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On Racism, Resistance and State Violence – A Discussion on the Politics of Greed and Hate

By N.C.T.T.-Cor-SHU

“We all agree that ‘race’ is invented, but are then required to defer to its embeddedness in the world.”-Paul Gilroy

“ ‘Racism’ is used to justify and facilitate the exploitation of peoples, and it’s based on the false belief that humanity is divided into a plurality of ‘races’ that stand in relation to each other as ‘inferior’ or ‘superior’ based on physical and/or cultural differences. There are no ‘races’ – only people(s), groups of people(s), united and distinguished by common history (social development), habits, interests etc. – sometimes we call all of this … ideology. 

To be ‘anti-racist’ is, first of all, not to hold the false belief in an alleged plurality of ‘races,’ to be ‘against racism’ is to combat all beliefs and practices that facilitate the exploitation of peoples, particularly when such exploitation is supported by the social construction of ‘race.’
 

Any attempt to destroy ‘racism’ without an explicit link to the struggle against capitalism ultimately serves only to reinforce ‘racist’ ideology and to shield capitalism from attack. On the other hand, an attempt to combat capitalism without an explicit link to anti-racist discourse and struggle allows capitalism to use belief in ‘race’ held by oppressed peoples, and appeal to the ‘racism’ of citizens of the oppressive state, thus undermining all revolutionary initiative.” – James Yaki Sayles (Meditations on Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth: New Afrikan Revolutionary Writings by James Yaki Sayles)

Greetings Brothers and Sisters,

The events taking place in Ferguson, Missouri present us with yet another opportunity to address the inhumanity of racism. But the country will again not take advantage of it because we will continue to treat this act of inhumanity as though it is an isolated incident, and not an act that flows from the very structure of the nation.

 This is a system that, over hundreds of years, has indoctrinated people (particularly “law enforcement” elements) to look at people, and based on their physical characteristics, particularly their Black skin, determine whether they represent a threat and respond accordingly. Because Afrikan, Latino and Native American men (males) have – for hundreds of years – been considered to be the enemy, the “savage,” the “worst of the worst,” there is this kill-first mentality (and anytime you fire “a hail of bullets” at a person the intent is to kill), and that intent to kill is motivated, either consciously or unconsciously by fear and/or hate!

No one wants to think that they are under the influence of patriarchal authoritarianism / White male supremacy in how we think or conduct ourselves. We have been indoctrinated to believe that it’s not the system, it was a mistake, an over-reaction on the part of the individual officer–or Klansman–and all it takes is for that individual to be fired or prosecuted and the country is satisfied…until it happens again, and again, and again! We genuinely do believe that this is not the same country as it was 30, 40 or 50 years ago and we believe this in the face of so much racist / sexist / misogynistic / homophobic / religiously intolerant / anti-poor hate!

What we are facing in this nation, as it relates to the murders of New Afrikans (Blacks) by police is simply the ongoing legacy of socio-economic relations between the White ruling class and the New Afrikan underclass, a manifestation of patriarchal authoritarian White supremacy enforcing the dictates of the race caste system in Amerika. Institutional racism is a structural component of Amerikan culture and property relations. As such it cannot be “reformed.” It is irrational to assume you can legislate away hate in a society where every institution reproduces and reinforces it in the population’s core (and developmental) psychology.

The very nature and structure of American society preserves White male supremacy and hatred of New Afrikans (Blacks), it is only that within policing this power dynamic is most visible (it is the police who in the first line of defense for the ruling class and the police have the most frequent contact with the population). This power dynamic, as it relates to policing, gives its visibility primarily to the fact that the underlying basis of power upon which White male hegemony in Amerika rests is violence. It is a power which must be seen to be effective.

As consciousness of oppression metamorphoses into resistance, no matter how minute, fleeting or legitimate that resistance may be, the response of the state’s police forces is violence–lethal force…murder. It has always been thus, from the slave catcher to the “strange fruit” of the lynching trees, from the slaughter and raiding of  rosewood, to the slaughter and siege of Ferguson–the initial, the primary, the first response of the police to New Afrikan resistance is violence.

What should disturb us is the irrationality of people and pundits who condemn resistance to such overt force; the condemnation of those who seek to exert their own coercive force to end such hate-based violence. In Ferguson there is a great deal of talk of “outside agitators” who have come in and “hijacked” the protests [for instance here on the Daily Beast, 8/19/14, and echoing here], as though, somehow, no one outside of that community has an interest in abolishing hate. Every citizen who has an interest in creating and maintaining a society/world based on equalitarian principles should converge on Ferguson, and anywhere else in which the humanity of people and the planet is under assault.

When you look at the historical record, particular forms of protests have intensified, particularly over the last 30 years, only because the system that produces the inhumanities remains in place. Even people, particularly young people, who may not be knowledgeable about the country’s history, are immediately introduced to that history. Images from Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin, and beyond, are introduced to them. They look around and see citizens, neighbors and others within their own communities and towns rushing out to buy guns, symbols of hate and destruction, instead of joining the protest in fear off those whose humanity has been assaulted. This is the most definitive proof that among large segments of the population, nothing has changed in their thinking. Even among some segments of the New Afrikan (Black) population, it is felt that the officer/the system acted appropriately -and that represents the most definitive proof that, among large sections of the population, nothing has changed.

In a clear illustration of the institutional nature of racism in Amerika, the mass media instantly sought to tacitly defend the police by professing justifications for murdering this latest New Afrikan child, Michael Brown, while condemning direct action force by protesting as “criminals,” “looters,” “outside agitators,”  [see here and a later ‘analysis’ here ] and “thugs,” [see also this news on October 2nd] “seeking to capitalize off the latesttragedy,” as opposed to the rational, although disorganized, response to some 400 years of unbroken racist violence against New Afrikans (and Native people) in Amerika.

Yet, irrationally, New Afrikans continue to refer to themselves as “Afrikan Americans”– an oxymoron which consciously ignores the fact that “Americans” had killed “Afrikans” as a practice in Amerika since 1619… And therein lies the contradiction–the psychological cleavage of the New Afrikan mind when subject to Amerikan state violence: they unconsciously do know this, and act to move against it just as one would reflexively swat at flames on one’s flesh or a stinging bee on one’s skin, you meet the pain of force with force of your own, in order to make the pain stop. 


It is an act of intelligence with intent, yet many would have us accept such patently racist violence with nothing more profound or transformative than passive pleas of “hands up-don’t shoot!” to justify such irrationality. They point to Martin Luther King, Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi’s courageous examples of nonviolent resistance, while conveniently ignoring the fact that both were killed for their efforts and their aspirations have yet to be realized. The rabid poverty, gross inequality and brutalization of women, which dominates neo-colonial Indian society is not the “independence” Brother Mahatma gave his life for and the fact that we are even having this conversation with Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and countless others cold in the ground, is the best proof the dreamers’ dream remains Amerika’s nightmare. These mentacidal (mental suicide) contractions in social analysis render the prospect of solutions–effective solutions–all but impossible.

Many of the New Afrikans (Black), clerical,  political and community leaders we’ve heard speak thus far have, in the midst of the latest events in Ferguson called for a change in the way law enforcement officers police New Afrikan communities, in hopes of returning these state agents to their stated role of “serving and protecting” our communities. Because this starting premise is so incorrect, every other idea or effort that flows from it will prove equally flawed, a voyage into circular thought which will inevitably lead us back to the same problem repeatedly. The first thing we must understand is what the police is, and what is their purpose.

The police, at their core, are the enforcement mechanism of the state’s dictates on the populace. The state is a tool to ensure the dominance of the ruling class and its cultural imperative (capitalist White supremacy) over all other classes and cultural interests. This determines the policies’ purpose. The purpose of police in the capitalist state is to “serve and protect” the ruling class (and their constituents) while controlling, containing and repressing the remainder of the population, especially underclass and non-White communities. 

The core flaw in thinking by mainstream (state-approved) and clerical “leadership” in the New Afrikan and other concerned communities is it begins with the premise that police are in their communities to “serve and protect” them, when all objective observations and historical analyses reveal the police’s function is to control, contain and repress them… Until this is understood, accepted and acted upon, the development of viable solutions by New Afrikans to this scourge will be futile.

Consider this: within the bowels of the prison industrial complex’s Super Max (Secure Housing Unit or SHU) torture units in California, hundreds of New Afrikans have been consigned to “the hole” for the remainder of their lives (if they are not broken) for studying their culture, history, political ideas–and even current events if they are presented through a New Afrikan lens. 

In recent 128-B chronos authored by I.G.I. Officer T. Turmezei, the overly racist hostility of  the state is on full display. In the documents, the officer actually criminalizes New Afrikan cultural celebrations (like “Black August Memorial”), the terms “Black,” “Brother,” “Elder,” and “Comrade,” stating:

“[Subject] specifically identifies his B.G.F. allegiance with “Comrade,” ethnic race as Black through “Brother”… In so stating, [subject] identifies himself as a “comrade” of the B.G.F.”
He goes on to state:
“…[subject]’s B.G.F. allegiances is further supported [by]…the use of the word “elders” to identify the senior membership of the B.G.F. housed at Pelican Bay …Within the prison system a Black would not reference a White, Hispanic or other raced gang member as his “elder.” Members and associates of the B.G.F. show reverence and allegiance to senior B.G.F. membership of the B.G.F. housed at Pelican Bay State Prison.”

That the terms “brother” and “elders” is commonplace in most every underclass community, regardless of racial competition, and the term “comrade” is universally used in leftist circles of every hue and has been since the 1800’s, we can only assume he has another motivation for such baseless lies.

He goes on to criminalize progressive political parties like the B.R.L.P. (Black Riders Liberation Party), publishers like “Chicago Zine Distro” and legitimate newspapers like the “San Francisco Bay View” as “documented vehicles of dissemination for the training material and communications among members of the B.G.F. prison gang.” If this warped racist perspective was not so demonstrative of the institutional racism which is a structural aspect of the state, perhaps this officer could be laughed off as an ignorant, misinformed crackpot. However, the unfortunate truth of the matter is the one thing all of these things have in common is their connection to New Afrikan (Black) culture, thought and expression.

There are, as we speak, hundreds of crips, bloods, Muslims, Christians and non-affiliates validated as members or associates of the B.G.F. for no other reason than seeking to study, express or embrace their culture, history and political ideas. Though these New Afrikans (Blacks) have no relation to any revolutionary formation, what they do all have in common is their Black skin and their common historical experience with, and development in, capitalist Amerika. The state, unable to bring itself to just admit its hatred of New Afrikan (Black) males and their need to repress any expression or pursuit of self-realization, instead outlaws being “Black” itself–our very culture, history, expression and manner of relating to one another is reduced to a “gang” or “gang activity” and used by the state as a pretext to subject thousands of indefinite SHU torture.

