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Oct 01, 2013

Corcoran Report

Ron Ahnen and Kim Pollak

keywords: 2013 Hunger Strike

From Prison Focus Issue 40
Fall 2013

The following report is based on several visits to Corcoran State Prison in July and August of 2013 at the height of the hunger strike. Key issues of physical and medical abuse, unwarranted and illegal confiscation and destruction of private property (including of legal papers) and other injustices linked to not following the hunger strike protocol are the most important matters. We received dozens of complaints in our interviews and via mail, but include only a short summary in this newsletter report.

MEDICAL ABUSE
One of the most common complaints we receive during the hunger strike was the lackadaisical manner in which medical care was administered. When nurses were supposed to be checking on hunger strikers, they would simply "fly by the cells" and maybe peek through the door without interviewing the prisoner. Prisoners reported guards forcing them to walk faster than they were able given more than the usual level of cuffs and shackles and their weakened physical state due to not eating for over a month. Prisoner A noted that it took over an hour to report to a "man down" (medical emergency situation) near his cell. Prisoner B stated he feels the medical staff are "taking the strike very, very lightly." While initially people were pulled out to have their vitals taken, nurses checked only very briefly every day at his cell door, and contact was only orally without diagnostics or assessments. Prisoner C noted the nurse visits at his cell door were mostly oral and of irregular infrequency.

Although medical officials noted that all prisoners were being offered vitamins and Gatorade without being taken off the hunger strike list, many prisoners told us they did not receive them. Prisoner D reported a sign outside of the clinic that reads "we are not giving out vitamins or nutritional drinks." He also said he was told that Dr. Wang, the Chief Medical Officer, instructed prison staff not to follow hunger strike policy. Prisoner E also reported a nurse telling him that Dr. Wang had ordered them not to follow the hunger strike protocol. Prisoner F told us that inmates were not allowed out of their cells for anything, including medical treatment. He was sent to the Acute Care Hospital when his blood pressure skyrocketed, but he was not treated.

Prisoner G was on hunger strike at the time of our visit and reported that his health had suffered greatly. He said that in mid July, his kidneys were hurting so severely that he tried to go "man down" in his cell. The guard arrived but notified him that there were only two nurses on duty at the time. About 45 minutes later they took him from his cell to the rotunda to assess him. They waited for transport to the Acute Care Hospital, but since no doctor was on duty or on call, he was returned to his cell. That night, he was in such pain he took another inmate's prescribed pain meds and passed out in his bed, only to wake up on the floor. He did not see a doctor until he went "man down" on July 31. Eventually, he was sent to the internal hospital and returned to Corcoran SHU in mid-August.

Prisoner G also reported that a SHU inmate of Guatemalan descent had been requesting medical attention for four or five days and not getting any answers. Finally he went "man down" but when the staff responded, they used force in his cell and beat him up.

The lack of treatment was clearly tied to getting prisoners off the hunger strike. Prisoner H said one doctor told him "unless you are willing to eat, I'm not giving you any treatment." Prisoner I reported that the doctor considered him suicidal and unable to make his own decisions because he continued on the hunger strike even in delicate health. When he finally began to eat again, he was put on the "high risk" management, but was then told that he was only moderate risk and should eat half a tray. He got so sick that he was sent back to the hospital.

Prisoner J said the nurse forgot to give him his insulin. He put in a medical request, but they did not respond. Finally he had to "call cage" (yell and shake the cage) before medical staff responded. He was told he would have to wait, however, so that medical could deal with the strikers first.

RETALIATION AND ABUSE
Several prisoners noted the more aggressive posture of the guards during the hunger strike, who seemed irritated at the extra work and checks they had to conduct. Prisoner K reported that when the guards moved folks, they tried to provoke violence. He noted the prisoners resisted such provocations. Prisoner L states that he and others were not being returned to their original cells as a form of retaliation. He also stated that guards were grabbing, harrassing, and provoking inmates in order to incite violence. They will not allow prisoners to speak at times when they should be allowed to do so. Another prisoners reported that it took him six months to draw a piece of art called "Unity" with four women from different racial groups. He reported the artwork was simply destroyed.

HUNGER STRIKE ISSUES
Prisoner M reported that the guards were intentionally manipulating the number of prisoners on hunger strike. Sometimes guards would mark on their sheet that an individual accepted a tray even if they didn't. He challenged a guard on one occasion who seemed surprised he refused a tray noting "you accepted one last night." When the prisoner corrected him saying that he didn't, the guard then corrected the information. When he asked the guard why he put down the incorrect information the night before, the only answer he got was "Sorry, my bad."

The threat of being sent to an SNY yard was one of the tactics used to break the hunger strike. Some prisoners reported being sent to an SNY yard or housed among debriefers. Prisoner N said that there, "things would happen . . . Doors would open . . ." He stated that he did not want "to get taken down like that" (that is, set-up for an attack on an SNY yard). He also received none of his legal material while he was on the SNY yard.

Another tactic was to threaten with permanent loss of property. When prisoners went single cell, they received no receipts for their confiscated property, which was then being thrown away. Prisoner O said he heard this was going on from a guard with whom he has good rapport. Prisoner P noted that a form of punishment for those participating in the single cell action was to split up compatible inmates who had been together for a long time. Prisoner Q noted that new cellmates would be moved in and prisoners were made to sign a compatibility agreement. He noted, "yet how can you agree to be compatible with somebody you scarcely know?" Prisoner R noted that compatibility is to be assessed when a prisoner receive's a potential cellie's C-file to review it for age, where from, validation, etc. Prisoners are supposed to be given a choice among possible cellies. This protocol is simply not being followed.

Also, prisoners who refused cellies were threatened with a second 115 (one for the hunger strike and one for refusing a cellie). Having received two 115s in a 180 day period could have them sent to ICC for reclassification as a "program failure." The consequence is reportedly loss of property increased from 90 days to one year. In addition, inmates cannot have anything in their cell during the first six months including absolutely no books, magazines, or newspapers. After six months they are allowed one book or one newspaper, but not more than one at a time. After this threat, 20 men who were single celled took cellmates back.

