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Dec 01, 2017

Some Reflections on Effects of Long Term SHU: Imprisoned Responses to excerpts From Dr. Terry Kuper's Report: Psychological Effects of Long Term SHU

PHSS Coalition

keywords: SHU, Solitary Confinement, Psychological Effects of Solitary Confinement

[The PHSS Parole Committee prepared a condensed version of Dr. Terry A. Kuper's expert report, Psychological Effects of Long Term SHU (July 2017). The following letters were received from prisoners who read the condensed report. A copy of the condensed report can be requested from PHSS Parole Committee, P.P. Box 5586, Lancaster, CA 95359.]

“I will be calling again after getting in touch with my grandchildren, (Vino 17, Princess Snoony 15, Velli 13 and lil Eric 11), who live back in Leavenworth City, Kansas, who were all born while I was in SHU. So far, they have been receptive to communicating openly and warmly with the “PA PA” (that’s what they call me). Now I owe these young ones so much, but I’m still trying to get my normalcy balanced, because of the deep psychic struggles of PTSD and what Solitary Confinement does to your internal being.

“Both Brutha and I are constantly trying to wrap our minds around that whole decades-long ordeal. We speak with some of the other class fellas here with us who are also suffering in their own PTSD-SC effects. For instance, one guy who spent 20+ years in SC (since he was 19) came out here, and when his 80-year-old, Mother Queen, hugged him in the visiting room for the first time, he froze up, wanting her to stop. A few others said they, too, had this experience. (But not me, I pushed myself to challenge the abnormality…)”

“I hope and pray my letter finds you well in health and strength. I’ve just finished reading Terry Kupers’ analysis of the psychological effects of long term isolation and he did a very thorough study of the ramifications of the SHU. It’s sad to say I do feel some of these symptoms now, but I can maintain my mind in a way that allows me to not give into the despair, loneliness, panic and anxiety, and further isolating myself is out of the question.

“Being that we’re already anti-social, the AEH (Agreement to End Hostilities) stops that practice and allows us to get to know each other, even more than when we limited ourselves to just football and March Madness game pools, or shared literature and minimal conversation at Medical or helping each other with legal work.

“I think what is needed are programs that are community-based, like if you all at PHSS had an outpatient program for those of us who parole from long-term isolation. That will minimize the substance abuse and further self-isolation, I think. You all have the Parole Committee in Lancaster and the End Sleep Deprivation in Eureka, so it looks like you all can attack this thing in important areas. It would be much better than the State’s Educational Opportunity Program and Correctional Clinical Case Management Medications that I feel hurt people, rather than help them. I know you might not have the resources now but, hopefully, this is something to consider in the future.

“Now that Black August resistance is upon us, I have a lot of work to do this time. Being that I’m one of the program developers, I’ve put together a little essay writing for the few young New Afrikans in my section, for them to do on specific days that have meaning and purpose. Exercise routines go well, and this pamphlet by Dr. Kupers I’d like them to read also, so I’ll pass it around for them to understand how this place was built to break us, and we can’t let it. Thank you for this. It is helpful now! I’ve heard of California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement (CFASC), but what do they do now?”

(Editor’s note: The author spent about 10 years in Corcoran SHU. He was released to the general population thanks to the hunger strike and the class action settlement. But three weeks later, the guards put him back in Ad Seg (Administrative Segregation), and he’s now been in Ad Seg for almost a year.)

FROM LANCASTER August 1, 2017
“Thank you so much for the most recent PLEJ (Power Love Education and Justice for Liberation) packet. Dr. Krupers' expert report on Psychological Effects of Long Term SHU (Solitary Confinement). I guess I don’t have to tell you that I saw a lot of myself in the majority of those 24 men that were interviewed. Though I hate to admit it, I know that my 27 years of extreme solitary isolation at Pelican Bay State Prison-SHU (PBSP) had a harmful effect on me mentally that’s not all that easily detected by the people that I interact with daily.

“The people that I’m around in GP are mostly those I know from the SHU, and I do often retreat to my cell during yard and dayroom. My excuse is always the same: ‘There’s nothing to do out here’ or ‘they just want to talk about women—whom they are very disrespectful of—’ or ‘they want to talk about killin’words, past and present.’ Mostly, it’s a rumor mill about people they don’t like, or they hear a rumor and build on it in their heads to distort it and present it as a fact. In order to avoid it, I retreat to my isolated space and do my thing: read, write, all the while with my radio or TV/CD player pumping out music into my ears.

