Liberate the Caged Voices

Jun 18, 2020

Liberate Our Tortured Elders

Liberate the Caged Voices, a program of California Prison Focus, provides a platform to hear directly from our caged community members, their families and loved ones to foster engagement with the local community, while exposing the truth of the toxic conditions experienced by California’s incarcerated people, and the impact on their families. Adding art and culture, the idea is to build awareness, solidarity, and human relationship amongst community members on both sides of the wall, and take collective action.

 

As COVID-19 uncovers the system failures across all sectors of human life, the call for Decarceration and the release of incarcerated people most vulnerable to the virus reveals the ongoing human rights crisis taking place within our prisons, and the need to abolish them. We hear that call! 

 

California is home to hundreds of elder prisoners subjected to decades of state sanctioned cruel and unusual punishment by indeterminant sentencing, torture of solitary confinement and California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation’s (CDCr) dehumanizing tactics, used to also punish the family and loved ones suffering alongside them. And now, to add insult to injury, these elders are being subjected to a potential death sentence by this virus and CDCr’s, and the Governor’s, reluctance to release them, despite their vulnerable status. Out of love and respect we will focus on these tortured elders.

 

They will not be forgotten or silenced.

 

We invite you to join us! Following the spirit of the Prisoner Human Rights Movement BLUEPRINT, we will enter into dialogue, mutual empowerment, and reciprocal education to learn the truth of who these elders are, why they’re aging in prison and what we can do together to demand and facilitate their freedom, and freedom for all. 

 

#LiberateOurCaged&TorturedElders #MassDecarcerationNow #FreeThemAll

 

www.prisons.org

FB live series starting Friday, May 8, 2020; 10am

Ongoing Roundtable Dialogues (webinars) starting mid-May

https://sfbayview.com/2014/02/how-torture-is-inflicted-on-prisoners-in-solitary-confinement/








 

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Apr 7, 2020

Today on Prison Focus Radio, I wanted to share the heightened level of optimism and 'hope' I'm feeling as COVID-19 takes the uncovering of amerikkka's ills to a level higher and gives us abolitionists a broader way forward to aid in the release of our caged community members. We had some technical difficulties and so the first half of the show didn't get recorded. but we pulled it off...

As I drove to San Francisco I listened to Democracy Now. Naomi Klein was talking about disaster capitalism- imagine such a thing, but it is so...what captured my attention is how she spoke about the disorientation that is created and exploited when there's a disaster. Aaah, don't become disoriented! Breathe, pay attention, and act accordingly. Orient oneself to the present, to the higher self, to each other. I wanted to orient the listening audience to positive, caring and empowering language: collective, community, unity, together, us, collaboration, connection...

I endeavored to share some of the positive and important work being done out here on the ground with our people inside, and their loved ones, to inspire hope and optimism for the present moment, despite the chaos and uncertainty.

I read a piece from the SF Chronicle regarding San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin's decision to release people from jail that didn't need to be there to aid in the prevention of COVID-19 spread, and the many other places where release is taking place.

I read Comrade Malik's recent piece asking us to make good on our time and use social media to the max to drive this issue home regarding imprisoned people and COVID-19.

I read excerpts from the powerful CPF Demand Letter written by Minister King, members of the Prisoner Human Rights Movement, and Kim Pollok

Maddi read a poem.

I read an excerpt from the notes on the Justice Collaborative's webinar.

I read the AEH.

I played Minister King's new piece- but had to fade out early...

Overall, the point was made to present a positive and uplifting hour to our most vulnerable population. To act in loving community with them and let them know we care as much as we advocate. And to show these people shouldn't be jailed, imprisoned or detained anyway, that it took a pandemic to show the world the reality of mass incarceration and the lies being told to uphold it.

 

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Feb 26, 2020

This powerful Solidarity Message and the Agreement to End Hostilities, as well as the voices of our returned community members, will be our guiding light as we move forward in the Liberate The Caged Voices campaign to promote the Prisoner Human Rights Movement and honor the Agreement to End Hostilities. We will focus on the Four Main Reps and the Representative body of the 2011-2013 CA Hunger Strikes, and their extraordinary circumstances regarding their denial of parole, the torture of decades of solitary confinement and ultimately the recognition of their humanity! 

