People Wisen with Age. Why Can't Our Criminal Justice System Do the Same?
This is a letter from our latest issue #59. Clearly there is still much work left to be done...
To whom this may concern at California Prison Focus,
I’m most appreciative to receive the info that your organization puts out and I’m glad that someone out that is putting in the work to change things . . . perhaps ya’ll will wake some people up to the fact that change is needed.
I’ve been in prison now for almost 19 years for a crime in which no one was physically hurt. I’ll be 45 years of age in a few days. I’ve suffered a great deal during my time in prison as I’ve watched relationships fade - loved ones die - family become estranged. Although laws have progressively changed for the better, helped some get out and given others hope where there is none, there are still some like myself who remain stuck under draconian laws, such as 3 strikes.
Every time I tell someone about my situation they are left shaking their heads. Please bare with me as I explain. On 4-22-1993 a day after my 19th birthday I accepted a plea agreement for 8 years and 4 months in state prison for my involvement in some robberies. I was paroled in 1998. I had done a little over 5 years. Two years after my release I was arrested for another robbery and received a term under 3 strikes; I was given two 5 year enhancements for two prior prison terms, even though I only served one ... [T]he court looked at it like I had served two separate terms in prison. Also I got ten years for a gun enhancement. Giving me a total for 45 years to life in prison. The youthfulness of my crimes don’t help me, as I have been told that I do not qualify as a youthful offender despite the fact that I was under the age of 25 when my current offense occurred.
So - long story short - even with all of the changes occurring that have given prisoners renewed hope that they will be out sooner rather than later, individuals like myself still sit in prison hoping that another bill comes along that will change the three strikes law.
I’m aware that I am [was] a dumb ass for not learning my lesson the first time, and that I may be preaching to the choir but I just wanted to reach out to some like- minded people who know that people can change, and the system should reflect that change. Thank you for your time and all your efforts.
Sincerely, Mustafa, HDS
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Oct 5, 2019
CDCr — SVSP Retaliates Against Brutha Sitawa – With False Reports to Remove Him from G.P. Posted on 15 March 2018 by Prisoner Human Rights Movement
For years now, I have endured threats (both overt and covert) from the mouths and hands of CDCr Green Wall paramilitary services (OCS-ISUI -IGI, etc.). (See amongst others my article “Brutha Sitawa- Exiting Solitary Confinement” at http://www.sitawa.org), since following our 2013 nonviolent, peaceful Hunger Strike, when Governor Brown and his designated CDCr high officials (such as Secretary Scott Kernan, Under Secretary R. Diaz, Director K. Allison, etc.) negotiations with us (4 principal negotiators) became seriously heavy.
And every prisoner who has been released to the general population (GP) from solitary confinement (from January 2012 to the present) has struggled with “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Solitary Confinement” (PTSD-SC). (See article “PTSDSC: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” by me and Baridi Williamson, dated 12/11/17, at www.prisonerhumanrightsmovement.org).
It has been clear that the ISU-IGI personnel here at SVSP knew this and harassed, intimidated, tried bad-jacketing (spreading false rumors) and tried locking many of our class members back up in solitary confinement. And they knew that I was the first Principal Negotiator who had been released to a Modified General Population (MGP) yard. CDCr and its OCS-ISU-IGI, etc. were keeping track of where we four Principal Negotiators were housed and our movement overall.
On October 13, 2015, I arrived at the Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP) Receiving and Release (R&R). Upon my exiting from the CDCr Transportation bus and entering the R&R, I was met by the wicked ISU-IGI Welcoming Committee: guards T.J. Smith, M. Hernandez and DeAnza. They escorted me into a dark-lit property storage room and let me know that I was not welcome at their prison, in a failed attempt to intimidate me.
Now since that date, the “Green Wall” is alive and well here at SVSP. I have been threatened by those older prison guards face-to-face, while younger guards stood in their gun tower, hoping I would react to one of those Green Wall guards so that they could say, “I got that Dewberry” (i.e., Sitawa).
One such instance occurred in 2016 during the holy month of Ramadan. While I and other prisoners were entering the mosque, there was one of those Green Wall corrections guards named McClean, who threatened my life while his supervisors (i.e., sergeants) and other old guards (i.e., Green Wall C/Os) stood by and listened. C/O McClean said to me, “We will get you, Sitawa, off C-yard somehow. You won’t be around here for long!” My response was directed to the two sergeants standing nearby. I asked them, “Are you going to discipline your guard?” They answered, “We’ll talk to Officer McClean.” The other older (Green Wall) guard instructed all prisoners to enter the mosque. Now I had to restrain the Bruthas, because this guard McClean (along with his Green Wall buddies supporting him) threatened my life!