“It’s so true that my concentration and memory are off-kilter, in the sense that I will misplace things—in my tiny area of the bottom bunk—and take several minutes to look for it, sometimes finding it during the search for it, sometimes not finding it until I come across it accidentally.

“Being out of the SHU has been an experience in trying to get on back to living again. Thanks to . . ., and you all at Human Rights Pen Pals/PLEJ/PHSS; I am learning to rebuild my relationship to the community and regain confidence in social interactions with others. You all have been a very important part of my healing process. Thank you.

“Can we ever replace the parts of our minds that PBSP-
SHU erased."

FROM NEW FOLSOM August 7, 2017
“The Psychological Effects of Long-Term SHU Solitary Confinement – after reading that material, it brought back so many memories. I can recall while in SHU how much anger I would be feeling, how I stayed on edge, didn’t want to socialize. At times, unexpected noises would cause me to be jumpy, when the c/os would count at night and put the light in the eyes, that would anger me as well.

“I can most-definitely relate to what those who were interviewed said in this material.

“And the transition from SHU to mainline – it’s a whole other animal and it requires one to be very disciplined in dealing with General Population. After reading the prisoners’ stories, I can recall going through some of the growing pains that those guys were experiencing. It took time to adjust to being around so many prisoners, dealing with the c/os, because in the SHU, you had very little contact with them, but on the mainline, you are almost forced to have some kind of interactions with them, or you can isolate yourself from the population, as well.
“I made the decision to be active in General Population, go out and interact with the prison population, regardless of race. I am a work-in-progress and still have things to work on in how to conduct myself, but I am learning to do that each and every day. And you, Pen Pals, have been, and still are, ones who have made my transition from SHU to General Population as smooth as I could have imagined, along with the Pen Pal program and all the people who have worked so hard to make all those who spent decades in the SHUs transition to GP or even to the community…”

FROM SOLANO August 6, 2017
"I for one believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they will create their own program, and when the people create a program, you get action.” . . . Malcolm X

“One of the things that I have become very much aware of is the difference in how we manage our time in the General Population, compared to Solitary.

“How well you were able to deal with the distractive affects of isolation depended on how engaged you were in the work that you were committed to, which included every relationship that you developed, both personally and professionally/ principally/progressively. You felt as though your every waking hour had to be occupied by work, (writing or discussions on the tiers/exercise), except for those occasions when you might be asleep (and at some point, many of us started to think in our sleep). Or [there were] those occasions when you allowed yourself to drift to a time in your life when you were liberated enough to love, and live without all of the concrete and metal and isolation!

“In solitary, the work was confined to struggle. Out here in general population, that work has expanded to include aspects that you simply did not know existed then. And it is all important work.

"Being able to compartmentalize issues according to their importance is absolutely doable. But it is here in the General Population that you realize how, as a result of the volume of work that is before you, (and there are times when an issue is presented to you immediately in the moment), it becomes overwhelming.

"You think of everything: ‘OK, what do I have to do to create the space that makes it possible to consider a different perspective – not to agree with what we might be saying, but just [to] get the person/people to consider that there might be another side to whatever the issue is.’

"Rest is a very effective tool, but it usually does not last long for me. I tend to think even with my eyes closed at times (smiles). A buddy let me listen to a couple of jazz CDs; they were smooth jazz recordings. I have always been a bit biased when it came to jazz; it is either Miles Davis and the John Coltranes, or nothing at all, at least for now. It creates the space for me/us that makes things seem less overwhelming."●

Dec 01, 2017

LETTER: Settlement Round Up Repeat?

Anthony Arteaga

keywords: SHU, Ashker Settlement, RCGP, SNY, SDP, prisoner letter

For those of us who were warehoused and punitively suppressed in these SHU’s for well over a decade based on pseudo prison gang validations, it’s no surprise to be witnessing, and for this writer here, personally experiencing history repeat itself.

