Monday, October 31, 2011
My only comment for this year's gloomy shaming ritual is this: Sex offenders are the only population who I believe will not benefit from the cost argument. Their lobbying power is, well, nil, and the fact that these baseless operations go on year after year are an indication that the public wants to continue believing that they are all, uniformly, monsters to be monitored and controlled in the face of no evidence whatsoever. We can turn around several important punitive trend, but it'll be a long time before we reassess the devastation our excessive policies toward a population with extremely low recidivism rates has wreaked on released inmates and their families.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Prison officials open up $600 million for jail construction to 25 counties
The bond funding, available under a 2007 law known as AB900, will be awarded by March and will allow a number of counties to expand their jail capacity. It comes as the state implements “realignment” the governor’s plan to address overcrowding in state prisons by letting thousands of low-level offenders serve their time in local jails instead of state prison. Advocates for prisoners oppose the release of funds.
The counties given the green light to apply for the funds are: Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Fresno, Stanislaus, Tulare, Monterey, Yolo, Sonoma, Placer, Kings, Shasta, Sutter, Madera, Imperial, Napa, Siskiyou and Tuolumne. Additonally, Kern, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Amador and San Benito counties are being asked whether they would like to forgo earlier AB900 funds awarded to them and instead reapply for this round of bond money.
Leslie Heller, an official with the Correction Standards Authority, said the majority of the state’s 58 counties expressed interest in the money, and that the counties invited to apply were chosen solely on the increased number of prisoners they are expected to be housing under realignment.
“We knew with realignment there would be a lot of interest, and we know there is not enough money to go around to all the counties, so we thought, ‘Let’s find out how many are interested, then pick an appropriate number from that to go through the application process, so they don’t expend their resources unnecessarily’,” she said.
She added that there is “absolutely not” enough money for all 26 counties, and that some may not ultimately choose to submit an application.
For more information on AB900 funding, visit this website.
When: 10/27/2011, 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM
Where: 200 McAllister, Alumni Reception Center (2nd floor)
- Chief Presiding Judge Lisa Novak—San Mateo County
- Deputy District Attorney Jeff Rubin—Alameda County
- Assistant Public Defender Don Landis—Monterey County
- Executive Director of Death Penalty Focus Jeanne Woodford
Moderated by UC Hastings Professor Kate Bloch.
Panel and Q&A to be followed by a wine reception. Please RSVP to HCLS@uchastings.edu.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Start: 10/26/2011 from 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM
Location: 200 McAllister, Alumni Reception Center
See you there!
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011
Lenard Vare, director of Napa County's Department of Corrections, said he agrees with advocates that incarceration isn't the only answer. But the rural county also anticipates an increase of at least 70 inmates per year - and its jail is already over capacity.
"The old adage 'If you build it, they will come' is true, because law enforcement in general - police officers - come with the mind-set to fight crime, and arresting people is one of the ways to fight crime," he said. "Unless we decide to simultaneously work on our overall criminal justice system ... we are not going to make a difference. Locking someone up 50 times does not deter them from committing crimes, because it becomes a way of life."
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Realignment is not just a numbers game. Under the new law, counties have been given new legal tools meant to help them get at the root issues that lead to criminal behavior.
Most of those tools consist of increased flexibility for judges, prosecutors and probation officers in deciding how to punish a person.
For example, in the past, if a drug offender failed to meet the terms of his probation, the only real option a probation officer had was to send him back to court, where a judge would consider whether to ship him back to prison or jail - a long, ambiguous process that resulted in delayed punishment.
But research shows that open-ended, uncertain punishments do not encourage criminals to change their behavior. What does, according to experts, are swift and certain sanctions - such as a tactic known as "flash incarceration," in which an offender is jailed for a day or two almost immediately after violating the terms of their probation.
Under realignment, a probation officer could make this decision without sending the person back to court. And, the probation officer can tailor the punishment to an offender's work schedule, so they don't lose their job.
Judges will also now be allowed to mandate a split sentence - combining jail time with at-home detention, drug abuse treatment or parenting classes, for example.