The above challenges are just a drop in a lake against me and the revolutionizing work that the Prisoner Human Rights Movement has done inside CDCr, specifically over the past seven years (2011-2018), through which we have changed CDCr. I stand with the prisoner movement that is currently challenging SVSP’s Green Wall (ISU/IGI) guards’ eavesdropping on our legal phone calls, racial discrimination, racial imbalance, soms-workers discrimination, etc. (about which prison officials have been notified through appeals, grievances, complaints, and letters between 2015 and the present). Note to the reader: Please stop and re-read the above once again. And allow the above information to soak in before you continue reading!! The above is a classic case of retaliation, harassment, intimidation, and overt threats/acts.
On January 11, 2018, while I was waiting to be released for my work assignment, I looked out the cell door and observed a guard (later identified as Lt. J. Ortega of SVSP’s ISU) and his subordinate T.E. Flores (K-9 officer) heading toward our cage. Lt. Ortega informed me that he and Flores were conducting a “routine” cell search. My response was, “Lieutenant, you guys don’t do ‘routine’ cell searches.” Lt. Ortega escorted me to a table within B-section dayroom where our assigned cell was located.
And while we were at the table, Lt. J. Ortega observed me looking for his CDCr ranking label as a Lieutenant of ISU. He stated, “We don’t allow outsiders to see our ranking.” He went on: “There’s nothing personal about this cell search; it is a routine search. I have to cross our t’s and dot our i’s, because we [ISU-IGI] know that you’re the Key Negotiator in the Ashker v. Brown lawsuit. I heard about you, Mr. Dewberry, when you first came. You were the first one of the four representatives out of SHU and the last one back in.”
I realized at that moment that this cell search is in relation to the Ashker v. Brown class action lawsuit which was the true purpose of this search. And this is a clear demonstration of retaliation coming from SVSP’s ISU and IGI personnel.
Lt. Ortega left and walked over to speak with Flores, then returned to the table where I was seated. He said, “Dewberry, you’re going to the hole for investigation.” I replied, “For what? There’s nothing unlawful in my cell.” Ortega directed C/O Palacios to escort me to the holding cage inside the mental health area.
Lt. Ortega and Flores brought my celly in shortly after me. These ISU guards knew from the onset of this matter that I was innocent-with no knowledge of anything unlawful in my cell. Yet Ortega ignored this knowledge and wrote a false lockup order to have me removed from MGP and put me in solitary confinement (SC).
I am now realizing that this Lt. Ortega (ISU) et al. are driven to illegally place me/us in solitary confinement (that is, Administrative Segregation/ Ad. Seg.) at all costs. I realized at that moment that those two ISU personnel were about to commit a crime by setting up myself and my cellmate. Lt Ortega and Flores have committed an unlawful act by planting contraband in my cage to make the false accusation that contraband was found in order to justify taking our property and later claiming they found dangerous contraband inside that allows them to prolong my isolation. They have a history of doing this at SVSP.
It was clear that Lt. J. Ortega’s superior was also informed of my innocence, yet Ortega was clearly aware of what he, along with his squad of ISU/IGI was doing: targeting me in retaliation for what I was doing to change the ole Green Wall culture here at SVSP Fac. C. Myself and my cell mate were escorted to D1 and placed in cage 228 Ad. Seg. with our lockup order forms.
The following evening, January 12th, myself and my cellmate received our personal property back from ISU/IGI, at which time they made no mention whatsoever of any “dangerous contraband.” (They even omitted that they removed several Ashker v. Brown legal documents out of our property).
C/Os Franco and Flores (from ISU) both provided me with a CDC 128-B form to sign in order to expedite my Institution Classification Committee (ICC) hearing. I had requested a copy of the CDC 128-B but was denied. They gave the forms to their supervisor Lt. Ortega, who was required to promptly provide them to his ICC superiors for my ICC hearing-but did not.
On January 18, 2018, I went to my scheduled ICC hearing, where the committee consisted of CCII Meden, Associate Warden Solis, and Captain Gonzales. The ICC’s decision was to hold me in solitary confinement for approximately ninety days. I notified them that on January 12th, I had signed the 128-B. The ICC informed me that ISU personnel did not provide them with the 128-B, which would have allowed them to make a more accurate analysis and return me back to the MGP. It was apparent that Ortega and his ISU/IGI personnel did not want for me to be released to the MGP. And by withholding the mandatory CDC 128-B information from the ICC, they knew that I would not be released by the committee.