To be more exact that reprieve from indeterminate SHU confinement that some were afforded, resulting from the creation of the Active/Inactive gang status reviews in 1999, and the Castillo versus Alameda settlement of 2004, was short lived as most were eventually rounded back up shortly thereafter. Not only was this done in total disregard of newly promulgated regulations, but by also exploiting and abusing the loopholes within said settlement.

Although the Asher agreement brought an end into long-term solitary confinement based on status, there nonetheless are inherent loopholes within it as well, which these gung ho I GIs, statewide, are exploiting. The common thread of which being, the unrestricted use of confidential information spearheading all of these exaggerated conspiracy charges with STG nexus.

The latter being the primary loophole gradually fettering us back into these SHU’s for a period of 3 1/2 to 4 years minimum. This approximate time frame is of course one’s determinate SHU term (which is to be served first), followed by the mandated two-year Step Down Program (SDP) that only the validated community is subjected to, regardless of any concrete evidence of one’s personal involvement in order to substantiate the elements of conspiracy. To date, there are more than a few of us class members who find themselves in this predicament.

And though it has yet to be seen, STG-related write up’s based on vague confidential information, while in the SDP (undeniably leading to step repression), should be expected. Further, should one decide not to participate in another futile round of the SDP because of its childish curriculum (something which has yet to be corrected, as agreed upon in 2015), they will be subjected to RCGP placement until they submit to participation.

The creation of the RCGP via this settlement is in, and of itself, a joke and another flaw CDCR is abusing while essentially stripping those who truly want general population of the right over there personal autonomy, based on bogus confidential information alleging safety concerns.

In spite of the fact that one can be sent there for refusing to participate in the SDP, CDCR’s ultimate goal is to re-integrate SNY’s back into the general population through the RCGP. And so long as this place is allowed to continue functioning as so, nobody is secure or will be precluded from being housed there on some trumped up allegations of having safety issues. Chiefly, causing the very few who do not belong, nor are seeking refuge there, to be propelled into a perpetual cycle of SHU confinement.

Lastly, as long as the systematic violations of the settlement regarding confidential information is not addressed as an everlasting problem and we don’t begin brainstorming the collectives’ ideas concerning the matter, we’re all destined to get entangled in this insidious web once more, and repeating the SDP over, and over, and over again. A program that is not only forced on us because of status, but which is also in itself, a mockery of reforming anything and much less anyone whom don’t suffer from any kind of mental disorder… The cornerstone of the SDP and it’s direct focus and approach, which is a mistake and wrong.

Anthony Arteaga, A48159
PBS P SHU (C7 117)
PO Box 7500
Crescent City CA 95532

Dec 01, 2017

The Continuing Legacy of Mary Rubach

Katherine Rubach

keywords: mary rubach

Mary was born on February 3rd, 1924 in London, the first child of Ernest and Dorothy Pigott , he, a sales representative for Watermans Pens and she, a dance teacher. The family, Mary now with two younger siblings, Joy and Robin, were not well off, but fortunately inherited a house from an uncle in Bournemouth, where they moved. Attending Queens Mount on scholarship, Mary was hailed as the school’s first student to have ever successfully passed the High School Certificate. Mary was also quite sporty, becoming captain in the field hockey team. She was a good swimmer and learnt lifesaving skills, which were soon put to use when as a 14 year old, she saved a drowning girl at sea. Mary frequently attended a Spiritualist Church with her mother.

At a time when girls of her class did not go to university, Mary did, studying geography and history at Exeter. The family was little touched by the war, though her father did serve in Africa. She was part of the land army during her summer holidays which meant picking fruit and digging potatoes. With 21 years and a degree and teaching diploma, Mary got a job at a Boys School. Later she moved to a school closer to home where her help was needed. (Her father, having depression, was given a leucotomy operation. This lead to a life in a wheelchair.) Mary struggled to maintain discipline in her classes and after four years she gave up teaching, feeling like she had failed and not knowing what to do next.

She volunteered in London at the Bermondsey Settlement, which offered social, health and educational services to the poor of its neighbourhood. It had a particular focus on music and dance. She was impressed by her mentors in this work, and later saw this time as deeply formative. This was the beginning of a lifetime thread which found Mary working with people on the fringes of society. After a year, she trained as a probation officer and social worker, and worked with delinquent children, and then assisted in school medical examinations. This was her first experience of feeling capable in a job.

