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Feb 14, 2018
keywords: sleep deprivation, PHSS
Posted 2/14/18 at https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com
REPORTBACK from Feb 8th Rally, Press Conference, and Court: Judge Challenges CDCR’s Use of Solitary Confinement and Sleep Deprivation
Two lawsuits against CDCR for depriving prisoners of sleep are transferred to Coleman v Brown judge
On Feb 8, 2018, Northern District Judge Vince Chhabria held a hearing on a motion by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to dismiss a civil rights lawsuits brought by two prisoners, Christopher Lipsey and Maher Suarez, who are suing CDCR for violation of their 8th amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment. Specifically, they have brought their lawsuits to put an end to the sleep deprivation of prisoners caused by “security/welfare checks.” Prison guards conduct these checks in solitary confinement units throughout the state every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day. Prisoners report that the checks are loud, disruptive, and abusive.
Judge Chhabria was critical of CDCR and began Thursday’s hearing by saying he thought California was getting rid of solitary confinement. He then questioned why the plaintiffs are being held in isolation. Judge Chhabria showed no indication that he would dismiss the cases or that he thought dismissal was appropriate. He also asked CDCR attorneys if it seems to them to be a “very serious problem” for people in solitary, already under extreme psychological stress and some with mental illness, to be woken up every half hour at night.
Because the “security/welfare checks” result from a stipulated order in Coleman v Governor of California - a case in the Eastern District Courts - on Friday, February 9th, Judge Chhabria, as he indicated he would do at Thursday’s hearing, transferred the cases to be heard by Judge Mueller. Judge Mueller oversees the Coleman consent decree, which mandates adequate mental healthcare for prisoners.
This makes three civil rights cases brought by prisoners regarding harm from the “security/welfare checks” that have been transferred to the Eastern District. On Thursday, Judge Chhabria questioned the state’s contradictory positions in those cases; in some motions, the state claims the “checks” cannot be challenged by prisoners because they were decided on in Coleman, and other times the state argues that the cases should not be decided by the Coleman Judge. Attorneys from McKool Smith Hennigan, representing Lipsey and Suarez, wrote “Inmate Plaintiffs are harmed by Defendants’ inconsistency, because it allows Defendants to claim that no judge is ever the right judge to hear these cases.”
Around forty community members and advocates with the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) held a press conference and rally on February 8 in front of the Federal Building in support of the prisoners’ cases. One person suffering from the checks said in a letter to a Coleman official: “I ask you to listen to the voices of us prisoners and call for the immediate cessation of these “welfare/security” checks that don’t check on anything, but which make our lives a living hell.”
Help end the sleep deprivation by joining the prisoners’ call to end the checks.
PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation, P.O. Box 5692, Eureka, CA 95502
Quote from the Opposition to CDCr's Motion to Dismiss, by lawyers for Lipsey and Suarez: "Coleman is now a case driven by lawyers without clients. The Coleman plaintiffs have acceded to—indeed, advocated for—the Guard One system on the grounds that it protects inmates in solitary confinement even as half a dozen of those very inmates have filed lawsuits against it. Lawyers must operate in concert with real people who are affected by the injunctions they seek. ... the Coleman Order [was] agreed to by plaintiffs’ counsel without consulting any inmate who would actually be subject to Guard One...”●
Apr 30, 2018
keywords: prisoner letter, sleep deprivation
Dear CPF Volunteers,
…I have suffered and continue to get tortured by these people who know about this problem, but choose to ignore it, and even go as far to say there is no problem. I want these checks to be seen for what they are: “a human produced torture device”.
I’m sorry I sound angry, but angry I am. I don’t apologize for that. I have a reason to be angry… A judge, a group of attorneys, a special master, a suicide expert, the CDC people (educated people right?) and this ‘guard one’, metal striking metal is what they come up to prevent suicides? It is shameful. A three-year old kid would have understood this problem in a matter of hours. Why do all these people not? Why does the Coleman Team stay on the sidelines watching this continue?