The ICC informed me that they would be contacting the ISU/IGI staff as to why my due process was being violated, and that the ICC would fast-track my case and place me back on the MGP. This ICC realized that there was no other purpose for ISU/IGI holding me in solitary confinement any longer.
On January 19, 2018, Lt. Ortega appeared at my assigned cage door, informing me that they (ISU/IGI) were issuing us (my cellmate and me) a new lockup order. Now Ortega and his squad were falsely saying that they found dangerous contraband inside the property they had searched on January 11th -12th and returned to us on the 12th-a full week before. I said to Ortega (and his subordinate ISU guard DeAnza:
“Really. Come on, Ortega. You are doing this because yesterday your ICC superiors discovered that you withheld my signed CDC 128-B from the ICC so that they could not release me. So they got on your case. And now you’re bringing a new false lockup order claiming you found dangerous contraband a week ago. But you did not, because you would have both reported it in writing, and I let your ICC superiors know before yesterday’s classification hearing.”
Ortega shrugged with a smirk on his face. My celly told him:
“You knew he’s innocent from Day 1. And you know it now. So why you’re ignoring this truth? Just to keep him locked up and from returning to the GP.”
We both refused to sign Ortega’s new lockup order, turned, and walked away from the door.
On January 23rd, I learned that my first fake writeup/lock up order by Ortega and his ISU/IGI was voided for due process violations. A new RVR was issued. But nowhere in Ortega’s writeup report does he identify any location in the cell where the “dangerous contraband” was supposed to be at. This raises the question of how it was located inside Ortega’s ISU/IGI office and not in our cell. And why he waited a week after completing the search and returning our property (except my missing Ashker v. Brown legal case documents) to suddenly produce that contraband?? And during that week made no mention of finding any “dangerous contraband” whatsoever!
On January 25th, I went before the ICC again on Ortega’s latest lockup order, at which time the committee extended my stay in solitary pending the disciplinary hearing, after which they would bring me back for my release to the MGP.
On January 26th, Ortega’s subordinate Hernandez sent the Ad. Seg. guard to escort us to the office to speak with him. We both asked, “For what? What do he want to talk to us about?” The guard shrugged his shoulders and said he “Don’t know.” And we exercised our constitutional right to remain silent and not talk to ISU/IGI.
On January 30th, while we were in the Ad. Seg. outside yard cage, Lt. Ortega approached the front of the cage and said, in an attempt to intimidate us: “You refused to talk with my officer?” We replied, “For what? What is it that you want to talk about? We know what you’re doing to remove me off the GP and try to keep me from returning. You have been disregarding and ignoring evidence of my innocence from the start on January 11th.”
Ortega said, “So you ain’t going to talk with us?” I answered, “For what. The writeup you falsified to put me in here was voided.” He responded, “I know, but if you don’t go talk with us, I will prolong your stay in here.” He then turned and walked off with that smirk on his face.
It was clear that Ortega and his ISU/IGI cohorts knew that they messed up with their planned scheme to set me up, remove me from the GP, and keep me locked up in solitary confinement. And this is no single, isolated case.
What many of you on the outside may not know is the long sordid history of CDCr’s ISU/IGI/Green Wall syndicate’s pattern and practice (here and throughout its prison system) of retaliating, reprisals, intimidating, harassing, coercing, bad-jacketing, setting prisoners up, planting evidence, fabricating and falsifying reports (state documents), excessive force upon unarmed prisoners, stealing their personal property (religious and wedding jewelry), as identified below.
Such as when the below-identified ISU/IGI/Green Wall “squad” ran into our Northerner (on B facility) and Southerner (on C facility) cells, assaulted and excessively forced them out, dragging them off the toilet, beds, etc., naked, down the iron stairs onto the concrete tier floor, degrading/humiliating/injuring them. And over just these last few years, these ISU/IGI/Green Wall guards have run around out of control, harassing, intimidating, etc. prisoners (especially those of our Ashker v. Brown class action legal case). Much of which is documented in CDCr’s Internal Affairs, Appeals Office, and/or court cases – complaints, appeals/grievances, excessive force, and/or employee misconduct.
Presently the Prison Law Office is conducting an investigation of these ongoing patterns and practices of overt/covert corrupt, unlawful activities by CDCr’s OCS-ISU/IGI/Green Wall here at SVSP (Lt. J. Ortega, Lt. M. Stem, I.J. Smith, Sgt. J. Vinson, Sgt. M. Valdez, Sgt. G. Segura, T. Flores, K.D. Melton, M. Hernandez, DeAnza, A.J. Franco, K. Castillo-Ruiz, and unnamed others). See investigative reports and records of the Prison Law Office and CDCr-SVSP’s Internal Affairs.
