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Jun 01, 2002

A Letter on Proposed Visitng Regulations

Steve M. Castillo

keywords: ad-seg, shu, visits, prisoner letter

March 1, 2002
R: CDC Notice of Changes to Director’s Rules, No. 02/03 Issued January 4, 2002

(Following is an original letter from Steve M. Castillo, PBSP, to Edward Alameida, Director of the Regulation and Policy Management Branch of California Department of Corrections)

Dear Mr. Alameida:

I hereby submit these comments regarding the above mentioned rule changes to the Title 15, California Code of Regulations (CCR) sections 3170 through 3179.

1. A review of the history of CDC visiting regulations reveals that CDC – for over 25 years – has provided prisoners with the “right” to have personal visits. (See Existing Section 3170(b)). Now, without so much as a reason, CDC wishes to have that “right” taken away. The new regulation section 3170 begins with the statement that visiting is now a “privilege.” I believe prisoners, and the public, are entitled to a reason for this drastic change being proposed because the implementation of this “right” in the first place was preceded by public hearing, comments and debate. Further, any reason by CDC for this drastic change should be supported by some real and exigent need to maintain institutional safety and security, and not because of anyone’s political agenda. I request review and consideration of the original record implementing this “right” in the first place, and for those same reasons given, that the “right” to have personal visits not be extinguished.
2. Proposed section 3170© seeks to reduce visiting from 3 hours to 1 hour and with “immediate family” only for those prisoners housed in administrative segregation or security housing units. One reason was
“the lack availability of non-contact booths.” However, CDC is not letting the public know about the design, layout and plans from one prison institution to another.
For example, security housing units at prisons like Pelican Bay and Corcoran have dozens of non-contact visiting booths. And that is because the security housing units are there for disciplinary reasons. Many prisoners are housed in the security housing units for administrative reasons and have been disciplinary free for years.
On the other hand, prisoners housed in administrative segregation units usually have 5 or 6 non-contact visiting booths. And that is because prisoners are generally housed in administrative segregation units for a temporary period of time, e.g., pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings. If anything, allocation of visiting resources or budgetary proposals should be used to expand non-contact visiting booths where they are short and maintain visiting for periods of at least 3 hours. Furthermore, visitors often times have to travel from one end of the state to the other. To limit visiting to just one hour seems to be out-right cruel and an unnecessary burden and hardship on those visitors. (Visitors who are taxpayers and who pay the wages of CDC employees and the visiting resources).
Also, limiting visits with “immediate family” only poses an unnecessary hardship on prisoners and their non-immediate family and friends. Many prisoners may not have any surviving “immediate family” and their only other support comes from friends and non-immediate family. And many volunteers visit prisoners because they provide support to the prisoner when families cannot make the costly and long trips to visit the prisoner. CDC is ignoring the true value of maintaining relationships between prisoners, their families, and friends. Not only do the visits assist in a prisoner’s reintegration back into society, but for those prisoners housed in isolation units at Pelican Bay, visits can often times constitute the only human interaction they will have, and lend support to a prisoners delicate balance of his or her sanity.
3. Proposed section 3170.1(d) seeks to deny contact visits for those first 12 months of incarceration in CDC if they have been convicted of drug related offenses. CDC states this restriction will “prevent these individuals from immediately continuing their enterprise.” However, prisoners with such offenses have already been on non-contact visiting status for 12 months or more while they were in the county jails before their CDC commitment. County jails rarely, if ever, allow for contact visiting. Whatsmore [sic], under Proposition 36 most prisoners with drug related offenses are committed to substance abuse rehabilitative programs. Contact visiting can only bring these prisoners closer to their families and support system during their rehabilitation. I request the new section not be implemented.
4. Proposed section 3172.1(b)(1)(2) seeks to deny ex-felons from visiting incarcerated family members or friends if they have been convicted of felonies within specified periods of time, e.g., one felony within 3 years, two felonies within six years, and two or more felonies within 10 years. However, current CDC practice is sufficient in determining whether or not a practice is sufficient in determining whether or not a person is currently involved in criminal activities. Existing section 3177(c)(6) allows prospective visitors to visit if they have discharged from parole and have permission from the warden. The warden’s permission is preceded by a check to see if the prospective visitor has any outstanding warrants or criminal proceedings. These current procedures and practices are sufficient for determining whether a prospective visitor is currently involved in criminal activities. It is difficult to imagine that CDC would actually allow visits to be denied between prisoners and their families and friends because the prospective because the visitor is an ex-felon and no longer involved in criminal activity. There are various scenarios to be presented, but one that comes to mind is that CDC wishes to deny visits when the prisoner or prospective visitor may be terminally ill and again, when that prospective visitor is no longer involved in criminal activity.
5. Proposed section 3175(e) restricts embrace and/or kiss between prisoners and visitors for no longer than 5 seconds at the beginning and end of the visit. You mean to tell me that CDC is really wanting to post staff member to time an embrace between a father and child who may be meeting for the first time, or, who have not seen each other in years? Many times, I have witnessed and experienced children rush to greet their incarcerated parents. They embrace, lovingly, desperately, with eyes streaming tears, and all the while bonding and thanking their God in prayer. I cannot begin to fathom a guard shouting, “Time!” and the parent having to pry their children from their arms after five seconds and trying to explain – especially to the young children – that they cannot embrace them any longer and will not be able to again until the visit is over. This is wholly unbelievable and outright sickening. But then, as the next comments will illustrate, it gets worse.
6. Proposed section 3175(f) allows children of all ages to sit on female prisoners’ laps because of “the relative desirability of mother/child bonding and a very low propensity for child molestation.” However, as to male prisoners, children 7 years or older cannot sit on their laps so as to guard “against the potential for child molestation.” If CDC has attempted to make this disrespectful statement so as to arose [sic] the anger, stress, and tension already prevalent throughout the system to a higher degree, well, they have succeeded. For fathers, such as myself, there is no greater pain or disrespect than placing me in a category of potential child molesters. And what makes this even more hard to understand is that CDC has already proposed a rationale regulation under section 3173.1 that prohibits contact visits between child molesters and children without a court order.
7. Proposed section 3175(g) prohibits all bodily contact between visitors and prisoners except holding hands (proposed section 3175(d)). That means a prisoner cannot walk around the visiting room with their arms over the shoulders of their mother, father, grandparents, spouses, children, etc. Once I recall my mother had a headache and tension at her neck and shoulders. I stood behind her and massaged her temples, neck, and shoulders. Once, my 13 year old daughter was upset over personal problems. We embraced while she cried and I stroked her hair from her face and consoled her as a father would. And on several occasions, I would have to do the same with my wife.