Prisoner S reports that IGIs have been spreading rumors about different prisoners. He said that the administration has a pattern of celling up people who are incompatible in order to incite violence. He said that IGI goes around spreading rumors about what one group said about another group in order to stir things up.

PROPERTY CONFISCATION
Several prisoners involved in the hunger strike but not the single cell action also had their property confiscated and were unable to file a complaint (602) because they never received a receipt of confiscated property. Many reported having part of their property destroyed including legal papers, personal letters and momentos they had possessed for years. Prisoner T who has an upcoming court date, is one of the many men who reported having their legal paperwork confiscated. He filed a 602, but it was rejected on the grounds that he had no property receipt and no proof of what was missing. Prisoner U reported that he got his property back, but a lot of personal stuff had been thrown away.

Prisoner V reported that all of his property, including his hearing aid, glasses, inhaler, and legal papers, were confiscated while he was out on a visit to the law library. He never made it back from the law library, but was moved to an SNY yard. He has an upcoming court date and deadline.

Priosoner W noted that he received two 115's-- one for the hunger strike and one for refusing a cellie-- and that his disciplinary assessment was 90 days of lost credit and 10 days loss of yard. Since his discipline had nothing to do with property, he asked for his property back only to be told that it mysteriously was redirected to the wrong place. It was sent to an SNY Gym. The Sgt. agreed that he should get his property back, but told him there were hundreds of cases to get through, so he didn't know how long it would take to get his property back.

Many other prisoners also repeated the charge that no property receipt was given thereby making it
impossible to file a 602 to get one's property back. Prisoner X was told by the Sgt. in his area "give us a year, there's a lot going on."

VALIDATION
Despite the claims of officials in Sacramento that the new security threat group policy and step down program constitute a radical change in CDC our policy with respect to gang validations and SHU assignment, evidence gathered from our interviews suggests otherwise. Specifically, Prisoner Y's validation is based in part on a birthday card he received from his grandmother which included pictures of MLK, Frederick Douglass, and Malcolm X. One guard told Prisoner Z "if IGI came to my house, I would definitely be validated as a member of the be GF because I own books by Malcolm X, George Jackson, the Panthers, MLK Junior, etc." Prisoner Z then asked, "So do you believe I am not BGF?" The guard replied, "Yes, I do, but there is nothing I can do about it." Prisoner AA was validated based on a picture of George Jackson, a card from a friend, and the mention of Black August in a card.

Prisoner BB reported that he has seen signs on the cells door that include a prisoner's name, picture, age, and if you're validated, what you're accused affiliation is. He says the man are upset about this situation because some people might be able to use that information to validate other prisoners.

Prisoner CC was told that only Associates would be reviewed, not members--in direct contradiction to two different memos signed by high CDC are officials in Sacramento.

CONCLUSION:
The abuses contained in this report offer little hope that the new gang validation and SHU placement policy re-write (known as the new Security Threat Group Management Policy) represents the radical shift that CDCR administrative officials claim it is. We continue to push for greater transparency and will continue to report on the widespread abuses that occur daily within our prisons. Only by uncovering and reporting these abuses we will ever be in a position to put an end to them.

Oct 01, 2013

Pelican Bay Report

Kim Pollak

keywords:

From Prison Focus Issue 41
Winter 2013

This report is based on interviews with inmates at Pelican
Bay State Prison in July and August of this year,
during the 60-day-long Hunger Strike. Information
has also been gathered through the many letters received directly
from Pelican Bay inmates. Hundreds of prisoners at
Pelican Bay participated in the latest protest and over 30,000
system-wide: the largest ever hunger strike in CA prisons.
The majority of the men with whom we spoke had participated
and/or were participating in the strike at the time of the
interview.

MEDICAL CARE AND CHECK-INS
Though medical negligence is a common complaint heard
from inmates at all times, it is especially noteworthy during
the hunger strike. Some members of the public have questioned
the responsibility of the prison to provide health care
to those who chose to place themselves in harms’ way by
not eating. The prisons do in fact have responsibilities to the
prisoners, even during a hunger strike. Daily medical checkins
are protocol during hunger strikes after the third week.
While some prisoners reported that nurses would walk by
and ask inmates if they were okay and drinking fluids, others
described staff walking by their cells with no verbal communication
at all. Some prisoners had been informed that during
the strike Medical was understaffed. One prisoner’s statement
reflects the sentiment of most, if not all of the hunger
strikers: “The hunger strike is designed to motivate change.
We are not trying to die.”

Prisoners reported the neglect of health care needs both
related and unrelated to the strike. Prisoner J, however, stated
that despite delays he knew of no one who had been denied a
medical request. Prisoner B explained that medical appointments
were not necessarily denied but were not meaningful
either. For example, requested scans, x-rays and treatments
were commonly denied. Unfortunately, even outside of the
hunger strike, the most basic diagnostics and treatments are
denied regularly. And although prisoners who “fell out” (i.e.,
they ended their strike due to physical conditions) were taken
to Medical, prisoners consistently relayed accounts where
prisoners would not have fallen out or needed to go to Medical
had it not been for the actions or neglect of prison staff.
It is not uncommon that prisoners who are hurt or sick and
in need of immediate care receive no response from staff and
wait extended periods of time before receiving any medical
attention. Prisoner A reported hearing staff bang at the door
of a fellow inmate, yelling “get the fuck up or we’ll extract
you.” When staff finally opened the door they found him unresponsive.
At that point the prisoner was taken to Medical.
We received various reports in regards to prisoners’ prescribed
medications. Blood pressure medications were suspended
for strikers because they must be taken with food.
Nobody appeared to have a problem with that. However,
several others reported discontinuation of all pain medications
simply as an act of retaliation. When strikers began eating
again, medications were not always reissued automatically,
but rather the men were required to submit requests,
causing unnecessary delays. According to Prisoner G there
is a new “pain committee” in Medical. To see the medical
reports, prisoners must buy them from their own file.