I often ask myself ‘If the court and the Coleman people don’t trust CDC-C/Os to do the checks without getting recorded, why, then, did they trust them with a system that can be abused?’ The C/O has to touch his metal-rod to metal to record the check, “what safeguard is there against a C/O not “striking the metal”? None. And strike the metal is what they do again and again, non-stop, every day. Who in their right mind can say that this will not be bothersome and irritating to hear for a day or two? Who in their right mind can say this won’t become an issue after three months? Or who can say that this isn’t cruel to do to someone for a year? No one who is right in their head. You must be cruel, it would be a false statement to say this isn’t wrong!
Right here in Pelican Bay SHU the blocks are made up of six pods. Every pod has 4 cells on the bottom tier and four on top. It also has metal stairs to connect the tiers. To enter each pod the control officer has to open a big, loud, metal door that slams against metal when it finally opens all the way, and when it shuts down. The pod doors close as soon as the officer goes out of the pod.
This is what I hear every check: the pod doors opening and closing loudly in the four pods before mine. Then I hear this pod door opening mechanically loud and then slamming against metal. The C/O comes in jingling keys every step.
I hear four metal strikes from the C/O on the bottom cell. C/O tries to or runs up the metal stairs. Boots stomping. Four metal strikes. Including on my cell.
C/O runs back down stomping on the stairs.
I hear the pod door slamming shut against a metal bar.
I hear next-door pod door slamming against metal.
The check is done, and it takes about ten to fifteen minutes to complete, so that means that the noise starts in fifteen to twenty minutes again.
For CDC to say that this is not a problem is absolutely mind-blowing for me. I’ve been under these checks from 8-2015 to 8-2016 and from 7-2017 to now, here in the SHU.
To tell you how much they have affected me would be impossible for they have affected me in every aspect of my life. I’m not even able to think clearly. I have and live in a lot of anger over this, for how is it possible for CDC to say they are helping me while damaging me? I’m full of frustration because I cannot stop the C/Os from doing this to me, nor can I stop myself from being affected by this. My desperation grows because I know next noisy check is coming no matter what, and then again and again.
I have lived under non-stop stress and anxiety for the time mentioned above in a single cell that has no window.
The checks have messed up my psychology and have disrupted my sleeping habits. In my head, I have come to associate any and all noises related to the checks with pain. When I know they are coming to do checks, I cringe and my body automatically goes into panic mode: heartbeat rises, chest pressure comes, I feel nervous, mad and angry. Every check. In the night, I cannot lay down comfortably because I know checks will come. Before I am asleep. When I am dozing off, I get woken up and sometimes it takes me hours to finally fall asleep.
It is rare when I sleep for more than five hours. Many nights I wake up with my heart thumping fast thinking the checks are coming.. Many nights, I sleep about two to three hours only. This is not good. Lack of sleep gives me headaches, chest pains, muscle pain, and I lose pleasure of life. Everything seems gloomy and sad.
The thing about the checks is this: if I sleep little one night, well that is a bad night. But the day becomes horrible because what kept me up continues during the day. And that’s how it continues on, day after day. We get no time to relax, to think clearly, to keep ourselves healthy. I personally feel tired all the time. It seems, actually, I’m not getting enough sleep to keep my mind alert, nor to concentrate on anything for long.
You know, keeping our mind occupied in the limited activities we can engage in while in isolation is absolutely super important for our mental health. These activities are reading and writing as well as doing self-studying/educating. But how can I do that when I’m dealing with headaches, fatigue, and the constant disturbance of the checks? I simply cannot.
In my bad nights and days, it is horrible getting through it. In my good days, I can only spend that time gathering my thoughts and myself from what is happening here.
I’ve spoken to many C/Os regarding this issue and they agree that the checks should stop. The Pelican Bay administration and CDC while not admitting that the checks area problem, have stated that they are mandated by the court. So, in a way they are saying that they are not at fault here.
I disagree 100%. CDC employs doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and many other personnel that a long time ago could have helped them identify the checks as a harmful problem, yet they feel fine with their continuance. CDC received hundreds of inmate complaints, many letters from outside organizations telling them the ill effects of checks, yet they did nothing. CDC has ‘never’ approached the court to inform them of our concerns. So why are they not responsible for this unlawful action of theirs? To me they are responsible 100%.
I have learned that when a human being hurts another one without reason, he is liable for a criminal prosecution. I believe that the CDC is clearly engaging in a criminal act in this instance, while telling the public that they are doing this for our safety.
