May 30, 2020
“Growing numbers of blacks are openly passed over when paroles are considered.”
Based on the letters and reports received by California Prison Focus’ imprisoned correspondents, it is clear that CDCr is perpetuating the massive warehousing of people through several avenues designed to punish and control people rather than rehabilitate. One of the themes we encounter over and over is that of unorthodox criteria for obtaining parole. The typical metrics by which parole is granted, like good behavior, participation in rehabilitative programs, and acts of contrition, are altogether ignored, replaced with nefarious alternatives, like one’s willingness to carry out favors for correctional officers (COs) and disclose information on the illegal activity of other inmates. People are pressured into ratting others out against their will, and those who refuse, are denied parole. One CPF correspondent explained that even the deputy district attorney whom he consulted, encouraged him to snitch in order to be paroled.
This “Cointelpro” tactic, on the part of prison authorities, of cultivating division by granting favors or special treatment in return for incriminating information, creates a cu–lture of divisiveness with punishment as its core philosophy. It has fundamentally warped the shape of the system’s ethical parameters, distorting parole to be synonymous with a “favor”, when parole should be granted if certain conditions are met. Fabrication or misrepresenion of transgressions has created a systemic apparatus for discramentory retaliation.
Reports from our correspondents also reveal that parole denials often hinge on the subjective subtleties of how one defines “good behavior”. For example, one man reported that he was denied parole because he had refused to be moved to a Sensitive Needs Yard despite feeling that such a transition would threaten his personal safety. Hence, he had failed to cooperate with authorities, was labeled as problematic, and subsequently denied parole.
This highlights a common theme in the criminal justice system, inside prisons and out. Nuance and blurred lines. The prisoner is reduced to this fundamentally immoral being whose opinions and perceptions are ignored because they have no claim to truth or righteousness. COs have complete power in deciding what to label as bad or good behavior, even if it invites subjectivity, allowing them to abuse their discretion, and make decisions about whether or not to persecute a person for a given incident based on their personal agendas. (ie:maintaining Pay Walls and job security.)
Some of our correspondents have a laundry lists of classes intended to teach skills for rehabilitation and societal reintegration only to see their efforts completely disregarded when being considered for parole. To parole boards, the “violations” (or RVRs) in one’s file, however unreliable, incentivized or simplified as they may be, outweighs anything else. Instead the parole board denies one’s parole based on unmerited violations which they claim reflects a “Criminal Mentality”, when in fact, these violations are frequently a product of coercion and malfeasance.
People are being denied parole for reasons that have more to do with the self-serving agendas of prison authorities than the persons’ merit or lack thereof for obtaining parole - and nothing at all to do with public safety or justice. *
"The guards expect you to snitch on somebody whenever you're in line for something you want. You may be fully entitled to the advantage, but they try to insist on some kind of info that will hurt another prisoners before they'll let you have it."
"This is the most injustice procedural due process that I've ever been subjected to in any kind of judicial process in my life. This power needs to be abolished. The people need to get back to being the voice and theaction behind all decisions."
"These brothers – that you call Principle Thinkers in reference to the Prisoner Human Rights Movement, the ones who’s challenging the very system that's punishing them -- of course they going to be subjected to this cruelty and unusual punishment, and retaliation. They’ve subjected them to every cruelty that they can subject them to, and now they’re even subjecting them to a civil death... Come on! You can't win for losing. It's simple as that. They going to have to suffer because they courageous enough to put themselves on that front line and say what a lot of prisoners are scared to say, but don't know how to say. People suffer in silence, in and out of prisons."
D. Damu Askari X
"Salinas Valley State Prison will become a petridish once compromised by Covid-19, due to the lack of protective medical gear and supply materials for a break out. There's no appropriate ventilation in the housing units... the allergies I have make it hard enough to breath as it is."
"Throughout those 20, 30 years of torture we was eligible to go home, we were just never released home and they're still not releasing us home." Baridi
* See History of Debriefing, by Louis Powell in Prison Focus Issue 53, Fall 2017