FEEDING AND REFEEDING
Starting approximately three weeks into the protest,
around July 25th, prisoners were offered Gatorade and vitamins
B12, B1 and C. Prisoner B reported that sometimes the
Gatorade packets were cut open and not always full. Some
of the strikers received the Gatorade, but were not given vitamins.

Once strikers were ready to continue eating they were put
on a re-feeding diet. According to Prisoner A the re-feeding
diet began with a small paper cup of Ensure twice a day, to
half a can twice a day, to two full cans a day. On days five
and six the men received a peanut butter sandwich and bologna
sandwich. On the 8th day the men were given breakfast
and dinner meals with instructions to only eat half and by
day nine strikers were back on regular meals. He added that
prisoners could continue receiving Gatorade and vitamins
throughout re-feeding. Several prisoners reported that they
or a fellow inmate had been denied the special re-feeding
diet and consequently became sick and had to go to Medical.
Prisoner H for example, reported that a fellow prisoner who
had come off the strike after losing approximately 25 lbs.
was denied the re-feeding diet and as a result the striker got
sick and was sent to the infirmary where he was given an IV.
Control by Retaliation, Intimidation and

MANIPULATION
Reports of staff retaliation is sadly all too common in California
prisons. Retaliation, intimidation and manipulation
are used as methods of gaining and maintaining control over
both individuals and groups. Inmates described the countless
ways that retaliation, intimidation and manipulation were
used by prison staff throughout the strike as ploys to maintain
dominance and influence the outcome of the protest.
What follows is only a small sample of the kind of tactics
used to squash the prisoners’ non-violent protest against torture
and inhumane conditions.

Prisoner B reported that guards offered him a tray with
coffee and water through the slot in his door. He refused it
however, explaining that if he had accepted the tray, even
without food, he would have been counted as off the strike.
Prisoner E reported that guards passed out free canteen lists
as an enticement to eat. Prisoner F and Prisoner G were
off strike because of misinformation by guards that others
had stopped. Others who had stopped when they received
the misinformation, later resumed their strike. Prisoner D
stopped striking on the 18th, 10 days into the strike, because
he and the other men in his pod were threatened that if they
did not eat they would be moved to the Administrative Segregation
Unit (ASU) where conditions of isolation are even
harsher than SHU, or C12 where the debriefers are housed.
The entire pod stopped their strike. Another ploy used by the
prison to break prisoner spirits was to cause physical discomfort
using temperature control. Prisoner D reported temperature
fluctuations that are either too cold or too hot. Prisoner
F explained that keeping people cold increases hunger and
hunger related discomfort. According to Prisoner C, guards
used a mattress to block the space beneath the cell door of a
fellow inmate who was no longer on strike. Presumably this
was to keep him from passing food to his neighbors. The lack
of ventilation worsened his asthma.

All hunger strikers received disciplinary/retaliatory writeups
for participating in the protest. The write-ups were issued
for participating in a “gang-led” prison disturbance. According
to some prisoners the serious rules violations reports
(115s) showed inaccurate dates, downplaying the strength
and length of the strike. Guards issued the 115s to the prisoners
noting that if they pled guilty, they would get 90 days
credit loss.

According to Prisoner A many prisoners did so. Alternatively,
if they challenged the 115s and pled not guilty, they
would have their TVs taken for 30 days, which is a big deal
because the men are not getting much mail right now and TV
is their only form of communication with the outside world.
However, Prisoner G explained, those who challenged their
115 were almost entirely found guilty and ended up having
their TVs confiscated for 60 days instead of 30.
Prisoner D reported that the typewriter privilege, which
had been issued a few days before the strike began was rescinded!
They have rescinded permission for other items
as well: cups, soap dish, candy bars. Prisoner F reports that
when he started eating again, portion sizes were (and continue
to be) smaller than before the strike. The threat and implementation
of relocations and property confiscation were
additional tactics employed by staff to control the prisoners
and the outcome of the strike.

RELOCATIONS AND PROPERTY CONFISCATION
Relocations were used as a method to stop the flow of
information between prisoners and as a disincentive for inmates
to continue their participation in the protest. Hunger
strikers were moved to different units within the prison and
from Pelican Bay to Corcoran and New Folsom. Prisoner
representatives who organized the strike were especially
targeted for relocation. Efforts to keep strikers uninformed
were largely effective, as many men complained of being left
in the dark and having no idea of what others were doing and
what they should do. One prisoner explained that the guards
were also trying to isolate those who had come off of the
hunger strike from those who had not.

The reps and many other strikers were moved from the
SHU to ASU, where television, radios and other forms of
sensory stimulation generally permitted in the SHU are
all summarily prohibited. Though the yard is better in the
ASU, the cells are smaller. Most prisoners did not want to be
moved from their cells and fellow pod inmates with whom
they were familiar, and even considered “family”, as one inmate
explained. Relocation to the ASU was a threat sufficient
enough to make some strikers end their strike. Hunger Strikers
moved to ASU were returned to the SHU upon eating.
When strikers were relocated their belongings were confiscated.
Numerous prisoners reported that their property was
disposed of, allegedly lost, or as Prisoner B reported, his possessions
had been “trashed.” Prisoner G reported that a week
after the strike began guards took his property, including his
writings, drawings, and legal documents. He received a receipt
saying that they “examined” his legal paperwork for
contraband, but did not read it. They returned some of his
paper work, but not all. He was especially upset about the
loss of his drawings which he had been working on all year.

PROGRAM AND MAIL
Program was greatly reduced during the strike. Prisoner B
reported that they were only being allowed out of their cell
two days a week, and even that was not consistent. Prisoner
C reported that they were on rolling lockdown three days/
week and that prisoners were not getting full yard time even
on those three days. The prisoners were told that this was
due to staff having more work because of the hunger strike.
In addition, Prisoner H explained that the pods had not been
cleaned because the workers were on strike and it fell on the
COs to clean the cells.

Prisoners reported that mail was regularly delayed throughout
the strike. Some inmates reported that they were receiving
their mail while others were not. Prisoner D reported that
old mail was finally being released, including newsletters
held since last Spring.