Thank you to all who gathered- and shared- for our first event of the campaign. We were/are a large and committed group, and I hope to see you next month! Wednesday, March 25 6:30-8:30 (see calendar for details)

 

 

Introduction to SOLIDARITY MESSAGE FROM THE FOUR PRISONER REPS AND CALIFORNIA PRISON UPDATE from the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition


What follows is an update from the leadership of the 2011 and 2013 California Prison Hunger Strikes against indefinite solitary confinement and other mistreatment across the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCr), the world's largest prison system. These “Reps” had been in solitary for decades and sought to draw attention to and challenge the systematic torture by CDCr through a series of non-violent hunger strikes, two in 2011, and a third in 2013.
In May of 2012, the Center for Constitutional Rights and several prominent prisoner rights attorneys and organizations in California formed a team and partnered with a representative group of 10 Pelican Bay SHU prisoner plaintiffs, including some of the hunger strike reps, to file a class action lawsuit. That lawsuit, Ashker v. Governor of CA, charged that California's practice of isolating prisoners in solitary confinement for many years, and indefinitely, violated U.S. Constitution protections against "cruel and unusual punishment" and denied Constitutional guarantees to "due process." Also in 2012, the four Reps and 12 other SHU Prisoner Representatives issued an historic document, the Agreement to End Hostilities, calling for an end to all violence and hostility between different groups of prisoners throughout California.
A third hunger strike began July 8, 2013, involved over 30,000 people incarcerated in California prisons, lasted 60 days, and made solitary confinement a significant issue across the United States. All major U.S. newspapers' editorial pages had at least one condemnation of the practice in the weeks that followed. The third strike ended when the CA State Senate and State Assembly Committees overseeing prisons held unprecedented public hearings to investigate California's solitary confinement. On Sept 1, 2015, a landmark settlement was achieved in Ashker v. Governor of CA ending indeterminate solitary confinement in California prisons and allowing the legal team to monitor the California prison system to ensure settlement compliance. This month, February 2020, the four Reps have issued a solidarity statement and California prison update.
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Addresses for the four Reps. Send them some love and light:
• Todd Ashker, C58191, KVSP, P.O.Box5101, Delano, CA 93216
• Arturo Castellanos,C17275, PBSP, P.O.Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532
• George Franco, D46556, DVI, 23500 Kasson Rd,Tracy, CA 95304
• Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (RonnieDewberry)
Use this address until Sitawa fully recovers: Freedom Outreach, c/o Marie Levin for Sitawa, Fruitvale Station, P.O. Box 7359, Oakland CA 94601

Solidarity Message from The Four Prisoner Reps and California Prison Update (names listed in alphabetical order)
by Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, George Franco, and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa


A shout out of solidarity and respect to all class members and prisoners across the state. As the four reps, we felt a public report on the current state of California prisons from prisoners was overdue.
As leadership of the 2011 and 2013 California Prison Hunger Strikes that captured the attention of the nation and the world on the role of solitary confinement in United States prison systems, particularly California, we four prisoner reps became recognized as speaking both for the Ashker class, former Pelican Bay SHU prisoners, but also more broadly in many respects for the entire California prisoner class.
California’s prison system, the largest in the world at that time, was the also the greatest abuser of long term solitary confinement. We were housed in the Short Corridor of the notorious Pelican Bay Super Max SHU (Security Housing Unit) and, as all Short Corridor prisoners understood, the only way out of that isolating tortuous hell was to “parole, snitch or die.”
We decided standing up together, asserting our humanity even at the cost of our own lives, was better than rotting and dying alone in our concrete tombs. Nonviolent united action was the only path that made sense; our only avenue to act was a hunger strike. It took widespread unity, preparation and work among us prisoners, but also work on the outside by our families, friends and a growing list of supporters across the state and the country.
Without prisoners speaking about our conditions of confinement, the public narrative about imprisonment and mass incarceration is missing a critical voice – our voice, the incarcerated. We are the first-hand experts on the daily experience of being caged in prison generally and the trauma of extreme isolation.
All other experts collect data, do studies, view our experience without living it. Many, not all, are our oppressors. Their expertise is not about what incarceration is like, but why we and so many millions of people in the U.S. should be imprisoned. No voice has more expertise about the experience and impact of incarceration than the voice of prisoners.
Here we make five points:

First. Prison in the United States is based on punishment, not rehabilitation. The United States has the largest prison population in the world and the highest percentage of a state’s population housed in cages. We are held in punishing ways that cause fear, emptiness, rage, depression and violence. Many of us are more damaged when we leave prison than when we entered.

According to the National Reentry Resource Center, a high percentage of state and federal prisoners will be released back into society. National statistics indicate that there is a high rate of released prisoners returning to prison. All of those who leave are older, some smarter, but all of us are less able to be productive in the society at large or good for our communities or our families. It is very hard for former prisoners to get jobs.

Prison presents an opportunity for society to rehabilitate or help people. Many of us could use support services. That opportunity is lost and buried by a vindictive ideology of punishment.