Marisa Lagos, Keramet Reiter, and I will participate in an hour-long conversation about the California correctional crisis on KALW tomorrow at 7pm. Tune in, call in with your questions, and join the conversation.
Mediators who met with hunger strike representatives at Pelican Bay, one of whom had been transferred to Corcoran due to the strike, confirm that prisoners there have decided to stop their hunger strike after nearly 3 weeks. The prisoners have cited a memo from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) detailing a comprehensive review of every Security Housing Unit (SHU) prisoner in California whose SHU sentence is related to gang validation. The review will evaluate the prisoners’ gang validation under new criteria and could start as early as the beginning of next year. “This is something the prisoners have been asking for and it is the first significant step we’ve seen from the CDCR to address the hunger strikers’ demands,” says Carol Strickman, a lawyer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, “But as you know, the proof is in the pudding. We’ll see if the CDCR keeps its word regarding this new process.”
A few important issues that have fallen between the cracks while I was away at conferences: Citizens engaged in civil disobedience actions in support of the Pelican Bay hunger strikers at the CDCR headquartersin Sacramento and at the State Building in Los Angeles. Larry Everest kindly emailed and reported:
A little past 8:00 am, on Friday morning, October 14, three of us – all supporters of the courageous hunger strike by California prisoners – walked up to the main entrance of the headquarters of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) in the Sacramento, California - the state capitol. Then we chained ourselves to the front doors, sat down, and began a non-violent action of civil disobedience;We did so to support the just struggle and demands of the hunger strikers and to condemn the assaults of the CDCR and Gov. Jerry Brown on the prisoners.
With me was Gregory “Joey” Johnson, a revolutionary communist activist, whose bold action in the 1980s of burning an American flag led to a rare Supreme Court victory for the people (Texas v. Johnson), and Maryann, a relative of a California prisoner and a World Can't Wait activist.
We felt it was imperative to take bold to underscore the urgency of the situation faced by prisoners and to make clear our support for all the prisoners who have been on hunger strike – or who are continuing their hunger strike. And we felt that everyone has a moral obligation to step up their support for the hunger strikers and their just demands in whatever ways they possibly can. Anything less is unconscionable.
We made clear to the activists and bloggers who joined us at CDCR headquarters that we were demanding:
* Gov. Jerry Brown and CDCR fully meet all the prisoners demands!
* No mistreatment, punishment, disciplinary retaliation, or denial of medical care, to prisoners who have been on, or are continuing their hunger strike!
* Prisoners are Human Beings – They Must Treated As Such!
Outrageously, we were all arrested and each slapped with 5 different misdemeanor charges. As we were being dragged off, we all shouted our support for the prisoners, the demands of the hunger strikers, and our opposition to retaliation and ongoing torture. And we denounced the fact that we were arrested and dragged off to jail in order to ensure that the CDCR and the State of California could continue carrying on “torture as usual.”
The charges against us are outrageous and we’ll be mounting a legal and political battle for all of them to be dropped. And, these charges are certainly not going to stop us from doing everything in our power to continue fighting for the rights – and humanity – of the prisoners!
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
“Men are collapsing in their cells because they haven’t eaten in two weeks,” says a family member of a striker at Calipatria state prison, “I have been told that guards refuse to respond when called. This is clearly a medical emergency.” In an effort to isolate prisoners perceived by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to be leaders, some prisoners at Pelican Bay have been removed from the Security Housing Unit (SHU) to Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg). The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition has received reports that prison officials have been attempting to freeze out strikers held in the Ad-Seg Unit at Pelican Bay, using the air conditioning system in conjunction with cold weather conditions where the prison is located. Last week a hunger striker in Pelican Bay was taken to a hospital in Oregon after he suffered a heart attack. Prisoners have also been denied medications, including prescriptions for high blood pressure.
Monday, October 10, 2011
Expert Alicia Walters has more info here.
Sign the World Coalition petition to the United Nations General Assembly, who will vote on a resolution to halt the death penalty in 2012.