One prisoner shared a powerful account of his experience
in ASU. He explained that the ASU yard at Pelican Bay is
outside in a series of ten cages, “like animal cages” he explained.
On a positive note, he said it was the first time he
had seen plant or animal life in 20 years. “Little yellow flowers,
ants, bugs, birds. Sunshine.”

SOLIDARITY AMONG PRISONERS AND THEIR FAMILIES
Dispersed within the stories of the men’s struggles and
sacrifices were stories of strength and beauty, such as families
of prisoners of different racial groups moving beyond
racial boundaries and joining together in solidarity to make
a difference.

Because of the yard configuration one man shared that he
was able to see people for two or three cages on either side.
He was able “to see other human beings,” he exclaimed.
He was able to see people that he had known for years but
had never seen. It was the first time this prisoner, an African
American man, had spoken with another Black person in 7-8
years. It’s “like a reunion… Just as good as having a visit…
I’ve been isolated from others for so long.”

Another powerful element of this struggle is the extent
to which the prisoners have put aside their differences and
have acted in solidarity. A great number of those that did not
participate in the strike showed their support for the struggle.
Several prisoners, for example, reported that individuals and
entire pods boycotted the canteen, in solidarity with the hunger
strikers

Oct 01, 2013

Corcoran Report

Ron Ahnen and Kim Pollak

keywords:

From Prison Focus Issue 41
Winter 2013

The following report is based on several visits to
Corcoran State Prison in July and August of 2013 at
the height of the hunger strike. Key issues of physical
and medical abuse, unwarranted and illegal confiscation
and destruction of private property (including of legal papers)
and other injustices linked to not following the hunger
strike protocol are the most important matters. We received
hundreds of complaints in our interviews and via mail, but
include only a short summary in this newsletter report.
Medical Abuse

One of the most common complaints we received during
the hunger strike was the lackadaisical manner in which
medical care was administered. When nurses were supposed
to be checking on hunger strikers, they would simply “fly by
the cells” and maybe peek through the door without interviewing
the prisoner. Prisoners reported guards forcing them
to walk faster than they were able given more than the usual
level of cuffs and shackles and their weakened physical state
due to not eating for over a month. Prisoner A noted that
it took over an hour to respond to a “man down” (medical
emergency situation) near his cell. Prisoner B stated he feels
the medical staff are “taking the strike very, very lightly.”
While initially people were pulled out to have their vitals
taken, nurses checked only very briefly every day at the cell
door, and contact was only orally without diagnostics or assessments.
Prisoner C noted the nurse visits at his cell door
were mostly oral and of irregular infrequency.

Although medical officials claimed that all prisoners were
being offered vitamins and Gatorade without being taken off
the hunger strike list, many prisoners told us they did not
receive them. Prisoner D reported a sign outside of the clinic
that reads “we are not giving out vitamins or nutritional
drinks.” He also said he was told that Dr. Wang, the Chief
Medical Officer, instructed prison staff not to follow hunger
strike policy. Prisoner E also reported a nurse telling him that
Dr. Wang had ordered them not to follow the hunger strike
protocol. Prisoner F told us that inmates were not allowed
out of their cells for anything, including medical treatment.
He was sent to the Acute Care Hospital when his blood pressure
skyrocketed, but he was not treated.

Prisoner G was on hunger strike at the time of our visit and
reported that his health had suffered greatly. He said that in
mid July, his kidneys were hurting so severely that he tried
to go “man down” in his cell. The guard arrived but notified
him that there were only two nurses on duty at the time.
About 45 minutes later they took him from his cell to the
rotunda to assess him. They waited for transport to the Acute
Care Hospital, but since no doctor was on duty or on call, he
was returned to his cell. That night, he was in such pain he
took another inmate’s prescribed pain meds and passed out
in his bed, only to wake up on the floor. He did not see a doctor
until he went “man down” on July 31. Eventually, he was
sent to the internal hospital and returned to Corcoran SHU in
mid-August.

Prisoner G also reported that a SHU inmate of Guatemalan
descent had been requesting medical attention for four or
five days and not getting any answers. Finally he went “man
down” but when the staff responded, they used force in his
cell and beat him up.

The lack of treatment was clearly tied to getting prisoners
off the hunger strike. Prisoner H said one doctor told him
“unless you are willing to eat, I’m not giving you any treatment.”
Prisoner I reported that the doctor considered him
suicidal and unable to make his own decisions because he
continued on the hunger strike even in delicate health. When
he finally began to eat again, he was put on the “high risk”
management, but was then told that he was only moderate
risk and should eat half a tray. He got so sick that he was sent
back to the hospital.

Prisoner J said the nurse forgot to give him his insulin. He
put in a medical request, but they did not respond. Finally he
had to “call cage” (yell and shake the cage) before medical
staff responded. He was told he would have to wait, however,
so that medical could deal with the strikers first.

RETALIATION AND ABUSE
Several prisoners noted the more aggressive posture of
the guards during the hunger strike, who seemed irritated at
the extra work and checks they had to conduct. Prisoner K
reported that when the guards moved folks, they tried to provoke
violence. He noted the prisoners resisted such provocations.
Prisoner L states that he and others were not being returned
to their original cells as a form of retaliation. He also
stated that guards were grabbing, harrassing, and provoking
inmates in order to incite violence. They did not allow prisoners
to speak at times when they should be allowed to do
so. Another prisoners reported that it took him six months
to draw a piece of art called “Unity”, showing four women
from different racial groups. He reported the artwork was
simply destroyed.

HUNGER STRIKE ISSUES

Prisoner M reported that the guards were intentionally manipulating
the number of prisoners on hunger strike. Sometimes
guards would mark on their sheet that an individual
accepted a tray even if he didn’t. Prisoner M challenged a
guard on one occasion who seemed surprised he refused a
tray noting “you accepted one last night.” When the prisoner
corrected him saying that he didn’t, the guard then corrected
the record. When he asked the guard why he put down the
incorrect information the night before, the only answer he
got was “Sorry, my bad.”