Men who have no affiliation to the B.G.F. or any other progressive revolutionary formation are routinely validated and slammed in the SHU in hopes of breaking their minds. Unfortunately, reflecting many episodes in New Afrikan Liberation history, some New Afrikans (Black) prisoners who have been wrongly validated as freedom fighters have blamed not the state, but the freedom fighters for their being subjected to these torture units; a manifestation of their own under-development which unwittingly aids the state by destroying unity and promoting antagonisms between New Afrikans (Blacks)–all of whom are being subjected to the same racist repression.

Nevertheless, consciousness is directly proportional to oppression and as more of these New Afrikans (Blacks) are confronted with the intensification of these institutional racist practices, the greater their consciousness will become and lead to their turning their antagonism on their actual adversary–the authoritarian police state, as opposed to those who have spent their adult lives resisting the attacks of the capitalist order upon all New Afrikan (Black) people (and have-nots from all cultural groups).

It is possible to change all of this. People must remove, through the ballot box, on a state and federal level, those officials who support the maintaining of a system that produces, indeed encourages, hate and greed! We must replace them with officials who will not subordinate themselves to moneyed interests (who have a stake in maintaining the system that exploits humanity and the planet to enrich themselves). This is the same system that built the torture units called Supermax prisons and the same people who have amassed fortunes by creating and then exploiting human misery.

It is the institutions upon which the authoritarian state and its capitalist masters rely to maintain this hate and greed, that we must focus our efforts on transforming, until the process of progressive social change reaches its logical conclusion. This means we must act to install officials who will oppose the nature and structure of the authoritarian state, officials which will actively wage struggle against racist, sexist, classists homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic and anti-youth thinking and practice within those institutions.

This means restructuring these offices and the electoral process itself, which has been hijacked by moneyed interests. The numeric superiority of the underclass in the context of the democratic process counter-balances, and is capable of overcoming, the moneyed interests of the ruling elite. This will require us to overcome the irrational thinking which deludes many of us into believing our interests, and the interests of the ruling class, are one and the same. Such transformative consciousness is produced only in the crucible of progressive struggle, active participation in organized efforts to eradicate the manifestations of hate and greed demonstrated in such social atrocities as the murder of Michael Brown by Ferguson police, and the criminalization of culture inherent in CDCR’s approach to New Afrikan (Black) men (and others as well) in prison today.

We must begin to view and resist these social contradictions in their interconnections. Our failure to collectively resist actually contributes to the niggerdization of every non-White cultural group by the institutional racism inherent in the authoritarian state.

The current immigration crisis is a prime example of the expansion of this hate. The state, supported by significant swathes of the population is engaged in a blatant anti-Mexican, anti-South American campaign couched in the poorly veiled auspices of “the rule of law.” Indicative of the underlying authoritarian superiority complex of the settler mentality, “Americans” in these border states are holding dehumanizing, anti-immigrant rallies and hurling racial slurs at people (many women and children) whose land the U.S. took by force and violence or which was decimated through imperialist adventures.

Where California now stands is Northern Mexico, part of the traditional home of the Mexica people. Mexicans, who were attacked and driven south by the U.S. military in Amerika’s genocidal bid to fulfill its “manifest destiny”.

In the face of such historical crimes, how then are indigenous people “illegal immigrants”? This history is still being perpetuated in today’s xenophobic venom and congressional policy intent. There is no difference in these forms of hate and the U.S. continued financial and military support for Israeli imposition of Apartheid in Palestine. There is no different in CDCR criminalizing the SF Bay View and the U.S.-backed Egyptian military junta criminalizing journalists from Al Jazeera who were objective in their reporting on the “Muslim brotherhood”. Our failure to oppose these manifestations of hate embolden those who advance these values and ensure they are preserved and reproduced in the next generation.

Based on our society’s current level of development, the only hope we have is to relentlessly struggle against these manifestations of greed and hate in every institution in society, and in so doing, allow the series of illuminations which will flow from such a process of social evolution to reach its logical conclusion: the quantitative increase in the consciousness of the people, leading to a quantitative transformation of society. It is our sincerest hope that each of you challenge yourselves to make such a commitment and join us in forging a more free and just world.

Until we win or don’t lose.

Zaharibu Dorrough, D83611, CSP-COR-SHU, 4B-1L-22, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212;
Heshima Denham, J38283, CSP-COR-SHU, 4B-1L-39, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212;
Kambui Robinson, C82830, CSP-COR-SHU, 4B-1L-49, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212;
Jabari Scott, H30306, CCI, 4B-7C-209, P.O. Box 1906, Tehachapi CA 93581.

August-October 2014

Typed from handwritten letter by Adrian McKinney for the SF Bay View.
Edited by NCTT webmaster. Posted here on SF Bay View, Oct. 25th, 2014 

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Power Concedes Nothing: A Discussion on CDCr’s Insidious Regulatory Semantics and Judicial Collusion in Maintenance of SHU Torture Units

Power Concedes Nothing:
A Discussion on CDCr’s Insidious  Regulatory Semantics and  Judicial Collusion in Maintenance of SHU Torture Units
From the N.C.T.T.-COR-SHU

“Revolutionary activity in every area of human existence will come about by itself when the contradictions in every new process are comprehended; it will consist of an identification with those forces that are moving in the direction of genuine progress. To be radical.. .means “getting to the root of things.” If one gets to the root  of things, if one grasps their contradictory operations, then the overcoming of political reaction is assured… hence, a critique can only be significant and have a practical value if it can show the contradictions of social reality were overlooked.”

          Wilhelm Reich, Ideology as a Material Force

Greetings Brothers and Sisters. The 3rd Law of Dialectical Change, “The Negation of Negation,” dictates once social conditions undergo a qualitative transformation there is also a corresponding evolution in the contradiction between opposing social forces. Over the course of the past 3 years progressive social forces in America (i.e. Decolonize & Occupy Movements, PHSS and SHU Abolition Activists, Strike Debt, BRLP, and other Revolutionary Scientific Socialist Formations, etc.) have waged a struggle to wrest cultural hegemony from the U.S. ruling class on multiple fronts and at multiple levels of society-including at its most desperate and wretched level: PRISONS. As a result, there has been a qualitative transformation in the consciousness of significant segments of society.
With this in mind, the most dynamic aspect of the peoples struggle against the maintenance and expansion of the Prison Industrial Complex is our current movement to abolish SHU torture units in America (and around the world), initiated by the Pelican Bay D-Short Corridor Collective. With the resolution of the historic “Agreement to End Hostilities,” the cooperative efforts of People from diverse cultural groups, socio-economic backgrounds, and schools of thought and the sacrifices of thousands here in California (and around the globe) in three Historic Hunger Strikes (the third being the single largest in human history) the People have seized the moral high ground on this issue, drastically narrowing CDCr’s base of support and room to maneuver.. .but not eliminate it.

Instead of a definitive transformation in the culture of prison torture resulting in an abolition of indefinite SHU, the contradiction has now evolved, with CDCr releasing its new regulatory policy language governing “Security Threat Group Management,” and the 9th Circuit Courts releasing two pro-torture rulings, which viewed in their interconnections, represent the state’s response to our challenge to their cultural dominance. The message is clear: “You are slaves; we will continue to treat you as slaves; and we refuse to have our socio-political dominance challenged by slaves.”
The reactionary view of reality shuts its eyes to its own authoritarian contradictions and the conditions of the people. Political reaction reflexively makes use of those social forces that oppose progress; it automatically consolidates to defend its dominance over the People’s lives. Instead of capitulating to progressive social forces and ending torture in SHU units, the state has closed ranks and seeks to redefine the nature of the conflict itself by redefining the language  (i.e. semantics) in its policy governing STG validation and torture unit confinement. In true reactionary fashion they’ve adopted language that reduces (and in some cases eliminates) its burden to establish a factual basis of genuine criminal behavior on the part of those subject to these policies, while simultaneously increasing the burden on prisoners, and  the People, to avoid falling prey to these new regulations which in essence criminalize anything those “validated” as STG’s do, say, or think…. all with the explicit support of the courts. To truly understand the degree of political reaction at play here, we must first acknowledge the role of authoritarian institutions in U.S. society. Authoritarian society reproduces itself in the individual structures of the masses (through its economic system, ideology, and culture) with the help of authoritarian institutions (i.e. school, courts, church, prison, etc.). It thus logically proceeds that political reaction has to regard and defend these authoritarian institutions as the foundation of the state, culture, and capitalist civilization itself.
When these authoritarian institutions are challenged in the arena of public opinion-and are found lacking as they have been in this stuggle -the very foundation of the authoritarian social order is undermined, and a corresponding shift in the consciousness and character structure of the People follows. This, in turn, threatens the authoritarian mass psychology in America. The state can not allow this, and so their reactionary defense response is to delegitimize, to criminalize, to vilify those actors and activities who, in their view, are making a significant contribution to this process; in this case, activists, politically conscious prisoners, and their contemporaries. This policy is the state’s effort to forestall our continued contributions to changing the dynamics of cultural hegemony in the U.S., and the language of the regulations makes that clear.
The offensive content in the newly released regulatory language is far too voluminous for us to address each and every point. Instead, we wish to share with you some of the grosser contradictions in hopes you will not only see the contrapositive aim of the state (to maintain SHU torture units as coercive leverage to psychologically bend or break prisoners), but also gain a deeper understanding of the social forces acting upon us all. The language of CDCr’s STG/SDP Management policy (released as a Directors Rules Change), like the irrational character structure of reactionary man upon which the state is based, is a study in contradictions. CDCr’s “Background” and “Purpose”-language for the new policy on the one hand contends,

“California (STG’s) are routinely and consistently connected to major criminal activities in communities, including such crimes as homicides, drug trafficking, prostitution, human trafficking, and extortion…(STG’s) are largely responsible for criminal activities within institutions, to include the trafficking of narcotics, committing and/or directing violence.. and directing criminal activity…”

