Still Hungry for Human Rights

Friday, December 13th, 2013

As we wrap up 2013, we reflect on the amazing work that has taken place this year in the movement to end torture and abuse in California prisons. Since 2011, our coalition has been at the forefront of the solidarity movement to support the courageous hunger strikers. These prisoners endured a series of hunger strikes in protest of the intolerable practice of long term solitary confinement in California.

Looking Back: Highlights from 2013

Over 30,000 prisoners refused food this year in the largest prisoner protest in history. Their protest resulted in unprecedented media coverage, a visit to California by Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, a promise by legislators to take action on the issues addressed in the 5 Demands, and the strengthening of their own resolve and solidarity. But the struggle is far from over.

This year, our coalition launched the Stop the Torture Campaign, a Human Rights Pen Pal Program and an Emergency Response Network. We mobilized thousands of people nationwide to support the 5 demands when the prisoners began their third hunger strike. We participated in outreach and public education by participating in events like the screening of Herman’s House at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary and the UC Student Association Lobbying Conference. We held an art show in San Francisco featuring work from dozens of artists in the SHU.

 The hunger strike was suspended by strikers in September after 60 long days when legislators vowed to hold hearings and address long term solitary confinement. The first legislative hearing was on October 9th. Our coalition affiliates organized rides, speakers and hundreds of people to rally at the state capitol and pack the hearing room.

Marie Levin emceeing the rally before the the Joint Legislative Hearing on the SHU. October 9, 2013. Sacramento, California

Marie Levin emceeing the rally before the the Joint Legislative Hearing on the SHU. October 9, 2013. Sacramento, California

Looking Forward: Your Support Matters!

The next hearing is scheduled for February 11th in Sacramento. We need your support to seize this opportunity to make an impression on the legislators and the world, show the urgency of the situation, and make an impact for our people in the SHU.

In addition, our coalition will continue to engage in our day to day work including prison visits, public education, pen pal program, monthly newsletters and advocacy letters.

Our goal is to raise $5,000 to support this work

$200.00 covers the cost for legal visits with 15-20 people

$100.00 covers the cost of printing our monthly newsletter for prisoners

$75.00 covers the cost of mailing our monthly newsletter to prisoners

Any amount you can give is a tremendous help. Thanks for your generosity.

Click HERE to donate online. Please indicate that the donation is for PHSS under “Special Instructions”

Tax deductible contributions can be mailed to:

Checks to: California Prison Focus for PHSS

1904 Franklin St. Suite 507, Oakland, Ca. 94612

Solitary confinement case set to expand

Friday, September 27th, 2013

The LA Times reports: “A federal judge Thursday said she is likely to allow a lawsuit alleging that solitary confinement conditions at Pelican Bay State Prison amount to psychological torture, to be expanded from the cases of 10 prisoners to include about 1,100 inmates now held in indefinite isolation…” Read the whole article at

Day 44 – Statement from Mediation Team

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Hunger Strikers, Gavin Newsom’s Citizenville and the Frontline

Years ago a defense attorney, who was contemplating acceptance of her first death row client, talked to me about how hard it would be to keep this person from ending up in San Quentin’s Death Chamber. But she was anxious to take on the task. I asked her why? She simply and eloquently explained that in every society there must be people who are willing to stand in the way of those who abuse the power they have over individuals under their control. If there is no one there to point out that abuse, to push back against those powerful forces, the abuse will spread and deepen and will become unstoppable.

On Day 44 of the prisoner hunger strike, we are watching a real-life display of that lawyer’s philosophy—prisoners are starving themselves to disrupt the abuse of power displayed by the CDCR’s inhumane policies and practices involving indeterminate solitary confinement.

They have put themselves on the frontline of protest to demand to be treated like human beings.

Meanwhile, not long ago some of the family members of the hunger strikers attempted to meet with Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom about these important matters. At the time, Newsom was temporarily serving as Acting Governor while Jerry Brown was traveling out of the country. The meeting never happened: Acting Governor Newsom said he would not have any more to say about the prisoner hunger strike than the Governor had to say about it, which, thus far, has been nothing helpful.  Well, pretty much nothing at all.

Ironically, the Lieutenant Governor recently released a book he authored called Citizenville. His promotional email states that “Citizenville shows how we can make government as useful and engaging as your iPhone.” He adds: “I talked to technology pioneers, entrepreneurs, and social media stars for Citizenville to come up with clear steps we can take to reshape our government and engage ordinary citizens.”