The threat of being sent to an SNY yard was one of the
tactics used to break the hunger strike. Some prisoners reported
being sent to an SNY yard or housed among debriefers.
Prisoner N said that there, “things would happen . . .
Doors would open . . .” He stated that he did not want “to get
taken down like that” (that is, set-up for an attack on an SNY
yard). He also received none of his legal material while he
was on the SNY yard.

Another tactic was to threaten permanent loss of property.
When prisoners went single cell, they received no receipts
for their confiscated property, which was then being thrown
away. Prisoner O said he heard this was going on from a
guard with whom he has good rapport. Prisoner P noted that
a form of punishment for those participating in the single
cell action was to split up compatible inmates who had been
together for a long time. Prisoner Q noted that new cellmates
would be moved in and prisoners were made to sign a compatibility
agreement. He noted, “yet how can you agree to
be compatible with somebody you scarcely know?” Prisoner
R noted that compatibility is to be assessed when a prisoner
receives a potential cellie’s C-file to review it for age, where
from, validation, etc. Prisoners are supposed to be given a
choice among possible cellies. This protocol is simply not
being followed.

Also, prisoners who refused cellies were threatened with a
second 115 (one for the hunger strike and one for refusing a
cellie). Having received two 115s in a 180 day period could
have them sent to ICC for reclassification as a “program
failure.” The consequence is reportedly loss of property increased
from 90 days to one year. In addition, inmates cannot
have anything in their cell during the first six months including
absolutely no books, magazines, or newspapers. After
six months they are allowed one book or one newspaper, but
not more than one at a time. After this threat, 20 men who
were single celled took cellmates back.

Prisoner S reports that IGIs have been spreading rumors
about different prisoners. He said that the administration has
a pattern of celling up people who are incompatible in order
to incite violence. He said that IGI goes around spreading
rumors about what one group said about another group in
order to stir things up.

PROPERTY CONFISCATION
Several prisoners involved in the hunger strike but not the
single cell action also had their property confiscated and were
unable to file a complaint (602) because they never received
a receipt of confiscated property. Many reported having part
of their property destroyed including legal papers, personal
letters and mementos they had possessed for years. Prisoner
T, who has an upcoming court date, is one of the many men
who reported having their legal paperwork confiscated. He
filed a 602, but it was rejected on the grounds that he had no
property receipt and no proof of what was missing. Prisoner
U reported that he got his property back, but a lot of personal
stuff had been thrown away.

Prisoner V reported that all of his property, including his
hearing aid, glasses, inhaler, and legal papers, were confiscated
while he was out on a visit to the law library. He never
made it back from the law library, but was moved to an SNY
yard. He has an upcoming court date and deadline.
Prisoner W noted that he received two 115’s-- one for
the hunger strike and one for refusing a cellie-- and that his
disciplinary assessment was 90 days of lost credit and 10
days loss of yard. Since his discipline had nothing to do with
property, he asked for his property back only to be told that
it mysteriously was redirected to the wrong place. It was sent
to an SNY Gym. The Sgt. agreed that he should get his property
back, but told him there were hundreds of cases to get
through, so he didn’t know how long it would take to get his
property back.

Many other prisoners also repeated the charge that no
property receipt was given thereby making it impossible to
file a 602 to get one’s property back. Prisoner X was told by
the Sgt. in his area “give us a year, there’s a lot going on.”

VALIDATION
Despite the claims of officials in Sacramento that the
new security threat group policy and step down program
constitute a radical change in CDC policy with respect to
gang validations and SHU assignment, evidence gathered
from our interviews suggests otherwise. Specifically, Prisoner
Y’s validation is based in part on a birthday card he
received from his grandmother which included pictures of
MLK, Frederick Douglass, and Malcolm X. One guard told
Prisoner Z “if IGI came to my house, I would definitely be
validated as a member of the be BGF because I own books
by Malcolm X, George Jackson, the Panthers, MLK Junior,
etc.” Prisoner Z then asked, “So do you believe I am not
BGF?” The guard replied, “Yes, I do, but there is nothing I
can do about it.” Prisoner AA was validated based on a picture
of George Jackson, a card from a friend, and the mention
of Black August in a card.

Prisoner BB reported that he has seen signs on cell doors
that include a prisoner’s name, picture, age, and if he’s validated,
what his accused affiliation is. He says the men are
upset about this situation because some people might be able
to use that information to validate other prisoners.
Prisoner CC was told that only Associates would be reviewed,
not members--in direct contradiction to two different
memos signed by high CDC officials in Sacramento.

CONCLUSION:
The abuses contained in this report offer little hope that
the new gang validation and SHU placement policy re-write
(known as the new Security Threat Group Management
Policy) represents the radical shift that CDCR administrative
officials claim it is. We continue to push for greater transparency
and will continue to report on the widespread abuses
that occur daily within our prisons. Only by uncovering and
reporting these abuses will we ever be in a position to put an
end to them.

Jun 01, 2013

Pelican Bay State Prison Report

Kim Pollak

keywords: Cell Raids, Gang Validation

From Prison Focus Issue 40
Summer 2013

This Pelican Bay Report is based on dozens of letters that we have received in the past few months and legal visits with almost 50 prisoners.

GANG VALIDATION
Bogus Gang Validation Practices Continue. The practice of using old information to validate and revalidate prisoners as gang affiliates and keep them in SHU continues. Notably, since gang associates are now being released to the step down program, some prisoners report being switched from "associate" to "member" status in order to retain them in solitary confinement. One man reported the Institutional Gang Investigator (IGI) used points towards his validation that were over four years old. Another was denied relief from the SHU at his six-year review based on a name they said was found in somebody else’s cell two years ago. {Some men have reportedly been validated based on information found in their files from as far back as the mid 1980s.}

Men continue to be validated based on their names being found in the cells of other inmates and information gathered from informants. Prisoners note that such methods of validation are error-ridden. One prisoner stated “an informant might get a couple of things right, like one’s name and address, while the rest is bunk.” Another said “The lists (found in others’ cells) used to validate prove nothing.” “Where does the list originate? How old is the list? Who is actually on it?” Answers to these questions are not considered.