In 1953, at a Fabian Society meeting, she was told of a conference taking place at Bedford College with Dr Ernst Lehrs. This led to regular visits to Rudolf Steiner House for lectures, eurythy and painting classes. She was 29 years old when she went to Dornach for the Mystery Dramas and met Hermann Rubach, 18 years her senior. He was German, but had been living in the U.S. for the last 29 years. They married on his birthday, May 1st 1954 in London with Reverand Heidenreich and sailed on the Queen Mary for New York. They settled in San Francisco and then Berkeley. He became a life-insurance agent and she trained in social work.

Christoph, was born to her in 1959, and Katherine in 1963. Mary was a thoroughly dedicated mother, alongside supporting her husband in the anthroposophical society. Herman became a Class Reader and chairman of the Anthroposophical Society in Northern California, as well as at times being West Coast Representative. The Rubach’s held a weekly study group at their house on the hill, through which many people passed. They advertised these at the UC Berkeley campus - home of radical thinking in the 60’s and beyond. Mary played an important part in the founding of the Christian Community in San Francisco, although she was not at the time an active member she was seen performing her name sake in the Oberufer Christmas plays. She enjoyed water colour and studied different approaches including Collot d’Bois’, as well as giving painting classes in her home. The couple often hosted visiting anthroposophical lecturers and thus they met Francis Edmunds, leading to a year sabbatical at Emerson for the family in 1971. Mary helped found the local Rudolf Steiner School (too late for her children), and taught aspects of the “Extra Lesson” by Audrey McAllen. She also tried in various ways to introduce aspects of the Waldorf curriculum into the schools her own children attended, often as a storyteller. For 12 years she volunteered at The Creative Living Centre, a day centre where people could go who had recently been discharged from a mental hospital. There she offered eurythmy, art appreciation and drama to the attendees.

Mary decribed how after working with anthroposophy for 33 years, she began to question its role in her life. She wished to make a difference in the lives of people who were suffering. Mary’s concern for the disadvantaged led her to seek ways of helping the homeless. She co-founded and lead a drop-in centre for homeless women and children which was enriched by the arts and crafts, she encouraged.

Herman became increasingly dependent on his wife’s care over a 7 year period. Iscador had often been of help in the family. Herman had paid for his cousin Gisela to receive treatment for cancer in Arlesheim. She lived for another 40 years cancerfree. Mary’s mother lived for 20 years after treatment. Now Herman was diagnosed with prostate and advanced bone cancer. He made a complete recovery and regained his vitality, but suffered multiple small strokes loosing his speech and mobility. Mary nursed him at home until his death in 1992. After this trying period Mary was suddenly free to pursue new interests. She traveled to the UK and Germany and made cultural trips to Greece, Ireland and the south western states in America. She attended the Anthroposophical Schooling Course at the Centre for Social Development in Sussex and hosted the English Eurythmy Theatre on their tours of the USA. She did storytelling in the community and enjoyed ‘clowning’.

It was at this time, that she began to work for prisoners, both writing and visiting them. She worked for a small organisation called California Prison Focus, whose aim it is to defend the rights of prisoners who were regularly mistreated in the Californian prison system. With this work she experienced that she had found a real task in life, and she dedicated much time and effort to it over a 12 year period, traveling to San Francisco to work in the CPF office 2 to 3 times a week as well as working from home. She used her car to drive small groups to Pelican Bay (super max high security) Prison, where prisoners rights were clearly being violated. This was a day’s travel and Mary was 80. They interviewed and supported prisoners. Only through this organization could prisoners have their voice heard, and the law regarding confinement of the mentally ill was changed because of it. Mary’s children sadly had to encourage her to give up this work, in 2007 bringing her to England, but she remained very connected and continued to write to prisoners she had come to know. Prisoners clearly felt deeply grateful to Mary and continued to write to her even when she could no longer reply.

Mary moved into the annexe of her daughter’s house in Forest Row, and immediately became active in the anthroposophic community. She attended study groups and went regularly to lectures and conferences. She tried to connect with the prison system here to visit prisoners, but this proved not possible. She will be remembered by some for her clowning, which brought out a side of her that longed to be on stage. With her money Mary had always supported multiple charities with small donations. This continued in England. Most of the charities were connected to human rights, animal rights and agriculture.