Perhaps the “usefulness” of government as depicted in Newsom’s marketing material for his book would be better measured by him and Governor Brown agreeing to talk to the hunger-striking prisoners themselves. The two elected officials could learn of some meaningful fixes to CDCR policies and practices that would do more than merely “engage ordinary citizens,” such talks could actually save lives—those of the protestors as well as those prisoners who are being made morose or insane or both by indeterminate solitary confinement for decades.

 On behalf of the Mediation Team,
Barbara Becnel 510-325-6336 

Hunger Strike Mediation Team
Dr. Ronald Ahnen, California Prison Focus and St. Mary’s College of California
Barbara Becnel,
Dolores Canales, California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement
Irene Huerta, California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement
Laura Magnani, American Friends Service Committee
Marilyn McMahon, California Prison Focus
Carol Strickman, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children
Azadeh Zohrabi, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children

All Things Warrior Cop

Monday, August 5th, 2013

originalSince I don’t regularly update this blog anymore, I figure it’s a good place to put up a post of my speaking schedule and various items related to my book. It’ll stay at the top of the page. So check back here often. We’re also still adding dates on the book talk/signing tour.


Public Events:

• October 14, Woody’s Roadside, 3008 Bienville Blvd, Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Sponsored by the Jackson County, Mississippi Libertarian Party.

• October 15, Time, Location TBA, Mobile, Alabama: Speech and book signing. Sponsored by the Mobile Federalist Society.

October 17, 5:30pm, Independence Institute, Denver, Colorado: Book forum. Sponsored by the Independence Institute.

• October 21, Time TBA, University of Colorado Law School, Boulder, Colorado.

• October 22, noon, University of Denver College of Law, Denver, Colorado.

• October 26, Time TBA, Students for Liberty Regional Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.

• October 30, noon, University of New Hampshire Law School, Concord, New Hampshire.

• October 31, noon, Boston University Law School, Boston, Massachusetts.

• November 2, Time TBA, Students for Liberty Regional Conference, Boston, Massachusetts.

• November 12, noon, Loyola University College of Law, New Orleans, Louisiana.

• November 13, noon, Southern University Law Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

• February 20, 2014, noon, University of Hawaii School of Law, Honolulu, Hawaii.


(Previous Events)

• September 26, Time, Woodburn Hall, Room 120, 7:30pm, Bloomington, Indiana: Speech and book signing.

• July 9 — Book signing. Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tennessee, 6:30pm.

• July 10 — Book release party. Mercy Lounge, Nashville, Tennessee, 7pm. With music from the Cold Stares and Kate Tucker and the Sons of Sweden.

• July 22 — Book release party. HR-57, Washington, D.C., 6:30 pm. With music from the Cold Stares.

• July 23 — Talk, panel, and book signing. Busboys & Poets, Washington, D.C., 6:30pm. Co-sponsored by the ACLU, the Cato Institute, the Huffington Post, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

• July 24 — Capitol Hill Book Forum, with Mark Lomax of the National Tactical Officers Association. Rayburn Office Building, Washington, D.C., 12pm. Sponsored by the Cato Institute. (Watch video of this event here.)

• July 27, 3pm: Talk, book signing at Big Blue Marble Book Store, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

• August 17, 2:20pm, Austin, Texas, Police Accountability Summit, sponsored by Peaceful Streets Project: Speech and book signing.

• August 24, 1pm, Libertas Found,  5430 West Chester Rd., West Chester, Ohio: Book signing. Sponsored by the Ohio Libertarian Party.

• August 29, 7pm Salt Lake City Public Library, Salt Lake City, Utah: Speech and book signing, sponsored by Libertas, Students for a Sensible Drug Policy at the University of Utah.

• September 3, noon, University of Memphis Law School, Memphis, Tennessee:

• September 5, Time TBA, Indy Reads Books, Indianapolis, Indiana: Book signing, sponsored by the Marion County Libertarian Party.

•September 18, noon, University of Illinois College of Law, Champaign, Illinois.

• September 18, 6:15pm, Roosevelt University, 430 S. Michigan Avenue, Angel Reading Room, Chicago, Illinois: Speech, panel discussion, and book signing. Co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union Illinois, Chicago Alliance against Racist and Political Repression, Illinois Campaign to End the New Jim Crow, Mansfield Institute for Social Justice & Transformation (Roosevelt University), National Lawyers Guild (Chicago), People’s Law Office, Project NIA, TruthOut, Women’s All Points Bulletin


Book Reviews:

• A review from Kirkus Reviews.

• A review from Publishers Weekly.