Incoming mail from relatives is used by the IGI to validate gang affiliation construing such phrases as "I spoke with your mother" as "gang communication." Prisoners report that the mere possession or sharing of certain articles and books, including even novels, are deemed "gang activity" by the IGI. Some prisoners report harmless items being used to validate them such as a card with a shamrock or a picture of a jaguar.

One prisoner noted that after spending five years in general population, he was validated as a gang member. He has spent nearly two decades in the SHU even though he has never received a 115 (serious rules violation). Another man explained that he could have been paroled since 1997, but feels sure that he’ll never get out because they want him to debrief and will always find a way to keep him in SHU.

{Another prisoner explained that until he admits to being a part of a gang, he will never be paroled. According to this prisoner, as long as CDCR does not get the answers they want to hear, they will continue to claim that he has not come to terms with or taken responsibility for his crime and continue to deny him parole.}

VIOLATIONS AND APPEALS
Prisoners report that guards are issuing many more violations, and that they have become increasingly frivolous. “Guards are much more strict and make up petty rules, then change them again the next day, unexplained” one prisoner said. One man reported that he has been greeting his fellow prisoners in the same way for the past 28 years. Now he is reprimanded for the same behavior that was never a problem in the past.

Prisoners are still being written up for drawings deemed "gang-related." One man related that he received a 128, a violation for “mild misconduct”, for a drawing with an Aztec symbol. As a result his mail was stopped. He filed an appeal stating that mail cannot be stopped without a 115. Within a week he received a 115.

Prisoners are consistent in their reports of retaliation for filing appeals. One inmate spoke of actions taken by guards in response to a Habeaus Corpus that he submitted, including confiscation of his medications and the tinted lenses for his glasses, which he needs due to migraine headaches. In addition, prisoners report that “602s are denied with a rubber-stamp; categorically without regard to the merits.” For that reason many prisoners simply “do not bother with [filing formal complaints] anymore.” One man reported that due to a staff error, he had to resend the entire 602 packet. “This is a big hassle,” he explained, “which is ultimately [CDCR’s] goal--to discourage [prisoner complaints].”

LACK OF MEDICAL CARE
Numerous prisoners report suffering from chronic, preventable pain. Some prescriptions are reportedly now issued only for 2 weeks, while others are monthly. Since prisoners are charged $5 to see a nurse (or $10 if they are on restitution), it costs them money every time they need to renew their prescription. New SHU residents at Pelican Bay are reportedly being denied the medication(s) and/or medical devices they had received at their former institution. Medication continues to be cut and prisoners are more commonly seeing nurse practitioners rather than doctors.

One man suffers symptoms from an unknown cause that initially would come and go, but since 2006 it has not gone away. They sent him to the psychiatrist, but have not given him a brain scan. Prison medical staff concluded that it’s just allergies and gave him an over the counter allergy medication, which has been ineffective. For the last few weeks he’s been getting light headed more frequently. Another prisoner reported that his glasses broke and his requests to have them repaired or replaced have been ignored. A third man reported a familiar complaint. He has Hepatitis C, but medical staff will not recommend treatment until his disease reaches the advanced level of stage 3. He was diagnosed well over a year ago but has yet to receive any preventive treatment.

LAW LIBRARY
One prisoner complains that the law library is not kept up to date and prisoners do not have access to more recent cases. Prisoners still note severe restrictions regarding access. A general user who has no current case usually must wait three weeks to a month for a response from his request. If a prisoner needs to file a timely motion in court, this restriction locks them into a very tight if not impossible timeframe. One prisoner reported that his case was dismissed four times for this reason.
Another man reported that he did not receive items sent to him by the court, and that the court did not receive items he sent as well. The law library has only two staff people. When requesting copies, such requests "take forever." In sum, law library restrictions are denying prisoners' legal rights and must be remedied immediately.

MAIL
Prisoners have noted the increased use of censorship due to the upcoming hunger strike. One prisoner noted that he has had a lot of mail "go missing" in the last five months. Another said that on several occasions, his family wrote to him referencing letters that he never received from them. Others report receiving mail with no problems.

Most notably are the restrictions on publications that speak about prisoners defending their rights, such as The Rock, Bayview Newspaper, and Prison Focus. These publications are being blocked. Several prisoners indicated that catalogues have been withheld by IGI on the grounds that they have "no educational, scientific or artistic use." CDCR is being "petty with the mail."

Often mail goes missing. One prisoner noted that he received a package from a prisoner rights organization that was thrown away. He believes it is in retaliation for collaborating with them on their brochure. Another prisoner noted that he tried to send several drawings to his daughter, but these were confiscated because they had ethnic themes that the IGI claimed were gang related.

VISITS, PHONE CALLS AND PHOTOS
Prisoners report that staff frequently deny visits for petty offenses, or for no offense at all. Prisoners emphatically underscore how connections to family members and friends on the outside keep them going. While not all are lucky enough to have family and friends who are able to visit, denying these men contact with loved ones is not only cruel, but counterproductive for everybody.

One prisoner described a situation when a family member passed away. He was permitted 15 minutes to speak to his family on the phone. He remained shackled while the guard held the phone to his ear. He complained that he couldn’t even have that 15 minutes with his family in their time of grief. Another prisoner's family lives in the Los Angeles area which is normally too far for visits. However, one time CDCR approved a visit for his family over the phone only to deny them entry upon their arrival. He said now he just lives with letters.

One prisoner reported that, having won the right to an annual photograph they can send to family members, the photographer was rude, disrespectful, and unfriendly. He was unwilling to give any warning before taking a picture, and was unwilling to do any retakes.