Mary’s memory become increasingly weak. She lived in the moment, but could still say things that were very too the point. In 2014 she had a bad fall, and a live-in carer became necessary. She remained active until the end, taking regular walks and enjoying the company of friends and family and even attending lectures. Three days before she crossed the threshold she came down with a chest infection and she was able to cast off her earthly garments on September 22nd as dawn broke.

Her contentment with life, and the gratitude expressed to those around her was inspiring to many. People spoke of her uniqueness, her humour, her straight forward way of expressing her thoughts, her generosity and selflessness. They frequently expressed how lucky they felt to have known her. Mary has left behind her two children, Christoph and Katherine, and her four grandchildren, Amanda and Simeon Rubach and Daniel and Brendan Beaven. Peace be with her. ●

A chapter completed,
A page turned,
A life well-lived,
A rest well-deserved.

Nov 27, 2017

The Case of Poverty

Eric McCaa

keywords: prisoner article, poverty, the new jim crow

In America, poverty produces poverty. The rich get richer, while the poor become poorer. This tired adage still holds relevance, and is especially true for the American “underclass.” The underclass are a demographic that exist below the upper, middle and lower classes of society, and predominantly consist of minorities, felons, high school dropouts and female-headed households. Statistics prove that the underclass suffer inordinately from income inequality and social inequities. Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen argues that:

The core problem associated with poverty is that of “capability deprivation.” Capabilities are what allow people to obtain what is intrinsically important to them such as good healthcare, adequate food, shelter, education and employment. Sen also sees low-income as one of the major courses of poverty, since it can be a principal reason for a person’s capability deprivation; but there are other factors that can affect a person’s capabilities as well, such as age, race and gender in societies that offer unequal opportunities based on these types of characteristics (Iceland 32).

A factor that Amartya Sen failed to mention is the stigma of being a convicted felon in America. Because of the systematic hardships of “social exclusion” in areas of concentrated poverty, and because of the repercussions created by the criminal justice system, many inhabitants of high poverty areas find equal opportunities in employment, education and housing elusive.

Social exclusion is a multi-dimensional causation of poverty. Neighborhoods in high poverty areas are easily identifiable by dilapidated buildings, litter-strewn streets, forlorn men loitering, and the ubiquitous liquor store. The conditions listed above are just a fraction of the visible environmental aspects of social exclusion. Other environmental adversities include high crime rates, substandard education, employment, healthcare opportunities, and racial, ethnic and class segregation. Social exclusion also causes individualistic hardships such as low income, drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness, psychological disorders with a propensity for criminal behavior, race, age, convicted felon and gender discrimination. When experienced alone, any one of these factors will magnify economic instability, but when confronted with multiple causes of poverty, as many residents of high poverty areas are, the inevitable outcome of capability deprivations are unavoidable.

Some analysts refer to social exclusion as “marginalization,” which means to relegate to an unimportant position within a society or group. Other analysts prefer the term “social stratification,” which means to divide or arrange into classes, castes or social strata. Regardless of the terminology used, people living in areas of concentrated poverty are burdened with a distinct disadvantage in resource equality. Minorities, felons, high school dropouts, children and female-headed households are especially vulnerable and overrepresented in poverty statistics – “Nearly half (46%) of families in extreme poverty areas are headed by a female householder” (Iceland 57). The children raised in these single-parent households face dire circumstances and often lack a positive male role model living at home. In the 1960s, anthropologist Oscar Lewis wrote,

“By the time slum children are age 6 or 7, they have usually absorbed the basic values and attitudes of their subculture, and are not psychologically geared to take full advantage of changing conditions or increased opportunities which may occur in their lifetime” (Iceland 57).

Researchers have classified this type of causation “intergenerational transmission of poverty” (I.T.P.). Three prevalent factors help explain I.T.P.:
1. Family and environmental stresses (the daily pressures of ghetto life psychologically impede on the impoverished household)
2. Resources and investments (the parents’ lack of resources, specifically time and money to invest in their children’s developmental endowments, such as quality daycare, a computer, helping with schoolwork, and imparting moral values)
3. Cultural perspectives (the lack of an ethical community conduct system, and also a sense of despondency that influences the behavior of the impoverished creating a cultural poverty).