… while on the other hand the “STG Disciplinary Matrix” (p. 43-) they’ve developed is dedicated largely to elevating petty, innocuous, non-criminal activities and matter to the level of “criminal STG behavior.”
Why would their public propaganda hype these serious and violent crimes as the focus of state interest, while the policy itself focuses primarily on criminalizing things which are in fact notcrimes? The answer is as obvious as it is condemning: MOST PRISONERS VALIDATED AS “STG AFFILIATES” AND CONFINED TO SHU TORTURE UNITS HAVE NOT COMMITED ANY SUCH CRIMES WHILE IN PRISON, AND MANY HAVE IN FACT DONE NOTHING AT ALL.
Never the less, the state must re-create a basis upon which the primary end of the SHU torture unit will not only be maintained, but reborn : The aim of breaking men’s minds. However, the reactionary politician can not divulge his actual intentions in his propaganda. We doubt if anyone (even other reactionaries) would have responded positively to a CDCr statement of intent to break some men’s minds, brainwash others, and indefinitely torture the rest. In political propaganda- which much of this new STG policy is -it is a question of producing a psychological effect in masses of people. In you. One that seeks to legitimize what is clearly the maintenance of torture by another name, and your support for that legitimacy. Let’s take a look.
The “STG Disciplinary Matrix” (§3378.4) (pp. 43-46) criminalizes “conversations,” “greeting cards,”  “clothing,” “communications with offenders/others,” “group exercise,” “handshakes,” “artwork,” and believe it or not, a “color.” That all of these “behaviors” are left to the imagination and interpretation of prison staff only increases the arbitrary standard attached to criminalizing activities and matter which are not of themselves “criminal.” It makes sense, after decades of presiding over the brutalization and degradation of validated SHU prisoners, that these staff members maintain a vested interest in ensuring imprisoned human rights activists remain isolated or broken.
To be sure, new §3378.2(7) allows to “staff visual and audible observations” (p. 22) to be actionable as “STG Offences” which can and will land you in (and/or keep you in) a SHU torture unit.
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law..  abridging the freedom of speech,” yet apparently CDCr can, and is doing just that. They have included new language, specifically intended to criminalize peaceful protest action against SHU torture units, SHU abolition activists, and rights groups as “STG Behaviors or Activities.”
New language in §3315(a)(3)(AA) (p. 11) prohibits protestation, while §3315(a)(3)(Z) gives CDCr a basis to charge representatives as protest “leaders.”
New §3323(h)(12) (B) (p. 14) prohibits “communication between offenders/others in support or furtherance of STG activities or behaviors,” which includes letters or discussions surrounding peaceful protest actions against SHU torture units. To be sure, they have even introduced language which criminalizes visits between prisoners and Human Rights groups who do, or have in the past, supported peaceful protest actions against SHU torture units.
On p. 9 of the policy (§3378.7(9)) [3378.2(b)(9) on p. 37] outlines violations for “visits from persons or entities that are documented as willfully promoting, furthering or assisting STG affiliates in activities associated with the STG.” In every hunger strike-related 115 issued, and in countless pro-P.I.C. articles, CDCr and some mass media elements, have consistently reduced it to “gang activity.” This means the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, P.H.S.S., C.F.A.S.C., Our Lives Matter, Prison Watch Network, C.P.F., L.S.P.C. and countless other progressive human rights entities, journalists and individual activists who oppose the preservation of torture in their society are subject to “validation” as an “STG,” and those prisoners conferring with them are in turn subject to sanctions.
The First Amendment prohibits any regulation “Abridging the…right to peaceably assemble, and to petition government for a redress of grievances,” yet again CDCr seems to have not gotten the memo. In the circuitous logic of irrational authoritarian man they seek to create new laws to protect their capacity to violate established law. Organizing to resist state-sponsored torture is not a crime. So again we ask you, why does CDCr’s “Initial Statement of Reasons” cite this litany of serious and violent crimes, yet its regulations focus on activities and matter which are not themselves criminal?
Under the language in this policy CDCr can (and surely will) criminalize anything prisoners- and some of you in ‘society’ reading this now- say, think, or do. The only “safe” activity we may possibly engage in is exiting our cells and taking a breath… however, if one were to take 2 deep breaths, one may be cited for “STG Harrasment-Directly or Indirectly,” because some CDCr staff person may be intimidated by how your breathing. To be sure, they’ve actually introduced an unspecific category of STG misconduct in §3378.4(a)(3)(M) termed “Unique Behaviors” that is actually whatever the state wants it to be.
CDCr, making their authoritarian political position clear, posits in its “Statementof Reasons”  surrounding §3378.4(c)(7) that behavior need not be actionable as a rules violation to be used to validate prisoners or retain them in SHU torture units (see p.31 of the policy). CDCr has included this language despite having touted to every media outlet and public official who would listen that they are “moving to a behavior based model.” It is a contradiction, wrapped in a lie, cloaked in semantics.
Yet as fundamentally contradictory and irrational as it is to criminalize activity and matter which is not criminal, to increase the magnitude of petty offences and observations which can land prisoners in a SHU torture unit; what’s equally offensive is they’ve actually lowered the bar for themselves in proving if such matter is actually “STG”- related. If you go to p.23, at §3375.3-CODE G, CDCr can establish STG association withouthaving to show direct contact with a validated STG affiliate. Exactly how anyone can rationally demonstrate how someone is associating with someone else without having to show they’ve associated at all is mind boggling. Yet, if we move to the new language on “Direct Links” (for validation purposes) on p.35 we find that unilateral action by either party is sufficient to demonstrate a “direct link” to an STG, and CDCr staff need notestablish that the subject knew the other was ‘validated’ as an STG, or knew each other at all. Under this rubric, any of you reading this right now could write an N.C.T.T. coordinator here in Corcoran or at Pelican Bay SHU, having never met or known us outside of reading this article, and find yourself “validated” with a “direct link” to an STG. Does this strike you as a means to combat “homicides, narcotics trafficking, and extortion,” or a means to combat political progress, to criminalize and sanction segments of the population who’ve exposed and damaged their inhumane agenda politically and socially?
Throughout the regulatory language there has been a great emphasis on “criminal STG behavior,” even making things which are not behaviors “behavior” (clothing, artwork, handshakes, etc.) -yet contradicting this all, on p.35 they create a loophole for themselves (just in case the STG Disciplinary Matrix isn’t enough) stating placement in SHU/SDP, or validation as an STG affiliate, does not need to occur with behavior, “source criteria” alone is enough. To be sure, though they contend they’ve put a 4 year cap on the “age” of “source criteria” (information) used for STG purposes, they have included another loophole for themselves on the same page which actually expands the time frame for using “source criteria” to “anytime in the individuals personal STG history.” How they are able to assert such contradictions under color of law is a riddle which should concern every citizen and inhabitant of the U.S… Unfortunately the answer to this riddle is even more disturbing.
Judicial Collusion
It is the fact of judicial collusionwhich allows for such abuses. For example, CDCr has made a great deal about the new provisions which are supposed to ensure confidential informants/information used to validate or place prisoners in SHU under STG regulations must be independently  corroborated before it can be used. However, new §3321(b) (1) includes language which completely undermines this by stating, “other circumstantial evidence” may be used to “corroborate” confidential informants/information (1030’s). We have recently discovered “investigation” is sufficient “corroboration” under this “other circumstantial evidence” standard. In other words, they can have an informant say you had plans to blow-up a gun tower, and that informant becomes “corroborated” when they “investigate” this baseless lie. Under this logic, “corroboration” is just empty semantics.
However ridiculous this sounds, they have no fear of the courts striking such an absurdity down because in a recent ruling on Brother Zaharibu’s 9th Circuit appeal, the courts took the position THE ACTUAL  EVIDENCE DOES’NT  EVEN HAVE TO EXIST – AS LONG AS THE RIGHT BOXES ARE CHECKED ON THE 1030 form, THAT’S “SOME EVIDENCE.” The evidence the 1030 is supposed to be based on does not have to exist at all. The ‘word’ of CDCr staff, according to the courts, is good enough for them. Mind you, this ruling comes on the heels of the third Hunger Strike, only days before recent legislative hearings on SHU torture units, and almost simultaneously as these regulations were being released. As it stands, IGI/Prison Staff can say anything on a 1030, check some boxes, and you’ll receive a 115 and a 4-year to indefinite SHU term in CDCr’s SDP-and the courts will support this.
Judicial collusion in the maintenance of SHU torture units is long standing and pervasive in the U.S., and in California in particular, (see, Ruiz v. Estelle, Coleman v. Wilson, Madrid v. Gomez, In Re Castillo, Koch v. Lewis [AZ], etc.). Despite the massive public outcry against the perpetuation of SHU torture units in America, the 9th Circuit court (in apparent reactionary support of CDCr’s maintance of the practice) is actually reversing progressive District court rulings when they favor  prisoners subjected to long-term SHU torture.
In In Re Griffin the District Court ordered CDCr, on three separate occasions, to release Griffin to the general population (G.P.), or a less restrictive environment than SHU. After several moves to mock the court’s ruling, such as moving Griffin from Pelican Bay SHU to Corcoran SHU, which failed miserably after the District Judge toured Corcoran SHU and told CDCr they were not in compliance with the order, CDCr basically took the position they’d go to jail before they released him to the G.P.. The 9th Circuit finally weighed in. The Attorney General, representing CDCr passed on to the court some speculative information provided by OCS, and the 9th Circuit in essence took the position the District Court made an error by abiding by the Constitution in Griffin’s case. The 9th Circuit Court rebuked the District Courts’ findings that over 2 decades in the SHU, simply because one would not debrief, does in fact violate the Eighth Amendment. The 9th Circuit Courts position is that torture Is not cruel and unusual as long as it’s a validated prisoner on the receiving end, and further held (based on whatever information OCS trumped up) that Griffin could “earn his way back into Pelican Bay.” They made no move to enforce the District Courts order to release Griffin to the general population or to sanction CDCR for repeatedly disregarding the order.
That CDCr has been maintaining the largest collection of torture units in the U.S. is the best proof the courts will defend the integrity of authoritarian institutions before it upholds its own ‘law.’ Which is why it should come as no surprise that CDCr can assert in its “Evaluation of Consistency/ Compatability WithExisting Laws/Regulations” (p. 2) that: “The Department has researched existing statutes and regulations and has determined that these proposed regulations and has determined that these proposed regulations are not inconsistent…with existing laws”… then turn around and violate the very statutes it cites as its controlling language with impunity. To state that many of the provisions of this policy violate the 1st, 8th, and 14th Amendments is too obvious, and frankly too easy. Let’s go for the less obvious.
If we look on p.3 of the “Initial Statement of Reasons,” CDCr cites Castillo v. Alameida  [Castillo v. Alameida, Case No. C-94-2847-MJJ (N.D.Cal.) ] as controlling case law, yet throughout the policy “laundry lists” of every sort (i.e., membership lists, enemy lists, roll-call lists, etc, see-p.14, §3323(h)(12)(E); p.22,§3375.3(a)(4)(B)(3); p.36, 0378.2(5); p.45, STG MATRIX, Sec.6(g), etc., etc.) are cited as legitimate “source criteria.”
The ‘Castillo’ settlement agreement expressly prohibits the use of such laundry lists for validation/SHU placement purposes. The ‘Castillo’ settlement agreement (CIVIL NO.C-94-2847) on p.7, at point 21 states, “Defendants (CDCr) agree that “laundry lists” shall not be relied on as a source item,” yet in spite of this they’ve added new provisions for additional “laundry list” classifications, such as ‘roll-call lists.’ CDCr’s regulatory semantics and the courts collusion in their maintenance and perpetuation must be seen for what they are: This is THE STATE’S— response to the Protest Movement responsible for exposing its contradictions and inspiring resistance from multiple segments of society. As one apparatus of the authoritarian state becomes intransigent in the face of change, others leap to support it (in this case the courts, the Govenor’s Office, conservative mass media, and The Dept. of Justice) on a broader and broader basis giving the appearance of a shift back in the struggle for cultural hegemony in their favor.
This, of course, results is a further deepening of the contradiction in the peoples character structure between reactionary and freedom loving tendencies; not simply among the broader masses but those actively engaged in, or supportive of, the struggle as well. However, such vacillation is insufficient to reassert continuity in the authoritarian order… or to halt determined spirits from actively seeking to transform the nature and structure of capitalist society and structure of capitalist society and it’s institutions in America. Therefore, the state must resort to other measures: Enter the Step-Down Program.
CDCr’s Step Down Program, as we’ve already explained in a series of dissertations, is simply a sham system by which CDCr seeks to leverage indefinite torture in SHU to coerce those subject to it to submit to psychological reprograming consistent with the social values of the authoritarian state. According to these new regulations, should you resist this ideological (re)assimilation you will remain in the torture unit indefinitely-and you (not the state) are then “responsible” for your own torture. On p.41 of the policy (3378.3(a)(2)) they state,