… I tell myself, I have got to continue on fighting this issue. I have to push for what is fair and right. And at the same time I have got to be a person who is fair and righteous no matter where I am at. At least I should always try. ●
Mar 18, 2018
keywords: sleep deprivation, prisoner letter
I have been in C.T.F. Ad Seg for a year and a month. Since arriving, I have been subjected to maliciously excessive noise during night time hours (First Watch), a direct result of “Guard One System.” The wand/pipe used to scan barcodes is metal and is hit against a metal wall-mounted reader. The reader is placed on the wall between the open front cells that consist of metal bars covered with mesh which provides no barrier from the noise. This noise is excessively loud, keys bouncing off the c/o’s leg as he/she walks heavily footed, hitting the wand on every reader while intentionally directing their high-powered LED flashlights at our heads and in our faces goes beyond the mere inconvenience. Because of this torture, I get 4 ½, maybe 5 hours sleep every night. I go to sleep at 8-8:30 pm only to be woken at 10:14 pm, then again at 10:45 pm and again at 12:20 am, to finally give up on sleep at 2 am and begin my long day. I am completely deprived of my sleep and am left fatigued all day with little to no motivation, making me angry and anxious. I’ve had an increase in weight, and I don’t even go to canteen. My anger and anxiety have made me become unsociable with everyone around me and I still have about 10 ½ months of this shit. When I confront the c/os, I am met with stupid responses such as, “I’m not your reg,” “It’s metal on metal, what do you expect me to do? I’m just doing my job,” and, “It’s prison, get over it… remember where you’re at.”
This behavior of ignorance and discrimination is a common-place excuse for this ongoing behavior among c/os in CDCR. It is not only unethical, but extremely harmful. I previously was in PBSP SHU for 10 months in 2016 and 8-9 months in Tehachapi; SHU on 4B prior to that. In PBSP, the Guard One system was in place. I experienced the same behavior from the c/os, the pod door slamming open and closed, running up and down the stairs with keys bouncing off the side of the c/os leg, the wand hitting the reader and the damn high-powered LED flashlights being shined as bright as day in my face. When I was released from the SHU, I was angry and not very sociable with anyone. I found that loud noises not only put me on edge, but triggered me, which caused issues with my celly. I was only out of the SHU for 2 months. PBSP SHU angered me. C.T.F. Ad Seg is exhausting mentally and physically with walks going from every 30 to 15 minutes. It is a well-established fact that sleep deprivation is an effective tool of torture. Respectfully Submitted.
Dec 01, 2017
keywords: SHU, Ashker Settlement, RCGP, SNY, SDP, prisoner letter
For those of us who were warehoused and punitively suppressed in these SHU’s for well over a decade based on pseudo prison gang validations, it’s no surprise to be witnessing, and for this writer here, personally experiencing history repeat itself.
To be more exact that reprieve from indeterminate SHU confinement that some were afforded, resulting from the creation of the Active/Inactive gang status reviews in 1999, and the Castillo versus Alameda settlement of 2004, was short lived as most were eventually rounded back up shortly thereafter. Not only was this done in total disregard of newly promulgated regulations, but by also exploiting and abusing the loopholes within said settlement.
Although the Asher agreement brought an end into long-term solitary confinement based on status, there nonetheless are inherent loopholes within it as well, which these gung ho I GIs, statewide, are exploiting. The common thread of which being, the unrestricted use of confidential information spearheading all of these exaggerated conspiracy charges with STG nexus.
The latter being the primary loophole gradually fettering us back into these SHU’s for a period of 3 1/2 to 4 years minimum. This approximate time frame is of course one’s determinate SHU term (which is to be served first), followed by the mandated two-year Step Down Program (SDP) that only the validated community is subjected to, regardless of any concrete evidence of one’s personal involvement in order to substantiate the elements of conspiracy. To date, there are more than a few of us class members who find themselves in this predicament.
And though it has yet to be seen, STG-related write up’s based on vague confidential information, while in the SDP (undeniably leading to step repression), should be expected. Further, should one decide not to participate in another futile round of the SDP because of its childish curriculum (something which has yet to be corrected, as agreed upon in 2015), they will be subjected to RCGP placement until they submit to participation.
