Tag Archives: solitary confinement

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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Resistance to Torture is not a Game

A reply to Debra J. Saunders from the NCTT in COR – SHU
“Search for the truth is the noblest occupation of man, its publication is a duty.” 
 Anne Louise Germaine de Staël
Here’s how you know corporate mass media journalists like San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders are simply the public mouthpieces of the state’s authoritarian apparatus:  the U.S. Prison Industrial Complex has been maintaining the single largest domestic torture program on planet Earth in SHU torture units across the nation, with 12,000 of its 80,000 victims in California and instead of every investigative reporter in the nation researching and reporting on the existence of systematic torture in U.S. prisons it barely gets a mention in mainstream media and when it does, it is nothing more than a recycled version of the same distortions and mischaracterizations issued by the very prison administrators responsible for the inhuman practice.  Because of the blatant distortions and outright lies contained in the Op-Ed piece masquerading as “journalism” such as Debra J. Saunders “Prison Hunger Strike Is a Dangerous Game” (S.F. Gate 8/23/13), we feel compelled to correct them with the truth.
A good place to begin this discussion, because it was so thoroughly mocked by Ms. Saunders and CDCR masters, is settling once and for all the fact that indeterminate SHU confinement is torture, and why.  It is a three-prong, systematic process including “validation, indeterminate SHU confinement, debriefing,” which taken together is by definition torture.
Let us first define torture. The U.N. Convention Against Torture (C.A.T)of which the U.S. is a signatory, defines “torture” in Article 1 as,
”Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purpose 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 of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”
Let’s begin with, “Any act which pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted…”
The body of evidence cataloging the severe mental pain irreparable physical and psychological damage of prolonged and indefinite sensory deprivation confinement is so overwhelming, so irrefutable that it stretches back over 100 years in U.S. science and jurisprudence alone.  In 1890, the Supreme Court ruled, In Re Medley the court observed of the practice,
“A considerable number of prisoners fell, after even a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition, from which it was next to impossible to rouse them, and others became violently insane; others still committed suicide, while those who stood the ordeal were non-reformed, and in many cases did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of subsequent service to the community.”
(U.S. Supreme Court, In Re Medley, 134 U.S. 160, 168  (1890) ). In Great Britain, as in other countries, public sentiment revolted against this severity, and by the Statute of 6 and 7, William IV, Chapter 3, the additional punishment of solitary confinement was repealed.  (In Re Medley, 134 U.S. 160, 168, 170 (1890)).”
Experts in the field of psychology, psychiatry and human behavior from Bonnie Kerness, Craig Haney, to Doctor Stuart Grassian have universally determined even brief stays in sensory deprivation confinement causes significant psychological injury: 
To quote Craig Haney of U.C. California, Santa Cruz,

“There is not a single published study of solitary or super-max-like confinement in which non-voluntary confinement lasting longer than ten (10) days, where participants were unable to terminate their isolation at will, that failed to result in negative psychological effects, including such clinically significant symptoms as hypertension, uncontrollable anger, hallucinations, emotional breakdowns, and suicidal thoughts and behavior.” 

The SHU torture units in California were uniquely designed for this purpose, and as CDCR spokesperson, disguised as a journalist, Debra. J. Saunders, seeks to reduce prisoners’ legitimate resistance to indefinite torture to “a game”, men like Billy “Guerro” Sell and Armando “Baby Paya” Morales are being driven to hang themselves right here in Corcoran SHU because these conditions in fact do intentionally inflict mental and physical pain and suffering of such severity that men kill themselves to escape it. 
50% of all California prisoner suicides occur in SHU, though it houses only 5% of the prison population. The cause of this disproportionately lethal impact has been crucial and articulated by experts in the field ad-nauseum, with universally agreed-upon findings, that long-term SHU confinement causes severe mental and physical suffering amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or…torture.  Instead of relying on the overwhelming body of  scientific evidence and the leading psychological experts in the field of solitary and supermax-style confinement – CDCR groupies – like Debra J. Saunders rely on baseless opinions and outright lies of prison industrialists like Jeffrey Beard, who say that neither solitary confinement or torture exist in California.  

In an August 13, 2013 Rolling Stone– article, citing the California Penal Code definition of torture, CDCR spokesperson Terry Thornton claimed this penal code didn’t fit the definition of torture, “The intent to cause cruel or extreme pain and suffering for the purpose of revenge, extortion, persuasion, or for any sadistic purpose.” 