The “right” to personal visits should be maintained. The restrictions being proposed to limit visiting time and prospective visitors should not be implemented as described above. And the elimination of virtually all contact between prisoners and visitors – and the five second limit of contact – should not happen and an apology should follow by CDC for even thinking of these barbaric, inhumane and outright disrespectful regulations. For over 8 years I have been trying to get CDC to define in 3 or 4 sentences, the prohibition of "gang“ activity” because prisoners have been placed or retained in the security housing units for 5, 10, 15 years or more for reasons unrelated to “gang activity” or criminal conduct. Yet now, CDC has invested many tax dollars, energy and time to put together this lengthy packet of visiting restrictions and regulations. This is yet another attempt by CDC to drive further wedges between prisoners and their families. If it isn’t indefinite confinement in the security housing units, it is the removal of as much human contact as possible and topped with the disrespectful statement that male prisoners are potential child molesters. Yesterdays [sic] evolving standards of human decency within the department are replaced now with oppressive, political and cruel agendas. Now, we await the repercussions, not only in prison and the family nucleus of prisoners, but in our society as a whole.

- Steven M. Castillo, PBSP-SHU
(ED NOTE: Many prisons, including Pelican Bay, have failed to post the proposed rule change – an ongoing problem for prisoners. Please keep each other informed of what you know regarding rules and regulations.)

