Please help stop pre-emptive retaliation against hunger strikers!

Word just came in from one of the leaders and hunger strikers at Corcoran Prison and his cellmate, and others in their unit, have been subjected to a destructive raid against their living quarters, where prison personnel destroyed and ransacked personal property. All materials related to their human rights work was taken.

See below for H.’s description of what happened to them and others on their unit March 12, 2013. He believes this is pre-emptive retaliation for their plans to participate in the upcoming hunger strike this summer.
Please take a few minutes and either call the warden or send an email to let them know we are watching and ready to back them up in their struggle. If they are already doing this kind of pre-emptive retaliation three months before the hunger strike even starts, it is extremely important that we act now to try to put some restraints on it. And forward this email widely; let’s blast it!
TO CALL:
Please call Connie Gipson, the warden at Corcoran Prison, to demand the items be returned and that they cease from doing any further such raids! Phone calls into the prison letting them know that outside people are watching and are aware of what’s going on can make a huge difference. The number to reach the warden is (559) 992-8800.

Sample Script
“I am calling to protest the actions taken on March 12th in Unit 4B, when a raid took place for 7 hours on cells of people who were involved with the peaceful hunger strikes of 2011.

According to CDCR’s own Department Operations Manual, officers need to leave things as they are found, not destroy property, and give receipts listing in detail the property taken, and this protocol was not followed.

I expect to hear from my correspondents that their possessions have been returned in good condition and that no more raids are taking place.”

TO SEND AN EMAIL:
Send the following (or summarize in your own words) to Warden Connie Gipson, and be sure to copy Kathleen Dickinson, who is the current Deputy Director of Facility Support in Sacramento, an office which is over the wardens.
Send email to:

Connie.gipson@cdcr.ca.gov

Copy:

Kathleen.dickinson@cdcr.ca.gov

I am writing to protest the actions taken on March 12th in Unit 4B, when a raid took place for 7 hours on cells of people who were involved with the peaceful hunger strikes of 2011. The officers involved behaved in a destructive manner, destroying personal property and damaging a toilet in one cell.

According to CDCR’s own Department Operations Manuel, the officers involved broke CDCR policy in Section 52050.16, which stipulates officers need to avoid damage while searching a cell.  Section 54030.10.11 clearly says they must be given receipts listing in detail the personal and state-issued property taken, and the disposition of such property, and your officers need to immediately comply with this policy, if they haven’t already.  

I expect to hear from my correspondents that their possessions have been returned in good condition and that no more raids are taking place.

******************************************************************************
Here is what NCTTCorSHU wrote in a postcard and 3 letters received by a supporter on March 26:

We’ve been working for the past 2 days to put our cell back together after they came in here and just tore it up. It really looked like a bomb went off in our cell. Hopefully you received my postcard that I sent on the 12th, which is the day the raid occurred.
If not, here’s a quick recap:

They pulled us all out of the cells after strip-searching us – then walked us through metal detection wands – they then spent 7 hours tossing up our cells – in me and my cellmate’s case, they threw away all our canteen, my deodorant, all my Bayview newspapers and most anything they could find having to do with our Human Rights struggle.

They then walked us all up to visiting in plastic flex cuffs and walked us through another metal detector. There were boot prints on my bunk where they stood on it to tear down our antenna wire and clothes lines – tossed out most of our laundry and so much more that it’s really pointless to catalogue it all.

Someone took the extraordinary step of breaking our toilet so it won’t flush. By sheer luck, a brother officer who came on the next shift went into the pipe chases upstairs and downstairs and found what was done and fixed it. Only our toilet was done this way.

It’s clear that this entire thing was an act of pre-emptive retaliation leading up to the July 8th protests, they cut off our hot water then, and haven’t cut it back on yet. Please, if you haven’t, notify Ms Zohrabi and the coalition, as well as my family of what has/is transpiring here.”

And in a letter dated 3/18/13 Heshima writes:
…”It appears the family crest [which NCTTCorSHU designed] is gone, it was in an envelope with some of my patterns from previous art pieces and some magazine pages of models from indigenous tribal cultures in Africa and South America. “They must have tossed it out along with the rest of the stuff they trashed. We’ll only know the extent of which they’ve disrespected our property as days go by and things that were in the cell looking for continue to come up missing.”
   