Rather than us being hypervigilant, concentrating on violence, dangers, our fears and rage, prison could be a place to engage our minds in useful jobs and job training, with classrooms for general learning, training in self-awareness and understanding, anti-addiction approaches. Instead, we are mostly just warehoused, sometimes in dangerous yards with angry, frightened, vicious guards.
California’s Governor Newsom has the opportunity to help institute a massive prison reform movement.

Second. California likes to think of itself as a progressive national leader, yet in sentencing California is among the harshest in the nation. In California, a life term is given for second degree murder. Second degree murder is a non-premeditated killing. Only 17 states are that punishing. Two thirds of the states and the U.S. federal system give a flat 15 years.

The U.S. Supreme Court has said that evolving standards of society’s decency should create a national consensus on sentencing standards. Our prison journeys begin in those courts. We four reps of the
California prison class call for reform in sentencing. Massive money could be spent for education, training and jobs here and in our communities rather than on caging human beings to harm rather than help us or society.

Third. The trauma we experience in these overcrowded institutions with a culture of aggressive oppression, as if we are violent animals, is harmful and breeds violence. We prisoners should not join in our own oppression. It is not in the interest of the prison class to buy into promised rewards for lying on other prisoners.

The use of lying confidential informants is widespread and legendary in California prisons and jails. We see even among ourselves, who have great active lawyers ready to pay attention to our situations, just how regularly vicious retaliation, evil lying and disregard of our medical needs occurs. Broadly among the California prisoner class, there is mistreatment, horrid isolation, medical disregard, terrible food, cells that are too cold, too hot or too damp.
The history of positive social change demonstrates that when those who are oppressed stand together – as a group, a class – against that oppression, change can happen. Our own experience with eliminating endless solitary confinement in California proves that.

We need to stand with each other, behaving respectfully, demanding respect and not turning on our fellow prisoners for promises of crumbs. We four reps stand for major prison reform that helps us, not harms us, that betters society, not makes it worse.

Fourth. We four reps are for the principles we outlined in the Agreement to End Hostilities, the cessation of all hostilities between groups. We called on prisoners throughout the state to set aside their differences and use diplomatic means to settle their disputes.
If personal issues arise between individuals, people need to do all they can to exhaust all diplomatic means to settle such disputes; do not allow personal, individual issues to escalate into racial group issues. We encourage all prisoners to study the Agreement to End Hostilities and to try to live by those principles to seek your support to strive together for a safer prison environment.

We are not there yet. Dangerous cross-group hostility remains. What we experience in California prisons is not just developed in prison but is also widespread and supported in free society. Racial antagonisms, ghettoized housing, separation, institutionalized racism and promotion of beliefs of each other as less than human, as stupid, as criminal barbarians can cause us to fear and hate each other. It does not serve us or society well. There are no easy ways to challenge these deep American divisions; forcing us together in joint yards, visiting rooms or classrooms will lead to violence and deepen the danger.

We four reps especially call out and stand against 50/50 yards. We oppose forced mixing of hostile groups where mortal enemies are forced together; 50/50 yards are dangerous and will make things much worse by causing fresh horrific encounters. No matter the policy’s intention, the state is responsible for our safety and wellbeing while we’re living under its jurisdiction.

We are entitled to respect and safety. We seek what we are entitled to. The 50/50 yards as a CDCr policy provokes violence. At this time, we endorse separate yards, separate programming and separate visiting.
We also call on California leadership, Governor Newsom and the State Assembly and Senate to implement policies that encourage and grow support for the Agreement to End Hostilities that do not include 50/50 yards or forced interaction, but rather engage our minds and energy with productive jobs, education, training – major prison reform to a genuine rehabilitative system.

Fifth. The guard culture, especially in the yards, is vicious and provocative. Here where we live, the guards do not care about our safety. The guards get extra pay when there is violence; it is in their financial interest to promote it. Not surprisingly, guards regularly provoke disputes. Many enjoy the resulting violence.
California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), the powerful guards’ union, is led by men who for the most part consider prisoners less than human. The CCPOA by their network and behavior supports the use of set ups, targeting, lying and isolation for random punishment. This intentionally causes widespread fear.
The CCPOA is one of the most politically influential organizations in California and holds many righteous political leaders hostage. The CCPOA members benefit with large overtime pay bonuses from violence and lockdowns.
Only if prison reform becomes a widespread demand of California voters can the influence of CCPOA be challenged. We need our families, friends and communities to build and extend our allies and develop strong support to vote for politicians who recognize our worth and are for widespread serious prison reform and an end to brutal warehousing that endangers society every day.
CDCR and California itself are legally responsible and accountable for prison conditions. Neglect does not free them of state institution responsibility for those in their “care.” The guards’ union should not be permitted to purchase power for abuse.
California citizens need to vote for prison rehabilitation as a priority: money for teachers, instructors, prisoner jobs instead of lockdown overtime and more guards.