• A review from the New York Journal of Books.

• A review from the Economist.

• Bruce Schneier’s review in the Wall Street Journal.

• Former Baltimore police officer and Cop in the Hood author Peter Moskos’ review in the Pacific Standard.

• New York criminal defense attorney Scott Greenfield’s review at his Simple Justice blog.

Former NYPD Det. John J. Baeza’s review at the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition blog.

• Former Redondo Beach, California Lt. Diane Goldstein’s review at Huffington Post.

• L.A.P.D. officer and pseudonymous writer Jack Dunphy’s review for National Review. (Behind a 25 cent paywall.)

• Gene Healy in the Washington Examiner.

• Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy.

• Hal from the Right Thinking From the Left Coast blog.

• “Mad Rocket Scientist” at the League of Ordinary Gentlemen blog.

Phillip Smith’s review at the Drug War Chronicle.

• Nate Carlisle review in the Salt Lake Tribune.

• Mike Riggs’ review at the Weekly Standard.

Amazon reviews.


My Articles:

“Rise of the Warrior Cop,” in the Wall Street Journal.

“A Gallery of Notable Police Raids,” in the ABA Journal.

My “Raid of the Day” series at Huffington Post.

“7 Ways the Obama Administration Has Accelerated Police Militarization,” at Huffington Post.

“Former Cops Speak Out on Police Militarization,” at Huffington Post.

“Welcome to the Police-Industrial Complex,” at Huffington Post.

“The Marketing of Police Militarism,” at Huffington Post.

• “Too Many Cops Are Told They’re Soldiers Fighting a War. How Did We Get Here?” at the ACLU blog.

• “Senator Sam Ervin, “No-Knock” Warrants, and the Fight to Stop Cops from Smashing into Homes the Way Burglars Do,” at the ACLU blog.

• “ACLU Launches Nationwide Investigation Into Police Militarization,” at Huffington Post.

My response to PoliceOne: “SWAT Cop Says American Neighborhoods Are ‘Battlefields,’ Claims Cops Face Same Dangers As Soldiers In Afghanistan”



Salon: Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Part Four.

ABA Journal.


The Nashville Scene.

Business Insider.



Other Coverage:

BBC video on police militarization. (This is one is a favorite. They did a great job.)

• “Uphold the Third Amendment,” by Glenn Reynolds at USA Today.

• “SWAT-Team Nation,” by Sarah Stillman in The New Yorker.

• “In Rise of the Warrior Cop, Radley Balko tackles the dangers of militarized police units run amok on U.S. soil,” the Nashville Scene.

• “Family pets get it as Swat warrior cops go in all guns blazing,” in the  Sunday Mail U.K. (Paywalled.)

• “Overkill: Police SWAT teams sent to fight poker games, liquor violations,” Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (reporter blog).

• “SWAT Teams Save Lives,” Alfred Regnery at (Negative.)

• “Editorial: Does city need a BearCat? Think carefully, please,” Concord Monitor.

• “From Tom Paine to Glenn Greenwald, we need partisan journalism,” Jack Shafer at Reuters.

John Stossel’s column on warrior cops.

• The Heritage Foundation on police militarization.

• Coverage in the Greenfield, Indiana Daily Reporter.

Editorial in the Washington Times.

Blog post at the San Francisco Chronicle.

• A series of (mostly negative) responses on the website PoliceOne.

• Coverage in the Deseret Review.

• Coverage in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Blog post at the Washington Monthly.

• Op-ed by Rick Holmes at the Metro West Daily.

• Coverage of a Chicago book event from Huffington Post.



Interview with Vice.

Interview with

Interview with Salon.

• Interview with the Washington Times: Part One. Part Two.

Forum at Crooks & Liars.

Book Salon at Firedoglake.

My Reddit AMA.




ABA Journal podcast.

Op-Ed News podcast with Rob Kall.

City Journal podcast with Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis.

The Sex, Politics, and Religion Show with Jamila Bey (and Ed Brayton).

think, with Krys Boyd on KERA in Dallas, Texas.

Free Talk Live.

The Peter Schiff Show (requires subscription).

Cultural Baggage, with Dean Becker.

Majority report with Sam Seder.

• Hour-long interview with KUER public radio in Salt Lake City.

Interview with Stansbury radio.

• Podcast interview with Matt Lewis at The Daily Caller.




• BBC narrative. (This one is really great.)


• “All-In with Chris Hayes” on MSNBC:




• “The Real News,” on The Blaze TV:


• RT America:


• HuffPost Live:


• The Thom Hartmann Show, on RT.