Oh, but it does fit that definition and countless personages over the last 100 plus years have reported just that. But before we get into the “purpose” aspect of SHU, we think it’s important for us to analyze the psychosis, which seeks to justify and has always sought justification for this type of inhumanity.
Authoritarian powers of the world, and those who support them, like Debra J. Saunders, have always cloaked their dehumanization and abuses of certain segments of the population in the name of “the law,” “nature,” and in some cases, “God.” The U.S. since its inception has been a nation founded upon the patriarchal authoritarian mass psychology, The cultural foundation of reactionary man in which the values, cultural mores and ideas of the ruling elite are reproduced in those they exploit. For centuries it was illegal for women to own property, vote, or have any meaningful control over their daily lives, their bodies, or their futures. When women resisted this patriarchal enforcement of their second-class citizenship, they were brutalized, jailed, reviled, and often killed.
Though the intimate oppression of women finds its origins in the development of the modern family unit, the economic role women played as sexual and domestic chattel, is equitable in most men’s minds to any other valued beast (cattle, sheep, horses, etc). This oppression was enforced with biblical scripture which cloaked women’s subjugation in “the word of God”. Laws flowed directly from the pulpits that mirrored the same. After centuries of resistance and progress this same patriarchal authoritarian mass psychology responsible for 19th century sexism, misogyny and brutality of women is the same psychosis responsible for its modern perpetration, and the creation of torture units across the U.S. prison industrial complex.
The same authoritarian psychosis which rationalized the systematic genocide of over 50 million Native North Americans as “the white man’s burden” in service to Amerika’s “Manifest Destiny,” is the same authoritarian psychosis that pits prisoners against prisoners in gladiator fights in Corcoran SHU, and boiled them alive in Pelican Bay SHU; is the same authoritarian psychosis that invoked biblical ”scripture” and “the law” to justify enslaving 100’s of millions of Afrikans in Amerika and murdering 100’s of millions more during the trans-Atlantic slave trade; is the same authoritarian psychosis responsible for Jeffrey Beard reducing tortured prisoners’ peaceful hunger strike to end indefinite torture, to a “gang  power play”; is the same authoritarian psychosis which stripped Jews in Europe of their rights under Nazi occupation before marching them to extermination camps; is the same authoritarian psychosis responsible for Debra J. Saunders advocating that the label ”gang member” is a justification for the U.S. prison industry to erect the largest domestic torture program on the face of the earth.
The authoritarian psychosis of reactionary men and women is infinitely capable of rationalizing its own evil and justifying it under “the rule of law.” The CDCR spokesperson, Terry Thornton, can bluntly say torture isn’t torture, and somehow convince herself of the delusion that it is the same way the Victorian-era preacher convinces himself the repressed woman is “happy,” docile and joyous in her submission, and it is the same waythe union soldier convinces himself he is “doing the  native savages a kindness by resettling them on a reservation to be taught the proper ways of civilization; is the same way the prison industry convinces themselves that the prisoner who “bed checked” in the same tiny cell for years, decades, deserves it because he is a validated prisoner; and it is the same as the District Court Judge today who convinces himself that the SHU prisoner has no 8th Amendment rights to be free of torture.
At Corcoran SHU there is a forced double-celling policy. The legal minimum requirement for the amount of cell space for two people in one cell is 60 square feet. In Corcoran SHU cells, because the beds sit next to each other here, there is no more than 15 square feet for two people. The toilet is less than 2 feet from the bed. The toilets are on metal and stick out into that space. Only 3 flushes are allowed every 12 minutes.  It is common for the cell and tier to reek of feces, including during morning and evening meals. We routinely have our yard privileges taken away and find ourselves regularly confined to the cells 24 hours a day almost every single day for weeks.
The c/o’s (correctional officers) also function under the same warped psychosis of the patriarchal authoritarian mass psychology. It is a psychosis, which is cultural in capitalist society and all encompassing.  In each case, dehumanization plays a central and necessary role in the function of the psychosis. To inflict inhumane treatment on another human, the mind forces the perpetrator to dehumanize the subject of his or her cruelty. In this instance, the justification for our dehumanization is the label “violent gang member”.  As some read these words, a part of your mind is automatically and irrationally skeptical and repulsed by anything, no matter how noble or correct you may feel you are, associated with the term “violent gang member,” and that’s because you’ve been conditioned that way over the course of the past 35 years. 
