Newsletter Article Search

Here, you can search for articles that have been published in our newsletter. Our newsletter is primarily written by and for prisoners, their friends, and families. You can receive a paper copy at your home (or send one to your relative or friend in prison). We request a donation of $20 or more for four issues to help cover editing, printing, and mailing costs.

Please visit our archive if you would like to download pdf versions of our past issues.

Apr 30, 2018

Idaho's "Inmate Companion" Suicide Watch Program puts California to Shame

Kim Pollak

keywords: suicide watch, welfare checks, suicide

More than 200 Idaho incarcertaed individuals volunteer to help prevent prison suicides by helping staff stand watch over suicidal people 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Eight of Idaho’s ten prisons, housing about 8,ooo men and women, have what are known as companion programs. Though some were skeptical when the Inmate Companion Program was started in 2004, the program has proven to be successful. Since it was launched, no individuals under the suicide watch program have completed a suicide. (Idaho reports an average of two successful suicides per year.)

People who want to volunteer must have good speaking, listening and writing skills, be physically healthy and mentally stable, and show respect for all people, according to the department’s inmate companion program guide. Participants receive four hours of training and attend co-watch shifts with experienced companions before taking shifts on their own.

When an inmate tries or threatens suicide or displays other mental health symptoms, medical staffers evaluate the inmate and place him or her under one of three types of watch:

1. Acute suicide watch, for actively suicidal inmates who have already injured themselves or threaten suicide with a specific plan. Staff members maintain constant, direct observation at all times, and inmate companions are not used.
2. Nonacute watch, for potentially or inactively suicidal individuals who either express tendencies without a specific threat or plan, or who have a recent history of self-destructive behavior. Inmate Companions assist the staff.
3. Close observation, for those with increased psychotic or mental health symptoms that (supposedly) require placement in a holding cell for stabilization. Inmate Companions assist the staff here, too.
4. Each companion takes a three- to four-hour shift. Every 15 minutes a prison officer or health worker checks on the the individual who is suicidal.

One companion explained that when she’s assigned to a suicide watch, she starts by introducing herself and asking a few questions, trying to find a connection and to learn which topics to avoid. The volunteers are taught to keep what the inmates tell them in confidence.

Kevin Kempf, Idaho Director of Department of Corrections states that what makes the inmate companion program so successful is that the companions are peers. “...a lot of good things comes with peer support.”

The peer support program provides an opportunity for healing to both the individuals under suicide watch as well as for their support companions. According to one companion, “It is therapeutic for me to feel like I am there for someone.” Another stated, “As someone who suffers from depression, it helps me to get outside of myself."

Source: ●

Apr 30, 2018

LETTER: Conditions of CCWF Administrative-Segregation


keywords: prisoner letter, administrative segregation, ASU, womens' prisons, conditions, misconduct, abuse, guard assault

I am writing to inform you of the conditions of CCF Administrative-Segregation and the mental stress it has on inmates that are placed there...For starters, I have a court order for 100% cotton blankets due to my medical condition asthma and skin irritation... nothing was done... I was made to sleep with two thin sheets with all my clothes while the air-conditioners were on during record temperatures (freezing)... we are to get two hot meals a day meeting the 2200 cal diet. We have not received two hot meals, the portions are made smaller than the regular portions and they are on dirty trays and we have no choice or voice in the matter... African Americans are made to use butter for their hair to prevent breakage. We are allowed $55 shopping a month, but no grease, stating “someone could slip the cuffs off or make the officers slip;" Natural mayo, butter and any other (permitted items) can also, yet we black people leave hairless and embarrassed as if we were in slavery; saddest ever!

Lastly, of many more - over half of Ad-Seg are here for enemy concerns and/or the Investigation Security Unit uses informants to provide them information that’s not true, when in reality the institution as a whole has changed over to a programming place based on prop 57. Yet, accommodate their informants to prompt cases drugs/PREA and it sticks - when today, you might get in a cat fight here and there, they release people to the yard to get hurt and to fulfill their verbal contracts made with their informants and literally write up the inmates who they feel don’t have enemies or safety concerns. Sadly inmates come back battered, hurt and still placed back into population. Within the last four months because of poor slavery conditions there have been two girls that passed. One girl’s body set uncovered for nine hours until the inmates repeatedly asked to cover her since she was just in the middle of the floor dead. They did but she laid there until the next morning came. The second girl had a mental problem. The night before the C/Os pepper sprayed her and never gave her a shower, but you could tell she was not all there mentally. So they moved her to another room but again she was pepper sprayed. They put her on suicide watch with one mental person watching her and the psych-tech was so engaged with her coworkers, C/Os act that the lady died from the pepper spray giving her complications to breathe. She had been dead so long that the CPR was too late – they were going to leave that body on the floor until we complained (not again). They put her body outside in the cold until the coroner came. Again she was being watched by a one on one and the staff walk around and do a check every 15 minutes.