• “Happening Now” on Fox News.


• “Morning Joe” on MSNBC:


• Debate with an Ohio sheriff on Fox Business News’ “Stossel.”



• “The Majority Report” radio show:



California Prisoner Hunger Strike Begins

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Who:  Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition
What:  California Prisoners Begin 3rd Peaceful Hunger Strike and Work Actions
When: Monday, July 8, 2013, 11am
Where: Elihu Harris CA State Office Building, 1515 Clay St, Oakland, CA

Oakland—Family members, advocates, and lawyers will announce their support for the peaceful hunger strike and job actions beginning today throughout the California prisons starting on Monday July 8.   Prisoners have been clear since January that they are willing to starve themselves unless the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) agrees to negotiate honestly about their demands.

On June 20, prisoners being held in solitary confinement at the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit describe their actions:

The principal prisoner representatives from the PBSP SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement do hereby present public notice that our nonviolent peaceful protest of our subjection to decades of indefinite state-sanctioned torture, via long term solitary confinement will resume today, consisting of a hunger strike/work stoppage of indefinite duration until CDCR signs a legally binding agreement meeting our demands, the heart of which mandates an end to long-term solitary confinement (as well as additional major reforms).

Our decision does not come lightly. For the past (2) years we’ve patiently kept an open dialogue with state officials, attempting to hold them to their promise to implement meaningful reforms, responsive to our demands. For the past seven months we have repeatedly pointed out CDCR’s failure to honor their word—and we have explained in detail the ways in which they’ve acted in bad faith and what they need to do to avoid the resumption of our protest action.

On June 19, 2013, we participated in a mediation session ordered by the Judge in our class action lawsuit, which unfortunately did not result in CDCR officials agreeing to settle the case on acceptable terms. While the mediation process will likely continue, it is clear to us that we must be prepared to renew our political non-violent protest on July 8th to stop torture in the SHUs and Ad-Segs of CDCR.

Thus we are presently out of alternative options for achieving the long overdue reform to this system and, specifically, an end to state-sanctioned torture, and now we have to put our lives on the line via indefinite hunger strike to force CDCR to do what’s right.

We are certain that we will prevail…. the only questions being: How many will die starvation-related deaths before state officials sign the agreement?

The world is watching!”

While the CDCR has claimed to have made reforms to its SHU system—how a prisoner ends up in the solitary units, for how long, and how they can go about getting released into the general population—prisoners’ rights advocates and family members point out that the CDCR has potentially broadened the use of solitary confinement, and that conditions in the SHUs continue to constitute grave human rights violations.  The California prison system currently holds over 10,000 prisoners in solitary confinement units, with dozens having spent more than 20 years each in isolation. Conditions in Pelican Bay State Prison’s SHU sparked massive waves of hunger strikes in 2011 that saw the participation of 12,000 prisoners in at least a third of California’s 33 prisons.


Demands Spread Across California Prison System!

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

When prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit declared their Peaceful Protest  would  resume July 8th 2013, if their demands weren’t met by the CDCR and Governor of California, they also encouraged their fellow prisoners to take up peaceful actions wherever they were, and to include demands of their own.  Click here to see how the demands have spread!

Mobilization to Support the Prisoner Hunger Strikes/Movilización para Apoyar la Huelga de Hambre de los Presos

Friday, June 28th, 2013

 hungerstike flyer Saturday July 13, 2013

Join us for a demonstration at Corcoran on Saturday July 13th!  Rally will begin at 2pm at Cesar Chavez Part in Corcoran. 1500 Oregon Ave, Corcoran 93212 (right next to Mark Twain Elementary School).

*If you need a ride or can offer a ride, please contact Rachel Herzing, or 510-444-0484 no later than July 10th.*

Meet at MacArthur BART in Oakland at 9am to join the Norcal caravan.* 555 40th St  Oakland, CA 94609*

Meet at Chucos Youth Justice Center in Inglewood at 9am to join the SoCal caravan.* 1137 E Redondo Blvd  Inglewood, CA 9030
Please be prepared for a hot day! The temperature will likely be around 100 degrees on Saturday.  Bring sunscreen, a hat or umbrella and plenty of water.
Expect to be back in the Bay Area/LA by 9-10pm if you are in the rideshare.


Movilización para Apoyar la Huelga de Hambre de los Presos

Manifestación Solidaria para la Huelga de Hambre
Prisión Estatal de Corcoran
Sábado, 13 de julio 2013

Transporte disponible por bus y coche. Contacte: or 510-444-0484.