Educate yourself about the voter initiative to end the death penalty in California in 2012.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Today at Hastings we had the pleasure of hosting Laurel Kaufer, founder of Prison of Peace, a unique program at Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, CA. At the initiative of Susan Russo, one of the inmates, who sought to alleviate the violence in her immediate environment, fifteen women were trained in mediation skills and received mediation certification. Some of these women proceeded to become trainers, and now a hundred and fifty women in prison have skills that enable them to help others process conflict in healthy, empathetic ways. Prison authorities report a calmer, less violent prison. What a wonderful thing it is to provide people in a stressful, violent environment the skills they need to resolve conflicts, conduct peace circles, and listen attentively to others.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
(reposted from https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com)
12,000 Prisoners Resume Hunger Strike in California
Outrageous Retaliation by Prison Officials
by Larry Everest and Bay Area Revolution Writers Group
A very just, very significant and courageous battle is rapidly spreading in California’s state prisons—and beyond. On September 26, prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) resumed their hunger strike—in the face of vicious lies and attacks and retaliation by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and other state officials, including Governor Jerry Brown. They had been on a hunger strike from July 1-July 20, demanding an end to the horrifically inhuman conditions they face. On September 29, the CDCR admitted that 4,252 inmates in eight state prisons had missed nine consecutive meals since Monday, September 26, and that state prisons at Calipatria, Centinela, Ironwood, Pelican Bay, San Quentin, and Salinas Valley, as well as the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and state prison at Corcoran, had all reported inmates on hunger strike. (The CDCR won’t count a prisoner as being on hunger strike until he or she has refused nine straight meals.)
These officials figures, it turns out, underestimated the number of prisoner hunger strikers. On October 1, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity’s website reported, “Numbers released by the federal receiver’s office show that on September 28, nearly 12,000 prisoners were on hunger strike, including California prisoners who are housed in out-of-state prisons in Arizona, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.” (The website adds, “Representatives of the hunger strikers have previously stated that this will be a rolling strike, allowing prisoners to come off strike to regain strength. Because of this, numbers will likely fluctuate throughout the duration of the strike.”)
The strike has also reportedly spread to at least one county jail. The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reported that 50 prisoners in the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, east of Los Angeles, are refusing to eat in support of the hunger strike in the prisons. (September 27, 2011)
More than 6,500 prisoners joined the three-week hunger strike in July. Prisoners at Pelican Bay suspended the strike on July 20 after prison officials promised they would meet some of the prisoners’ demands and address the main issues prisoners were raising. Then in September, prisoners wrote a statement saying these promises had not been kept: “We remain in SHU indefinitely, deprived of our basic human rights—based on illegal policies and practices, that amount to torture; torture of us, as well as our family members and loved ones on the outside. CDCR remains in denial, and continues to propagate the lies re: ‘worst-of-the-worst’ 3000 gang generals, etc.—in order to dehumanize/demonize us, so as to maintain the status quo... CDCR’s intent is to break us down, and coerce us into becoming state informants! A violation of international treaty law, period! This is not acceptable!” (Go to revcom.us/s/pelicanbay-
These prisoners are now putting their lives on the line again, demanding to be treated as human beings—demanding that the CDCR end the barbaric, inhumane conditions of imprisonment throughout California prisons, particularly in the “Security Housing Units” or SHUs. There, thousands of prisoners are locked in solitary confinement in windowless cells, 7.6 feet by 11.6 feet, for 22 hours or more a day for years, denied human contact. There are 1,111 inmates confined to the SHU at Pelican Bay alone, where the average length of confinement is 6.8 years. More than 500 prisoners have been in the Pelican Bay SHU for more than 10 years; 78 have been in the SHU for more than 20 years!
The prisoners’ demands include an end to group punishment, abolishing the CDCR’s gang status and “debriefing” policies, ending long-term solitary confinement, providing adequate food and expanding constructive programming and privileges. (See “Prisoners at Pelican Bay SHU Announce Hunger Strike, Revolution #237, June 26, 2011, for the prisoners’ five demands.)