FOOD
Prisoners report that the food is generally getting worse, but that overall quality and portion varies. Most prisoners report that the portions are too small, leaving them hungry. Some days portions are more substantial, but they believe this happens when an inspector is touring the kitchen. Men report that their trays are often not filled. One man reported receiving burnt food and missing portions lately. Another prisoner noted that they serve the same food over and over in the same week. “At what point” he asked, “do these things become a health and safety concern?” Another, on a vegetarian diet, reports receiving the same tray as others except for the meat item which is replaced by beans. He eats beans every day, though often they are watery, and the salad is sometimes rotten. He explained that he has lost his appetite but forces himself to eat.

YARD
One inmate reported that he gets yard time only every other day, or less if there is a lockdown, which occurs almost weekly. For example, whenever a cell is painted the entire block loses their yard time for that day. According to prisoners, cell paintings occur almost weekly, so they are locked in their cell for 47 continuous hours instead of 23. Guards no longer allow people to bring books or towels onto the yard. (Towels protect prisoners' hands from the roughness and heat of the asphalt). Also, prisoners are only getting about 45 minutes of yard time rather than a full 60 to 90 minutes. Guards have been kicking people off the yard for being "too loud." Then they call the next person up for yard time—who is unaware that he's about to be called, because the other fellow's time is not up yet—and tell him, "Sorry, you should have been ready" and deprive him of his yard time as well.

CELL RAIDS
One prisoner estimates there are ten times more than the usual number of cell searches as of late. He said that the six-square-feet rule is being much more strictly enforced in contrast to the past. Guards must now search one in three cells daily, enforce the six-foot-square-rule, and break down people's property accordingly. Prisoners feel the new regulation is designed to create tension in the lead up to the hunger strike.

Jun 01, 2013

Corcoran Report

Kim Pollak

keywords: 2013 Hunger Strike

From Prison Focus Issue 40
Summer 2013

OVERVIEW
Prisoners reported through written letters and confirmed through direct visits that a whole series of legal, medical and physical abuses occurred during and after the hunger strike in order both to crush it and to retaliate against those who participated. These egregious acts of violence, provocation, and medical neglect must be investigated, and every guard or medical staff member found responsible for these abuses must be reprimanded to the fullest extent.

HEALTH AND MEDICAL
Strikers reportedly received less medical attention and lower quality care than during the hunger strikes of 2011, and compared to the already substandard level of care that they normally receive. Inmates explained that the medical staff was taking the strike “very lightly.” There were reportedly 24 cells total in the medical unit with eight being reserved for hunger strikers. According to prisoners, there was not enough space in the emergency room, contributing to the denial of requested medical care. Prisoner G explained that in order to be taken to the emergency room, an inmate had to sign a CDCR liability release form. The form is not clear, however, and does not specify from which treatments the inmate is releasing liability. For this and other reasons, some inmates declined visits to the emergency room.

Prisoner A reported that while he was in the medical clinic he was told by one of the nurses that medical staff was being ordered by the chief medical officer to give no special attention or care to the strikers. Other inmates heard similar statements from the guards. Prisoner L stayed away from the ACH (Acute Care Hospital) medical clinic “at all costs” due to what he described as “incompetence.”

Health checks occurred throughout the strike, though inconsistently and often conducted without any actual concern for the health of the inmates. Prisoner B reported that a psych staff member walked down the hall of his pod asking individuals, “Are you on strike? Are you alright?” and then left without waiting for a response. Prisoner C reported that nurses were conducting check-ins every three days. They would look into his cell and then walk by with no verbal exchange. Another reported that he was getting checked by nurses every day, but that checks were made at his cell door. The contact was only oral and no diagnostics or assessments were conducted. Baseline weights were reportedly manipulated. One striker stated that his baseline weight was taken a week into the strike after he had already lost 13 lbs. Another said his baseline weight was taken nine days into the strike after he had already lost 17 lbs. Prisoner D reported on July 26th that he had been weighed once since July 8th. Prisoner E had his vitals taken twice in a period of 24 days.

Hunger strikers reported a variety of food deprivation - related symptoms, including fatigue, dizziness, trouble holding thoughts and insomnia. One inmate reported that he was urinating blood while another reported that he was throwing up blood. Several inmates reported themselves or neighbors going “man down.” They reported that many of these incidents were preventable and occurred as a result of delays and unanswered calls for help. Prisoner E reported that he called for help for 24 hours before going “man down.” Another prisoner reported an incident he witnessed, in which a fellow inmate requested medical attention and went four or five days with no response. When he finally went man down, the guards “used force in his cell and beat him up.” More immediate responses would have prevented multiple prisoner visits to the medical clinic and hospital. As a result of injuries and illnesses that were not addressed or treated, or only after great delays, prisoners suffered from exasperated symptoms and pain. Prisoner F reported that he was hospitalized for a week, had an EKG, and was told that he would need a follow up in a couple of days. There was no follow up.

Prisoners reported that they were deprived of their prescribed pain medications, and other medications that “were to be taken with food.” Prisoner C for example, reported that he had not received the pain medication prescribed for his knee in several days, but rather was given the less effective and cheaper Tylenol. Prisoners reported that their antidepressants and other psych medications were discontinued. Prisoners reported that when they were relocated they did not receive their medications for several days. One reported that after he arrived at Corcoran from Pelican Bay, his medications were mixed up on a daily basis. At times he was denied his pain medications because it was claimed that he had refused them, which he denies. It was reported in early August that, as opposed to the 2011 hunger strike, the men were not receiving vitamins.

TRANSFERS, COMMUNICATION, AND SPECIAL NEEDS YARD (SNY)
Strikers were transferred both within the prison and to other prisons. “The overall mood inside was hectic; lots of tension and agitation and people being moved around” wrote one prisoner. Strikers were moved around in a consolidated manner. For example, it was reported by one prisoner that all of the strikers were put on the left side of the SHU in each building. This aided staff in their efforts to cut off the flow of communication among protesters. In addition, guards sometimes “reported” erroneous information that the strike had ended. Some strikers who had ended their strike prematurely would not have done so if they had known other prisoners were still striking. This occurred during the 2011 hunger strike as well. Guards also sought to eliminate the ability of non-hunger strikers to pass food to the men on strike. In addition, the warden had reportedly instructed force to be used in transfers. Guards threatened strikers with use of force in cell extractions if inmates refused to comply. The threats and moves caused some prisoners who had stopped striking to rejoin the strike in further protest.

