Conditions Report: CSP-Sacramento

Taeva Shefler

From Prison Focus Issue 55 

A recent investigative visit to CSP Sacramento revealed that medical treatment at the facility continues to severely lack community standards, leaving some prisoners in dire condition without treatment, or with deeply inhumane treatment. 

Several of the people we spoke with inside had serious medical conditions, which had been left for up to years without treatment. We were told doctors regularly accuse people of “malingering,” or lying about their pain, when in fact they have serious medical conditions impacting basic bodily functions. There are individuals with advanced cancer and organ failure living in regular, non-medical cells. One reported that for days he would be very weak and unable to get out of bed. As a result, he couldn’t get up to get his food tray at the door. His only meals would be lunch, because that came in a box and they would throw that to him and he could pick it up without getting out of bed. Recently, the prison put Advil in the commissary, so now people have to fund their own pain management care instead of the medical staff having to do it. 

Mail is a consistent tool for harassment. We have reports of guards reading mail and using its contents to taunt the rightful recipients. To many people, this would be considered a major violation of privacy. Serious mail tampering issues occur at all institutions, but especially at the Corcoran SHU, at PBSP, and at all level IV facilities. For instance, legal and confidential mail is routinely opened. There is never any consequence for this behavior, so officers act with impunity. 

Food quality is not good. “Worst food ever.” All the food is steamed, so it loses its nutritional qualities and it has no flavor. 

Similar to Corcoran, facilities at CSP-SAC are falling apart. When there is heavy rain, there is regular flood damage. Recently due to rain storms, there were leaks in the C building near the cells and there has been little effort to mitigate the damage. Work orders on facility-related issues are slow to receive responses, if any. In general, sanitation is bad. For instance, there are vents in the buildings that are caked up with so much dust you could put a fork in it. Requests are made to have them cleaned or replaced but they won’t do it. This is terrible for air quality, creating a high risk of mold inhalation, and likely contributing to airborne illnesses within the facilities. 

Law library access is frequently a problem. This is an essential part of the Constitution’s supposed guarantee of access to the courts, but it is regularly denied. The library is frequently used for programming unrelated to the library’s purpose, and when it is, it is usually filled to capacity, making it impossible to do research there. The prison needs to make more classroom space and room for positive programming. 
Lockdowns have become less frequent, which is welcome, but continue to be destructive. Property is always “lost” or “mislabeled” and never returned. One particularly vindictive move is that of a guard who, during a recent lockdown, stole the spacebar from typewriters during cell searches. The non-functioning typewriter is a problem, especially for those who need them for legal filings in active cases. This is a blatant form of discrimination against writers and jailhouse lawyers. 

Throughout the prison system, there is significant stigma around mental health. One form of abuse we’ve witnessed is when guards put people on EOP yards so that when they come out, they are stigmatized by their peers. We have heard from men who have been mis-classified, or are forced mental health care against their consent. This is apparent at CSP SAC, which has several EOP yards. 

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