Jun 01, 2002

The Illogic of Visit Restrictions

Terry A. Kupers, M.D.

keywords: visits, family, friends, abuse

One of the strongest predictors of prisoners’ post-release success is the quality of their ongoing contact with loved ones, yet prison policies are making it increasingly difficult for family and friends to keep in touch with prisoners. There are also a growing number of restrictions and delays of prison mail, and prisoners in ever greater numbers are being relegated to round-the-clock cell confinement in supermaximum security units situated in remote locations where relatives and friends find it extremely difficult to visit. When visitors do manage to get to the prison, they face long waits in line, and increasingly humiliating and intrusive searches. Then there are the proposed changes in the CDC’s visiting regulations that were the subject of a hearing in Sacramento on March 8.

The CDC is proposing that prisoners convicted of “possession for sale and/or manufacture” of drugs be forbidden contact visits for the first year of their confinement, that all visitors including children be put through a criminal background check before they are approved for visiting, and that prisoners be forbidden from holding children over six on their laps during visits. The CDC would also like to limit embraces between prisoners and loved ones in five seconds at the beginning and end of visits, and greatly restrict visits to prisoners in Security Housing Units.

A passionate group of 150 friends and families of prisoners and prison activists from all over the state were in Sacramento on March 8 to express their pain and outrage about the proposed (and acting via “emergency”) prison visiting regulations. At a spirited 8 A.M. demonstration preceding the hearing, the wife of a prisoner complained about the unreasonably strict and arbitrary dress code for visitors, and about the patronizing and downright sexist and racist attitudes on the part of prison staff. Speakers at the hearing pointed out that it takes them hours to drive to the prison where their loved ones are incarcerated, there is a wait in line for a couple more hours, and then it can take an hour or two longer for the prisoner to be brought to the visiting area. By the time they get through all these obstacles, it is a very short time until the close of visiting for the day.

Judy Greenspan, Chair of the HIV/Hepatitis C Committee of California Prison Focus, spoke of her experience at previous CDC hearings such as the one about ending family visits for lifers a few years ago, recounting that in each case the CDC ignored the public’s concerns and went ahead with the visit restrictions they had already planned. Cassandra Shaylor, Co-Director of Justice Now, pointed out that since there are vast racial disparities in arrests, convictions and sentencing, restrictive visiting regulations disproportionately impact people of color. Neeve Reddick, a medical insurance administrator whose husband is serving seven years to life for burglary at Corcoran State Prison, told the Sacramento Bee “they don’t get it. If you keep taking away and taking away and not giving anything back, they lose their leverage over the inmates. Sooner or later, a man will snap. But a guy who gets visits from loved ones will do anything to be able to see his wife and kids. That’s the sad thing.”

Heidi Jones, who has a family member in prison, urged the CDC to consider the financial hardship of low-income families being forced to obtain legal ID’s for their children over 6 years of age. She said “the one thing the CDC doesn’t seem to understand is that they loyalty, devotion and love of our families lets prisoners know that they still exist during the endlessly long days when they’re away from their loved ones.”

There was great enthusiasm in the hearing room, as family members of prisoners and advocates for human rights cheered and witnessed each other while speaker after speaker bravely took the CDC to task for proposing such cruel and punitive visit restrictions. According to Chris Jackson, wife of a prisoner from Southern California. “The hearing was amazing! We laughed, we cried, we cheered, we spoke out; we made our feelings and opinions abundantly clear. I pray to God we made a difference.” (The CDC is required to take the public’s feedback into consideration before finalizing any changes in the visiting regulations.)

Often, the rationale for restrictions of visits with prisoners has a surface appeal, even an apparent logic. For example, “zero tolerance” is usually held up by corrections administrators as a rationale for restricting visits for prisoners who have a history of substance abuse, as if visitors bring the drugs into the prisons. The CDC claims that 52 percent of illegal drugs found in prison come from visitors. They are being entirely disingenuous. Of course, if the only people they search are visitors, most of the contraband they find will “come from visitors.” But everyone knows that most drugs are brought into prison by staff, and anyone who has visited a prison can readily see that staff are not searched as they enter.