Being on the outside, writing in

Solitary confinement in California prisons, resistance and prisoner correspondence

by Dendron Utter
SF Bay View, March 10th, 2013

This semester in the Anthropology and Social Change program at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), we focused our energy on prisoner rights and abolition movements, particularly the organizing going on within California’s supermax facilities against solitary confinement. We each linked up with a pen pal incarcerated in isolation at Pelican Bay, Corcoran, Calipatria, CCI Tehachapi or Centinela state prisons. We were able to do this through the help of Mary Ratcliff and Kendra Castenda, both active prisoner advocates. We wrote to our pen pals about their experiences inside, about the recent Agreement to End Hostilities, and about multiracial movements for prisoner rights, social justice and prison abolition.

I started correspondence with a prisoner named Michael Dorrough, also known as Zaharibu, who is incarcerated in Corcoran State Prison in Corcoran, Calif. He is one of the many men of color confined in isolation for 22-24 hours a day for over 20 years due to his political affiliations, lack of subservience and racial profiling. He has been in solitary confinement for 25 years.

I have learned profound lessons from him in the short three months I have known him. In hearing more about his story and the horrendous conditions he lives under, I have been driven to learn more about solitary confinement, why it must be abolished and the resistance against it. I have also been moved to become a part of that resistance in any way I can.

Michael Zaharibu Dorrough & family, web
Michael Reed Dorrough with his family before he was incarcerated

Solitary confinement in the United States is entrenched in the history and contemporary reality of mass incarceration of poor folks and people of color. Mass incarceration based on race is not a new phenomenon. In fact, the penitentiary system was created as an extension of chattel slavery through the Black Codes, in that freed Black folks and often Indigenous people could be detained and imprisoned for ambiguous reasons in order to maintain a slave class and a capitalist system built on exploited labor.

This history is evident when looking at the huge numbers of people of color inside prisons today. It is within this racist context that solitary confinement has become a standard among politicians, wardens and administrators in the U.S. prison system.

According to Amnesty International, “More than 3,000 prisoners in California are held in high security isolation units known as Security Housing Units (SHUs), where they are confined for at least 22 and a half hours a day in single or double cells, with no work or meaningful rehabilitation programs or group activities of any kind.” Many of those locked in long-term isolation have been put there because of alleged gang affiliation. The criteria used by the California Department for Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to establish gang membership are unsound. They use “evidence” such as what prisoners are reading, connection – as simple as a greeting – to other prisoners, tattoos and the contents of their mail.

Michael Dorrough, dad, mom, son
Michael Zaharibu Dorrough with his father, mother and son during a prison visit long ago

Once inmates get “validated” as gang members or associates, it is incredibly difficult to be returned to general population – especially if the inmate has any politically radical, leftist or revolutionary views or affiliations. As stated by Zaharibu, Heshima Denham and Kambui Robinson, three New Afrikan Revolutionary men in solitary at the Corcoran SHU, “Gang is a term that encompasses leftist ideologies, political and politicized prisoners, jailhouse lawyers and most anyone who in the opinion of Institutional Gang Investigations (IGI) is not passively accepting his role as a commodity in the prison industrial complex.”


The combination of total isolation for extended periods of time, coerced snitching, the hostilities between racial groups inside, mental abuse and physical violence by guards can thoroughly crush prisoners. There is nothing left to do but unite and act.

In fact, once labeled, the only way to be released is through a process of snitching on other inmates regarding gang affiliation. This is called “debriefing.” To force inmates to debrief is not only entirely divisive, breaking unity between prisoners, but it is dangerous due to the retaliation one might receive for acting as an informant.

Solitary confinement is akin to torture as it includes inhumane levels of sensory deprivation, extremely limited interaction with the outside world, and poor food and access to healthcare. The torture of isolation not only stems from the conditions of sensory deprivation – no human touch, no fresh air, no natural light, no windows, no sound, often no communication, no exercise, no activities, no warmth in winter – but from the strategically prolonged lengths of stay.

The combination of total isolation for extended periods of time, coerced snitching, the hostilities between racial groups inside, mental abuse and physical violence by guards can thoroughly crush prisoners. There is nothing left to do but unite and act.