The creation of the RCGP via this settlement is in, and of itself, a joke and another flaw CDCR is abusing while essentially stripping those who truly want general population of the right over there personal autonomy, based on bogus confidential information alleging safety concerns.
In spite of the fact that one can be sent there for refusing to participate in the SDP, CDCR’s ultimate goal is to re-integrate SNY’s back into the general population through the RCGP. And so long as this place is allowed to continue functioning as so, nobody is secure or will be precluded from being housed there on some trumped up allegations of having safety issues. Chiefly, causing the very few who do not belong, nor are seeking refuge there, to be propelled into a perpetual cycle of SHU confinement.
Lastly, as long as the systematic violations of the settlement regarding confidential information is not addressed as an everlasting problem and we don’t begin brainstorming the collectives’ ideas concerning the matter, we’re all destined to get entangled in this insidious web once more, and repeating the SDP over, and over, and over again. A program that is not only forced on us because of status, but which is also in itself, a mockery of reforming anything and much less anyone whom don’t suffer from any kind of mental disorder… The cornerstone of the SDP and it’s direct focus and approach, which is a mistake and wrong.
Anthony Arteaga, A48159
PBS P SHU (C7 117)
PO Box 7500
Crescent City CA 95532
Dec 01, 2016
keywords: PHSS Coalition, parole, SHU
[The end notes and references have been omitted from this outline. If you are interested in obtaining the document with all the end notes and supporting references, please contact the PHSS Parole Committee at P.O. Box 5586, Lancaster, CA 93539.]
I. Major changes are taking place in California corrections, mirroring trends elsewhere. The Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) will want to ensure that its policies and practices are also aligned with these changing trends.
A. One sweeping change in state prison operations is the end of CDCR’s indeterminate gang lockup program. After 30 years of trying to address the issue of prison gangs by locking prisoners up indefinitely unless and until they “debrief” (inform on other prisoners), the Department has implemented a significant shift in policy and practice:
1. Thousands of prisoners have been transferred to general population after years, in some cases decades, in SHU
2. For the most part, long-term indefinite SHU terms can no longer be imposed in California.
3. SHU terms must now be based on behavior, not on perceived status.
4. Prisoners no longer have to become informants to get out of SHU.
5. CDCR is joining many other states in greatly reducing its use of solitary confinement.
B. We are concerned that BPH policies which developed to align with CDCR’s discontinued policies have not changed to reflect and support the State’s current direction. Prisoners who were in SHU under these discontinued policies find that:
1. Parole panels and Forensic Assessment Division (FAD) staff are still telling them they must debrief to be found suitable, (despite no connection to SHU confinement or suitability criteria).
2. Parole panels and FAD staff are penalizing them for long SHU terms almost universally condemned as unconscionable or even unconstitutional, while discounting the accomplishments and progress prisoners achieved while in SHU.
3. Parole panels and FAD staff are penalizing prisoners for participation in peaceful hunger strikes that led to CDCR’s dramatic policy changes.
C. What are the specific concerns with these BPH practices?
1. The CDCR policies they were based on were a failure by every reasonable measurement.
2. They do not reflect the Board’s own standards of suitability.
3. They are out of step with societal and community standards, and with the State of California’s direction.
II. How Did We Get Here?
A. The Incremental Development of BPH Policies
1. SHU Housing:
a. The Board traditionally viewed SHU time as a meaningful reflection of bad behavior. Before CDCR’s mass gang lockup policy, even administrative SHU was tied to behavior.
b. Before 1985, SHU terms were determinate or limited in time. With a few rare exceptions, no one stayed in SHU for many years, and certainly not decades.
c. When CDCR initiated its gang lockup policies in 1985, it imposed a new meaning and a new set of facts on SHU time – it became a permanent fact of life for thousands of prisoners, many with no disciplinary issues. However, the Board continued to view it as it always had – a meaningful reason to find unsuitability.
d. Prior to the gang lockup program, the lack of programming, loss of good time and other disabilities of SHU time were temporary (and less onerous – family contact was rarely restricted for SHU prisoners). Within a reasonable time, the prisoner had another opportunity to demonstrate progress. Under CDCR’s gang lockup policies, these disabilities were allowed to accumulate for an unconscionable period of time for reasons often beyond the control of the individual prisoner.