Finally, we close with an update on our legal challenge. Our class action constitutional challenge to long-term solitary confinement was filed in May of 2012. We won a landmark settlement on Sept. 1, 2015, that resulted in thousands of people being released from SHUs across the state.
The settlement also gave us and our legal team the right and responsibility to monitor whether CDCr is following the requirements of the settlement for two years. That monitoring period was set to end in 2017, but in January 2019, U.S. Magistrate Judge Illman granted our motion to extend monitoring of the settlement agreement based on ongoing systemic constitutional violations in CDCR’s use of confidential information and in its reliance on past gang validations to deny parole.
Magistrate Judge Illman’s order extended our monitoring for 12 months. CDCr appealed and asked the court to suspend monitoring pending the appeal outcome. U.S. District Court Judge Wilken intervened and allowed us to continue monitoring pending any appeal outcomes.
Our legal team has two pending appeals that CDCr has filed seeking to overturn the lower court orders in our favor. One appeal covers the extension of the monitoring as discussed above; the other covers enforcement of the settlement agreement regarding conditions of confinement in Level IV prisons and the RCGP (Restricted Custody General Population) unit.
As our legal team continues to monitor implementation of our settlement agreement, they are looking closely at how CDCR uses confidential information to place and keep validated and nonvalidated prisoners in Ad Seg (Administrative Segregation) and RCGP for long periods of time and sentence people to SHU for bogus RVRs (Rules Violation Reports). They are also trying to keep track of how validations continue to impact us, especially when we go before the parole board.
If you have any information about any of these issues, although they cannot respond to every letter, please write our team at: Anne Cappella, Attorney at Law, Weil, Gotshal & Manges, 201 Redwood Shores Pkwy, Fourth Floor, Redwood City, CA 94065.

In closing, we remind all of us prisoners and supporters that we are human beings who have a difficult shared experience. We have a right to our dignity, even inside these punishing walls. We present an opportunity to make society better rather than meaner.
We ask all prisoners to stand together, read and act within the principles of the Agreement to End Hostilities, whether you are in Ad Seg or RCGP or General Population, see yourselves as part of an international Prisoner Human Rights Movement.
We four prisoner reps send regards and recognition to each of you as fellow human beings who are entitled to fairness, dignity and respect. We send our respect to all our brothers and sisters incarcerated anywhere with hopes for genuine rehabilitative programming, jobs, education and training in this coming year.
We send our greetings to all the friends, family and communities from which we come, to all our allies in the general society, and we send our hopes for an understanding of the opportunity California has to again be a leader in reform to make the world a better place with so many of us who need help gathered together in state institutions.
We send extra love, support and attention to our Brother Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, who is experiencing challenging health issues. Our Brother Sitawa sends his extra love to all those prisoners, prisoners’ families and general supporters of the International Prisoner Human Rights Movement.

February 2020

The authors requested this message be followed with the Agreement to End Hostilities.