“This culture manifests itself in sexual promiscuity, drug use, a high incidence of single parent households and crime in poor communities.” (Iceland 50) The transference of poverty ensures that the perpetuation effects of poverty becomes the cause of future poverty. “42% of children born to parents in the bottom fifth of the income distribution remained at the bottom.” (Iceland 49) Minorities account for 79% of people living in areas of concentrated poverty. “From 2005 to 2009, Blacks made up 45%, Latinos 34%, and Whites 17% of people in high poverty areas.” (Iceland 56) These minorities are alienated from suburbia by class economic instability, and discriminatory practices. Segregated to the margins of mainstream society, the residents of high poverty areas are denied access to the legitimate economy, and as a result of social exclusion are forced into commerce in the underground economy.

The American criminal justice system is being used as an institution of racialized social control. This is not the first instance of the United States government using racialized social control. America has used: enslavement of Africans, internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II, reservations for Native-Americans, and Jim Crow laws against Blacks. In the early 1800s, America also experimented with “poorhouses” in an effort to alleviate poverty. The poorhouses were yet another form of social control employed by the United States to subjugate its most vulnerable citizens. Mass incarceration is America’s latest attempt to control a specific demographic, and the penitentiaries are the new poorhouses. In the 1970s, African-American comedian Richard Pryor defined American criminal “justice” as, “Just-us minorities suffering from the unwarranted searches, police brutality, racial profiling, arrests, convictions and imprisonment. In the forty-plus years since Mr. Pryor’s observation, the situation has worsened – the prison population has increased over six times, and the population of people living in concentrated areas of poverty has doubled. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and no other country imprisons so many of its racial and ethnic minorities. Mass incarceration has oppressed areas of concentrated poverty severely. Not only does the “lawbreaker” get penalized, but their family members and the community also suffer. Fathers are being taken away from their children, causing the mothers the added responsibility of child-rearing alone. Civil rights lawyer and author of The New Jim Crow Michelle Alexander writes,

“Once released, former prisoners enter a hidden underworld of legalized discrimination and permanent social exclusion. They are members of America’s new under caste. I use the term racial caste in this book the way it is used in common parlance to denote a stigmatized racial group locked into an inferior position by law and custom. Jim Crow and slavery were caste systems. So is our current system of mass incarceration.” (Alexander 13)

Statistics point a grim picture in regard to poverty and mass incarceration. “The imprisonment rate for U.S. residents in 2009 was: 487 per 100,000 for White men, 1,193 per 100,000 for Hispanic men, and 3,119 per 100,000 for Black men. White males were arrested 7,066,154 times and Black males were arrested 2,846,862 times.” (Almanac 123) This disparity in the imprisonment and arrest rates emphasize the effect of white privilege. “In 1972 fewer than 350,000 people were being held in prisons and jails nationwide, compared with more than 2 million people today, and a staggering 5.1 million people under “community correctional supervision” – i.e. on probation or parole.” (Alexander 94) Law enforcement officers specifically target areas of concentrated urban poverty, and label such areas as high crime neighborhoods. The “War on Drugs” wreacked havoc on high poverty/crime areas. Police across America used paramilitary tactics, S.W.A.T. teams, and paid informants to decimate the high poverty neighborhoods. “Between 1970 and 1990 the number of people in high poverty neighborhoods nearly doubled, from over 4 million to 8 million. High poverty neighborhoods are typically defined by researchers as those where over 40% of the population is poor.” (Iceland 55)

Michelle Alexander states,

“Nationwide, nearly 7 out of 8 people living in high poverty urban areas are members of a minority group. Mass incarceration thus perpetuates and deepens pre-existing patterns of racial segregation and isolation. The racially segregated, poverty-stricken ghettos that exist in inner-city communities across America would not exist today, but for racially biased government policies for which there is no meaningful redress.”

Mass incarceration and social exclusion have caused a systemic devastation of familial stability, economic solvency and ethical morals in the sector of American society that is most lacking these characteristics. Minorities are isolated from mainstream America due to social exclusion, economic inequality, mass incarceration and discrimination. Concentrated areas of poverty have spread like the plague across America, and no longer is just a problem for metropolitan areas. Rural communities now face increased hardships due to globalization, deindustrialization and the opioid epidemic. Poverty and class separation in America demand curative measures.