Vicious Retaliation Against Hunger Strikers
Prison officials were deeply shaken by the breadth and strength of the July 1-20 hunger strike. This courageous action brought to light the horrific conditions of solitary confinement—amounting to torture—and there was broad support for the prisoners’ just demands.
After prisoners announced the strike would be resumed, prison authorities issued two memos to 165,000 prisoners—warning them against going on strike, claiming they were making changes. Disciplinary warnings were issued to thousands of hunger strikers. Supporters of the strikers report that a number of prisoners lost their jobs as punishment for supporting the strike in July, that some received punitive disciplinary write-ups, and some prisoner negotiators were being singled out and threatened with transfers and subjected to cell searches.
A September 29 press release from the CDCR said it “will not condone organized inmate disturbances” and warned: “Participation in mass hunger strikes and other disturbances will result in CDCR taking the following action: Participation in a mass disturbance is a violation of state law, and any participating inmates will receive disciplinary action in accordance with the California Code of Regulations; and Inmates identified as leading the disturbance will be subject to removal from the general population and be placed in an Administrative Segregation Unit.”
Matthew Cate, Secretary of CDCR, interviewed by Berkeley’s KPFA radio on September 27, threatened prisoners: “If they still want to be on a hunger strike then there will be some consequences to that, because you can’t shut down prison operations with no consequences.” Cate repeatedly described the hunger strike as a “mass disturbance” and compared it to a riot. Attempting to justify why the media are not allowed access to the prisoners on strike—who are risking their lives to demand an end to inhumane conditions—Cates said it was “the same reason that we don’t allow media to have access to Charles Manson.”
On July 29 the CDCR released a revision to its Medical Services Program Policy and Procedures regarding a mass organized hunger strike—including criteria for when the force-feeding of inmates will take place. This could mean the CDCR plans to force-feed prisoners to break the hunger strike. The American Civil Liberties Union has written that “force-feeding contravenes U.S. domestic and international law and is universally considered to be a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” (Press Release: ACLU Calls For End To Inhumane Force-Feeding Of Guantánamo Prisoners, January 9, 2009)
In July, the CDCR repeatedly lied, saying the strike was organized by gangs. Governor Jerry Brown, who never said anything about the hunger strike in July, has now publicly attacked hunger strikers and given full backing to the CDCR’s policies and attacks on the prisoners, saying, “We have individuals who are dedicated to their gang membership who order people to be killed, who order crimes to be committed on the outside... My recommendation is to deal effectively with gangs in prisons.” (California Prison Officials Warn Inmates On Hunger Strike,” CBS San Francisco News, September 30, 2011)
Family members of prisoners participating in the hunger strike are having their visits cancelled. And the Prisoner Hunger Strike Coalition reports that Carol Strickman and Marilyn McMahon, both attorneys who have served on the hunger strike mediation team and have coordinated legal visits for prisoners in the SHU, have both been banned from prisoner visits by the CDCR. This is a further effort to isolate the prisoners and prevent the truth of their situation from being known outside prison walls. (“CDCR Bans Lawyers: TAKE ACTION NOW!” Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, September 30, 2011)
Think about what the draconian actions of the CDCR reveal: Who is defending crimes against humanity? Who is lying and justifying criminal violence against human beings? What does all this show about the utter illegitimacy of the prison system—and brutal nature of mass incarceration in the USA? For prisoners subjected to the most isolating conditions, sitting in their cells and refusing to eat is labeled a “mass disturbance.” Their demands simply to be treated as human beings are met with lies and threats of even more violence against them. This is completely outrageous and intolerable!
Carol Strickman put it like this: “We’re saying they are torturing the prisoners and we want them to stop the torture. The prisoners are so concerned about it that they are going to stop eating. If the response is to increase the torture, then they are just proving who they are and what their values are. This is a human rights issue and they are proving that they don’t see the prisoners as human.”
There is an urgent need for those on the outside to expose and oppose all these attacks on the hunger strikers and their supporters.