Agreement to End Hostilities                                                                                                                                                                 August 12, 2012
To whom it may concern and all California Prisoners:
Greetings from the entire PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Hunger Strike Representatives. We are hereby presenting this mutual agreement on behalf of all racial groups here in the PBSP-SHU Corridor. Wherein, we have arrived at a mutual agreement concerning the following points:
1. If we really want to bring about substantive meaningful changes to the CDCR system in a manner beneficial to all solid individuals, who have never been broken by CDCR’s torture tactics intended to coerce one to become a state informant via debriefing, that now is the time to for us to collectively seize this moment in time, and put an end to more than 20-30 years of hostilities between our racial groups.
2. Therefore, beginning on October 10, 2012, all hostilities between our racial groups... in SHU, Ad-Seg, General Population, and County Jails, will officially cease. This means that from this date on, all racial group hostilities need to be at an end... and if personal issues arise between individuals, people need to do all they can to exhaust all diplomatic means to settle such disputes; do not allow personal, individual issues to escalate into racial group issues!!
3. We also want to warn those in the General Population that IGI will continue to plant undercover Sensitive Needs Yard (SNY) debriefer “inmates” amongst the solid GP prisoners with orders from IGI to be informers, snitches, rats, and obstructionists, in order to attempt to disrupt and undermine our collective groups’ mutual understanding on issues intended for our mutual causes [i.e., forcing CDCR to open up all GP main lines, and return to a rehabilitative-type system of meaningful programs/privileges, including lifer conjugal visits, etc. via peaceful protest activity/noncooperation e.g., hunger strike, no labor, etc. etc.]. People need to be aware and vigilant to such tactics, and refuse to allow such IGI inmate snitches to create chaos and reignite hostilities amongst our racial groups. We can no longer play into IGI, ISU, OCS, and SSU’s old manipulative divide and conquer tactics!!!
In conclusion, we must all hold strong to our mutual agreement from this point on and focus our time, attention, and energy on mutual causes beneficial to all of us [i.e., prisoners], and our best interests. We can no longer allow CDCR to use us against each other for their benefit!! Because the reality is that collectively, we are an empowered, mighty force, that can positively change this entire corrupt system into a system that actually benefits prisoners, and thereby, the public as a whole... and we simply cannot allow CDCR/CCPOA – Prison Guard’s Union, IGI, ISU, OCS, and SSU, to continue to get away with their constant form of progressive oppression and warehousing of tens of thousands of prisoners, including the 14,000 (+) plus prisoners held in solitary confinement torture chambers [i.e. SHU/Ad-Seg Units], for decades!!!
We send our love and respects to all those of like mind and heart... onward in struggle and solidarity...
Presented by the PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective:
Todd Ashker, C58191, D4 121
Arturo Castellanos, C17275, D1-121
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C35671, D1-117 Antonio Guillen, P81948, D2-106
And the Representatives Body:
Danny Troxell, B76578, D1-120
George Franco, D46556, D4-217
Ronnie Yandell, V27927, D4-215
Paul Redd, B72683, D2-117
James Baridi Williamson, D-34288. D4-107 Alfred Sandoval, D61000, D4-214
Louis Powell, B59864, D2 - 117
Alex Yrigollen, H32421, D2-204 Gabriel Huerta, C80766, D3-222
Frank Clement, D07919, D3-116 Raymond Chavo Perez, K12922, D1-219 James Mario Perez, B48186, D3-124
August 12, 2012

A Quien Corresponda y Todo Prisionero en California:
Acuerdo para poner Fin a Enemistades
Saludos de parte de todos los Representantes de la Huelga de Hambre del Corredór Corto PBSP-SHU Por este medio, estamos presentando este Acuerdo Mutuo de parte de todos los grupos raciales que se encuentran aquí en el PBSP-SHU(Hoyo). En donde, hemos llegado a un acuerdo mutuo acerca de los siguientes puntos :
1. Si de verdad queremos llevar a cabo cambios sustantivos y significantes al sistema de CDCR, de una manera beneficiosa para todo individuo serio , que nunca han sido quebrantado por las tacticas de tortura destinadas a convertirlos a ser soplones estatales via interrogatorio, que ahora es el tiempo que juntos podamos aprovechar este momento, y poner un fin a los más de 20 a 30 años de enemistades entre nuestros grupos raciales.
2. Por lo tanto, comenzando el 10 de Octubre, 2012, todas las enemistades entre nuestros grupos raciales ... en el HOYO/ SHU, Ad-Seg, la Población General, y Cárceles de Condado, oficialmente terminaran . Esto indica que, de esta fecha y adelante, toda enemistad entre grupos raciales tienen que terminar... y si asuntos personales se presentan entre indivíduos, todos tenemos que hacer todo lo posible por agotar los medios diplomáticos para resolver disputas; no debemos permitír que los asuntos personales e individuales se conviertan en problemas raciales!!
3. Tambien queremos advertirles a aquellos en la Población General que IGI continuará a mandando Informantes encubiertos al Patio de Necesidades Sensitivas (SNY) entre los prisioneros serios de la PG, prisoneros con órdenes del IGI a ser informadores, soplones, ratas, y obstruir, con el fin de perturbar y debilitar el entendimento mutuo de nuestros grupos colectivos sobre los temas deseados para nuestras causas mutuas [es decir, obligar a CDCR a abrir las lineas principales a la GP , y regresar a un sistema rehabilitador de programas significativos/privilegios, inclusive visitas conyugales para los sentenciados a vida, etc. via actividades de protestas pacíficas/no cooperacióne.g.,huelgas de hambre,no trabajar,etc.etc.]. Todos deben seguir concientes y vigilantes atales tácticas, y rehusar permitír que tales soplones de IGI ocasionen caos y reanuden enemistades entre nuestros grupos raciales. No podemos seguír siendo manipulados con las viejas tácticas de dividir y conquistar de los IGI, ISU, OCS, y SSU’s !!!
Para concluír, debemos mantenernos fuertes a nuestro acuerdo mutuo desde este punto en adelante y enfocar nuestro tiempo, atención, y energía sobre causas mutuas y beneficiosas para todos nosotros [es decir, los prisoneros], y en nuestrosmejoresintereses.NopodemosseguírpermitiendoleaCDCR usarnosunocontraelotroparasupropio beneficio! Porque la realidad es que juntos, somos una fuerza poderosa que puede positivamente transformar este sistema corrupto a un sistema que en verdad puede beneficiar a los prisoneros, y con eso, al público en General... y nosotros simplemente no podemos permitir a CDCR/CCPOA – la Union de Guardias, IGI, ISU, OCS, y SSU, a continuár saliendose con su forma constante de opresión progresiva y el almacenamiento de miles de prisoneros, incluyendo los 14,000 (+) prisoneros detenidos en confinamiento solitario en camara de tortura [es decir,el SHU/HOYO/Unidades de Ad-Seg], por decadas!!!
Enviamos nuestro amor y respeto a todos a quellos dementes y corazones similares...adelante en la lucha y solidaridad...
Agosto 12, 2012
Presentado por el grupo en el Corredor Corto en PBSP-SHU:
Todd Ashker, C58191, D4 121 Arturo Castellanos, C17275, D1-121
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C35671, D1-117 Antonio Guillen, P81948, D2-106
Y los representantes:
Danny Troxell, B76578, D1-120 George Franco, D46556, D4-217 Ronnie Yandell, V27927, D4-215
Paul Redd, B72683, D2-117 James Baridi Williamson, D-34288. D4-107 Alfred Sandoval, D61000, D4-214 Louis Powell, B59864, D2-117 Alex Yrigollen, H32421, D2-204 Gabriel Huerta, C80766, D3-222
Frank Clement, D07919, D3-116 Raymond Chavo Perez, K12922, D1-219 James Mario Perez, B48186, D3-124