Works Cited
Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.
The New Press. Pub 2012
Almanac, The World and Book of Facts 2012
Infobased Learning. Pub 2012
Iceland, John. Poverty in America: A Handbook
University of California Press. Pub. 2013

Oct 20, 2017

A Proposal for Developing a Community Release Board

Fati Yero Kambon

keywords: parole

Prison Focus Issue 53
Fall 2017

In April 2015, two New Afrikan California prisoners, in a Bay View article introduced the concept of, “Strategic Release” (SR) for ‘Life’ prisoners. SR was described as “a different form of compassionate release.” The bruthas reasoned that SR recipients “will have a direct impact on reducing crime – and the social inequalities at the root of (some) criminality. They continue: “consideration for strategic release is based on a prisoner’s work product, and proven record of service to their community, and society as a whole…” their notion of an SR begins with a petition to the Board of Parole Hearing (BPH), the prisoner’s biography requesting his/her parole, or the same sent to the Governor requesting Clemency (See April 2015 edition of the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper).

The hurdle in a SR’s path, is the BPH’s or the Governor’s investigators accepting the presented evidence of a prisoner’s service to society, or the interpretation of a cited act’s value. Without such an agreement, it is hard to fathom a SR petition opening the gate for the subject of its request. However, even if prisoner advocates for SR, attained agreement one hundred percent of the time, from state investigators for their SR clients. Those paroled/clemencied would be but a miniscule portion of the more than 30,000 ‘Lifer’ population in California. Therefore, SR ought to be approached as a tactic employed in a larger campaign to acquire a greater say in parole matters. A campaign in part taking aim at the BPH’s propensity to deny parole to ‘Lifers’ who have completed the “base term” of their sentence. A campaign in part which will seek to replace law enforcement types – police, prosecutors, etc., on the ‘Board’ with engaged community members. And, a campaign in part where “Jail-House Lawyers” (JHL) among us will research the impact of the December 17, 2013, “Butler Settlement Agreement” signed by lawyers for the BPH in the First District Court of Appeals in San Francisco, California. A settlement that “required the ‘Board’ to notify ‘Life-Term’ prisoners of their ‘Base-Term’ - - - at their first Parole Hearing.”

The JHL will also research the implications of Butler’s presiding justice J. Anthony Kline’s 2012 statement: “The ‘Board’ appears to be violating the rights of thousands of inmates by systematically denying release.” Comments apparently made in an earlier ‘Lifer’ petition. Butler’s lawyer Sharif Jacob indicates early “notice of ‘Lifer’s’ “Base-Term” - - - is a starting point for a constitutional challenge,” in that on average ‘Lifers’ are receiving parole dates a decade beyond their “Base-Term.” Once all that can be learned from “Butler” has been, the JHL’s who conducted the research will prepare a pamphlet with sample writs and instructions for ‘Lifers’ to utilize when the ‘Board’ fails to follow “Butler.”

A community is a group of people of common interest, living under the same government. It coalesces with other communities to form the ‘state,’ giving it the authority to administer its affairs and enforce the law of the united communities. The community is: the city, county, or state of x, y, z versus John/Jane Doe on the ‘Face Page’ of a ‘Charge-Sheet.’ When the community law is broken, it seeks to identify, arrest and prosecute the alleged culprit. If convicted, the convict is subject to a range of sanctions up to and including a period of exile served in state prison. If the governed had “the right…to alter or abolish” the government, in the ‘colonial settler’s’ thinking of “The Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America.” Then our community is well within its right to alter any state agency – so it better serves us. The centerpiece of the campaign is giving the community the ultimate say in determining if a ‘Life’ prisoner will be reintegrated into his/her community. By creating and empowering a “Community Release Board” (CRB) brought into being through protest, proposition and/or legislation. Spearheaded by a determined cadre, united for its realization, who will educate the public, and organize mass- consciousness to protest, to proposition, to apply political pressure to advance the agenda.