In that same time period, the U.S. prison population has exploded by 800%!  A monolithic, multi-billion dollar prison industrial complex has spread its tendrils into almost every aspect of economic, social, political, and cultural life in AmeriKa. SHU torture units have sprouted up in almost every state in the union, with more and more human beings consigned to them indefinitely for ever more arbitrary and nonsensical reasons, all fueled by your tax dollars and political will. They accomplished this the same way they accomplished the invasion of Iraq, by telling you enough lies, enough times, with sufficient intensity that in your mind it’s taken on the aura of truth. Even though it’s a lie. 

This brainwash has gone on so long that it’s now become the standard “go to” narrative of CDCR. Reality, veracity and common sense have little place in that narrative.  It is designed to frighten you by dehumanizing you, and by doing so they create the social illusion that you and I are separate and adversarial entities; that we lie outside the legal definition of ”person,” as though we did not come from and will not return to the same communities you now live in; the same communities our mothers, fathers, siblings, spouses, children and kin live and pay taxes in, right alongside you. It’s both insidious and evil, and more to the point, prohibits a basis for torture.

We’d like to elaborate:
On August 23, 2011, former CDCR Under-Secretary, Scott Kernan, in response to several psychiatrists and psychologists’ expert testimony that indefinite SHU confinement was a violation of international standards prohibiting torture, responded, “The real human rights violation is the violence the gangs carry out.” This is the identical narrative of every CDCR spokesperson, official, and administrator, at present.  Current CDCR spokesperson Terry Thornton, who, in some of the most warped logic we’ve ever seen, put into print, stated in the wake of Billy “Guerro” Sell’s  alleged suicide here at Corcoran that the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition activists and Billy’s family members were somehow “exploiting his death”  in order to “mislead the public: about a hunger strike orchestrated by violent gang members.”  As previous analysis has already established, suicide is often employed to escape the torture of the SHU. 50% of all prison suicides occur in SHU, though only 5% of the prison population is housed there.  Implicit in such statements is, “So what?   We’re torturing them, they are “violent gang members,” so why should anyone care?”
This very rationale is prohibited under C.A.T., Article 2; and the Convention Against Torture, states, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or threat of war, internal political instability, or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture,”  that includes the label “violent gang member.” When the U.S. signed C.A.T. at the close of WWII they were conscious of this type of dehumanization, as they had just witnessed it in liberating the Nazi death camp footage; so inflicting it on their own citizens within their own borders proves the acts intentional.  We have established that indefinite SHU confinement causes “severe pain and suffering, both physical and mental.”
We have established that CDCR officials are actually aware of this, which brings us to the “purpose”aspect of the torture definition. CDCR has stated on multiple occasions, the purpose of indefinite SHU confinement is to “administratively segregate gang members from the general population so the other 95% of prisoners can program without the violence of gang members.” Since the beginning of the validation – indeterminate SHU – debriefing process in the mid 1980s, violence in CDCR facilities only increased exponentially. So this is either an outright lie, or “gang members” are not the origin of prison violence. This fact was one of the many contradictions former Undersecretary Kernan was confronted with by legislators at the August 23, 2011 Public Safety Committee Hearings in Sacramento, concerning the CDCR practice of “administrative segregation” which in actuality, does not necessitate indefinite confinement in SHU torture units. If indefinite confinement in solitary was truly not the aim of prison officials, a standard level IV 180 design prison yard setting exclusively housing “validated prisoners” could serve the same end for $24,000 less per prisoner per year.
Current costs per year are $78.000 per prisoner to house men in SHU, but only $54,000 per prisoner to house men on a normal level IV 180 design yard, annually.
No, the true purpose of indefinite SHU confinement is to break men’s minds; to coerce them through punitive sanctions to debrief; to provide information on yourself and/or others to prison officials; to become a state informant; to snitch. This process has been articulated, its etiology explained, its key architects named, in the NCTT-COR-SHU article, “Creating Broken Men.” The process is further analyzed in the article “Creating Broken Men 2” and mentions its current evolution in CDCR’s STG Pilot Program.
We encourage you all to review them at www.sfbayview.com or ncttcorshu.org  or in the newsletter Prison Focus #39, available on line at www.prisons.org along with the inspired thoughts by the many prisoners who have written on these issues. 
However, we can illustrate the CDCR’s methods briefly by using CDCR’s own language:  Article 22 of the Department Operating Manual (D.O.M.)(50270) of their governing “gang management” system.  In D.O. M. (52970.5), CDCR states their gang management strategy shall be to identify gang affiliated inmates and parolees; …take interdiction action, and apply sanctions.”   In D.O.M.(52070.5.4) “Gang activity sanctions: “inmates… in violation of criminal and administrative statutes shall be dealt with in the strictest possible…manner.  This shall include, but not be limited to loss of privileges, increase in custody, loss of work credits (read: loss of parole), enhancement of penalties; segregation from the inmate general population (read: indefinite solitary/sensory deprivation confinement).