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Feb 10, 2020

Liberate the Caged Voices: Free Sitawa!

 

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This photo was taken of Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa during a visit with him by his sister Marie Levin and Nube Brown. Thankfully, their visit, which included extensive planning for the Free Sitawa! Campaign, occurred shortly before Sitawa’s recent stroke.

Promote the Prisoner Human Rights Movement

by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington and Nube Brown of the Liberate the Caged Voices Coalition

Peace and blessings, sisters and brothers!

There is a saying among the Muslim brothers: “Want for your brother what you want for yourself.” In the case of Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa,​ principled thinker, leader, brother, son and community member, we want freedom for him.

Last year in July 2019, Malik was granted parole by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. In July 2020 we want to see the Parole Board in the state of California grant our Brother Sitawa his freedom when he goes before the board after five previous denials and 39 years of captivity, 32 of those years spent in solitary confinement.

It is not just a plea based solely on Elder Sitawa’s physical health. He is of a particular class of politicized prisoners subjected to decades of the torture of solitary confinement seen only in California, with rare exceptions in other states such as the decades of solitary endured by the Angola 3 in Louisiana.

And yet, Sitawa remains a stellar example of what positive transformations a human being can undergo in the most inhumane environments. Sitawa inspires us!

Many people fail to recognize that Sitawa, along with three other strong and principled leaders of the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective, inspired 30,000 courageous prisoners, who, in their struggle for freedom from the torture of solitary confinement – or the threat of it – chose to shun violence and rather embrace a peaceful strategy in order to bring about much needed change in CDCr (California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation) by implementing the powerful tenets of the Agreement to End Hostilities, an agreement that holds today, despite non-cooperation by CDCr.

Rather than being systematically punished for his leadership and commitment to the community on both sides of the wall, Sitawa should be rewarded with freedom and the opportunity to thrive and empower the community from which he was taken and show the world he is undaunted in his quest for change and peace.

We cannot and will not remain silent while CDCr uses a “death by incarceration” tactic on Sitawa and numerous other elders and leaders trapped in state prisons all across the United States.

Our respected Elder Mujahid Faria of Release Aging People in Prison taught me the slogan: “If the risk is low, let them go!”

Sisters and brothers, we suggest strongly that this should be our battle cry in 2020 for all incarcerated elders. Sitawa is a human being who deserves and has earned not just a national show of support, but an international freedom campaign, and we plan on helping to lead the way! Will you help us?

We leave you all with a quote from Victor Frankl that we would like all of you to meditate on – with the hope that it resonates in your heart, mind and soul. Perhaps it will motivate you to join this Freedom Campaign today:

“We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed … for what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform personal tragedy into a triumph.” – Victor Frankl, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Washington Square Press, New York 1969

I, Malik, have faced the reality that being an outspoken New Afrikan man in Amerika means I must accept being despised and hated. How I respond to the hate is totally up to me! Today I choose a path of peace and love.

Activist Nube Brown says that love is the most powerful force in the universe. Let’s see if we can collectively tap into the power of love and encourage the state of California to FREE SITAWA in July 2020.

Meanwhile, as we organize the campaign and Brother Sitawa recovers from a stroke, please send him some love and funds, to Freedom Outreach, c/o Marie Levin for Sitawa, Fruitvale Station, P.O. Box 7359, Oakland CA 94601.

Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win! All Power to the People!

Keith “Malik” Washington is assistant editor of the Bay View, studying and preparing to serve as editor after his release in 2021. He is also co-founder and chief spokesperson for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement, a proud member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and an activist in the Fight Toxic Prisons campaign. Visit his website at ComradeMalik.com. Send our brother some love and light: Keith “Malik” Washington, 34481-037, USP Pollock, P.O. Box 2099, Pollock LA 71467.

Nube Brown is a New Abolitionist and activist working with California Prison Focus and facilitator of Liberate the Caged Voices. She is actively co-leading the Free Sitawa! Campaign to promote the Prisoner Human Rights Movement and hosts Prison Focus Radio on KPOO 89.5 San Francisco and KPOO.com every Thursday 11:00 to noon. Nube is a proud member of the human race and seeks to dismantle the prison industrial slave complex and replace it with a transformative, healing justice paradigm. Connect with her at nube@prisons.org.

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Feb 1, 2020

Comrade Malik has dedicated this essay to the memory of Atatiana Jefferson, a beautiful, loving and intelligent Black woman who was murdered in cold blood in her home by a white police officer in Fort Worth, Texas. The neighbor who called the police to check on her safety deeply regrets making the call. And both her parents, first her father and recently her mother, have died of broken hearts since she was killed for no reason whatsoever in October. 

Normalizing death inside Texas prisons

by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington, Chief Spokesperson, End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement

“The media’s double standards about showing corpses is a clear illustration of the brutal necropolitics to which so many black, Muslim, indigenous, colonized and refugee lives are subjugated – that is, under the threat of, and in proximity to, death and disposal. As the first scholar to use the term, Achille Mbembe stressed that necropolitics does not reside only in the exercise of sovereignty via the power to kill, but the power to organize others’ lives so that they are perpetually exposed to death, or experience a living death of slavery, imprisonment and segregation.” – from Natasha Lennard, “Being Numerous: Essays on Non-Fascist Life,” pg. 102

The intentional murder, suicide or even “accidental” death of Texas prisoners has now reached the point of an out-of-control epidemic.

Long-held Texas prisoner and highly respected jailhouse lawyer Michael “Basir” Lane states that in the year of 2019, approximately 15 human beings died at the H.H. Coffield Unit in Tennessee Colony, the largest state prison in Texas.

It is ironic that in the year of 2019, Texas Rep. Jarvis Johnson, a Democrat from Houston, Texas, fought passionately for a piece of legislation which would have created independent oversight for this morally bankrupt agency known as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

I began this essay with a remarkable quote from scholar, activist and author Natasha Lennard. Ms. Lennard uses the term “necropolitics.” In the state of Texas, necropolitics, the politics of death, has been perfected and organized by a cadre of willing conspirators.

It is important for you to know that the necropolitics, the normalization of death inside Texas prisons, is not something that has just recently happened. On the contrary, this is how Texas does business.

This is not an attack on party affiliation, because both the Democrats and Republicans in Texas have been willing participants in this organized scheme to liquidate and exterminate those who have been deemed unworthy of our compassion.

As I said, this scheme is very organized, and it has “actors.” People who hold the most respected and highest stations in Texas have aided in the proliferation and cover-up of these horrible violations of human rights.

Exposing the actors

I arrived in the H.H. Coffield Unit in September of 2015, and I had already rung the alarm that prisoner deaths were being orchestrated and covered up inside Texas prisons. It was actually the work and activism of Kevin “Rashid” Johnson which got my attention and made me realize that this normalization of death inside Texas prisons was being condoned, protected and promoted at the highest level of the Texas state government.

In 2013, the Texas attorney general was Gregg Abbott, who has since become the governor. Rashid had been purposely brought to Texas by Abbott’s office, and Abbott then conspired with TDCJ and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to have Rashid housed at the Bill Clements High Security Unit in Amarillo, Texas.

Right away, Rashid discovered that placing him at Bill Clements was an attempt by Abbott and then-TDCJ Director Brad Livingston, to kill Rashid and finally silence his revolutionary voice. Rather than become a willing victim, Rashid became a champion of those housed at this death trap, the infamous Clements Unit, located in the “Klan-handle” of Texas.

I remember the names of all the prisoners who died or who were killed by TDCJ employees at the Bill Clements High Security Unit: Theodore Schmerber, Chistopher Woolverton, Arcade Joseph Comeaux, Alton Rodgers and more!