“Each step provides progams and privileges and,  it is the responsibility of the affiliate to demonstrate they can be released to a less restrictive environment while abstaining from STG behaviors If the offender chooses not to progress through any step of the program the offender may be returned, by ICC, to one of the previous steps until they demonstrate appropriate behavior for movement into the next step. Any time the inmate wishes to begin participating in the SDP, they may notify their assigned counselor…”

As we’ve already demonstrated, “abstaining from STG behaviors” is next to impossible under these new “regulations” which criminalize everything from a hand shake to a conversation, but when they speak of “appropriate behavior,” exactly what are they talking about? For the answer we must go to the “SDP Notice of Expectations” [p. 41]. There is a “Notice” for each step (1-5), with each containing 5 to 7 ‘expectation’ points, depending on which step you’ve been assigned to. The most obvious and glaring contradictions of the SDP, and what actually reveals the states true motivation here, is the fact that only 1 of the expectation points has any association to legitimate penological interests as it relates to “behavior” in prison: “Remain disciplinary free adhering to all Departmental rules and regulations.”
Now if CDCr were sincere in their assertion that “The SDP will be a individually behavior based program” one would need only “remain disciplinary free” for 4 years and be released to the general population in step-5. This however is not the actual intent of the SDP… subordinating the population to the authoritarian dictates of the state is.
Under this new policy you can be disciplinary free for decades (as most current indeterminate SHU prisoners are today) and never be released  from SHU. This is not simply a “behavior based” program (despite the term “behavior” being such an ambiguous term to CDCr) as you are also expected to “participate in and successfully complete all mandated educational and cognitive (restructuring) instruction (including self-directed journals), as well as risk-educational assessment, as determined by ICC.”
They also expect you to “follow all staff recommendations and directions,” as a part of “positive” SDP participation. Since we’ve already made a definitive analysisof the cognitive restructuring and forensic profiling components of §700.2 of the SDP and COMPAS assessment in 3 previous NCTT-Cor-SHU analyses, there is no need to do so again here. What is necessary for us to discuss here is why this duplicitous contradiction is so necessary to the state’s efforts to reassert political reaction in populations currently committed to progressive struggle.
Our struggle to abolish SHU torture units is inextricably linked to the broader struggle to seize cultural hegemony in the U.S. from the ruling class and it’s tool, the state. This struggle has contributed to progressively changing attitudes in society and prisons. Our collective efforts have repeatedly exposed the state’s contradictions and sparked the Peoples appetite for freedom and new social relationships. These activities undermine the reactionary character structure upon which authoritarian society is based. These actions are thus revolutionary. “Revolution” is, at heart, “a war for the minds of the masses,” it moves us positively from one way of life and set of social values, to one more conducive to principles of collective life. The state makes no secret in this new policy that reintroducing its  “social values” is central to their SDP’ strategy. On p.2 of its “Initial Statement of Reasons,” it states its “strategy is designed to [last point] “provide programs designed to promote social values and behaviors in preparation for the offender’s return to the community.” (p. 2)
It is only as a result of seeing the masses organize and resist its callous inhumanity that the state now seeks to force the restructuring of the “social values” of prisoners at the source of this resistance to more closely reflect the dominant mass psychology (i.e. ideological conformity). It is only when the suppressed segments of society begin to organize themselves, begin to fight for socio-economic and political improvements and raise the cultural level of the broader masses, that moralistic inhibitions set in; only then do ruling elements, and their tools, begin to show concern for the “values” and “morality” of the oppressed.
As organized resistance rises, so does a contrary process activate in direct proportion from the state: The ideological assimilation to the ruling class. However, such a process among the prison class and lumpen strata (where oppression is a constant of existence) is simply not as easily achieved as it is in the middle class. Consciousness, relatively speaking, is directly proportional to oppression. Couple this fact with the lumpen strata’s desperate historic relationship to the productive system and the daily assaults on our humanity that all prisoners endure, and the prospect of conforming to authoritarian dictates, or being ideologically assimilated by mundane means to just accepting the role of oppressed man is simply unrealistic to say the least. Thus the need, the requirement, the mandate of the state that all prisoners subject to the SDP must submit to cognitive restructuring or face the prospect of continued indefinite torture.
If we view the state’s response in these regulatory and judicial positions within their correct social, political, and historic context it becomes clear this is an automatic, reactionary gambit to reawaken contrary structural tendencies which lie active, dormant, or repressed (depending on your relative degree of political maturity) in all of us who’ve developed in the patriarchal-authoritarian miasma of capitalist America. Concessions in this struggle, on the part of the state, have thus far been superficial and cosmetic. The view of authoritarian institutions is power does not concede-it compels.
We have demonstrated here how these policies and judgments are a collection of contradictions justified by lies. As resistance to the dictates of authoritarian ideology continues to spread and flare across the surface of the American social structure, truth begins to intrude rudely upon the hypocrisies and irrationalities at the foundation of authoritarian society. The lines between the socially hostile microcosm of prison and the politically reactionary macrocosm of society are being blurred as progressive activists across the spectrum begin to join hands across the walls with progressive and Revolutionary prisoners, producing new social relationships, new political perspectives, and moving toward truly Revolutinary (i.e., rational) character structures and ideology. As we speak, ideas, rational ideas based in truth, like the Sustainable Agricultural Commune, the Pelican Bay Human Rights Movements’ First Amendment Campaign, and the Agreement to End Hostilities are finding resonance among the People, and taking root in communities in society at large. These ideas are influencing -to a greater or lesser degree- the mass psychology in America, and the state must move to stop it, to prevent these ideas being fully manifested into a social force of even greater transformative quality. Power thus reveals its nature in its contradictions.
Wilhelm Reich, in his treatise, The Human Struggle for Freedom observed:

“The dilemma is this: Without the power to put them into practice, truths are of no use. They remain academic. Power, no matter what kind of power it is, without a foundation in truth, is a dictatorship, more or less and in one way or another, for it is always based on man’s fear of the social responsibility and personal burden that “freedom” entails. Dictatorial power and truth do not go together. They are mutually exclusive… “power” always means the subjugation of others.”

It is here finally, we strike at the “root” of the matter: The state’s preservation of dictatorial power is the origin of the lies and contradictions within the new STG regulations and the judicial collusion which allows them to move forward as a material force.
With all this in mind, state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has sponsored a bill to cap “administrative” SHU confinement to a 3 year determinate term. We’ve no doubt Mr. Ammiano is sincere in his genuine desire for progressive change. However, CDCr, and the state they both represent, is not. As we’ve demonstrated here, semantics is as viable as reality to the state. If there is no explicit language stating the bill applies retroactively, those who’ve been here for 10-40 years will have to spend another  3 years here. CDCr can take the position, the SDP is “segregated housing” and not SHU (though it is none the less in the SHU and your torturous living conditions are no different) and continue to hold you in the SHU for another 5 years to forever. Because the bill speaks exclusively to validated SHU prisoners, with this new regulatory language in mind, which manufactures an entirely new reality for “behavior” (transforming non-criminal activity and matter into “crimes”), it’s a simple matter of having validated prisoners housed in SHU issued repeated petty 115’s-which could hold prisoners in SHU indefinitely. SHU torture units are real, the human misery they are responsible for is real, and the intent of the state to maintain this practice is equally real.
There are some of us, despite this bill, that the state is simply not going to release to a mainline. To be sure, these new regulations contain provisions whereby, “…STG affiliates who are… in segregated housing for non-disciplinary reasons with privileges associated… with step-4 if they have completed the SDP but were retained for non-disciplinary reasons.” In other words, you can jump through every hoop in the SDP, and if they feel you have too much influence, or for other Non-disciplinary reasons, they can keep you in step-4 (in the SHU) indefinitely (see “InitialStatement of Reasons,” p.12, §3044(j) through§3044(j) (2)(H)). With this in mind, if the legislature will not consider restoring the “Prisoners Bill of Rights,” perhaps at least they will consider including contact visits for those housed in SHU for non-disciplinary reasons?
In the final analysis it is our collective determination to not simply abolish SHU torture units, but to transform the sick culture and warped ideology of this society which has allowed them to endure for so long which, in turn, will realize a victorious Revolutionary change. The Prison Industrial Complex is but one cog in the machinery of the authoritarian order. Truly dismantling it requires striking at the very foundation upon which this world is currently organized: THE AUTHORITARIAN MASS PSYCHOLOGY OF REACTIONARY MAN/WOMAN. By changing our minds and actions, we will change the world. This kind of change, a Revolutionary change, only progresses in the crucible of struggle. Come struggle with us.
We wish to leave you all with the wise words of Arundhati Roy: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way; on a quiet day I can hear her breathing.”

Until we win or don’t lose.