Let’s stop for a moment; the language here is grossly misleading at its outset. The disturbing truth is, though CDCR uses language like “violent gang members” and  “violation of criminal and administrative statutes”, very few, if any “validated” prisoners were consigned to SHU for committing any act.  It is these alleged “administrative statutes” – the arbitrary standard – that allows this.  “Validation” is not, nor has it ever been about “behavior.”
The violent crimes that Debra J. Saunders definitively attaches to the D. Short Corridor Main Reps occurred 20 – 40 years ago.  Are any of us the same persons that we were two (2) decades ago?  Of course not.  Most validated prisoners have had no rules violations of any kind in years – or even decades. The “validated “ gang theory is predicated not on what you have done, but instead, like in the Tom Cruise Dystopian film, “Minority Report,” you are punished for what officials believe you may do; that just their suspicion that you are a so-called “gang member” is sufficient to determine you are predisposed to inevitably carry out an act of violent crime.  Such a systematic process in a supposed “open and democratic society” should horrify and outrage every citizen. Yet these dubious “gang activity sanctions” have been codified in CDCR regulations, “calculated to force an individual or group of individuals to comply with an obligation or submit to that authority, state or group of states; (2) a coercive provision of law or penalty designed to enforce obedience.”  In each case we see “sanctions” equated with force. But what is the end in this case?
We find out answer in D.O.M. 52070.29.2  “Role and Responsibility of the Gang Intelligence Operations. Debriefing Team,” which states, “the primary objective of the team shall be to debrief validated prison gang members housed in the SHU.”  Here we see “validated prisoners in the SHU” are identified as the primary focus of debriefing efforts by CDCR. The purpose provision of the torture definition under C.A.T., article 1 states:  “pain suffering… intentionally inflicted on a person for such purpose 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… 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 is the very definition of debriefing.  “To learn enough about the subject and the object’s current gang (D.O.M.52070.19.2)..Information obtained during a debriefing shall be documented on…a debriefing report.” (D.O.M. 52070.19.8) Validation/indeterminate SHU confinement/debriefing is all about gathering information, coercing the subject to become an informant on others (a third person), and this becomes a tool of the state. This is unequivocally torture by any definition.
Any narrative to the contrary, be it asserted by CDCR groupies like Debra J. Saunders or a CDCR spokesperson like Terry Thornton, you now know what you are hearing is sick people trying to justify torture.
The representation of “lies as truth” and the employment of state-controlled journalists to give those lies the air of legitimacy has always been the preferred method of the authoritarian order to maintain cultural hegemony, and the August 24, 2013, article by Debra J. Saunders is a prime example of this process.  Here we have a collection of completely uncorroborated sound bites by CDCR officials and outright lies being presented by a so-called journalist that has made no effort to verify the truth of any of her “fun SHU facts”. Obvious contradictions are often the first indication of state duplicity.  Ms. Saunders opens this pro-CDCR Op-ed piece (It is not serious journalism) by castigating the commitment of hunger strikers by noting participation went from 30,000 persons to 79 persons in 16 days, then 4 paragraphs later puts forward the absurd contradiction that so-called “gang leaders” have coerced everyone with threats to go without food. The truth is repression breeds resistance. We’re discussing indefinite torture. No one requires compulsion to resist torture, or the prospect of the same happening to them.  That CDCR, with the aid of irresponsible journalists like Ms. Saunders, were able to “force feed” that contradiction to Judge Henderson does not lend that false narrative any credence.
U.S. Courts have allowed this torture to continue in numerous cases for over 30 years knowing full well all the actual facts articulated in this piece, in consistent support of prison officials maintaining SHU torture units. Taking judicial steps to neutralize the lethal component is in the interest of the State, of which the Courts are a part.  A convenient lie was floated devoid of any verifiable evidence, it was accepted by the judge, and he pulled the fangs from the hunger strike. This tripe by Ms. Saunders is no more journalism than is “The National Inquirer.”  One of the standards of American journalism is to always verify sources; “facts.”  The entirety of the “article” posted on SFGate, is to justify CDCR employees telling Deborah J. Saunders one unsubstantiated lie after another, and Ms. Saunders just putting it into print without bothering to verify it, or if any of this even occurred.