California’s is not the only Department of Corrections that is intent on restricting visits. The same kind of “zero tolerance for drugs” rationale was given for a policy of punitive visit restrictions that held sway in the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) from 1995 until it was ruled unconstitutional in federal court last year. (Bazetta v. McGinnis No. 95-CV-73540-DT. U.S. Dist Ct, E. Dist of Michigan, So. Div., April 19, 2001). The Michigan policy stipulated that any prisoner with two substance-related infractions during a prison term lost the right to have visitors (the prisoner could apply for reinstatement after two years). The infractions that triggered restrictions on visits in Michigan usually involved a “dirty” urine test. But in the several cases I reviewed in preparation for my expert testimony in Bazetta v. McGinnis, an infraction resulted from a prisoner possessing Motrin tablets beyond the prescription’s expiration date. A male prisoner was even given a disciplinary write-up for “refusing” to produce a urine specimen when, because of prostatic hypertrophy, he was unable to urinate on command.

There are even more serious flaws the logic of zero tolerance. It is known that sixty to eighty percent of prisoners come to prison with a substance abuse problem, while only six to eight percent turn in a dirty urine sample so the large majority of prisoners do not actually use drugs or alcohol while they are incarcerated. We know that a prisoners with a substance abuse history who does not undergo any serious treatment for the problem in prison is likely to relapse into substance abuse after being released. Yet, nationally, the percentage of those provided with substance abuse treatment while imprisoned dropped from seventeen to ten percent during the 1990s. Obviously, a large number of prisoners who would benefit from drug and alcohol treatment do not receive it. Instead of restricting visits as punishment – something that is prohibited by the U.N. and other international human rights organizations – the corrections departments could make an attempt to “correct” by providing adequate substance abuse treatment.

The same illogic is involved in the CDC’s plan to further restrict visits for prisoners in Security Housing Units. Restricting their visits is the best way to cause prisoners to despair and resort to acting out all the more. In other words, the prisoners the CDC is singling out for visit restrictions are precisely the prisoners who should never have their visits restricted.

The contradiction between what we know to be the benefits of quality visitation and the authorities’ inexplicable campaign to obstruct visiting belies any aura of logic that may surround contemporary prison policies. The same illogic is involved in the dismantling of education and rehabilitation programs, which are known to be effective I reducing recidivism. And the CDC is confining a growing proportion of prisoners to Security Housing Units, and releasing many straight out of isolated confinement back to the streets, essentially setting them up to fail.

The cruelty that emerges when one group of people wields total control over another requires a great degree of secrecy. Correctional staff cannot feel anywhere near as free to brutalize prisoners if their behavior receives significant public scrutiny. But most of the public does not really wish to hear about the worst forms of prison brutality. The perpetrators of abuse rely on that detachment. Family members and friends are the most likely to go public with complaints of inhumane conditions and abuse of prisoners. Meanwhile, the prisoners most likely to be brutalized are the ones who receive few if any visits. Perhaps the nationwide move to make it more difficult for families to visit and stay connected with their loved ones in prison, like the implementation of “gag rules” to restrict press access to prisoners, is simply motivated by a wish to avoid public scrutiny. As a general rule, when the public permits itself to be seduced into silence by slogans like “zero tolerance” and “no coddling,” prisoners lose all hope of protection from cruel and unusual punishment.

Jun 01, 2002

LETTER: Medical Abuse at CCWF

Delores Garcia

keywords: abuse, health, medical abuse

Dear CPF:

There is a building here at CCWF numbered 805. When you enter it is a normal prison clinic. But there is a set of double doors marked “out of bounds.” Behind these doors exists the “out of sight – out of mind ‘SNF (Skilled Nursing Facility)’”. We are patient-inmates housed back behind those doors – unknown by most – forgotten by many.

This is where I live. My judge sent me to prison because the CDC reassured him they could “take care of me.” I arrived here in an ambulance from the county jail to my bed in SNF. I don’t have a yard to go outside to – only a patio where the others smoke and I can’t go. I’m on oxygen 24/7. My existence outside my room is a 100 foot hallway I can’t stop in and a dayroom.

Chronically terminally ill – fighting to breathe – three months later, they get a machine to keep me breathing at night. Seven months later: no knee brace, no therapy to help me walk, constant pain but they can “take care of me.” Getting the wrong medication is excused because a nurse got me “mixed up” with another patient. Medical staff also asks me to explain my condition. Suffocating at night because of lack of air – too hot – too stuffy. Hands that won’t open in the morning from arthritis: can’t peel my grapefruit, can’t eat, no one to help, no pain meds till 9 or 10 – they’re too busy at eight. Needing my linens changed is called a “comfort not a necessity” after a week.