a. CDCR developed its “debrief or die” policy in the mid-1980s. Unless a prisoner debriefed, he could not get out of SHU. As a result, the unwillingness to debrief became synonymous with long-term SHU housing.
b. Because of the historical tie between SHU and bad behavior, as described above, the Board wanted prisoners to get out of SHU before being found suitable; thus, the Board started advising prisoners to debrief so they could get out of SHU.
c. While CDCR viewed the unwillingness to debrief as evidence of continued gang activity, in many cases Board panels conceded there was no evidence of gang activity, yet still counseled prisoners to debrief to get out of SHU.
d. Before 1990, the Board never asked anyone to become an informant in order to be suitable for parole. Today, the Board is asking prisoners, even those designated “inactive” (and in some cases, even non-validated prisoners) to inform and go into protective custody in order to be suitable for parole.
3. Participation in the hunger strikes:
a. The hunger strikes carried out by thousands of CDCR prisoners in 2011 and 2013 were instrumental in leading to reform of failed policies that were grossly out of step with traditional correctional philosophy and with current ways of thinking about corrections.
b. The issue raised by the Board about prisoner participation generally relates to rule violations issued by CDCR for participation in the hunger strikes, but also has been viewed as indicative of gang affiliation or sympathy. This may align with CDCR’s media posture about the hunger strikes, but is inconsistent with its view of the 115s in making custody decisions, and with recent case law addressing the legality of the 115s.
B. Why did CDCR’s policy of indeterminate lockup and debriefing fail?
1. It was a system that operated, contrary to accepted correctional philosophy, without regard to individual behavior.
a. Prisoners who debriefed progressed to the highest privilege level regardless of how bad their behavior was before debriefing; they remained there regardless of bad behavior after debriefing. They remained classified as “dropouts” regardless of new gang-related behavior.
b. Prisoners who did not debrief remained in SHU at the lowest privilege level regardless of significant clean time and efforts to program within the confines of SHU. They remained gang validated in spite of no meaningful evidence of gang or criminal activity.
2. The lack of a behavioral-based reward system resulted in a system plagued by increased management problems, recidivism and the growth of new gangs.
a. Violence in California prisons has increased over the course of this program, as has the recidivism rate;
b. Widespread media reports (L.A Times, major network news and others) now describe the growth of gangs in CDCR as unchecked, with the greatest expansion occurring in the SNYs (Special Needs Yards, formed by CDCR to house “gang dropouts” – those who got out of SHU by debriefing). According to the FBI and other sources, gang activity and violence is bleeding out from these yards onto the streets. According to news reports and correctional sources, the SNYs have experienced unprecedented numbers of riots and injuries over the last decade or two.
c. CDCR housing is a growing patchwork of protective yards, with growing numbers of potential enemies who have to be separated for safety.
3. As a result of its flawed gang validation and debriefing policies, CDCR vastly overused expensive security housing by wrongly tagging hundreds of prisoners as security threats, and obtained virtually no reliable or usable intelligence on prison gangs and criminal activity.
a. Validations were based largely on the unverified allegations of prison informants fueled by an intense desire to escape the SHU, unrelenting pressure from gang investigators and, in many cases, more questionable motives.
b. Informant allegations are notoriously unreliable and the use of them in many contexts has been greatly limited by law, policy and practice.
c. The forms of information and evidentiary standards used by CDCR to validate prisoners have been widely criticized and found wanting by the courts and others. CDCR’s gang investigators have foregone real investigative work for decades.
d. The flawed processes of CDCR provide a strong incentive to lie, and in many cases require prisoners to commit felony perjury.
4. CDCR can produce no evidence supporting the effectiveness of its three-decade experiment with gang lockup.
5. CDCR has been inundated with litigation over its use of solitary confinement. The litigation has not only cost the state millions, but has opened CDCR to continuing civil liability for erroneous and unsupported gang identification and validation, and for the unconstitutional practice of imposing long SHU terms based on the refusal to debrief.
6. The cost of corrections escalated greatly, based in part on the gross overuse of solitary confinement, which adds at least $20,000 a year per prisoner. This contributed significantly to the state’s budgetary problems.