N.C.T.T.-COR-SHU
For more information on the N.C.T.T.-COR-SHU, contact:
Michael (Zaharibu) Dorrough D-83611, 4B1L-#43
J. Heshima Denham J-38283, 4B1L-#43
Kambui Robinson C-82830, 4B1L-#49
Jabari Scott H-30536 4B1L-#63
CSP-COR-SHU
P.O. BOX 3481
Corcoran, CA. 93212
Online @: NCTTCorSHU.org
Twitter: Twitter.com/NCTTCorSHU
Facebook: Facebook.com/nctt.corshu.3

                                                                                                                     

Statement Suspending the Third Hunger Strike

Posted on September 5, 2013 by prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity
Greetings of Solidarity and Respect!
The PBSP-SHU, Short Corridor Collective Representatives hereby serve notice upon all concerned parties of interest that after nine weeks we have collectively decided to suspend our third hunger strike action on September 5, 2013.
To be clear, our Peaceful Protest of Resistance to our continuous subjection to decades of systemic state sanctioned torture via the system’s solitary confinement units is far from over. Our decision to suspend our third hunger strike in two years does not come lightly. This decision is especially difficult considering that most of our demands have not been met (despite nearly universal agreement that they are reasonable). The core group of prisoners has been, and remains 100% committed to seeing this protracted struggle for real reform through to a complete victory, even if it requires us to make the ultimate sacrifice.  With that said, we clarify this point by stating prisoner deaths are not the objective, we recognize such sacrifice is at times the only means to an end of fascist oppression.
Our goal remains: force the powers that be to end their torture policies and practices in which serious physical and psychological harm is inflicted on tens of thousands of prisoners as well as our loved ones outside.  We also call for ending the related practices of using prisoners to promote the agenda of the police state by seeking to greatly expand the numbers of the working class poor warehoused in prisons, and particularly those of us held in solitary, based on psychological/social manipulation, and divisive tactics keeping prisoners fighting amongst each other. Those in power promote mass warehousing to justify more guards, more tax dollars for “security”, and spend mere pennies for rehabilitation — all of which demonstrates a failed penal system, high recidivism, and ultimately compromising public safety.  The State of California’s $9.1 billion annual CDCR budget is the epitome of a failed and fraudulent state agency that diabolically and systemically deprives thousands of their human rights and dignity. Allowing this agency to act with impunity has to stop! And it will.
With that said, and in response to much sincere urging of loved ones, supporters, our attorneys and current and former state legislators, Tom Ammiano, Loni Hancock, and Tom Hayden, for whom we have the upmost respect, we decided to suspend our hunger strike.  We are especially grateful to Senator Hancock and Assembly Member Ammiano for their courageous decision to challenge Governor Brown and the CDCR for their policies of prolonged solitary confinement and inhumane conditions. We are certain that they will continue their fight for our cause, including holding legislative hearings and the drafting legislation responsive to our demands on prison conditions and sentencing laws. We are also proceeding with our class action civil suit against the CDCR.
The fact is that Governor Brown and CDCR Secretary Beard have responded to our third peaceful action with typical denials and falsehoods, claiming solitary confinement does not exist and justifying the continuation of their indefinite torture regime by vilifying the peaceful protest representatives. They also obtained the support of the medical receiver (Kelso) and Prison Law Office attorney (Spector—who is supposed to represent prisoners interests, and instead has become an agent for the state) to perpetuate their lie to the public and to the federal court — that prisoners participating in the hunger strike have been coerced — in order to obtain the August 19, 2013 force feeding order.
We have deemed it to be in the best interest of our cause to suspend our hunger strike action until further notice.
We urge people to remember that we began our present resistance with our unprecedented collective and peaceful actions (in tandem with the legislative process) back in early 2010, when we created and distributed a “Formal Complaint” for the purpose of educating the public and bringing widespread attention to our torturous conditions.
After much dialogue and consideration, this led us to our first and second hunger strike actions in 2011, during which a combined number of 6,500 and 12,000 prisoners participated. We succeeded in gaining worldwide attention and support resulting in some minor changes by the CDCR concerning SHU programming and privileges. They also claimed to make major changes to policies regarding gang validation and indefinite SHU confinement by creating the STG/SDP Pilot Program. They released a few hundred prisoners from SHU/AD SEG to general population in the prison.  But in truth, this is all part of a sham to claim the pilot program works and was a weak attempt to have our class action dismissed. It didn’t work.
In response we respectfully made clear that CDCR’s STG-SDP was not responsive to our demand for the end to long term isolation and solitary confinement and thus unacceptable.  (See: AGREEMENT TO END HOSTILITIES)
Our supporting points fell on deaf ears, leading to our January 2013 notice of intent to resume our hunger strike on July 8, 2013 if our demands were not met.  We also included Forty Supplemental Demands.
In early July, CDCR produced several memos notifying prisoners of an increase in privileges and property items, which are notably responsive to a few of our demands, while the majority of our demands were unresolved, leading to our third hunger strike, in which 30,000 prisoners participated and resulted in greater worldwide exposure, support and condemnation of the CDCR!
From our perspective, we’ve gained a lot of positive ground towards achieving our goals.  However, there’s still much to be done.  Our resistance will continue to build and grow until we have won our human rights.
Respectfully,
For the Prisoner Class Human Rights Movement
Todd Ashker, C58191, D1-119
Arturo Castellanos, C17275, D1-121
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C35671, D1-117
Antonio Guillen, P81948, D2-106
And the Representatives Body:
Danny Troxell, B76578, D1-120
George Franco, D46556, D4-217
Ronnie Yandell, V27927, D4-215
Paul Redd, B72683, D2-117
James Baridi Williamson, D-34288. D4-107
Alfred Sandoval, D61000, D4-214
Louis Powell, B59864, D1-104
Alex Yrigollen, H32421, D2-204
Gabriel Huerta, C80766, D3-222
Frank Clement, D07919, D3-116
Raymond Chavo Perez, K12922, D1-219
James Mario Perez, B48186, D3-124
Link to original

Cellmate or not: Indeterminate SHU confinement is torture

Cell of Todd Ashker in PBSP
Indeterminate SHU confinement is torture, and though not all those thus situated are in cells alone (some have cellies), this makes the torture no less acute, and in some ways even more challenging.

Like all oppressed people, prisoners confined to these torture units must not only contend with seeking ways to resist the unrelenting, daily assaults on their psyche and humanity, but must also contend with the prospect of people who have never been subjected to the inexorable psychological and physical degradation of being confined to a bathroom with 2 bunks crammed into it for 23-24 hours a day, every day, trying to define ourreality.

It has recently been suggested that those confined to these sensory deprivation torture units indefinitely, but who have a cellie, are not in “solitary confinement,” as though another human occupying a space not even large enough for one will somehow mitigate the deleterious effects of this isolation. It doesn’t. The only marked difference is the number of stressors you must contend with in a day. Having a cellmate under this circumstance forces you to modify your daily life to account for the mood swings, biological activities, and other idiosyncrasies of someone who is always– no matter how far in this tiny cell you go – only 2 steps away from you. 

As men who have a collective 60+ years in these torture units, both with cellies and without, we can state definitively what constitutes “solitary confinement” is the complete and total isolation from sensory stimuli and “normalized” human social interactions which accompany the unique conditions of torture unit confinement (i.e. S.H.U.’s, S.M.U.’s, supermaxes, ad-seg’s, etc.), not whether another human has been crammed off into this tiny space with you.

The love, friendship, admiration and respect we hold for one another is genuine and abiding, but has no impact on how isolation affects the mind, and how you may perceive others or their activities. We may hold a conversation with one another, or a neighbor through the vent, then not say a word to another for 2 or 3 days save “excuse me” when sliding past or using the toilet; that anyone truly believes having a cellmate somehow lessens the effects of this isolation only reveals their ignorance of this reality. 

For someone to attempt to define our reality in these torture units, who’ve never experienced it for a month, let alone decades, is no different than U.S. government officials and policy makers attempting to define the realities of the First Nations (Native Americans) who they had massacred, forced onto reservations, and then into “boarding schools” where they raped children of their language, culture, identity and innocence. Can anyone identify the reality of the Apache child whose hair is cut to serve his tribal identity  and then beaten for speaking their native tongue, but that Apache child? No, of course not! Neither can anyone define the reality of the prisoner(s) confined in U.S. domestic torture units across the U.S. like Pelican Bay, Corcoran, and Tehachapi save those of us who have, and do, live this reality. Just as many men who have had cellies have committed suicide to escape these torture units as those without.

Solitary confinement must be defined by the effects this isolation, and the torture techniques used to break men, has on those so situated. We should know. All of us have been both with and without cellies over our periods of indefinite SHU confinement. Despite our level of development and continued advancement it would be the height of hubris for us to contend this isolation has not adversely affected our minds and bodies. For anyone to consider these conditions anything less than torture could only be a prison industrialist, or some other type of draconian public official.

In the final analysis, torture must be defined by the effects it has on its victims and no one who has been confined to these indefinite torture units for any length of time, either single or double celled, has escaped the psychological and physical devastation of the torture unit.

N.C.T.T.-Cor-SHU
May 2013

NCTTCorSHU.org

July 8th: Peaceful Protests of refusing food in CA SHU’s and elsewhere will resume if demands are not met!

Please spread this flyer, thank you! Also follow NCTTCOrSHU.org (this site), Californiaprisonwatch.org, Stopmassincarceration.org, SFBayview.com, Prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com, and other sites with updates.
Also actions of solidarity are planned in other states (Louisiana for one, Ohio may follow). CDCR should at least hear and talk with the prisoners and their representatives!

Latest on CDCR’s proposed new ” STG” program is that NONE of the prisoners in the units in at least Cor-SHU 4B 1L have signed a “contract” that CDCR has installed to push prisoners to comply with their new solitary confinement punishment rules.

We dare to win: The reality and impact of SHU torture units

Discussion in the wake of the Aug. 23 legislative hearing

In: SF Bay ViewNovember 11, 2011

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. … We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” – “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963, by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Written Oct. 12, 2011 – These sage words by Dr. King are both appropriate to the discussion we’d like to have on indeterminate SHU confinement and cautionary as to who we are and what we allow as a society in these troubled times. This second point is very relevant to this discussion and we hope you’ll stick with us, as the subject matter is both broad and disturbing; it requires us to share some inconvenient truths.

 

Security Housing Units (SHUs) like those in Pelican Bay, Tehachapi and this one here in Corcoran are torture units. They are used to indefinitely house human beings in solitary confinement based on an administrative determination that they are “gang members” with impetus towards breaking their minds in hopes of eliciting information and coercing them into becoming informants or active agents in the state.