Strickman also told Revolution that there are other ramifications if prison officials declare the hunger strike a “mass disturbance”: “They could do lockdowns. That would prevent family visits. That means everybody in the prison can’t have visits. That would be another example of group punishment, and abolishing group punishment is one of the prisoners’ demands. So what they would be doing in response to the prisoners’ demands is to crank up group punishment—the behavior that is being protested. It means people can’t go to the law library, people can’t get medical visits, can’t do classes and programming. In women’s facilities they can’t go do their laundry. You can’t go to canteen. There are a lot of things that flow from a lockdown. That is a serious threat.”
Families of hunger strikers were denied visits this past weekend, as the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) continues to crackdown on the hunger strike.
Before the strike resumed Under-Secretary of CDCR Operations, Scott Kernan, threatened an escalation of violence on hunger strikers. Since lawyers from the prisoner’s legal & mediation team have been banned from communicating with hunger strikers last week pose a threat to CDCR’s security, denied visits are an added punishment that increase family members of hunger strikers have also been denied visits. While the CDCR claims families and lawyers pose a threat to CDCR’s security, denied visits are an added punishment that increase isolation for hunger strikers in an attempt to break the strike and conceal retaliation.
Families & community members are gearing up for another convergence to Sacramento Wednesday, October 5th, to protest the CDCR’s torturous conditions & practices.
Wednesday, October 5th, 12 noon-2pm: Protest outside CDCR Headquarters. 1515 S St, downtown Sacramento. For carpooling and transportation needs from the Bay Area, please contact: 415.238.1801 or prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity [at] gmail.com
Sunday, October 2, 2011
According to prison visitors, clinicians are monitoring inmates to keep an eye for any who may begin to show signs of starvation, but so far there have been no concerns. As of Sept. 30, 3,376 inmates in six prisons are on a hunger strike. They have missed nine or more consecutive meals since Monday, Sept. 26.
Institutions with hunger strike participants are:
- Calipatria State Prison
- Centinela State Prison
- California State Prison-Corcoran
- Ironwood State Prison
- Pelican Bay State Prison
- Salinas Valley State Prison
Saturday, October 1, 2011
I got to think about this a bit this week when I got a phone call from a reporter from the Examiner, resulting in this story. The man in question is not taking part in the Pelican Bay solidarity hunger strike, and apparently this is the last in a long series of hunger strikes he has undetaken individually. I am unclear on the extent to which hospital personnel felt comfortable force-feeding him, but apparently the sheriff is seeking a court order to do so.
Apparently, there is no clear answer as to whether, legally, hospital personnel may force-feed a hunger-striking inmate, and under which conditions. This has come up in the context of a large-scale hunger strike in Ireland in 1981, and later in the context of Guantanamo in 2005. A 2007 note by Tracey Ohm provides a concise summary of the law in the matter. In the early 1980s, the courts had ruled that the state had no right to intervene with a hunger-striking inmate, and it could allow him/her to starve him/herself to death; however, just a few years later the court tried to draw a distinction between a strike aimed at death and a strike aimed at a manipulation of the correctional system, with a right to intervene in the latter. Ohm suggests that correctional institutions adopt a four-part standardized test, based on the principles in Turner v. Safley (1987):
- A "valid, rational connection" between the prison regulation and the legitimate governmental interest put forward to justify it;
- the existence of "alternative means of exercising the right that remain open to prison inmates";
- the impact accommodation of the asserted constitutional right will have on guards and other inmates, and on the allocation of prison resources generally; and
- the absence of ready alternatives is evidence of the reasonableness of a prison regulation.
With the hunger strike continuing to spread from Pelican Bay and Calipatria State Prisons to at least 6 other prisons, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has threatened to crack down on the at least 6,000 participants, including sending prisoners to solitary confinement. The CDCR also faxed expulsion orders to two mediation team lawyers, notifying them that they had been banned from all prisons pending an investigation into whether or not they had “jeopardized the safety and security of CDCR” institutions. Meanwhile, the prisoner-selected mediation team that has been trying to negotiate with the CDCR since the strike was initiated in July sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown, demanding a meeting and lodging their vehement objections to the actions of CDCR officials.