Caravanas saliendo de Macarthur BART en Oakland a las 9:00 AM y Centro de Justicia Chuco en Inglewood a las 9:00 AM. Nos juntaremos a las 2 PM al parque Cesar Chavez (1500 Oregon) en Corcoran y marcha a la prisión estatal de Corcoran y hacer que nuestras demandas!

En 2011, más que 12,000 presos en el estado de California participaron en una huelga de hambre para terminar el confinamiento solitario a largo plazo y exigir cambios a la manera en que asignan ciertos presos a celdas de tortura, conocidos como el “SHU” (“security housing units,” o “unidades especiales de seguridad.”) Aunque el Departamento de Correcciones reconoció que sus demandas fueron razonables y que el Departamento las atenderían, muy poco ha cambiado para los presos de California desde 2011. California todavía gasta millones de dólares cada año para mantener la gente en el confinamiento solitario por décadas!
Huelgas de hambre de nivel estatal comienzan de nuevo.

En el 8 de julio de 2013, los presos van a empezar una huelga de hambre indefinida y huelga de trabajo hasta que se realicen cambios significantes dentro del Departamento de Correcciones.

En el 13 de julio de 2013, vamos a manifestarnos en la Prisión Estatal de Corcoran para demonstrar nuestro apoyo para los presos y presionar al gobernador Jerry Brown para atender las demandas! Como el Pelican Bay, Corcoran aísla casi 2000 en confinamiento solitario.

Como Tú Puedes Apoyar

Necesitamos su apoyo mas como nunca! Por favor, considera donando a nuestra coalición para que podamos seguir en la lucha para los derechos humanos de la gente en aislación extrema en los cárceles de California. Fundos coleccionados se usaran para la movilización el 13 de julio además que otros gastos de la coalición como envíos mensuales a los presos, visitas legales a Pelican Bay y Corcoran y otros gastos de imprenta.

Se puede donar online en el sitio; este seguro de seleccionar el link de “Special Instructions” y escribir “PHSS” para dirigir sus donaciones a nosotros. O, puedes escribir un cheque a “California Prison Focus/PHSS” y mándalo a: PHSS, 1904 Franklin St., #507, Oakland, CA 94612. También podríamos utilizar donaciones de comida y agua para la movilización del 13 de julio, o para los carros y buses para la caravana hasta Corcoran. Por favor, contacta Rachel Herzing, o llama al 510-444-0484 si quieres ofrecer asistencia en estas áreas.

June 20 Statement From Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective!

Friday, June 21st, 2013

The principal prisoner representatives from the PBSP SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement does hereby present public notice that our nonviolent peaceful protest of our subjection to decades of indefinite state-sanctioned torture, via long term solitary confinement will resume on July 8, 2013, consisting of a hunger strike/work stoppage of indefinite duration until CDCR signs a legally binding agreement meeting our demands, the heart of which mandates an end to long-term solitary confinement (as well as additional major reforms). Our decision does not come lightly. For the past (2) years we’ve patiently kept an open dialogue with state officials, attempting to hold them to their promise to implement meaningful reforms, responsive to our demands. For the past seven months we have repeatedly pointed out CDCR’s failure to honor their word—and we have explained in detail the ways in which they’ve acted in bad faith and what they need to do to avoid the resumption of our protest action.

On June 19, 2013, we participated in a mediation session ordered by the Judge in our class action lawsuit, which unfortunately did not result in CDCR officials agreeing to settle the case on acceptable terms. While the mediation process will likely continue, it is clear to us that we must be prepared to renew our political non-violent protest on July 8th to stop torture in the SHUs and Ad-Segs of CDCR.

Thus we are presently out of alternative options for achieving the long overdue reform to this system and, specifically, an end to state-sanctioned torture, and now we have to put our lives on the line via indefinite hunger strike to force CDCR to do what’s right.

We are certain that we will prevail…. the only questions being: How many will die starvation-related deaths before state officials sign the agreement?

The world is watching!

Onward in Struggle and Solidarity.

Todd Ashker
Arturo Castellanos
Ronald Dewberry, aka Sitawa
Antonio Guillen


Thursday, June 13th, 2013

ImageIn 2011, thousands of California state prisoners engaged in a hunger strike to end long term solitary confinement and to demand changes to the way that prisoners are assigned to these torturous units, known as SHUs (security housing units).  The corrections department (CDCR) agreed to make changes, which it rolled out in November, 2012.  CDCR’s public relations strategy is to persuade lawmakers, judges and the general public that its new program is a vast improvement .  However, the new program keeps most of the objectionable elements of the old program and adds some new elements which make it even worse.