These units are the tombs of not only alleged “gang members” but political and politicized prisoners, imprisoned human rights activists and jailhouse lawyers alike, most anyone who, in the sole determination of institutional gang investigators and administrators, is not content to submit passively to his role as a commodity in the prison industrial complex.

The U.S. and many of its media outlets, such as The New York Times and San Diego Union Tribune, prior to the U.S. War on Terror, routinely criticized China, Turkey, Syria and other nations for holding prisoners in indefinite solitary confinement under conditions of constant illumination, sensory deprivation etc. for expressing contrary political views. They universally condemned the practices as torture, citing the United Nations Human Rights Commission Treaty. Their hypocrisy was of course revealed after the policies of U.S. torture at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and numerous CIA blacksite prisons was exposed.

Yet what has been America’s dirty little secret is that years before Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, they were boiling men alive at Pelican Bay SHU, they were holding murderous “blood sport” style bouts here at Corcoran SHU and they had been holding people with left-wing political ideologies as “gang members” for decades in sensory deprivation torture units at Pelican Bay, Corcoran and Tehachapi SHUs. Yes, indefinite solitary confinement and constant illumination is being used right now in California SHU units, in conjunction with a program of systematic isolation and experimental behavior modification to torture prisoners every day, without end.

The California and U.S. Supreme Courts, in blatant indifference to international and constitutional law, have repeatedly refused to intervene in most cases on behalf of prisoners in Pelican Bay and Corcoran SHUs who’ve lived in solitary confinement under constant illumination and daily psychological stressors for 10, 20, 30 and even 40 years straight. This is gross hypocrisy wherein your nation is torturing its citizens in your names.

The “United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment” defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

This virtually defines the validation, indeterminate SHU confinement and debriefing processes, which are all interconnected. We are routinely told, quite frankly, at ICC (Institutional Classification Committee) hearings, “You’ll only get out of SHU if you parole, debrief or die”; at parole board hearings the line is no different: The panel of law enforcement officials states, “If you want a parole date, you may want to think about debriefing.”

When, after serving 24 years, most of that in these indeterminate SHU torture units, for a crime where he was simply a 16-year-old bystander and had not had a single rules violation in over a decade, had family and community support and several job offers, Sondai Ellis was told that very thing as he was denied parole again. I was, and continue to be, so furious that it is only through the discipline and adherence to principled conduct instilled in me by brothers like Sondai that I’ve been capable of keeping that fury in check at such bald-faced injustice.

To debrief one must become an informant, an agent of the state, and decades of torture and withholding of freedom are strong state sanctions to compel some of us to make something up or simply parrot what we are told to say to get out of SHU or support a law enforcement agenda. In at least two recent online articles, we see debriefers doing just this: actually advocating the merits of the very torture units that reduced them to broken men and made them thralls of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) and its various units and affiliates. They – the Institutional Gang Investigations (IGI), Investigations Services Unit (ISU), prison guards etc. – are the ones who have an economic and political interest in maintaining the symbolism of these torture units as the final abode of “predatory gang leaders and organized criminals.”

The U.N. Human Rights Commission has stated prolonged solitary confinement for purposes of extracting information is prohibited as torture. SHUs are by definition torture units and specialty, experimental, ultra-supermax isolation units like Pelican Bay SHU’s D-Short Corridor and Corcoran SHU’s 4B1L-C-Section short corridor are specifically engineered to warp reality for purposes of breaking men’s minds.

Torture, no matter the supposed justification, is never an acceptable practice for a humane society. The U.N. Convention Against Torture states, “No exceptionable circumstances whatsoever, whether a state or threat of war or political emergency, may be invoked as a reason for torture.” As it stands, your correctional department, courts, some of your elected officials, and all law enforcement agencies do feel torture is justified as long as it’s applied to those they deem “gang members.”

But there is a much more insidious socio-economic and political motivation for the maintenance and expansion of SHU torture units and indeterminate SHU confinement based on “gang” validation. It is sustained by manipulating your perception of truth and humanity and by controlling your perception of these things. The prison industrialists dictate your actions, reactions and inaction to their impact on your lives and communities.

As you may know, we embarked on a historic 24-day hunger strike in July and at this writing are 17 days into a second hunger strike that began on Sept. 26 in solidarity with the Pelican Bay SHU D-Corridor collective and the five core demands recognizing our human rights. We were joined by some 6,600 other prisoners across the state, 12,000 in this second effort and countless others across the nation, and we garnered the support of principled people all over the world.

On Aug. 23, a hearing was held in response to those issues. I want to take this time to use some of the distortions, misrepresentations of fact and outright lies by CDCR Undersecretary Scott Kernan, a key prison industrialist, to illustrate just what we’re talking about here. There is an articulable basis why state-sanctioned torture units are maintained in California and throughout the U.S. And before we get into Mr. Kernan’s comments, it is necessary for you to have a clear understanding of what they are so you can understand why he would contradict himself and openly lie to a legislative oversight committee.

The purpose of SHU torture units – and “gang” validations resulting in indeterminate SHU confinement – is to ensure your financial and political support for the expansion and maintenance of the prison industrial complex as a viable business model by maximizing your fear and capitalizing on your ignorance. The foundational cornerstone of their success is convincing you that “gang members are depraved, inhuman monsters hell bent on the rape, murder and predation of innocent people,” and only they, the “gang experts,” know who these monsters are and how best to “protect” you from them.

These so-called malevolent, irrationally violent and predatory organized “gangs” are the source of all of society’s ills and the very origins of crime in our communities. By creating these torture units and proclaiming they are the abodes of “the worst of the worst,” they have a symbolic manifestation of the validity of their claims.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, chair of Public Safety Committee, speaks at the rally before convening his hearing on prison torture in the SHUs.

No one can refute their accounts or characterizations because transparency is non-existent. Prisoners have no voice. The CCPOA successfully lobbied to ban media interviews with prisoners so the public is left to a unilateral, state-sponsored view of prison conditions and their discontents. This allows them the ability to perpetuate the myth of the inhuman “gang member” unchallenged and, with tacit media support, to dehumanize an ever-growing segment of the underclass.

Have you not noticed how your local news reports on arrestees or incidents in these communities? If someone is arrested for DUI, a drive-by or petty theft, he or she is paraded on the news and the first identification made is “he’s a validated gang member.” When incidents occur in or around our children’s schools, the school is put on “lockdown,” a term derived from the California prison system to denote a prison yard being locked down after a riot or other incident.

These terms, “gang” and “gang member,” automatically conjure images of innocent drive-by shooting victims and prison rapes inspired by “Oz” and cinematic visions, divorcing these men and women from the human condition, dehumanizing them. These people, more often than not, were saddled with these characterizations because of the communities they come from and may well have never committed a violent or predatory act in their lives.

But you don’t know that. All you know is what you’ve been told by the TV anchor, police or CDCR spokesman. They know that because they’ve used millions of your tax dollars to engineer it that way.
The truth of the matter is there are no malevolent, irrationally violent predatory gangs roving the streets of your cities or the prison yards of CDCR, only desperate men and women forced to the bottom rung of society through institutional disparities in economic and race-based distribution of educational, employment and empowerment opportunities at virtually every point of human activity in the U.S.

Do gangs exist? Of course, but that’s not the relevant question. Where are they prevalent and why do they exist? This is what is of note. “Gangs” and, more centrally, gang violence are prevalent primarily in underclass – poor – communities.

The national unemployment rate – not counting the underemployed or those who’ve stopped looking – stands at 9.1 percent, yet in the New Afrikan (Black) community, it’s 17 percent and in the Latino community it’s 14.5 percent. Those without a high school diploma stand at 16 percent unemployed while those with a Bachelor’s Degree a mere 1 percent.

New Afrikans and Latinos make up 90 percent of the prison population but a scant 26 percent of the national population. The origin of crime is not gangs. Gangs are a social symptom of that origin. The origin of all crime is the disproportionate distribution of wealth, privilege and opportunity in our society.

This is not by chance or happenstance. It is by design. Wage-based employment and entrepreneurship are the only ways to “legally” create wealth in this society. When social conditions are such that a community contains a large population of surplus labor – either they are unemployed due to their lack of education or marketable skills, or the market simply cannot sustain that population of workers – the only alternative to survive is the underground economy, be that illicit services such as narcotics, the sex trade and gambling or predatory crimes such as extortion, robbery and identity theft.

There is a corresponding sense of socio-political impotence which accompanies the innate insecurity of poverty. Young men and women who have no power, no hope, no impact on their world form community-based organizations to fill that socio-political void in their existence. Those the state calls “gangs” and has decided to wage “war” on them, only furthering the isolation.

One of the reasons so few people vote in underclass communities is these disparities are institutional and systemic to U.S. capitalist economics. No matter who’s in office, their plight doesn’t change. Because these communities are a marginal constituency, public officials extend a corresponding indifference to their plight.

Families and supporters of prisoners from across California held a rally prior to the Aug. 23 hearing called by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano on the torturous solitary confinement in California SHUs.

Instead of “protecting and serving” those communities, law enforcement, judicial, legislative and correctional officers all too commonly have a containment, suppression and adversarial relationship with those communities and those who come from them. Yet the bell-curve theories and notions that young men and women want to stand on a street corner selling crack or want to risk their lives and freedom by engaging in unprovoked gang violence are simply untrue.

You pick any prisoner in these SHU units validated as a “gang member” and offer him a job making $20 an hour, and I can guarantee you he won’t break the law. But the environment in these communities and most assuredly the environment in CDCR prisons are not structured to produce such success or opportunity, which brings me to my next point:

The California corrections system is an environment designed and maintained by its administrators. Thus, any failures must be attributed to those who have precluded an environment for success. CDCR effectively retards rehabilitation especially among SHU prisoners – those who by the state’s own admission most need rehabilitation – by withdrawing the vital tech-based vocational training and higher educational opportunity needed to compete in today’s high tech world. It was primarily through the successful efforts of the CCPOA that funding through Pell grants for higher education was taken from prisoners.

Of course, what followed this repeal of the inmate bill of rights was an unprecedented boom in prison building and a population expansion by 800 percent in the last 20 years. Racial antagonisms are encouraged so as to preclude broad class cooperation amongst prisoners like the unprecedented unity shown statewide in the recent hunger strike.

Underdevelopment while in prison, coupled with an emphasis on seeking most any impetus for “violation” by parole officers once out of prison, is designed to preclude successful re-integration into society, maximize recidivism rates, and undermine the underclass communities from which those ex-offenders hail – all to maintain the steady social dysfunction and economic desperation in these family units so a consistent flow of bodies is exiting these communities to enter our jails and prisons, court systems and probation departments, ensuring a recession-proof industry of profit and expansion for the prison market and those who depend on your tax dollars to sustain their privilege.