The CRB will contribute to curing California’s inability to operate its prisons within their capacity, absent federal oversight, or caveat where capacity is above 100 percent, and the combustible consequence of crowding too many people into not enough space, looms on the horizon. By implementing a practical Parole Program guided by a prisoner’s “Base-Term,” and diluting dependency on manipulatable opinion. The CRB will contribute to shrinking the CDCr’s budget by resisting taking at ‘face-value’ future behavior predicters, colored by hidden prison politics and petit-peon beliefs.
The late Black Panther Geronimo Ji-Jaga was targeted by the F.B.I.’s COINTELPRO, and local police “Red Squads.” in their effort to destroy the L.A. Chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP); he was framed and convicted of a murder he did not commit. He was interned in the California Department of Corrections for (27) years, until his tenacious capable attorney convinced the court to recognize the miscarriage, ordered his release and awarded him millions in damages. The Parole Board in its wisdom, held him (20) years beyond his “Minimum Eligible Release Date” (MERD).

Had Ji-Jaga’s fate been left to the “Board of Prison Terms” (BPT) and/or “Board of Parole Hearings” BPH’s discretion; chances are he would have died an innocent man in prison, or been subject continuously to the same treatment Sundiata Acoli reported he faced across the country at his New Jersey Parole Board Hearing, (i.e.) “A forty-year train of denials.”

I appeared before the “Board of Prison Terms” BPT in December of 1981, (2) years beyond my MERD. The Deputy District Attorney representing my commitment county, recommended I be given a 5-year parole date. The Parole Board rejected the recommendation, and denied my parole, over the view of my commitment county’s representative. Today, I am (37) years beyond my MERD.

The CRB will create space, and its ripple-effect will remove the need to pay other states to house thousands of California prisoners. It will shrink the CDCr back within its borders. It will remove the pressure for new jail, and prison construction, manage over-crowding, speed up ‘Lifer’ community-reintegration by purging current BPH dysfunction.
The CRB will serve as an alternate board to the BPH for all indeterminate sentences, except ‘life-without the-possibility-of-parole,’ and ‘condemned prisoners.’ It will guard against class, and race-targeting, and act as a hedge to impede private prison profiteers, and ‘bought-off’ politicians. The indeterminate prisoner’s “Minimum Eligible Release Date” will serve as the dividing line between BPH Parole Authority, and the CRB’s.

The state will take an indeterminate prisoner to BPH within a year of their MERD and decide if it’ll grant parole. A parole grant will BE subject to the “Governor’s Review & Reversal” (GRR). If the BPH denies parole; the authority to parole such prisoner’s will transfer to the pre-convictions’ community, “CRB,” with the prisoner’s central file.
The CRB will review the file to determine when the prisoner will appear before The CRB. The CRB will have the authority to parole such prisoners within an agreed upon number of years – not to exceed five and subject to GRR. After 5-years, the CRB’s authority to grant or deny parole is wholly its own.

When the CRB grants parole; it’s “Community Parole Agency” (CPA) will assume parole supervision in all grants except prisoners the state classifies as “high-risk.” With these parolees, the state will supervise. The CPA will monitor the supervision, and conduct any parole violation hearing. The state will contract with the CRB for costs sufficient to cover salary and infrastructure agreed to with CRB negotiators.

CRB candidates will examine BPH statutes, and study California Parole Boards: The Adult Authority, Community Release Board, and the Board of Parole Hearing’s Archives. In search of the balance between what has been, what is, and what the CRB hopes to contribute to this history, as it prepares to take the mantle of alternate board and confidently write a new chapter. CRB review decisions will be weighted towards: the sentence given, when the committed crime occurred, the average time in prison during particular periods, additional convictions while in custody, the Life-Term Matrix Butler, and a sanity evaluation, (i.e.) “Does the prisoner know right from wrong?” All CRB parole grants or denials will consist of these factors, the CRB’s gathering experience and natural community sense.

The CRB’s aim is to release as many prisoners who’ve served their sentence as possible, without endangering public safety, by not being ruled by fear. By, cutting through calcified opinion, and convoluted reasoning which has ignored the time in prison, and age reduces dangerousness dramatically as well as the likelihood of participation in future crime.


For more information about our Community Release Board CRB Proposal, write to us:
Attn: W. L. Nolen Mentorship Program –
In re: Community Release Board,
P.O Box 7907
Austin, Texas 78713

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