The Step Down Program: a new way to perpetuate long term solitary confinement:  Under the old rules, the only way to get out of the SHU was to “parole, snitch or die”, or be found “inactive” as a gang member or associate (a rare finding).    The new policy offers a new way out:  the Step Down Program, a 4 step program which takes a minimum of three or four years. The first 2-3 years are spent in solitary confinement, with no education or other programming.  The prisoner is required to demonstrate “progress” by, among other things, filling out workbooks showing changed attitudes.   The one workbook we have seen is condescending and judgmental.  Whether a prisoner progresses to the next step is a discretionary decision; a prisoner can also be sent back to an earlier step.  As a result, release from the SHU is still a discretionary and arbitrary decision of prison administrators; lifetime solitary confinement remains possible.

Coerced secret evidence: alive and well:  The hated “debriefing” program remains alive and well under the new rules.  Under this program, a SHU prisoner can get out of the SHU by confessing his/her own gang involvement and identifying other prisoners’ gang involvement.  This information is used to place other prisoners in the SHU or retain them there.  Targeted prisoners are not entitled to know who has named them, or the specifics of the accusation.  It is almost impossible to defend oneself against secret charges.

Guilt by association: alive and well:  Under the old policies, prisoners were assigned a six year SHU term for simply being affiliated (as a member or associate) with a prison gang.  The prisoner did not have to break any prison rule.  Prisoners were validated for possessing art work or political readings, signing a greeting card, exercising with other prisoners or saying hello to another prisoner.  Under the new rules, this same evidence can be used to prove a prisoner is a member, and membership alone justifies a SHU term.

New disciplinary program: association evidence becomes cite-able behavior:  Under the old rules, possessing certain artwork or literature was used as evidence of gang association.  Prisoners and advocates objected, saying that SHU placement should only be for gang behavior.  CDCR’s responded in its new program by labeling such evidence as gang “behavior” in its new rules.  Guards can now cite prisoners for rules violations for possessing these items and punishment can be imposed.  Citations for serious rules violations (115s) can extend prisoners’ SHU term and harm their chance of being paroled.

Widening the net:  Under the old policies, a prisoner could be placed in the SHU for affiliation with any of seven prison gangs.   Under the new rules, any grouping of three or more prisoners can be added to the list as a “security threat group”, membership in which can result in a SHU term.  The coining of this new provocative term, with nuanced reference to terrorism, is deeply troubling; the expansion of the SHU-eligible population is of grave concern.

Rubber-stamping: alive and well:  Although CDCR has inserted a new stage of review for SHU placements, this review is still within the confines of the prison system, where the dominant culture is to rubber-stamp the gang unit’s decisions.  CDCR has not changed its culture.  Publicly and internally, CDCR still considers SHU prisoners to be “the worst of the worst” and continues to justify the SHU’s torturous conditions as necessary for the “safety and security of the institution.”  Independent oversight is necessary to curtail CDCR’s excesses.

Re-evaluations of current SHU prisoners : shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic:  As part of the resolution of the 2011 hunger strikes, CDCR agreed to re-evaluate the SHU placement of current SHU prisoners, using its new criteria.  CDCR is reviewing associates first and reports that over half of its initial reviews are resulting in assignments to general population.  This reclassification is a huge victory and is proof of the unfairness of the old SHU policies, but is no proof of fairness of the new policies.  While we celebrate each prisoner’s return to general population, there is no guarantee that these prisoners will not be returned to the SHU in the future.  Meanwhile, each prisoner’s SHU cell will immediately be filled by another prisoner.  CDCR has no plans to reduce SHU beds.


Too little has changed for California prisoners under CDCR’s “new and improved” gang management policy.  Other strategies would be more successful in addressing the concerns about prison gangs.  In 2012, SHU prisoners themselves issued a call to end hostilities between prisoner groups, which has resulted in reduced prisoner violence throughout the prison system.  Expansion of educational and vocational opportunities inside all prisons, as the prisoners are demanding, would reduce conflict and stress.  We call on all people of good will to support the prisoners’ demands.