The very structure of CDCR regulations is designed to promote dependency, destroy ingenuity and self-determination and deter unity. They actually have rules which bar prisoners from running a business, which always boggled my mind in an economically depressed recessionary capitalist cycle. If there are prisoners with the insight, talent and entrepreneurial acumen to make a meaningful contribution to this state’s economy and job market, men and women who the courts have determined owe some debt to society, why would you codify a basis for them not doing so?

Outside of the same “potential for impropriety” rhetoric they use to justify accepting unsubstantiated confidential information and mere suspicion as a basis for SHU confinement, there exists no justification for such a regulation. The only basis that follows reason is to prevent independence and promote dependency on the state, thus promoting institutionalization.

If you combine this with the psycho-social decimation of men’s minds resulting from prolonged and, in some cases, endless isolation in conditions such as these, is it any wonder psychologists universally agree this type of torture effectively destroys one’s ability to function in society? Which is the point.

As we’ve stated before, the modern criminal justice system – and correctional departments in particular – are the biggest conflicts of interest in U.S. history. Those entrusted with reducing the number of criminal offenders and protecting public safety have their potential profit margin directly attached to maximizing the number of offenders under their control at any given time.

This is why the CCPOA fought so hard to stop out-of-state transfers of prisoners to reduce overcrowding. The more prisoners under their control, the larger their budgets, the greater their salaries and benefits, and the more overtime hours they can bill to your tax dollars.

But most vitally, the more prisoners held and for ever greater durations, the more ensured they are of their long-term job security no matter the fragility of the economy in this current crisis. To be sure, an economic downturn to the rest of us is an economic upturn for those in the prison industry. It means an inequitable increase in human commodities: prisoners.

According to CDCR, they spend an average $78,000 to house us in these torture unit cells each year. Perhaps a little more due to the added isolation features in 4B1L-C-Section and D-Corridor. We assure you it does not cost $78K to feed us the two small trays and sack lunch we receive each day or to keep this light burning 24 hours or power our small 13-inch TVs.

Besides being escorted in chains to the K-9 style dog cages for yard two to three times a week and five minutes in the shower three times a week, we never leave these cells. So I assure you that money is not being spent on prisoners being housed in the SHU. No, it’s spent on guards – on their salaries, benefits, equipment, training, guns and bullets – NOT US. The guard working the SHU makes the most money and with all the overtime they have action at, they can in essence write their own checks on your buck and at the expense of our minds, our bodies and, sometimes it feels, our very souls.

The CCPOA (California Correctional Peace Officers Association), the prison guards’ union, considers the California State Capitol in Sacramento its turf. It is the state’s most powerful lobby. No governor has dared challenge its power for decades, but the hunger strikers dared.

During the Aug. 23 legislative hearing, the CDCR panel representative, Undersecretary of Operations Scott Kernan, made such baseless, overly simplistic and outright false statements concerning prison life and conditions related to SHU and so-called “gangs” that they MUST be debunked with the truth. He stated “gangs” were responsible for “ordering ‘rapes’” in prison and are the primary threat for such heinous acts. This is not only an outright lie, but in fact quite the opposite is true.

For the vast majority of those housed in these SHUs, and virtually ALL those in these indeterminate SHU torture units, the forced sexual subjugation of anyone, not to mention another human in these conditions, is not simply frowned upon by SHU prisoners but forcefully opposed. Mr. Kernan’s assertion that men housed here would even condone such sickness is a testament to the fear and dehumanization-based rhetoric which has become the basis for prison industrialist propaganda over the past 20 years and is an insult to the humanity of all of us housed here.

We in the NCTT Cor-SHU collectively have over 100 years of experience existing in the most violent and reactionary prisons in California and can say with definitive confidence that the vast majority of the “8,000 assaults and stabbings the department has each year” has little to do with gangs, as Mr. Kernan states, and everything to do with overcrowded facilities and limited space.

Be it a dispute on the basketball or handball court, an unpaid gambling or dope debt, a cross word said in frustration at overcrowded conditions taken as disrespect, etc., these things have little to do with “gangs.” And in those instances where a gang member may be involved in a personal dispute – and according to CDCR everyone in CDCR runs with some gang – they report or record it as “gang related” when the “gang” in fact has nothing to do with the initial incident.

He went on to state “millions of tax dollars were ‘wasted’ each year, and ‘gangs’ would be identified as the primary problem.” Mr. Kernan has no factual basis for this statement. I can’t even conceive of the rubric by which he would venture this opinion when targeting educational and economic development programs in underclass communities and amongst criminal offenders has proven an effective means by which to reduce both predatory and market-based crime rates and reduce recidivism amongst prisoners, yet funding for such initiatives, due primarily to lobbying efforts by the CCPOA and their political cabal, has been repeatedly diverted to prison budgets under the auspices of public safety, an oxymoronic application of the term if ever there was one.

Mr. Kernan went on to state it’s “only 3,000 validated SHU prisoners in a population of 165,000 – that’s a very small number.” The Marquis de Sade is said to have tortured some 2,000 prisoners out of the 100,000 that passed through Elba – before honing his skills on women – when he was a gaoler (jailer) there. No one in the French aristocracy minded De Sade’s dalliances with prisoners much either. It’s this type of thinking that led to the use of CIA blacksites in Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Egypt and, yes, Libya under Qaddafi to imprison “under special conditions” terror “suspects” and torture them for years, continuing still, in the U.S. “war on terror.”

SHU survivor Jitu Sadiki speaks at the rally prior to the Ammiano hearing Aug. 23. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

Three thousand torture victims in a population of 165,000 is 3,000 too many. Mr. Kernan went on to state, “We don’t allow media to talk to individual inmates for fear of their sensationalizing their crimes, like Charles Manson or Scott Peterson” – a patently absurd notion he knows full well was untrue. First of all, it was the media that “sensationalized” Manson and Peterson’s cases, not Manson and Peterson themselves.

But, more importantly, no one here wants to “sensationalize” their criminal convictions or past lifestyles. In fact there is a significant segment of the indeterminate SHU population, such as the NCTT, the Freedom, Justice and Human Rights Initiative, George Jackson University etc., who have dedicated their lives to not simply atoning for the damage to our communities as a result of our ignorance and lack of consciousness in the past, but putting forward meaningful programs and initiatives to improve life in those communities, such as those mentioned above.

The only prisoners in SHU that Mr. Kernan allowed the media access to, and the only prisoners such media outlets as the Sacramento Bee seem to be interested in quoting are debriefers, informants and agents of the state. Mr. Kernan did not allow media access to the D-Short Corridor collective, like Sitawa Dewberry, Todd Ashker or Mutope Crawford, or the 4B1L-C-Section collective because he did not want politically and socially conscious prisoners articulating the true basis of SHU and reason for the hunger strikes and the inescapable deteriorating psychological effects of SHU.

This is simply another example of state controlled media in a society that purports itself to be “free and open,” yet another manifestation of CDCR’s successful gambit to monopolize the conversation. I found it ironic that Mr. Kernan attempted to dismiss and redirect the blatant human rights violations which torture units represent by stating “the violence the gangs perpetuate is the human rights violation,” when the vast majority of the “8,000 assaults and stabbings” occurring in the modern CDCR are occurring on “sensitive needs yards” (SNYs) by the very debriefers and protective custody prisoners IGI has relied on, or broken, to manufacture uncorroborated and unsubstantiated “confidential information chronos” to put, and keep other prisoners in indefinite SHU confinement.

To be sure, the most violent “gang” in CDCR is “2-5” – half of “5-0,” the “prison gang” made up of debriefers and informants who directly work for IGI, ISU, SSU (Special Services Unit) and other law enforcement agencies.

Mr. Kernan was adamant that the courts have upheld the validation process and “though harsh, the SHU is not torture.” We’ve established without doubt this IS torture, so that brooks no comment.

But as to the comments on the courts, that’s not entirely true either. California courts, most judges having been elected with the backing of CCPOA lobbying dollars, rarely uphold the Constitution where prisoners, and especially SHU prisoners, are seeking human rights protection. But there are exceptions. For example, in the Koch v. Lewis case that the Supreme Court took up to address the equally harsh SMU II torture unit in Florence, Arizona, the court found that Koch’s solitary confinement violated his right to due process under the 14th Amendment, which is applicable to states because there was no evidence that Koch had committed any overt act to warrant such torture. The claim that he was an Aryan Brotherhood member was insufficient.
Substantive due process requires that evidence used must bear a logical relation to the specific deprivations.

As Judge Moran stated, “The labeling of plaintiff Koch as a ‘gang member’ does not itself create legal concerns. Rather it is the placement in SMU II as a result of the alleged association that is constitutionally significant.” After hearing evidence of SMU conditions – identical to California SHU conditions – and the psychological harm Koch and all prisoners faced, the court not only found a significant liberty deprivation but also that the very practice of sending inmates to supermax torture units based on status alone, with no charges or evidence of misconduct, violated due process.

The court concluded that there must be some evidence of misconduct, some overt gang-related act, to justify placing Koch in SMU II for an indefinite – and very likely permanent – term. Yet, as Mr. Kernan stated, virtually lifelong supermax detention for alleged “gang members” in U.S. domestic prisons continues to be judged constitutional here in California despite the ruling in the Griffith case. CDCR still has not released him from SHU despite multiple rulings to do so.

It’s not that they, or he, does not know these torture units violate basic tenets of humaneness; they simply have an overriding interest in their maintenance: money and control. Your money, their control. This assertion by Mr. Kernan that these torture units are not torture units is so outrageous and insulting, it recalls Bush era admonitions that waterboarding, Abu Ghraib, and CIA blacksites in foreign countries weren’t torturous either. It is an absurdity, and a dangerous one.

Mr. Kernan’s dogged assertion that “gangs” and more certainly those of us housed in these SHU torture units are the source of perpetual violence in CDCR ignores the inescapable reality of gross overcrowding, intentional underdevelopment and dependency and the structural conditions they’ve created in California prisons, which is the actual origin of prison violence. And until these structural fallacies are addressed, violence in California prisons will continue no matter how many prisoners are consigned to these torture units, and he KNOWS this.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano leaves the rally to convene his hearing on solitary confinement and related issues raised initially by prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU, whose hunger strike was joined by 12,000 other prisoners simultaneously. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

Mr. Kernan stated the process being considered by “all state law enforcement, CCPOA, police, labor unions, national experts and the legislature itself” would allow prisoners to “earn a way out of the system by behavior and require the department to document when we feel it is not the case.” There are four things wrong with this approach:

1) the determining body developing the policy, outside of the legislature, consists exclusively of proponents of the prison industrial complex. Thus, whatever policy is developed will reflect the same draconian, profit-driven inhumanity that’s subjected us to these torture units thus far for decades without end;

2) most of us have not had any rules violations reports in decades. What do we need to “earn” through our “behavior” that’s not already been earned through a years-long proven record of disciplinary free conduct? Or must we subject ourselves to the behavior modification experiments developed in the Marion federal torture unit?

