“Security/Welfare Checks” Update

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) Committee to End Sleep Deprivation

Prison Focus Issue 50
Fall 2016

Guards have been jarringly waking prisoners in solitary confinement every thirty minutes in the name of “security/welfare checks since May 18, 2014 in Central California Women's Facility and in Pelican Bay SHU since August 2, 2015. The practice has now spread throughout all CA prisons' solitary confinement units. Loudly disturbing and waking people every thirty minutes is serious, ongoing sleep deprivation, and sleep deprivation is a form of torture. These “security/welfare checks,” purported to be for 'suicide prevention,' are being used as a blanket practice, whether prisoners are suicidal or not, and despite the fact that denial of sleep is devastating for the human mind and body.

Our Committee to End Sleep Deprivation has received a flood of letters from people enduring these checks in California's SHU's, Ad Seg, and Psychiatric Units, explaining their suffering and trauma. Since late Aug, 2015, our grassroots campaign, legal action by prisoners and the Ashker legal team, and an official Complaint submitted to the UN have attempted to halt the checks. CDCr, claiming authorization from the federal lawsuit Coleman v. Brown decision which is supposed to address inadequate mental health treatment for seriously mentally ill CA prisoners, has ignored prisoners' individual and group complaints and has done nothing to ameliorate the mental and physical problems resulting from or exacerbated by the sleep deprivation.

We believe Lindsay Hayes, the suicide expert, and Matthew Lopes, the Special Master charged with overseeing prison reform and compliance concerning care of seriously mentally ill inmates under Coleman, could stop these "security/ welfare checks," but they have ignored the hundreds of letters our committee has generated from prisoners, mental health experts, and concerned individuals protesting that the checks cause sleep deprivation torture.
If you are suffering from “security/welfare checks,” please write Lindsay Hayes. Explain how the checks are affecting you and what you think true mental health and suicide prevention would entail. If you experienced the checks and are now out of solitary, please send a letter about how they affected you.
Either send a copy of your letter to all three of the below addresses or, if it's easier, send one letter to the PHSS Committee and we will forward it to the suicide expert (Hayes) and the Special Master (Lopes).
We understand that if you are sleep deprived, it is difficult to focus and write.

Hayes and Lopes have received many letters since we directed people to contact them. We also have forwarded many of the letters to Coleman Attorney Michael Bien who should be protecting prisoners from this harmful practice rather than supporting it.

The Committee has also recently contacted federal Receiver J. Clark Kelso, responsible for bringing medical care in California prisons to a standard which no longer violates the U.S. Constitution (Plata v. Brown), about the medical affects of the checks. Keeping someone awake 24 hours a day, or jarring them 40-48 times a day with loud metal on metal noises, stomping, beepers, and flashlights in their face not only torments the mind, but has severe adverse effects on the body. Disrupted sleep, or sleep deprivation, causes and increases the risk of serious, even fatal, illnesses. Many prisoners tell us that when they see prison medical or psychiatric staff about the effects of the checks, they are told “ You really need some sleep.” These “security/welfare checks” serve no welfare or security purpose; they're only causing serious psychological and physical harm. They need to stop. Sleep deprivation is a debilitating, internationally-condemned torture technique.

Organizations and individuals not in prison, please write Lindsay Hayes who claims these “checks” are suicide prevention, and urge him to stop the checks. Share with him the voices of the people suffering from them. Find instructions, sample letters, quotes from prisoners suffering the checks, articles, expert reports, and more @ https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com under the “Sleep Deprivation” tab. If you have professional or personal experience with mental health issues, medical healthcare, suicide prevention, counseling, sleep disorders, or surviving torture and trauma, please share your specialized understandings of the necessity of sleep and the effects of sleep disruption/deprivation.

Find quotes from prisoners suffering the checks at http://tinyurl.com/zc3qbn6 and The American Public Health Association's letter opposing the checks at http://wp.me/P1BB1k-27L.

If you are able, please send your letter to all three of the following addresses:

Mr. Lindsay M. Hayes
40 Lantern Lane
Mansfield, MA 02048

Matthew A. Lopes Jr.
Pannone Lopes Devereaux & West LLC
317 Iron Horse Way, Suite 301
Providence, RI 02908

PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation
P.O. Box 5692
Eureka, CA 95502

We will work to end the sleep deprivation torture until the “security/welfare checks” stop. For more info, contact us at 510.426.5322, phssreachingout@gmail.com, or our mailing address above.