On July 26th Prisoner D reported that seven identified representatives, including himself, were taken to the SNY where the guards made sure that representatives of groups participating in the protest remained isolated from other participants. Prisoner E believes that strikers were relocated to the SNY specifically to be housed with hostile informants, with the intention of providing de-briefers with information to make them seem more credible. Others stated that the guards were aiming to incite violence among the prisoners. One striker who was transferred to the SNY reported that the sergeant told him, “Don’t expect these guys to holler for you. They are probably going to throw feces and urine at you, but my guys are here. Don’t worry.” Not surprisingly, we received multiple reports of such incidents occurring. Strikers reported physical harassment such as being spit at, hit and kicked, as well as receiving insults and other verbal harassment from SNY inmates. The safety of the sensitive needs inmates was compromised as well.

PROPERTY CONFISCATION
Property confiscation was used as a blatant form of retaliation towards both hunger strikers and those who participated in the single cell action. We received numerous reports regarding cell searches, property confiscation and the subsequent mishandling and disposal of prisoners’ belongings. Cell searches occurred while men were in the yard or taking showers. Prisoner D reported that guards were using this method of intimidation as a response to single celling. One inmate reported he did not seek medical care because he did not want to leave his cell, concerned that while he was gone his cell would be searched and his belongings confiscated.
When an inmate and his belongings are transferred, regulations state that inventories are to be taken. This protocol was blatantly disregarded. And though some prisoners did eventually get some of their property back, others reported that their belongings were never returned and/or damaged when they were. Confiscated items included everything from reading glasses, hearing aids and hygiene products to original artwork, letters, photographs, address books and legal papers.

One prisoner reported that his building received the memo about canteen privileges, stating the additional items inmates would be allowed to purchase. The men then placed orders, but were subsequently told that the privileges had been rescinded. At the time of the interview, the men had not gotten their money back. In addition, canteen staff was instructed not to sell food items to the strikers.

115s AND OTHER FORMS OF RETALIATION
Violation write-ups were a primary form of retaliation and intimidation. As at other participating prisons, the majority of hunger strike and single cell participants received 115s with allegations of gang-related activities and accusations of causing a prison disturbance (akin to a riot). Prisoner P explained that the 115 he received for hunger strike participation which included language about “organizing, communicating, participating and passing ‘kites’.” Prisoner F explained that his violation write-up stated inaccurately that he “had no questions, needed no representation or staff investigation.” Prisoner R reported that he was not given notice of his 115 hearing, was consequently not present and found guilty. Prisoner G claimed that he did not bother challenging his violation hearing because “it’s a kangaroo court.”

Prisoners reported that men who did not attend their hearing or challenge their 115 received either eight to ten days of CTQ (confinement to quarters) or 30 days of lost “privileges.” Those who challenged their 115s and lost were denied privileges for 90 days. One inmate reported that his 90 day loss of privileges started on the day of the hearing rather than the date of the violation, resulting in more than 90 days loss of privileges. Prisoner Q reported that strikers received 115s after nine days of refusing trays and were told that after nine more missed meals they would receive a second 115 and lose some privileges permanently such as TVs and radios. As a result of these disciplinary threats and consequences and the fear of losing their most valued possessions, some protesters ended their strike.

Other forms of retaliation were reflected in the attitude of the guards. One prisoner stated that the guards were “more indifferent this time; that they do not care if people do or do not eat, or if they die.” Others reported that the guards were more aggressive since the strike had begun, especially when extra work on their part was necessary. Prisoner U reported that the guards responded with aggression when prisoners requested simple things, like toilet paper. Prisoner J reported that the guards had been harassing him verbally, calling him derogatory names. Others reported incidents of being grabbed by guards and experiencing other such forms of provocation.

YARD
SHU prisoners had reduced access to showers and yard throughout the strike. Prisoner B reported on July 28th that he had been on lock-down since July 11th. Likewise, there were prisoners who reported that they had not had yard in 20 days. Sometimes upper cells would have yard time and not lower, or vice versa. Access to the law library was restricted as well, even for those who had active cases. One prisoner stated that the officers would find any pretext they could to deny access to the law library and other privileges. Prisoner P did not have an active case, and had been waiting to go to the law library for seven months. In addition, mail was delayed and visits were denied. Prisoner Q reported that his outgoing legal mail had been held and opened.

CONDITIONS
Generally horrible conditions reportedly worsened during the strike. Temperatures were reported as both too hot and too cold in different sections of the prison, contributing to the discomfort and health risks of the strikers. One prison stated that his latest shower had hot water, implying that this was (is) not always the case. It was reported that entire sections were not being cleaned due to the work stoppage. The cells into which men were moved were often filthy and placed additional stress on the health of the inmates. The denial of personal hygiene items also increased the health risks of strikers. Prisoner R reported that refused food trays were being refrozen and served again a week later.

NUMBERS
We received numerous reports that prison officials were deliberately and falsely reporting to the media lower numbers than the real number of strike participants. Various tactics were used to lower the reported number of protest participants. For example, it was reported by CDCR that Muslims who were striking were not participating in the strike, but rather observing Ramadan. Those who drank tea or coffee, or sometimes even Gatorade, were disqualified from the list even if they were eating no solid food. In addition, strikers adamantly dispute CDCR’s claim that the strike was gang driven and/or that they were pressured to participate by other prisoners. Every inmate who communicated with us stated emphatically that they were not coerced in any way to participate.

Prisoners generally noted that the Agreement to End Hostility contributed to the positive morale and solidarity among the prisoners. Many inmates expressed appreciation of supporters on the outside. One prisoner eloquently stated his gratitude to the coalition and other activists on the outside: “All of these years, our voices would never have been heard without your support. Never think for a minute that our bravery is any more significant on the inside than the bravery it takes to stand up on the outside.”

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