Prisoners have been fighting back against inhumane treatment and abuse in the prison system since the conception of it. Two recent racial unity movements started by prisoners inside long-term solitary confinement units in California have been the hunger strike started in the Pelican Bay SHU and the agreement to end hostilities. In writing back and forth with Zaharibu, I focused my questions on these struggles and more generally on multiracial movements outside and inside prison walls.

Michael Zaharibu Dorrough 2012, web
Michael Zaharibu Dorrough in 2012 after 25 years in solitary confinement – prisoners in isolation are rarely allowed to have their pictures taken.
In the second letter I received from him, I fixated on a particular statement. He said: “The housing of citizens in isolation for any length – 10 days or 30 years – and depriving them of any and all meaningful programs for absolutely no legitimate reason should provoke a sense of outrage. That it is being done … to break human beings should provoke outrage amongst all of those who love democracy.”

I realized at that moment that I have limited knowledge about solitary confinement. I sought to find out everything I could about the history, application, conditions and resistance to these atrocious control units. What I read, listened to and saw is torture under the guise of rehabilitation and safety. It is helpful to re-read Zaharibu’s letters with this research fresh in my mind. I am even more filled with outrage!

Although halting racial driven violence and uniting across race is an immense achievement and central to prisoner resistance, there is more to it than singing “We Are the World” by Michael Jackson and calling it a day. By no means am I saying that this is what incarcerated men, women and transgendered folks are doing inside, but that those of us on the outside need to do our homework and learn this history that shapes the current situation.

Zaharibu wrote in response to my questions: “A lot of us have always believed that ending the [state-created] violence and hostilities is crucial to having any kind of chance of changing the realities that we are confronted with daily. And it’s important to put this in a correct historical context. This specific effort by the state has been ongoing for the past 30 years or more.”

“The housing of citizens in isolation for any length – 10 days or 30 years – and depriving them of any and all meaningful programs for absolutely no legitimate reason should provoke a sense of outrage. That it is being done … to break human beings should provoke outrage amongst all of those who love democracy.”

As I mentioned before, Zaharibu has been in solitary lockdown for 25 full years. What I did not mention is that he is incarcerated for a crime he did not commit. Like so many other African American men and women locked inside prison walls, he has a completely sound case of innocence that the courts refuse to hear.
Prison bars unite into fistHe is guilty until proven innocent and, although his attorneys have done so, the color of his skin and his radical political views overshadow his innocence. He is currently struggling, with the help of his family, to get a new trial for his case.

“It not only connects me to life outside of prison but when I am blessed enough to meet someone like you, it connects me to the larger activist community. I consider the prisoner rights movement to be inclusive of the broader abolition movement … It is simply not possible for meaningful lasting change to occur without coalition building … I consider my being able to connect with you and the class there to be part of that coalition building.”

That statement is one of the first things Zaharibu wrote to me in November. The warmth and care that rests in these words is not uncommon in his writing. With each letter I feel more and more seen, cared for and connected to something larger than our correspondence. I am connected to the movement of a people unified to gain humanity back.

“This struggle had to happen. It was inevitable. There is simply no way that people are going to continue to allow themselves to be subjected to the constant assault on their humanity. The disrespectful, degrading, dehumanizing get down that is directed at us at some point has to be responded to. It honestly does not matter what one’s political ideology might be.” – Zaharibu Dorrough

“The time for us to get off our knees is long overdue” – Zaharibu Dorrough

What does it look like for those of us on the other side of these walls to “get off our knees” and support prisoners fighting for dignity, humanity and freedom? Some call it accompaniment or solidarity and, while I respect their praxis and can see where they are coming from, I do not agree with the notion that I am supporting someone else in their struggle. There lies a harmful distancing within that framework that is important to unpack.

With each letter I feel more and more seen, cared for and connected to something larger than our correspondence. I am connected to the movement of a people unified to gain humanity back.

I view my participation as stepping up to a struggle that is all of ours to fight. Although we all have differing placements, privileges and entry points into it, that doesn’t mean we aren’t all affected by it. Some examples of how I see my role in the abolition and prisoner rights movements are being in dialogue with prisoners about needs and ideas, working with organizations such as the California Coalition for Women Prisoners and funneling resources that I have access to through the academy into these movements.

