Pelican Bay Update

Ron Ahnen

From Prison Focus Issue 38
Spring 2012

This report is based on recent interviews with and letters
received from prisoners housed in Pelican Bay
SHU. The names of particular prisoners have been
omitted in an effort to protect them from retaliation.

Retaliation from Hunger Strike. The most common thread
running through the correspondence and reports from Pelican
Bay is the various methods of retaliation that have been
and continue to be inflicted on prisoners who participated in
the hunger strike. After the first round of the hunger strike
ended on July 20, prisoners reported receiving a 128B informational
chrono advising them that participating in a hunger
strike constitutes a violation of the rules and that any subsequent
hunger striking would be dealt with accordingly.

When the hunger strike was re-commenced in September,
several prisoners reported a very different and harsh treatment
from staff. One prisoner overhead a guard informing
other guards about how to retaliate against the prisoners on
hunger strike. Cell extractions of the hunger strikers’ representatives
were conducted and significant losses of materials
in the cells were reported. Some hunger striking prisoners
(noted that they) were put on mail restrictions. Several had
all canteen items (not just food) removed from their cells.
Many prisoners also had all visits cancelled.

The hunger strikers’ representatives were pulled out of
their cells and put in bare cells in the administrative segregation
unit. These cells were reportedly very cold and prisoners
reported that prison personnel had turned on the air
conditioning on top of the already cold temperatures of the
building. Generally, thinner prisoners are kept in cells that
are far from the heaters and thus suffer from being too cold,
while more heavy set prisoners are housed right next to the
heaters that blast them with heat. One person reported having
to put up his blanket to block the blast of heat into his cell
while another complained of the constant cold. A request
sent by one prisoner to Sacramento to have heat more even
distributed throughout the prison was denied.

Medical treatment for prisoners did not follow the written
protocol with respect to monitoring weight gain, blood pressure,
etc. More importantly, medications were curtailed or
cut off.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sayre stopped medication for
several prisoners, including one who was suffering from
prostrate cancer. In addition, one person said that weight
monitoring, when done, was manipulated to show no weight
gain. For example, they weighed prisoners at the beginning
of the hunger strike with no shackles and chains, but later
weighed them with the restraints. One prisoner reported that
he received no medical attention whatsoever during the second
round of the hunger strike until the 14th day.

One prisoner noted that ALL prisoners in his section were
taken out on the fourth day of the second round and ALL food
was removed from everyone’s cells—not just the hunger
strikers—under the allegation that some prisoners had “lots
of food” and were suspected of feeding the hunger strikers.
One person noted the very poor medical monitoring during
the strike, stating that staff spent no more than 10 seconds at
each person’s door and their only concern was whether or not
the person was drinking water. Nurses or other staff checked
weight, blood pressure or pulse very irregularly.

Many prisoners were issued serious rule violations reports
(115s) at the end of the hunger strike, which occurred on
October 13. Apparently the 115s were issued only to some
prisoners, especially those inmates to whom CDCR officials
wanted to continue to deny any of the new privileges being
rolled out due to the strike. For example, prisoners who received
a 115 for hunger striking were denied having photos
taken to send to their families.

Continued Abuses by Institutional Gang Investigative
Unit. CDCR employ a myriad of ways to target and punish
prisoners in the name of “investigation.”
One prisoner stated, “They keep my address book in order
to find information, but this leaves me without the ability
to write to my family members.” This tactic punishes the
individual by cutting off contact with his family. Another
prisoner reported that several letters from his family are also
being held indefinitely by the IGI and that several family
members were being “harassed” by investigation officials
with the result of inhibiting visits for fear of being accused
of some “ghost crime.”

Another prisoner reported that he was encouraged to debrief
as a way to continue his education. In other words, CDCR
continues to use isolation as a punishment for prisoners by
denying certain “privileges” (such as access to rehabilitation
and educational courses) and then dangling them in front of
prisoners in exchange for intelligence on gangs. CPF notes
that such activities demonstrate that SHU is employed by
the CDCR for punitive purposes—not simply administrative
segregation as the CDCR claims. Second, such holding back
of basic rehabilitative services from prisoners is immoral and
unjust on two counts: First, it constitutes torture (ie, placing
people in extreme isolation for prolonged periods of time
in ways that cause physical and mental illness, and then offering
relief from those extreme conditions in exchange for
information). Second, denying educational opportunities to
prisoners violates one of CDCR’s primary missions which is
to help people to rehabilitate themselves.

Food. The only reports on food that we have received is
that the food is now worse than ever—worse than it was in
June of 2011 when the hunger strike began.

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