San Quentin Prisoners Vow to Join Strike and Make Demands of Their Own

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Demands from the San Quentin State Prison Adjustment Center June 10, 2013

Open letter to the Director of CDCR, the Warden of San Quentin Prison and the Captain of the Adjustment Center San Quentin top officials have concocted and enacted an exclusive code of regulations called the IP 608 Condemned Manual, which mandates that Death Row prisoners are under the control of the warden of San Quentin Prison. Therefore, after years of the abuse of authority by Adjustment Center (A/C) committee members and unit staff and after years of filing 602s that fall on deaf ears here in the A/C, all the way up the chain of command to Sacramento, a collective group of Death Row prisoners in the A/C will be joining in the statewide non-violent, peaceful hunger strike in July 2013 to demand that the warden of San Quentin use his power of authority to bring about positive change to prisoners housed in the A/C SHU.

For years, Grade B A/C prisoners have been told Grade B is not a punishment; it’s just a “program” different from Grade A. So the warden should be able to use his power of authority to order the following immediate changes without delay:

1. The warden should immediately implement a “behavior based program” that amends the current criteria that permit a condemned prisoner to be eligible for Grade A privileges and be removed from the punitive punishment of Grade B status, basing this program on a condemned prisoner’s current good behavior and disciplinary free conduct regardless of a prisoner’s alleged gang status or validation and eliminating the under-the-table and vague indeterminate status in the A/C. The warden must order the immediate release of A/C prisoners who are not validated as alleged gang members and associates and have remained disciplinary free for years.

2. The warden must order the A/C committee to stop the controversial and unfair classification practices of using illegal inmate informants and anonymous informants and the so-called roster list of names to label prisoners gang members and associates and to stop the illegal and vague “mandatory debriefing” and vague validation process. San Quentin officials must put in place a set of standards and safeguards to protect a prisoner’s right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment

  • Any information used in A/C committee decisions must be first-hand information and must be corroborated by three different independent sources;
  • A/C committee must state on the record why such information is indicative of gang activity and state on the record what California laws are being broken;
  • Any information used against a prisoner must be provided to the prisoner and all copies of documents, such as 1030s and 128s, and debriefing reports placed in a prisoner’s C-file must be immediately disclosed to the prisoner so he will have ample time and opportunity to contest and challenge any allegations in writing through administrative 602s and legal redress to confront his accuser or confidential source.

3. The warden must (a) order the end of the administrative segregation of condemned prisoners to segregated yards that have been designed to label a condemned prisoner unjustly, (b) order an end to the constant use of bogus confidential inmate informants and bogus 1030 disclosure forms to deny A/C prisoners access to Grade A status and access to the A/C group yards, and (c) order that all four group yards in the A/C be labeled “re-integrated yard 1, 2, 3 and 4” and remove the racist yard labels of “Southern/White and Northern/Black” that A/C staff and committee have used for decades to instigate racial division and segregation among prisoners of different races who would like to program and co-exist on a group yard together. Every A/C prisoner should be given group yard unless the prisoner chooses to stay in a walk-alone cage. The warden must order that all walk-alone cages have roof coverings like the cages in East Block and Carson Sections, and add a dip bar in each cage for exercise.

4. The warden should cease all group punishment tactics. Group punishments and lockdowns were designed for large-scale riots, not for alleged isolated incidents. The warden should cease the unlawful use of the interview/interrogation process and never allow the vicious attack and assault on prisoners by A/C staff just because a prisoner invokes his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and refuses to answer questions during an interview/interrogation. This illegal policy of forced interrogations makes no sense because if staff utilize chemical agents on a prisoner, which have proven to be lethal, and attack him and then drag the prisoner into an interview/interrogation room, he will say, “I have nothing to say,” and take the Fifth. Or the prisoner might give a statement based on his fear and the fact he was brutally attacked, in which case the information would be deemed “given under duress and torture, therefore unreliable.” So the use of violence on prisoners, particularly on prisoners of color, is just an excuse and a blatant act of the worst kind of torture and racially motivated retaliation. Also, the administration should cease passing out “interview questionnaires” to prisoners after an alleged isolated incident because the informants read these questionnaires and re-word them and use them as first-hand information when the informants did not get the information from a prisoner but directly from a prison official. Simply put, these forms describing the incident are only done so rat inmates can exploit these incidents for gain by giving staff bogus and false statements to be used on 1030 disclosure forms and be rewarded by obtaining Grade A and other privileges and favors.

5. The warden should order the end to the degrading policy of stripping out A/C prisoners outside during yard recall, violating Title 15, Section 3287(4)(8), which partly states that “all such inspections shall be conducted in a professional manner which avoids embarrassment or indignity to the inmate. Whenever possible, unclothed body inspections of inmates shall be conducted outside the view of others.” Stripping out in the cold and rain is inhumane, and it’s time for this policy to stop. The warden should allow A/C prisoners to wear tennis shoes or state shoes on all escorts, especially in the rain, to visits and medical escorts, and put an end to the “shower shoes only” policy and allow A/C prisoners to be fully dressed in state blues when going to the law library.