3) indeterminate SHU confinement cannot be allowed to continue to be based on what this department does or does not “feel is the case.” The primary issue here is the arbitrary nature of gang validation and subsequent indeterminate SHU confinement;

4) what Mr. Kernan is suggesting here is no different than the sham six-year inactive review that’s already in place.

Mr. Kernan stated the CDCR gang validation policy is “intended to protect inmates we are charged with and staff,” yet anyone who’s on this side of the door knows that’s a flat out lie. The CDCR gang policy is intended to maintain their control of prison budgets, silence prisoner critics, preclude prisoner unity and continue to scapegoat indeterminate SHU prisoners who’ve not had a single instance of documented misconduct in decades as a basis for extorting billions of taxpayer dollars through over-exaggerating the threat posed by prisoners housed indefinitely in SHU on the basis of gang validations.

As I’ve stated previously, if prisoners, staff and public safety were truly CDCR’s motive force, they would have developed a prison environment and programs geared toward true rehabilitation and successful reintegration and performance in society upon release. Such an environment runs contrary to their economic and political interests and unfortunately against a significant number of the peoples’ desire for vengeance against perceived offenders.

Now then, a particularly distressing lie Mr. Kernan relayed to the public safety panel was that “all evidence used to validate is corroborated.” Simply put, this is a flat out lie. There is no corroboration via independent sources of information of confidential informants’ statements or confidential informant chronos known as “1030s.” Why he would utter a lie that is so easily debunked is truly beyond me.

A SHU survivor addresses the Aug. 23 rally outside the capitol in Sacramento.

To give you an example of what Mr.Kernan and the IGI deem corroboration, they have little boxes on the 1030 chrono listed a)-f) which state why they consider such a source reliable. In a 2008 1030 used to deny a validated indeterminate SHU prisoner “inactive status,” a debriefer – who was briefly housed with the brother – told IGI the individual spoke of the merits of socialism, the history of political resistance to racism and socio-economic inequality in Amerika, and of the validity of the political and socio-economic views of Frantz Fanon, Ho Chi Minh and George Lester Jackson. The IGI told the debriefer that the prisoner was providing “BGF education,” to which the debriefer quickly agreed and parroted what his IGI handler told him to.

Because the same prisoner wrote an article in California Prison Focus critical of CDCR and expressing some of these same political ideas (CPF Fall 2003), they considered this “more than one source independently provid(ing) the same information,” and “part of the information provided by the source has already proven to be true.” This expression of his political views and social criticism of the department’s practice of arbitrarily targeting and punishing left-wing political ideologies in prison in violation of the First Amendment and their own California Code of Regulations, Title 15, was sufficient to earn him another six years in SHU – though he in truth had no chance of release via inactive review.

Not only is political speech and expression protected by “the supreme laws of the land” – or is supposed to be – but it boggles the mind how an article in a publication CDCR not only allows into institutions, but the state delivers to our cell doors, can possibly be corroboration of a coerced informant’s scripted lies. This is what passes for corroboration in Mr. Kernan’s CDCR. The fact of the matter is there is no corroboration of evidence and no way to verify it if there was. IGI is the only one who gets to see the evidence used to consign men to these torture units forever.

Mr. Kernan went on to state, “These offenders are in the SHU with mountains of documentation of illegal criminal activities both out on the streets in public and in prison.” And it is just these types of irresponsible, intentionally dishonest statements which have cowed courts and legislators alike into turning a blind eye to wholesale psychological torture for decades in the California prison system.

The truth of the matter is most validated indeterminate SHU prisoners haven’t had a single documented instance of misconduct or rules violation report for ANY criminal act in decades. I assure you if such a “mountain of illegal activities” was documented, you’d have an equally high mountain of rules violation reports, district attorney referrals and indictments. This is a lie specifically designed to put forward a non-existent justification for that which, according to “the rule of law,” is unjustifiable: indefinite psychological torture to coerce men into becoming informants, agent provocateurs and advocates for the same heinous practices which broke their minds and subsumed their wills.

To be sure, Mr. Kernan contradicted himself in his next breath by stating, in response to the statistical data showing gang violence has only increased as sensitive needs yards – inhabited exclusively by the debriefers, informants and other protective custody designees Mr. Kernan is singing the praises of – have expanded, that “the state’s gang problem has even increased, but separating those offenders we have in SHU has led to a decrease.”

Upon hearing this absurdity, even the assemblyman had to call him on the contradiction. As the hearing wore on and the objective evidence in front of the legislative oversight committee continued to contradict the lies and distortions Mr. Kernan was offering as authority, he stated, “Let’s not lose focus on the real public safety threat perpetuated by gangs in our system.”

And it is this narrow and intentionally ill-informed perspective on public safety which has produced an 800 percent increase in the California prison population, a dysfunctional correctional and nonexistent rehabilitation system, and led to the state’s use and expansion of domestic human experimentation, torture units on the victims of a socio-economic arrangement that has forced us from the bottom rung of society into the bowels of Pelican Bay and Corcoran SHUs.

Mr. Kernan and the rest of the prison industrialists can lay the blame for society’s ills at the feet of “gangs” all they like, and the vicious cycle will only continue ebbing toward the inexorable decline of Western Civilization. Until such time as we all accept the fact that “gangs” are the inevitable outgrowth of capitalist contradictions, of educational and labor underdevelopment in underclass communities and your political and economic leaders’ unwillingness or inability to address the gross disparities between the haves and have nots as the true origin of society’s ills, “gang” violence and systematic criminality will continue to be part of the U.S. social fabric.

Luckily, as consciousness raising efforts like the global Occupy Wall Street Movement continue to sweep across the planet, these “leaders” will be forced to acknowledge the obvious. With a multi-billion dollar budget, Mr. Kernan and his department can make some significant contributions to a new approach. But as the continued intransigence of the department shows, true public safety is a remote concern of those you’ve invested with that responsibility.

The actual public safety threat lies in the underlying socio-economic relationship between poor communities and the prison industry, our society’s indifference to that conflict, and the apparent dogged pursuit of a law enforcement and correctional policy which has been both a dismal inhumane failure and economically unsustainable. The definition of “insanity” is pursuing the same course of action repeatedly and expecting a different result.

I’d like to address one final point Mr. Kernan raised that I believe is pertinent. He stated, “An offender that wants to rehab himself, he can’t because of an inmate telling him to go stab someone or he will be killed.” This is both a misrepresentation of truth and a dangerous exaggeration. There are numerous non-affiliates in the general population of CDCR and Mr. Kernan is well aware of it. Everyone in prison knows lumpen organizations or “gangs” in prison don’t force membership onto non-affiliates, because history has proven such prisoners always become informants, agents or are easily compelled to lie on those they formerly ran with.

But that’s not the core issue here. What is, is Mr. Kernan’s willingness to dispense such tripe as “facts” in hopes of somehow convincing the people that the perpetual torture of over 3,000 human beings is somehow legitimate. This type of thinking and speech MUST be confronted and debunked. Indefinite solitary confinement of humans in California, across the U.S. and throughout the world must be opposed, resisted and abolished.

In the wake of the atrocities of World War II, a document was drafted which stated “The protagonists of this practice of human experimentation justify their views on the basis that such experiments yield results for the good of society that are unprocurable by other methods or means of study. All agree, however, that certain basic principles must be observed in order to satisfy moral, ethical and legal concepts.” That was an excerpt from the Nuremberg Code.

The most passionate and powerful testimony at the Aug. 23 hearing came from SHU survivors and prisoners’ family members, especially Earl Fears and Glenda Rojas shown here. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

Have we as a society descended so far into the miasma of fear, hatred and dehumanization that we would condone the state-sponsored torture of thousands of humans from our communities, in our name?

I began this discussion with a quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to illustrate the slippery slope we are on as a society. Maintenance of these torture units is an injustice; a continuation of the current law enforcement and correctional policy in relation to fundamental socio-economic disparities is inhumane. Injustice anywhere, even here in Corcoran SHU’s 4B1L-C-Section, is a threat to justice everywhere. Today it is us; tomorrow if may be someone you love or, God forbid, you yourself.

It was Fyodor Dostoevsky who said, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” How civilized is this society? And to answer that question with another: How civilized are you, the people who make it up?

If this second hunger strike effort has taught us anything, it is that the power to transform an intransigent industrial interest such as CDCR must come from the will of the people, from exercising your limitless power. Prison authorities were fully content to let us die this time and even modified their medical responses to maximize the chance of permanent injury or death to hunger strikers, which makes the broader aspects of this struggle so significant.

This is not over. It is a protracted struggle that does not end, yet simply begins, with the abolition of SHU torture units. It is the intent of the NCTT to ensure not another human is done this way, not another soul lost to such greedy and heartless people.

Participating in the first round of the hunger strike, 6,600 prisoners and in the second round 12,000 prisoners joined their comrades in SHU to demand an end to “gang validation” and the torture of solitary confinement.

It is our intent to fight for true rehabilitation and positive empowerment, not merely for current or ex-prisoners, but for the underclass communities we all too often hail from. If we can provide community-based initiatives and programs which address the inherent social inequalities in the class arrangement, this will eliminate the motive for property crimes – which make up 98 percent of all crime in the U.S. – and give us all safer and more prosperous communities, allowing us all to partake of the inalienable rights provided for in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The nature of California state and U.S. corrections must change. But to do that we must change society. Who dares to take up such a challenge? Who dares breathe life into the promise of the Declaration of Independence? Who dares champion the poor, the most disenfranchised and underdeveloped communities, the ghettoes, barrios and trailer parks of Amerika? Who dares champion the most vulnerable and urbanized in our society – the felon, the SHU prisoner, the poor?

Who dares do the right thing when the Scott Kernans of the world swear it’s wrong? Who dares to struggle? Who dares to win? We do, and we hope you do too.

Join us! This power to shape history and the future of the society is in your hands. We have faith you will uphold the highest standards of humanity. Our love and solidarity to all those who love freedom, justice and equality and fear only failure.

This letter was typed by Adrian McKinney.

Reblogged on: Kersplebedeb, 4StruggleMag, Prison Activist Resource Center, Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggle, Summary on Radical Criminology