And Governor Brown’s designated CDCr officials-Secretary Scott Kernan, Under-Secretary Ralph Diaz, Director Kathleen Allison, Associate Director Sandra Alfaro, and Chief of the Office of Correctional Safety – are all aware of the ISU/IGI/Green Wall out-of-control long history pattern and practice of corrupt activities (described herein) here at SVSP.
Note: CDCr’s Green Wall guards/employees were exposed by the US Northern District Court in the 1990s-2000s. See Madrid v. Gomez, and “Report on Powers, etc.” by John Hagar, Judge Henderson’s appointed special master.
Yet, decades later these CDCr officials have not only allowed this patterned practice to continue here at SVSP, but is targeting the Ashker v. Brown class members to remove us off the GP, place us back in solitary confinement, and obstruct/interfere/prevent those like myself (and others within the Prisoner Human Rights Movement) from the peaceful efforts to effect genuine changes, for rehabilitation, returning home, productively contributing to the improvement of our communities, and deterring recidivism.
Any prisoners who have been subjected to harassment, retaliation, reprisals, being set up, having evidence planted on them or in their property/work area, etc., physical assault/excessive force/cell extraction, theft of their personal property, falsification of documents (RVRs, etc.), wrongful removal from GP to solitary confinement, denial of meaningful due process, and so on: Contact the Prison Law Office, General Delivery, San Quentin, CA 94964.
Concerned citizens/members of the public, California state legislators, etc. can let high CDCr officials know that, enough is enough and join in this collective concern by contacting CDCr and Governor Brown and demanding:
1. CDCr/SVSP shall cease their retaliations against Sitawa N. Jamaa (Dewberry) and the Ashker v. Brown class members at this prison;
2. CDCr/SVSP shall immediately rein in and stop the out-of-control renegade Green Wall/ISU/IGI employees here at SVSP;
3. CDCr/SVSP shall cease the acts (overt and covert) of retaliation, reprisals, intimidations, harassments, coercion, planting evidence, setting prisoner up, bad-jacketing, fabricating and falsifying reports (state documents), and withholding evidence;
4. CDCr/SVSP shall cease their subordinates’ (OCS-Chief, ISU, IGI; Green Wall employees (to name a few, C/O J. Narvaez, C/O Sanquist, C/O Torres, C/O Guinn, Sgt. Howard, Sgt. Sandoval, C/O Santana, C/O Tonuto, C/O Vallejo, C/O Slnck, C/O, McClean, C/O Sanitos, etc.);
5. CDCr/SVSP shall cease its old culture and old thinking of OCS-ISU/IGI and Green Wall employees and order them to back off of Brutha Sitawa and those Ashker v. Brown class members, et al., working with him to change SVSP Facility C general population with rehabilitation;
6. CDCr/SVSP shall conduct its departmental investigation into the above-stated OCS/IGI/ISU-Green Wall culture, code of silence, and unlawful activities here at SVSP, and make their findings transparent and public, holding all involved SVSP employees accountable/responsible.
Also call the California legislature’s Public Safety Committee on Prisons and request Senator Holly Mitchell, and let her and her committee know that there are a lot of prisoners affected by this longstanding corruption of the ISU/IGI at SVSP.
I am one of many who have been (and continue to be) affected by IGI/ISU-Green Wall’s blatant corruption!!!
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry)
Prisoner Human Rights Movement principal negotiator
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Sep 9, 2019
CDCr’s Unlawful Tactics To Deny Parole To Qualified Prisoners
By, Joka Heshima Jinsai
The CDCr is engaged in a practice, in concert with the Board of Parole hearings, designed to deny parole to life term prisoners who not only pose no threat to society or themselves, but in the instance of Imprisoned activists such as Abdul Olugbala Shakur or myself, actually have a decades long record of serving our Communities and seeking to improve society for all of us. That practice is the use of state paid psychologists to prepare psych evaluations for parole consideration hearings.
The document above comes from the guiding regulations for Youth Offender Parole Consideration hearings.
In the document the law clearly states, not only is great weight to be given to a youth’s diminished capacity, but psychologists preparing these evaluations MUST consider any growth or subsequent maturation of the individual under consideration. THEY DO NOT.