We are allowed to shower and smelly dirty showers three times a week never clean. We are given two rolls of tissue and for pads every 2 1/2 days. If you run out and if you need more pads for your womanly, it is not granted. I suffer from fibroids and bleed almost daily. They take the extra pads sometimes leaving me with none.

Apr 30, 2018

LETTER: Doing Prison Time in a County Jail

Fabio Soto, El Dorado County Jail

keywords: prisoner letter, realignment, AB109

Good afternoon. I'm doing an 11 year AB109 sentence in the county jail of El Dorado. Due to my classification I'm segregated in there. Max-pod, where I'm not allowed to work or participate in any educational programs, depriving me of my equal protections of the federal and state constitutions; of my conduct credits, milestones, my rehabilitation, work, unlimited visitations, all things that keep an inmate focused on his or her rehabilitation. Without these things it cruel and unusual punishment and mental abuse.

Some of the many issues are noted below:

1.Downgrading of mental health diagnosis after meeting for only minutes with no records.
2. Discontinuation of medication by a doctor who does not know the prisoner's diagnosis, and has not obtained their medical records but only read a summary.
3. Seeing the mental health doctor through a computer screen instead of in person.
4. Not allowing northern Hispanics to work but all other races can.

Overcrowding. Facility is too small for AB109 cases. This is just the start of many violations.

Thank you! Just trying to be heard.

Apr 30, 2018

Habeas Corupus Filed by Stanford Three Strikes Project

Kim Pollak

keywords: three strikes, proposition 57

Stanford University Law School’s Three Strikes Project recently filed a habeas corpus petition in the California Supreme Court, over the unconstitutionality of the implementation of Prop 57. The petition is on behalf of five prisoners serving third strike sentences for nonviolent offenses, who are being denied eligibility for early parole consideration. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) Prop 57 regulations deny the intentions of California voters who approved Proposition 57 by a margin of 2 to 1, in November 2016. Californians spoke loud and clear in their desire to lower California’s prison population, by giving more of our imprisoned community members the opportunity to show the California Parole Board that they are no longer a threat to the society they seek to reenter.

Proposition 57 amended Section 32 of the state Constitution to read “any person convicted of a non-violent felony offense shall be eligible for parole consideration after completing the full term for his or her primary offense.” CDCR regulations eliminate third strikers, despite Section 32. According to Michael Romano, director of the Three Strikes Project, CDCR’s regulations are in direct conflict with the California Constitution.

The petition also argues that the regulations contradict the state high court’s ruling in Brown v. Superior Court (2016) 63 Cal. 4th 335, which attempted to block the measure from the ballot, claiming that it would endanger public safety.

Nevertheless, prosecutors challenging the petition, claiming they are concerned that the initiative’s definition of “nonviolent” does not include crimes such as arson and certain sex offenses. But the regulations ignore the fact that nonviolent third strikers have the lowest recidivism risk. They are older, more mature, and many have long-since made the type of personal transformations that the parole board is looking for. Excluding third strikers in parole consideration is not only counter-intuitive, counter-productive, and counter the wishes of California voters, it is also cruel to those who have done their time, done the work and are ready to return home to their families and communities, where they once again, will have the opportunity to give back, as so many people languishing inside US prisons today, can only dream of.

California Prison Focus will be sure to follow and report on the progress of this petition.●

Apr 30, 2018

Education and the Obstructive Tactics of CDCR


keywords: prisoner author, programming, education

I am currently an inmate at CSP-LAC. This facility has a contract with Coastline Community College, in Fountain View, California, to provide inmates with correspondence services for completing college courses. About a week before the start of each semester, this prison in tandem with said college, loans us electronic tablet devices, called e-readers, that are supposed to contain downloaded e-books for our classes.

However, ever since Proposition 57 was passed, I notice the teacher here started constantly telling us students that most of the e-books for our courses, which we are granted at enrollment, are unavailable for the e-reader (under questionable grounds/circumstances). Also, the college does not notify us about the unavailability of these books, and the teacher/proctor delays telling us until the last week before the start of semesters. I, besides numerous others, have experienced this problem the last three semesters. I recently had an interview with an educational supervisor, and the gist of his argument was that prison or college still have unlimited discretion in choosing who they want to provide books to and when. But I disagree since this constitutes discrimination and dereliction of their duties, especially in light of the new laws mandating more rehabilitation opportunities for prisoners.

Consequently, it appears staff are improperly limiting how much assistance we get in obtaining books to obstruct our early release opportunities, as they know most inmates are either indigent or are hard pressed to satisfy other needs with the little funds they receive, especially due to owing restitution...That is, we inmates are trying to maximize rehabilitation accomplishments; whereas, staff are minimizing them via obstructive tactics.

Displaying Article 11 - 15 of 155 in total