Folsom State Prison Hunger Strike Report

Kim Pollak Aand Rose Sutton

Prison Focus Issue 53
Summer 2017

This report is based on interviews conducted at Folsom State Prison on June 30, 2017, as well as from written reports received by mail. Names are omitted for safety from retaliation.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Grave conditions were reported to California Prison Focus (CPF) during our legal visit to Folsom State Prison (FSP) as well as through written accounts mailed directly to CPF. The high number of complaints received by California Prison Focus from individuals in ASU units around California reveal that the human rights violations occurring in Folsom State Prison ASU units are similarly occurring at other California prisons, ASU Units as well.

Hunger Strike:
The strike lasted for 8 days; 24 meals. Mr. D was sure to point out that they had offered “proposals” not made “demands.” Mr. C stated that the strikers simply want what men in other (non FSP) Ad – Segs are getting, and even men in the SHU.

It was reported that the Warden pulled out individual strikers, insisting that they stop striking and that he would not negotiate at all, until the strike was ended. The men reportedly made a collective decision to stop, which they did, that day.

Gains:
• Visiting was reportedly extended from 1 day/week to 2 days/week.
• Some canteen restrictions were removed. “Most of them” according to one man.
• The men received a scrub pad and disinfectant for cleaning.
• Since the strike, staff have made rounds asking each inmate if they have any programming or law-related questions or needs, and if they need
any forms printed or copies made.
• Since the strike staff have been coming through on a regular basis asking the men if they need certain books or help with getting signed up for the GED program.
• The men have been permitted, since the strike, to take their sweats or shorts with them to yard.
(Rumor goes that admin was already planning on some of these changes before the strike began, since they were well aware that a storm was brewing.)

Unmet demands:
• “We did not receive TVs, NDS or anything of real substance.”
• The Warden claims that the lack of TVs is due to the age of the facility and is a financial issue that is out of their hands. (Isn’t the Inmate Welfare Fund supposed to be
designated for inmates’ leisurely activity?) While no TVs is being blamed on the lack of electrical sockets, the cells are already wired. Adding sockets should not be a
huge expense. The men were told that there was nothing the institution could do about it. What it really comes down to, according to Mr. D, is that the Warden
reportedly gets a bonus for keeping his budget below a particular level.
• Welfare checks were reportedly stopped for a minute but started right back up again.

Retaliation:
From among the many observations, perhaps the most compelling is CDCR’s retaliation against those men who participated in the most recent hunger strike; dolling out written violations for those who fought for their basic needs. All participants of the hunger strike received a 115 for “Delaying a peace officer in the performance of duties” and received 90 days on restricted C status and a 90 day loss of credit.

Non Disciplinary Status: Attorneys encourage men with pending cases to put off rule violation hearings until a case has run it’s course. Meanwhile one may end up in ASU for an extended period of time while waiting, without NDS privileges. It was explained that even a victim of a stabbing can end up in Ad - Seg for extended periods of times without NDS, pending a delayed investigation.

Coerced debriefing: NDS are being withheld as a method of coercion to debrief. There is a very clear, unspoken “memo” that if you don’t “cooperate” you will not receive NDS and privileges.

Reported conditions at FSP ASU:
• FSP ASUs are reportedly far worse than at any other CDCR facility.
• Old, decrepit and filthy
• Not properly equipped (ie: electrical outlets)
• Poor ventilation, hot and humid.
• Insufficient shade in the yard. Excessive sun and heat which is difficult for men who suffer sun sensitivity due to medications or physical conditions (such as Mr. B who
has lupus).
• The men are forced to tolerate extremely loud tier fans all day, which are loud yet provide no relief in the cells. The loud fans make it difficult to think and contribute to
the symptoms of sleep deprivation caused by the welfare checks.
• No way to track time.
• Conditions and privileges are better in GP and in CDCR SHUs than in FSP ASU. FSP ASU is “stuck in the middle getting the worst of everything.”

