Prisoners from Corcoran State Prison-SHU respond to prison official’s lies

[A careful and detailed rebuttal of the state prison officials justifications for the tortuous conditions prisoners in the Security Housing Units are subjected to — and severe repression of California prison hunger strikers.  This article is well-worth reading, and passing along. — Frontlines ed.]

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A Brief Discussion on the Reality and Impact of SHU Torture Units in the Wake of the August 23rd Legislative Hearings, From the N.C.T.T. – COR-SHU

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere…We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”  — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, 4/16/63

These sage words by Dr. King are both appropriate to the discussion we’d like to have with you on indefinite SHU confinement, and cautionary as to who we are as a society in these troubled times. This 2nd point is very relevant to this discussion and we hope you’ll stick with us as we explore subject matter that is both broad and disturbing which requires us to share some inconvenient truths.

Security Housing Units, SHUs, like those in Pelican Bay, Tehachapi, and this one here in Corcoran are torture units. They are used to indefinitely house human beings in solitary confinement, under constant illumination, based on an administrative determination that they are “gang” members or associates, with an impetus towards breaking their minds in hopes of eliciting information, coercing them into becoming informants or active agents of the state. The torture units are the living tombs of not only alleged “gang” members or associates, but political and politicized prisoners, human rights activists, critics of the prison industry, jailhouse lawyers and most anyone who in the sole determination of Institutional Gang Investigators (I.G.I.) and administrators, are not content to accept and submit passively to their role as commodities in the prison industrial complex. The United States, and many of it’s media outlets such as the ‘New York Times’ and ‘San Diego Union Tribune’, prior to the U.S. “War on Terror” routinely criticized China, Turkey, Burma, Syria, and other nations for holding prisoners in indefinite solitary confinement, under conditions of constant illumination and/or sensory deprivation, etc. for expressing contrary political views. They universally condemned the practice as torture, citing the United Nations Human Rights Commission Treaty. Their hypocrisy was of course revealed soon after the policy of U.S. sponsored torture at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and numerous secret C.I.A. blacksite prisons was exposed. Yet America’s dirty little secret is, state sponsored torture in the U.S. is neither new or exclusive to it’s “War on Terror”. Years before Abu Ghraib and ‘Gitmo’ they were murdering prisoners in San Quentin’s Adjustment Center, boiling men alive at Pelican Bay-SHU, and holding murderous bloodsport style bouts in Corcoran-SHU all along holding alleged “gang” members and left wing political ideologues for decades in sensory deprivation torture units at Pelican Bay, Corcoran, and Tehachapi SHUs. Yes, indefinite solitary confinement and constant illumination is being used right now in California SHU units, in conjunction with a program of systematic isolation and experimental behavior modification to torture prisoners everyday … with no end in sight. Continue reading

California Prisoners Hunger Strike resumes

[The historic California prisoners hunger strike continues on September 26, 2011, to press for relief from the oppressive and tortuous life-draining conditions and confinements in the “Security Housing Units.”  There has been no positive response by the prison officials, but they have come back with reprisals and threats of cancelling paroles, petty privileges, and job assignments.  (see the threatening letter from the CDCR, below). (note–CDCR has released sobering numbers on prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU:  Of the 1,111 people currently held in the SHU:  Over 513 have served 10 years or more in the SHU; Of those, 78 have been in the SHU for 20 years or more; 544 have been in the SHU more than 5 years, but fewer than 10 years).  — Frontlines ed.]
Gearing up for Round 2 of Hunger Strike

September 23, 2011

On Monday, September 26th, prisoners at both Pelican Bay & Calipatria will resume the hunger strike to stop the torturous conditions of Security Housing Units (SHUs).

Prisoners first went on hunger strike on July 1st for nearly four weeks, until the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) agreed to begin implementing some of the prisoners’ five core demands. The strike became one of the largest prison strikes in California history–stretching across a third of the California’s prisons (at least 13 State prisons), including more than 6,600 prisoners at its height. However, the CDCR’s response has been inadequate to say the least, giving prisoners & their families false hope of timely substantial change and an end to torture. For a detailed summary of the CDCR’s response to the strike, and why Pelican Bay prisoners are resuming it, read “Tortured SHU Prisoners Speak Out: The Struggle Continues.”

CDCR officials seem to be preemptively cracking down on prisoners in anticipation of the strike and have publicly said they were preparing to take harsh actions against strikers. Illustrating the CDCR’s hard-line stance, Undersecretary of Operations Scott Kernan said in a recent interview, “If there are other instances of hunger strikes, I don’t think the Department will approach it the same way this time around.”

  • Lawyers who have recently visited Pelican Bay have taken testimony from SHU prisoners who have been retaliated against by prison officials for their participation in this summer’s strike. “Prisoners are receiving serious disciplinary write-ups, usually reserved for serious rules violations, for things like talking in the library or not walking fast enough,” says Carol Strickman, a lawyer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, “It’s clear that prison officials are trying to intimidate these men and to make them ineligible for any privileges or changes that may be forced by the strike.”

It’s these sorts of responses from the CDCR & forms of retaliation that show us prisoners are not recognized & treated as human beings, are constantly abused & tortured by the CDCR, and that the CDCR has no intention of stopping this. The prisoners clearly have no other recourse but to risk their lives, again.

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Hunger Strike Resumes in One Week!

September 19, 2011

Prisoners in the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit (SHU) will resume their hunger strike against torturous conditions of imprisonment next Monday, Sept. 26th 2011. Read Tortured SHU Prisoners Speak Out: The Struggle Continues for more details on why they are resuming the strike.

According to family members, prisoners at Calipatria State Prison will also resume the hunger strike on Sept. 26th in solidarity with the prisoners at Pelican Bay and also to expose the brutal conditions they are in at Calipatria, where hundreds of prisoners are labeled as gang members, validated and held in administrative segregation (AdSeg) units, waiting 3-4 years to be transferred to the Pelican Bay SHU indefinitely.

The Calipatria hunger strikers have a similar, separate list of demands from the strikers at Pelican Bay, including abolish the defriefing policy & modify active/inactive gang criteria and expanding canteen/package items & programs/privileges for validated/SHU status prisoners (such as art supplies, proctored exams for correspondence courses, P.I.A. soft shoes, yearly phone calls & two annual packages).