6. The warden should order that the third watch sergeant return the scheduling of A/C prisoners for SHU law library to the SHU law librarian clerk and start utilizing all available SHU law holding cells so Death Row prisoners can do important research at least three to four times a month. A lot of prisoners are being denied access to SHU law library on a regular basis. The third watch sergeant should be ordered by the warden to end the practice of putting dinner food on paper trays to sit on the bed in the cell while prisoners are at law library as this practice is unsanitary and eating cold food is unhealthy.

7. The warden should order the end of excessive use of property restrictions. No other CDCR prison in the state of California uses property restriction as a punishment and it’s only done in extreme cases. Title 15 mandates no longer than 90 days. The excessive use of property restriction punishment in the A/C is based on nothing more than A/C committee members’ abuse of power and authority and is never based on a prisoner’s behavior.

8. The warden of San Quentin should use the power of his authority to expand A/C Grade B privileges for prisoners housed in the A/C through no fault of their own and who have remained disciplinary free for years.

  • Allow contact visits with family, friends and attorneys, or allow 2½-hour non-contact visits in Booths A-l, A-2 and A-3 in the visiting room.
  • Allow two phone calls per month. * Allow hobby and educational programs for the A/C.
  • Allow more educational channels like the Discovery Channel, the History Channel and National Geographic.
  • Allow $110.00 canteen draw a month.
  • Allow four food packages a year or two food packages and two nutritional packages of vitamin supplements and protein meal supplements from approved vendors.
  • Allow A/C prisoners to participate in the food charity drives.
  • Allow 10-book limit in cell, not to include any legal or religious books.
  • Allow A/C prisoners to purchase white boxer underwear, T-shirts, socks and thermals from approved vendors at least four times a year (each quarter).
  • Allow clear headphones, non-clear earbuds and headphone extension for TVs and radios or leave speakers connected in TVs and radios.
  • Order the return of exercise equipment on the group yards, return the basketball court and the pull up bars, and add dip bars and a table and provide group yard activity items such as basketballs, handballs, board games and cards.

9. The warden should order that all medical chronos issued and approved by the chief medical doctor be honored and order all A/C staff not to interfere with the medical needs of prisoners. Custody staff should have no say-so in medical needs of prisoners. If the medical needs of a prisoner cannot be met in the A/C, then the prisoner should be housed in a unit where his medical needs can be accommodated. The A/C unit staff must not be permitted to impose unjust punishments upon prisoners who have a proven need for medical appliances. When it is deemed medically imperative for modified cuffs, staff puts the prisoner on leg restraints claiming “safety and security,” when in fact it is an attempt to discourage prisoners from seeking medical appliances by punishing them with unnecessary, painful, degrading and excessive mechanical restraints.

10. Order the Institutional Gang Investigation (IGI) unit to stop the harassment of interfering with A/C prisoners’ mail. Incoming mail has been denied and held by IGI under the excuse of “promoting gang activity” with no further explanation of exactly what constitutes “promoting gang activity”! Many times incoming mail takes anywhere from 20 to 40 days from the postmarked date on the letter to reach prisoners in the A/C. Legal mail has been taking far too long to reach A/C prisoners, and it should be passed out with regular mail call at 3 p.m. so that prisoners can have plenty of time to respond to their attorneys by the 9 p.m. mail pick-up.

All of these issues are fair and reasonable and create no serious threats to the safety and security of the A/C but can only create a more positive and productive environment in the A/C for prisoners who have been put in a punishment situation with no disciplinary write-ups for years. We ask that the warden of San Quentin and the captain of the A/C look into these issues as soon as possible.

Thank you.

Main A/C Representatives: Smokey Fuiava, E-35592, 2AC56; Richard Penunuri, T-06637, 3AC55; Billy Johnson, F-35047, 2AC51; Todd Givens, V-42482, 3AC52; Marco Antonio Topete, AK-7990, 1AC12; Cuitlatuac Rivera, T-35975, 2AC67 Body of Representatives: Bobby Lopez, K-76100,1AC16; Reynaldo Ayala, E-10000, 2AC59; James Trujeque, K-76701, 3AC13; Mike Lamb, G-30969, 2AC1; Hector Ayala, E-38703, 3AC4; Marty Drews, C-88058, 3AC2