7. Long term isolation in SHU inflicted well-documented psychological pressure on prisoners, leading to increased anxiety, panic, paranoia, memory and concentration problems, agitation, suicidal thoughts, mounting anger and sleep disruption. Prisoners in SHU for more than a decade experienced additional symptoms of self-isolation, emotional numbing and despair. Some prisoners were unable to withstand these pressures and experienced irreversible psychological damage.
8. The use of long-term SHU confinement has come under almost universal condemnation as both inhumane and counterproductive – from Supreme Court justices, the President, the United Nations and the Pope; from the courts, professional organizations such as architects, psychologists and health care workers; and from the legislative branch, which called it “aberrant.”
9. Other major states were far ahead of California in discontinuing similar failed policies. California’s policies were generally viewed as more extreme and harsh than other states. CDCR’s debriefing policy was always out of step with the majority of states and the federal system.
C. What is the effect of CDCR’s change in policy?
1. Some in CDCR warned that the release of so many prisoners from long-term SHU would result in a “bloodbath” in the general population; what has actually happened?
a. At the time of the Ashker settlement, CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard reported that 1100 prisoners had already been released from SHU in a pilot program “and there have been minimal problems.” This success paved the way for the settlement.
b. Over 1400 more have been released since then; by all reports, large numbers of them are adjusting, programming, following the rules, and enjoying the fresh air and their first real human contact in years or decades.
c. Significantly, many are exerting a calming influence on previously tense general population yards, adhering to the Agreement to End Hostilities developed after the first hunger strikes.
d. Preliminary reports indicate disruptive incidents have decreased in general population yards where these prisoners are placed.
2. CDCR operations are gradually returning to a more rational behavior-based system of rewards and privileges, with more emphasis on opportunities for positive programming. While problems remain, and some elements resist change, the state’s clear direction is to move toward these more tried and true correctional practices.
III. How Should BPH Practices Change to Re-align with Changes in State Corrections?
A. Long-Term SHU Housing
1. The Board needs to develop an alternative framework for reviewing prisoners who have been subject to long-term SHU under CDCR’s misguided policies. Judging them through the same lens as the average prisoner is inappropriate for many reasons:
a. As stated above, long-term SHU under CDCR’s gang-lockup/debriefing policies was not a traditional behavior-based punishment, and did not correlate with an individual’s behavior and rehabilitation.
b. Long-term SHU for these prisoners resulted from widely condemned and discredited policies that were found by at least one court to be unconstitutional.
c. Many of these prisoners have been incarcerated far beyond any reasonable base term under the Board’s matrix; many are far beyond the age that is considered an important determinant of suitability under accepted correctional theory. Many have developed health problems that will cost the state millions of dollars over time. Requiring them to demonstrate many more years of progress to make up for lost time is in essence a sentence of life without parole.
d. Many of them have made extraordinary efforts to maintain a positive direction and influence within the confines of long-term SHU, overcoming formidable state-created obstacles:
(i) They obtained and completed some form of programming within a system designed to prevent it;
(ii) They remained disciplinary-free in a system providing no incentive or reward for it;
(iii) They maintained strong family support in a system designed to destroy family ties;
(iv) They remained psychologically stable and resilient in spite of a system known to inflict psychological damage.
e. CDCR policies prevented SHU prisoners from receiving laudatory chronos and other positive documentation, while maximizing negative paperwork.
2. In addition to taking into account the special circumstances of these prisoners’ long SHU terms, the Board needs to ensure they are reviewed based on individual factors rather than broad general assumptions about the long-term SHU experience. These assumptions can create an unfair bias that leads to determinations of unsuitability unsupported by the facts. For example, panels are:
a. Assuming prisoners had no programming in SHU despite the fact that many engaged in forms of programming available to them in the restricted SHU environment;
b. Assuming family support was inevitably eroded, despite evidence of strong current family support;
c. Discounting discipline-free time in SHU based on the assumption that the restrictive environment somehow prevented misconduct, despite clear evidence to the contrary;
d. Assuming a lack of positive documentation is evidence of a lack of positive behavior, given CDCR’s manipulation of file documentation; and
e. Assuming psychological fragility where it is not warranted.
The BPH should discontinue any consideration of debriefing, not only as a factor in determining suitability but as the basis for any negative implications regarding a prisoner.