I certainly am outraged and will continue to be. I am blessed to continue learning from and sharing outrage with Zaharibu. Like a great man once said, “None of us are free until all of us are free.”

To read more about Zaharibu’s case, go to: http://nctt-shu.blogspot.com/p/zaharibu-dorroughs-case-for-innocence.html and http://zaharibuisinnocent.weebly.com/index.html.

Dendron Utter, a graduate student at the California Institute of Integral Studies studying prison activism with Anthropology Department Chair Andrej Grubacic, can be reached at desertinwinter@gmail.com

Creating Broken Men, Pt 2

A Discussion on CDCR’s New Brainwashing Mandate for SHU Torture Units
By the N.C.T.T. COR-SHU [NCTT stands for NARN (New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalism) Collective Think Tank.]

“I would like you to think of brainwashing, not in terms of politics, ethics and morals, but in terms of the deliberate changing of human behavior and attitudes by a group of men who have relatively complete control over the environment in which the captive populace lives.”—Dr. Edgar Schein to U.S. wardens and social scientists, 1962


Greetings, Brothers and Sisters. We’ve had an opportunity to review the over 100 pages which constitute CDCR’s STG Pilot Program, and felt compelled to discuss provisions of §700.2 (the Step Down Program) in the wake of our last discussion on “Creating Broken Men.

There should be no doubt indefinite solitary confinement is torture. Yet in §700.2, the CDCR has devised an insidious program whereby they can leverage this torture to coerce validated SHU prisoners to submit to brainwashing in lieu of debriefing; the end result being qualitatively no different: the production of a docile, submissive, quasi-informant population who reproduces in themselves the values of the same authoritarian order responsible for mass incarceration and the domestic torture program. In other words, “broken men” will be created by a new process.

In §700.2 of the STG Pilot Program, CDCR outlines, beginning in step 3, a requirement that prisoners complete “12 months of journals… that lead to responsible thinking and behavior.” This behavior modification program (and that’s exactly what it is) is preparatory, designed to condition the minds of the targeted population to accept cognitive restructuring. This intent is clear in the themes of the journal. 

For example, “Values guides prisoners through an evaluation of the criminal values that have influenced their lives and help them weigh the consequences of living a life based on criminal values versus responsible values.” This presupposes everyone currently confined to these torture units holds true to “criminal values.” 

An absurd notion. The overwhelming majority of validated SHU prisoners have committed no criminal act(s) or rules violation(s) (a natural outgrowth of so-called “criminal values”) to be confined to SHU by CDCR’s own admission. 

Many are in SHU on purely ideological grounds: for holding revolutionary attitudes or socialist values which oppose authoritarian social control and exploitation of the underclass.

This begs the question, What are “criminal values” and who defines “responsible values”? Surely it’s “criminal” to hold a population captive under conditions of indefinite torture unless they become informants or submit to having their “values” modified. Are we to assume an entrenched industrial interest that has intentionally manufactured the legislative and physical conditions (in prisons) to perpetuate mass incarceration to establish their own labor aristocracy, while presiding over the largest domestic torture program on the planet, are now going to be the instiller of “responsible values”? The answer is: No, of course not! 

The Self-Directed (S-D) Journals component of the SDP is replete with other Orwellian themes like “thinking errors,” “social values,” “responsible thinking/healthy personality,” and “peer relationships.” These themes constitute classic “character invalidation,” an essential Schein model brainwashing technique employed to induce guilt, self-loathing, anxiety, irrational fear and suggestibility, while simultaneously providing social and emotional supports which reinforce the new subservience/ docility.

This is in fact an improvement on the original Schein behavior modification model outlined in his paper, “Man Against Man: Brainwashing,” the basis for previous SHU best practice. Up to now, torture unit administrators, IGI, and OCS have relied on staff and their specialized SHU training to observe prisoners’ behavior patterns, record them in the “daily activity log” and utilize this data to calculate a prisoner’s sensitivity to pressure, or vulnerability to the same, with a degree of precision. This is one way the IGI is able to anticipate and target specific SHU torture victims who are prepared to—or on the verge of—debriefing. They now intend to use the prisoners themselves to provide additional input data to facilitate and reinforce their own brainwashing.

