisoners held within CDCr’s solitary confinement – Ad Seg, SHU etc.!
This is just a window into what we prisoners had to suffer for decades by order of our tormentors – CDCr – and it continues to this day within the realm of CDCr modified general population. Our struggle for justice, equality and human rights continues.
We need the support of all people in California and the world to stop the injustice we suffer at the hands of CDCr officials and especially by the CCPOA and their ilk.
I would be extremely irresponsible if I didn’t seek the support of my New Afrikan people – for example, Marie “FREE” Wright, Erykah Badu, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, Kerry Washington, Taraji P. Hansen, John Legend, Beyonce Knowles Carter, Dominique DiPrima, Shauntae “DaBrat” Harris, Azadeh Zohrabi, Common, Gabrielle Union, Chrissy Teigen, Alicia Keyes, Lupita Nyong’o, Sanaa Hamri, Kellita Smith, Snoop Dogg, Serena Williams, Jamie Foxx, Janelle Nonee’, Sanaa Lathan, Dana “Queen Latifa” Owens, Keisha Cole, Danny Glover, Yolanda “YoYo” Whitaker, Maya Harrison, Whoopi Goldberg, Harry Belafonte, Tatyana Ali, Tyress Gibson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Oprah Winfrey, Angela Bassett, Bryan “Baby” Williams, Shaun “Jay Z” Carter, and all sista and brutha entertainers across Oakland, the Bay Area and the country.
Yes, our New Afrikan Lives Matter here behind the enemy lines of California’s unjust prison system. On behalf of our New Afrikan prisoner community, I pray that you will show your support for our freedom campaigns and whatever you all can donate shall be greatly appreciated. Please send your donations to FREEDOM OUTREACH, P.O. Box 7359, Oakland, CA 94601-3023.
Note for those less familiar…
*CDCr stands for the California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation – the last word uncapitalized by many prisoners to signify how little rehab exists. CCPOA – California Correctional Peace Officers Association – is the guards’ union, which exerts great influence within CDCr and on state policy and legislation.