1. Debriefing and questionable gang validations no longer determine the long-term static custody – SHU housing – that automatically led to continuous parole denials.
2. Debriefing itself does not have any rational relation to statutory suitability factors.
a. As noted above, debriefing is not tied to any record of positive change prior to debriefing, or improvement in behavior after debriefing; SNYs, where prisoners who debrief are housed, have become significant management problems, spawning new violent gangs.
b. Debriefing may be inversely related to the development of insight into prior criminality; it is a sanctioned way to avoid accepting responsibility and understanding past wrongs, and encourages rationalization of personal actions.
c. As noted above, debriefers were and are often under pressure from corrections and law enforcement for perjured testimony. The faulty debriefing process creates an incentive to lie in order to successfully debrief.
d. Because CDCR takes the position that debriefers are under threat of violence from those they inform on, traditional sources of support on parole may be fearful and hesitant.
e. As noted above, the unwillingness to debrief does not correlate with negative behavior or attitude. Many long-term SHU prisoners have many years of discipline-free behavior with no evidence of any gang or criminal involvement, and have had a positive impact on general population yards.
3. The more recent Board position (since release of Ashker class members from SHU to general population) that success on an SNY is preferable to success in general population is contrary to all historical precedent and lacks any convincing rationale.
4. The debriefing requirement is cruel and callous and shows a deliberate indifference by the BPH to known safety risks, psychological issues and corruption, including forced perjury.
5. Sadly, the BPH and the FAD are both relying on the questionable and discredited confidential information disclosure forms previously produced by CDCR’s gang staff to validate and retain prisoners in SHU, to assign risk ratings and deny parole to the same prisoners.
C. Participation in the Hunger Strikes
1. The Board should not penalize prisoners for their participation in the hunger strikes leading to CDCR’s reform of its gang lockup policies.
2. Rule violations for participation should not be considered equivalent to other rule violations; participation is not evidence of gang ties or activity.
a. In reviewing prisoners for release from SHU after the Ashker settlement, the state did not use CDCR 115s issued for participation in the hunger strikes against prisoners in determining their eligibility for release to general population.
b. A court recently ruled that a prisoner’s participation in the hunger strikes was not disruptive to the institution and its essential functions, and therefore was not an adequate basis for a CDCR 115.
c. Since over 30,000 prisoners participated in the hunger strikes at one time or another, it cannot be reliable evidence of gang affiliation or activity.
3. The hunger strikes were in the time-honored tradition of peaceful, non-violent protest that is the hallmark of great political and social movements throughout American and world history.
a. The goal of these strikes was to end a practice that has been roundly condemned (see section II.B.8 above) and which CDCR has now abandoned. As former Secretary Beard himself said, the resulting settlement "moved California more into the mainstream of what other states are doing,” adding that “[w]e don’t believe that its good for anybody to keep them locked up for 10, 20, 30 years.”
b. The hunger strikes were initiated as a last resort, after years of filing 602s and appeals to the courts, and after appeals to lawyers, the legislature and the media were unsuccessful in drawing attention to the issue of indeterminate SHU confinement.
D. Continuation by the Board of practices that align with and support policies and practices now abandoned by the CDCR exposes the Board to the same liabilities, discredit and condemnation that the CDCR has experienced.
IV. How does BPH Psychological Staff (FAD) improperly contribute to and support these BPH policies?
A. By improperly using them as indications of a “criminal mindset” and as the basis for a diagnosis of personality disorder or psycho-pathology.
B. By improperly using them as evidence of continuing violence potential.
C. By improperly assuming a prisoner’s psychological development, maturity and insight remained frozen in time for the duration of his indeterminate SHU term.
D. By using CDCR confidential informant reports for risk assessment without disclosing this fact, or without disclosing the content, date and other relevant information to the prisoner with an opportunity to respond.
E. FAD evaluators’ practice of using their professional status to support the CDCR’s former gang lockup and debriefing policies runs against the tide of many psychiatric and health care professional organizations that have taken stands against just such practices.
F. Template language for Comprehensive Risk Assessments needs to be changed; Forensic Assessment Division staff needs to be educated on new standards.
This outline and the End Notes were prepared March 2017 by Pamela J. Griffin, Attorney at Law, on behalf of the Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, a coalition of California prisoner rights organizations, family members and activists.