Section 700.2 states, 

“Personal reinforcement check sheets … will be used by the inmate to monitor weekly/monthly program participation and progress. In addition, Individual Change Plans will be initially completed by the inmate after 6 months in the SDP…. These documents will be submitted to the Correctional Counselor II and may be used … in determining an inmate’s movement between steps.” 


You are not only expected to submit to brainwashing in order to escape indefinite torture, but you must actively participate in your own cognitive restructuring or be trapped indefinitely in thetorture unit’s “steps.” This is “Skinnerian operant conditioning,” the rewarding of submission to the character restructuring encompassing the brainwashing objectives by easing the pressure on the subject in this by moving them along to the next “step.” But in truth, this is no “reward” at all. As previously stated, the S-D Journals are only preparing the subjects’ minds for complete restructuring, while weakening (or removing completely) any psychological resistance to the more intense behavior modification techniques to come.

These are introduced in step 4, and as if aware of the pliancy (in this context, easily influenced) and desperation of those prisoners willing to submit to these techniques, the state makes no attempt to conceal their intent. The text states clearly, “Step 4 will include an integrated, cognitive behavior change program that will include cognitive restructuring…” For those of you not familiar with this language, this means brainwashing. The exact nature and composition of the step 4 “cognitive restructuring program” has been intentionally left vague and ambiguous. It is designed for “small groups” of subjects, and will no doubt be a modification of techniques already tested in other SuperMax torture units which include Synanon attack therapy (a form of character invalidation for a group setting), transactional analysis, and encounter group sensitivity sessions.

This progressive step-based approach ensures maximum control for therapeutic administrators to prevent subjects having contact with anyone not sympathetic to the reconditioning methodology, disorganizing group standards among prisoners which are not pro-conformist, all within the confines of an environment that is prohibitive/restrictive towards any activities or ideas which are not supportive of the brainwashing objectives. In the end, the conditioned subject is psychologically no different than the debriefer: a broken man/woman.
What must be understood is participation in such a system of behavior modification on any level exposes any mind to the prospect of restructuring, primarily because most of these techniques target the subconscious mind. 

We do not want to get overly technical, but we believe it is important and we will simplify it as briefly as possible with a single example. The conscious mind makes judgments on what is real and correct or illusory and incorrect. But the subconscious mind accepts all information introduced into it as fact. The conscious mind, unfortunately, only functions when you are “conscious” of a thing or are aware; the unconscious mind always functions—it never sleeps. The conscious mind is simply “the computer;” the unconscious mind is “the computer programmer.” If one can bypass or circumvent the conscious mind and go directly to the subconscious, the conscious mind can be made to believe whatever has been introduced into the subconscious. For example, recall our explanation that the self-directed journal models in step 3 require you to complete a theme on “values” which presupposes you function from “criminal values” and need to [acquire] “responsible values.” Your conscious mind, of course, would disagree that your values are “criminal.” However, by participating in this exercise, you expose your mind to contextual adaptation to carry out the exercise (“contextual” referring to a set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc.). Your subconscious mind will not make any distinction in the validity of the presupposition, only that some of your values may contradict those defined as “responsible” and thus by relational context, must be “criminal.” The thought divergence (separation) will manifest itself subconsciously as “character invalidation,” though you’ll not note this consciously.

It will manifest itself in contradictions in your thinking, speech, and conduct too subtle for you to note overtly until the thought divergence progresses. Yes, they are truly insidious. The only sure method of resistance (outside of contra-conditioning techniques) is not to expose yourself to brainwashing therapy in the first place. But some will, and some of those who do will become tools of the state, entering the general population or their communities and reproducing these attitudes in others. 

From the perspective of the state, if some of these have influence, all the better for the prison industry. It’s the reason these techniques were included as mandatory aspects of the pilot program. Following the hunger strikes, CDCR did not see victimized prisoners united to end their collective torture, but instead an opportunity to transform the most advanced and influential into broken men and creators of the same; an environment where the orderly extraction of taxpayer dollars in proportion to prisoner commodities is inflated by SHU confinement but uninterrupted by pesky concerns like human rights, international law, or the Constitution. That they will fail is not of import—that they are trying this is.