Canteen/Property:
• Items that are allowed in SHU - that are not considered a security issue in SHU - are considered a safety issue and prohibited at FSP ASU. (ie: cups and bowls)
• Canteen regulations (packaging and repackaging) are reportedly stricter in FSP ASU than they are in SHU.
• TVs: All three of the men who had participated in the strike voiced how important to them the TV issue is. Without TVs the men don’t have access to educational
programming or news. The lack of TVs increase the likelihood of more severe depression and claustrophobia.
• The men don’t get to have a decent bowl and cup. They are permitted very small rubber cups that are reportedly for men with mental health issues, as they cannot be
used to hurt themselves or anyone else. As a result, the men make soup in chip bags and old milk cartons, which is not very hygienic. “It’s degrading. Dogs in the
kennel get better then what we’re getting.”
• Everything from the canteen is repackaged into little baggies. Items like soap and deodorant dry out. He explained that in ASUs in other prisons, items are transferred
into baggies in front of the prisoner, but not at FSP. He is certain that he often is not getting the full amount of the items he paid for.
• Mr. B has lupus and is therefore particularly sensitive to the sun. He’s been denied the hat he has in his property, and told that he can purchase a beenie from canteen
to protect his head. Mr. B still has sun spots on his bald head. (Aside from not receiving his hat, he reported that the treatment he receives for his lupus has been
adequate.)

Cell searches: Searches are conducted regularly. Generally their cells and belongings are not trashed, but the men receive no receipts of property taken.

Welfare Checks: The men continue to suffer sleep deprivation from the welfare checks. There are ways that the checks can be implemented by guards to cause less disturbance. For example, the unit door could be left open during the night checks, so the door would only have to be slammed once per check, rather than twice. Keys can be attached and tucked into pockets in a way that would greatly reduce key noise. Also, though Guard 1 has a silencer, the guards rarely use it. Thus men continue to endure the loud bang and lights being shined in their faces all through the night. The guards that care, make efforts to reduce the noise level, and do so significantly.

General Noise: The constant roar of the loud fans are contributing to the symptoms of sleep deprivation, making it difficult to “think or study” and causes severe mood swings. One man reported that they “appeared to be worse” since the strike.

Programming: Mr. B reported that though staff do come around and ask about his educational needs, and provide necessary paperwork, there is no one to help with the actual material, and no proctors. He explained that one is basically left to teach themselves and that is a great challenge and obstacle for many of the men who would like to receive their GED. The fans and welfare checks make it hard to study.

Library: The law library has a cage equipped with a computer, but no manual or personnel to assist. As a result, it’s “practically useless” to many of the men.

Mail: Delays up to 5 weeks are common. Often no explanation is provided. A group 602 over mail delays has been submitted. When Mr. D 1st arrived at FSP ASU, it took almost 3 months for him to start receiving his mail. He reported that the mail service seemed to be improving slightly before the strike, but then got worse again when the strike started.

Books: The literature available is basically limited to religious materials or magazines that one can pick up on their way to and from showers, as well as other miscellaneous books that are passed around from time to time.

Yard:
• The ASU yard cages are dirty.
• They have no pull-up bars or anything at all.
• Sometimes not even shade, creating a serious health risk for some.
• The men are reportedly receiving the required minimum of 10 hours yard time per week.
• “Strip Outs”: the strip search protocol is degrading and unnecessary. The men are forced to strip down, and then parade through the prison on their way to yard, in only their boxers and shoes – even when it’s raining – in front of other inmates as well as guards, both male and female. They can get dressed once in the yard/kennel, and then have to completely strip down again before returning to their cell, even though they’ve had no contact with anybody or access to anything since the earlier search. Again, they are forced to parade through the prison, half naked.

NOTE: Hunger Strikers are encouraged to challenge their strike-related 115s. The California State Court of Appeals decision where a hunger strike-related 115 was overturned (Re: Jorge A. Gomez) can be found at http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ca-court-of-appeal/1732578.html