In the state of Texas, necropolitics, the politics of death, has been perfected and organized by a cadre of willing conspirators 

Attorney Jesse Quackenbush tried to get some justice for the families of these deceased Texas prisoners, but Jesse was up against the entire corrupt criminal justice system in Texas! We are talking about the judges, district attorneys, and even the coroners and medical examiners – all doing their utmost to downplay and cover up the loss of life at the notorious Bill Clements Unit.

Many people don’t realize how corrupt and sinister this fraternity and sorority of murderous public servants is – they don’t realize how far the tentacles reach. Attorney Jesse Quackenbush would find out.

In 2017, a homeless drunk attacked Jesse Quackenbush’s daughter in the state of Tennessee. Jesse’s daughter was trying to get to her vehicle, but she was blocked by this man who was very angry and obviously deranged. Jesse’s daughter had a gun, she used it in self-defense. 

Now, normally white women in the United States of America are given a pass when they use a firearm in self-defense – especially “well-to-do” white women like Jesse Quackenbush’s daughter. However, for some strange reason the Tennessee state attorney sought to charge Jesse’s daughter with attempted murder. Think I’m lying? I highly recommend you do your own research (see for instance https://www.amarillo.com/local-news/news/crime-and-courts/2017-09-12/daughter-local-attorney-jesse-quackenbush-charged).

Texas and Tennessee are part of the Good Ol’ Boys’ network. What we are dealing with here in Amerika is wickedness in high places. 

Now, let’s go back to the H.H. Coffield Unit and the Eastern District of Texas. In 2016, while I was housed at the H.H. Coffield Unit, I began a civil lawsuit which alleged that I had become the victim of retaliation for engaging in what the U.S. Supreme Court refers to as protected conduct. The defendants in my civil complaint were all employees of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. 

I remember their names: Senior Warden Jeffrey Catue, Mailroom Supervisor Schylece Dorsey, Safe Prisons Sgt. Rhonda Smith, Law Library Supervisor Gaye Karriker, Security Threat Group Sgt. Robert Walker etc.

There were 17 defendants in total. The complaint was assigned to U.S. Magistrate K. Nicole Mitchell. Remember when I said that necropolitics is organized? In 2016, I raised the alarm about deaths at the H.H. Coffield Unit, and the “good” and “honorable” K. Nicole Mitchell ignored everything I said!

It is not just U.S. Magistrate Judge K. Nicole Mitchell who is culpable; now we have a “who’s who” of state employees, as well as members of the media, activist community and legislators who are all willing participants in the normalization of death inside Texas prisons.

Remember Jennifer Erschabek from TIFA (Texas Inmate Families Association)? For years Jennifer had the wool pulled over our eyes! Jennifer was figuratively “in bed” with high-ranking TDCJ prison officials like Bryan Collier. The first time ever that a TDCJ executive director appeared on the iconic Prison Show on KPFT 90.1 FM, Jennifer performed like a well-trained seal at Sea World. 

I listened while Jennifer told Bryan Collier how wonderful he was, while refusing to hold him and his murderous colleagues accountable for the numerous prisoner deaths inside Texas prisons! Our “good friend” Jennifer, who charges us an arm and a leg for parole packets. A schemer and violator of the public’s trust. Shame on you!

I have always been critical of TDCJ Correctional Institution Division (CID) Director Lorie Davis. Davis specializes in targeting any prisoner who attempts to exercise their U.S. constitutional right to access the court. The pressure has been mounting for the ouster of Lorie Davis as the director of the TDCJ CID. In 2019, she took a special interest in the H.H. Coffield Unit, where prisoner deaths have become commonplace.

[P]rison in Texas is a microcosm of the “free” society outside

Senior Warden Jeffrey Catoe was relieved of his post. The numerous deaths and suicides on “Catoe’s watch” were cited as the main reason he was relieved.

Ms. Schylece Dorsey, mailroom supervisor, was fired by a federal marshall who found Dorsey had been tampering with, as well as obstructing, the legal mail of prisoners housed at Coffield Unit. Most of the security captains who were at Coffield Unit when I was housed there have been demoted or fired.

Nonetheless, the normalization of death at Coffield Unit continues unabated. Sen. John Whitmire, a Democrat from Houston, Texas, as well as his colleague and buddy Sen. Joan Huffman, engage in this ongoing conspiracy to ignore the humanity of Texas prisoners.

All those years of serving on the Texas Senate, and John Whitmire will be leaving soon as a disgraced fool and puppet of the far-right ruling party! That will be your legacy, John! At one time you had me fooled, too, but now I am no longer blind to your hatred of oppressed people.

You folks shouldn’t have sent me to the feds. You should have shipped me to the moon! That way you may have escaped this scathing critique.

Prison slavery in Texas still exists, but one day it will be abolished!

Dare to struggle, dare to win, all power to the people!

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