Which leads us to the core of the matter. There exists no moral or legal basis for compulsory brainwashing in civilized society. With all of the self-inflicted behavior modification in the capitalist consumer culture from Weight Watchers to anti-smoking products like Nicoderm, US society has become acclimated to being brainwashed, to say nothing of social automation. 

But camouflaging Dr. Schein’s abhorrent techniques under misleading language that not only conceals its meaning and intent from prisoners, but the public as well, does not make them any less illegal. The very assertion by the state that one’s political ideology and cultural values are “criminal,” or are somehow a legitimate pretext for indefinite solitary confinement torture, violates the First Amendment, just as holding the threat of indefinite SHU torture over a prisoner’s head unless they become an informant violates the Eighth Amendment. 

But coercing a population into submitting to a brainwashing program that most don’t even understand, and passing it off as a “social good,” is not simply illegal, it’s evil . These provisions laid out in §700.2 not only violate the First and Eighth Amendments, but also the UN Convention Against Torture [original text is not available right now], the UN Standard Minimum Rules forTreatment of Prisoners, and most disturbing of all, the Nuremberg Code.

The first principle of the Nuremberg Code states:

“Voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; … able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, overreaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of … the subject matter involved … to make an understanding and enlightened decision….” (In this instance, indeterminate SHUs, indeed SHUs themselves, are torture units).


CDCR has made it clear that no one is going to escape these torture units unless they submit to the techniques. Their new mantra is thus, “Parole, debrief, submit to brainwashing, or die.” Most prisoners, and for that matter most citizens in the US, have little to no understanding of the Schein, Levinson, Skinnerian cognitive restructuring model, or its intent. This should outrage us all.

The best, the clearest proof of the CDCR’s intention can be found by reviewing a document issued by the CDCR entitled, “Security Threat Group Pilot Program Information.”
[This is a pamphlet that was handed out to some or all SHU prisoners. –Ed.] 
Page 4 of this document states, under “Reporting STG Involvement,” in the first paragraph, 

“You have the responsibility to report STG or criminal activity when known or observed by you.” 

It goes on to state that: 

“this process is not intended to compromise your safety, but to enhance your safety through the identification and removal of those involved in STG or criminal activity.” 

Of course, you would have to be brainwashed/broken to believe and subordinate yourself to this. If it was true that snitching does not compromise the informant’s safety, it would not be necessary to separate (known) informants from the non-SNY/PC general population. Once a person debriefs, that person is automatically assigned to SNY [special needs yard].
It has been demonstrated time and time again that the abuse of your tax dollars by the CDCR is based upon the lawlessness of the CDCR. A lawlessness that includes a complete disregard for those of us housed in these madhouses. And in particular for those who would dare oppose the disrespecting of our humanity. The humanity of us all.

The Agreement to End Hostilities by the Pelican Bay representatives is a crucial step in our reclaiming our humanity and creating opportunities to put an end to the efforts to destroy us all. We must take advantage of this opportunity to demonstrate to the world that we are willing and capable of being the history makers that this opportunity now provides us all.

That the state has actually created a whole new bureaucracy to manage this brainwashing program within an already existing domestic torture program designed to grow under this policy should compel us all to act, as this new bureaucracy will be funded by your tax dollars. 

Are we as a society going to stand idly by and listen to our politicians stride the world stage criticizing other nations for human rights abuses while this Orwellian, pseudo-scientific torture initiative is carried out in your name within your national borders?

We need each other if we are to be free. We can all reclaim our humanity by demanding that the humanity of all be respected. Let us reclaim it together.

Love and struggle, N.C.T.T. COR-SHU,
Michael (Zaharibu) Dorrough #D83611
CSP-Corcoran 4B-1L-43
PO Box 3481
Corcoran, CA 93212
Heshima Denham #J38283
CSP-Corcoran 4B-1L-43
PO Box 3481
Corcoran, CA 93212
Kambui Robinson #C82830
CSP-Corcoran 4B-1L-49
PO Box 3481
Corcoran, CA 93212
Jabari Scott #H30356
CSP-Corcoran 4B-1L-63
PO Box 3481
Corcoran, CA 93212
Published in: p. 2 of California Prison Focus #39 (Spring 2013)