I’m in a wheelchair, on oxygen, but we are locked down all but three and ¾ hours a day because of “security.” The lockdown began, amazingly, at the time we filed some 602s (grievances) about conditions:

Diet meals that serve salt to low-sodium diets, sugar to diabetics, fried chicken and ice cream to low cholesterol diets. Vegetables cooked to mush, “salad” consisting of a handful of iceberg lettuce, yet the staff physician says we don’t need vitamins.

Doctor visits – must request him to see you – must talk fast because you have less than 1-3 minutes with him. Want to know how you are – what the results of your tests are – ask again – he has no pen – no chart – no memory – yes, “they take care of me.”

602 the situation – they don’t go past the doors. Compassionate release – they don’t know how long I will exist – six years – six days – you can’t predict my disease. Doctor says she needs a second opinion, send me to the hospital but I’m still here – didn’t go anywhere. My judge sent me here with my disease – he didn’t understand it either. Now my heart’s enlarged – I get weaker day by day. I lay in my bed now and wonder – is six feet under their way to “take care of me?”

- Delores Garcia, Central California Women’s Facility

Jun 01, 2002

LETTER: Tehachapi SHU

Antonio Guillen

keywords: prisoner letter, shu

Dear CPF:

First and foremost, let me extend the utmost respects to one and all. Myself, along with a number of other indeterminate SHU inmates currently reside here in Tehachapi State Prison. Supposedly, we’re just here on “lay-over” awaiting transfer to either Pelican Bay or Corcoran SHU. Most of us have been here for more than a year, and from what we’ve been told, it appears as if we’ll be here for many years to come.

From my understanding, both 4A and 4B Facilities house validated indeterminate SHU inmates. We are kept segregated from regular SHU inmates (e.g. all indeterminate SHU inmates attend their respective yards and are only celled up with other indeterminate SHU inmates), but both indeterminate and regular SHU inmates are housed in the same blocks, depending on their validation.

The purpose of this letter is to make the California Prison Focus aware of the SHU program here in Tehachapi State Prison and to let you know the struggle continues!

- Antonio Guillen, 4B Facility 6 Block, Tehachapi

Jun 01, 2002

Letter: 3-Strikes

Hratch Baliozian

keywords: prisoner letter, three strikes

Dear CPF:

This letter is in response to “Ruling: The Case May Effect Hundreds,” which appeared in Orange County Register recently. Here we go again – another highly regarded politician who made a very derogatory statement concerning Three Strikers. His name is Bill Jones, California Gubernatorial Candidate. His statement was “The get-out-of-jail-free card offered by the Ninth Circuit threatens to return the most serious and violent repeat felons back on our streets”. First and foremost Mr. Jones did not do his research very well if he is able to make a statement which is so totally wrong and misleading.

The Ninth Circuit ruling was about non-violent cases. Let’s make this clear to the public so that there will be no misunderstanding about something which is grossly misinterpreted by Mr. Jones. I am very saddened to hear such a remark from a very high elected official.

Mr. Jones is dangerously advancing toward obliterating rehabilitation. The growing attitude, shown by Mr. Jones, is to punish. All prisoners reading this know exactly what I mean. Most prisoners who spend years for a petty crime never hearing a kind inspiring word of hope are becoming staggeringly alienated behind these walls and, obviously, within the hearts and minds of our “legislators”. We really do need something to embrace, something which is completely contrary to the attitude Mr. Jones conveyed.

We need to let society see our positive contribution. In prison the lesson is even more poignant. The prisons do not reform individuals: people rot and decay inside. The human psyche is naturally broken down within the repressive environment of prison walls. Low self-esteem, negative peer pressure, and demoralized environment result. So Mr. Jones, don’t point your finger at prisoner[s] and make statements which are not true. Mr. Jones, do you know what it means to rehabilitate a prisoner? Well, if you don’t know what it means then I can tell you that in the prison system rehabilitation does not exist at any time. So Mr. Jones first and foremost, before making such a statement think of how to help these prisoners to rehabilitated. Now that’s the key to our solution and I believe you as a politician and many other[s] like you did not do your homework as you should have, so you are as guilty.

- Hratch Baliozian, Lancaster

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