In Abdul’s case, as most of you may know, he has been active in the struggle for progressive social change and the eradication of the Black criminal mentality for well over 30 years with multiple books, numerous articles and the development of MULTIPLE social activism and community development organizations such as The George Jackson University. He was the originator of the New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalist Collective Think Tank, the Assata Alert Network (tasked with preventing the abduction, abuse and murder of Black children, women and elders who are at disproportionate risk of such when compared with other demographics), the Free Speech Society, and I could go on and on. When he sought to share this, as well as the BUSINESS interests he's developed such as Organic Paradise and Wealthy Imports, instead of just doing the most rudimentary research to confirm the validity of these assertions the psychologist AUTOMATICALLY ASSUMED THE BROTHER WAS LYING and characterized his claims as "a grandiose sense of his own self worth", "lack of empathy for others"(!??! This Brotha has spent the last 30 years of his life doing nothing else but thinking if ways to help others.) , "Irresponsibility", and other negative platitudes which have no basis in reality. When you read the report one constantly finds one's self asking, "Where is he getting this absurd ass shit?!"
Among prisoners who are 50 years or older or who have served 25 years or more, there is a .017% recidivism rate, virtually non-existent. Yet when making a risk assessment for VIOLENT recidivism on the Brother, he cited among our age demographic his risk of reoffending was HIGH, and among all male prisoners it was average. Why is all this so significant? It's significant because a grant or denial of parole hangs primarily on a single factor: THE PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION.
As the psychologist says, so does your life. These evaluations last for 45 minutes, maximum an hour, where they ask you some 200 pre-arranged questions. From this 45 minutes to an hour these state paid psychologists seek to quantify and qualify some 30 years of your life, all while intentionally failing to follow the guidelines of the law. In just a year or so I will be subjected to the same process, with no doubt like results as I have a similar, at times overlapping, history of service to our Communities and body of work.
Every similarly situated prisoner with a Life term will be subjected to this patently corrupt process.
An independent fund should be set aside to pay for IMPARTIAL and competent psychologists to prepare these reports objectively and according to the guidelines set forth in the law. The Prisoner class that men such as Abdul and myself belong to is fairly small, dedicated to changing this world for the better which includes abolishing the Prison Industrial Slave Complex (of which the BOPH is a part) as we know it. We, if released, pose a threat only to those institutions which have traditionally and intentionally oppressed the poor, disenfranchised and underdeveloped, a threat which is socio-political, not military, and THAT is the reason this and other character assassins, are employed by the state to ensure men like us do not get out.
The only way to address this contradiction is by seeking to abolish this particular practice and replace it with one more fair and legal.
I ask you all to join me in confirming this practice and actively speaking out, organizing and mobilizing to change it. Some of the greatest political, social, cultural and principled minds of our time are languishing away in prisons across this Nation. The state KNOWS we pose no threat to public safety, but we DO pose a threat to the continued maintenance of the exploitative and repressive relationships at the root of the contradictions in all of our Communities.
I hope we can count on your collective insight and activism.
Until we win or don't lose.
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Aug 25, 2019
Give people (Gov. Newsom) enough time they will show you who they truly are:
We must develop a community oversite of the Parole Board. We, the people, must have a say in how people are moving toward parole, how they are being paroled out and what should await them, once free. Governor Newsom has failed miserably in his most recent appointees- all but one are appointees to the parole board, and all of those are cops and guards!
We are losing more than lives people, we are losing our humanity.
Greetings fellow activists, advocates, and allies,
Big love to all who helped to make this month’s Liberate The Caged Voices an amazing experience. And I want to send a special shout out to our featured speakers- both returned community members, who shared intimate parts of themselves, highlighting the reason why we come together- creating a platform for voices usually unheard, to be elevated in a space that builds awareness, advocacy, and a shift in narrative about who’s being incarcerated/enslaved and what is actually happening inside California’s prisons.
Earlier in the day, I watched and listened to the first Congressional hearings on reparations in over a decade. To my utter amazement, the fact that slavery was never abolished, due to the exception clause to the 13th Amendment, did not come up as a case for reparations. Are we so completely entrenched in the narrative that “Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves” and “slavery was abolished” that we cannot see what is right in front of us? What does except mean...?
This is the week of Juneteenth. Celebrations commemorating the Emancipation Proclamation will be happening all over the country. Sadly, the exception clause to the 13TH Amendment killed the promise of ending legal slavery in this country:
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Slavery is still legal and taking place within our nation’s prisons. It’s imperative we listen to the people most impacted by this experience, so we may learn from, and ultimately support them, in their fight for their human rights, dignity and finally, their liberation. Join us as we work to disrupt, displace, and ultimately abolish slavery and the prison industrial complex which serves to uphold and justify it. This is the human rights crisis of our time!