Joyce Hayhoe, of the Federal Receiver’s Office, allegedly told Ms. Saunders one hunger striker would take food “if he could hide it” and yet another would eat “if he could be transferred”; yet neither Ms. Saunders nor anyone at the SFGate site bothered to contact, or even identify, these alleged prisoners to verify this, or if they even exist. Saunders quotes CDCR as reporting that “a hunger striking prisoner assaulted his cellmate who refused to share food,” yet the columnist did not seek to verify the existence of either prisoner, or even if such an incident occurred. This far surpasses irresponsible reporting, and is a smear piece masquerading as journalism, which is equitable to some state official telling a journalist that Barak Obama is really a member of the Taliban, that journalist having printing up the story, and the newspaper publishing it, with no attempt to verify this with either Barak Obama or the Taliban. That “journalist” would be fired, and rightfully so.
Debra Saunders goes on to state that CDCR employees gave all hunger strikers “Gatorade and vitamins”, but no such thing occurred here at Corcoran. If a hunger striking prisoner accepted Gatorade here, it would take you off the hunger strike. Officers not only did notmake daily rounds to see who needed medical attention, but custody staff went out of their way to not offer strikers any attention. It was the exclusive province of CCHCS medical staff and they were instructed by Chief Medical Officer, J. Wang, to ignore the CCHCS mass hunger strike, fasting, and re-feeding care policy (IMSP&P, vol 4,Chapt.22.2).  Daily rounds, consisted of nothing more than a nurse with a clipboard coming by your door and asking, “are you still on a hunger strike?,” then walking away. That’s it. 
We have 4 appeals with documentation of intentional medical neglect/deliberate indifference, by COR-SHU medical staff toward hunger strikers here. You would appear very thin, in the face of the July 28th, 2013, 68 page Corcoran State Prison Health Care Evaluation Report condemning Corcoran CCHCS as the worst in the state, that she would make some effort to determine if  “care” for prisoners was actually what CDCR was “reporting” it was. But again, that would imply serious journalism, and that’s simply not what we’re discussing here.
Here are some NOT so fun facts about SHU:
  • SHU does constitute “extreme isolation:, with or without a cellmate, as the conditions of sensory deprivation confinement, enforced idleness, sharing a space barely large enough for one person, let alone 2 (the physical structure of Corcoran-SHU cells affords even less room), and the inescapable psychological degradation that accompanies the horrifying realization that you will never get out of this tiny, monotonous, sterile space is universally experienced. None of this is mitigated (and is often exacerbated) by having a cellmate.  SHU is torture; SHU is extreme isolation, and that must be judged by its effects (which are objective and quantifiable), not by the sarcastic commentary of a CDCR groupie’s opinions, who could  not begin to fathom, let alone accurately report on, what a day in SHU is like.
  • According to the information CDCR spokesperson Terry Thornton provided Debra J. Saunders (accounting for its dialectic), 50% of Tehachapi SHU prisoners are in solitary confinement; 60% of New Folsom SHU prisoners are in solitary confinement; 65% of Corcoran SHU prisoners are in solitary confinement’ and 90% of Pelican Bay SHU prisoners are in solitary confinement  – and at the same time, she continues to insist, there are no prisoners in solitary confinement in California.
  •  SHU prisoners can purchase a small, 13” TV or am/fm radio, at their own expense. There is no “cable TV” in Corcoran SHU, and the reception fed to us from the antenna is so poor, you’re lucky to get 5 of 13 local stations they air to come in clear at any given time.  Corcoran needs cable service.  In other SHU torture units that may have a few cable stations, it’s due to the remote locations of these prison. Cable service is the only way you’ll get any TV reception at all (like Pelican Bay).  All TV programming, equipment, and service is paid for in full by prisoners from our Inmate Welfare Fund, not the state. As you read this, COR-SHU prisoner Reps are seeking to negotiate with the Corcoran administration to pay for our own wireless cable channels from our IWF, which is managed badly by the State.) 
  • SHU prisoners, with enough money, can pay to earn a degree; and this opportunity is only as a result of concessions realized after the 2011 hunger strike.  Prior to this, SHU prisoners were not allowed access to any education at all.  If you don’t have the thousands of dollars to pay for college courses, you will remain without it, and as woefully uneducated and unemployable as when you arrived in SHU, just as CDCR likes it.
  • In SHU, your mail is screened, and routinely withheld, by I.G.I. staff. Should they take exception with your political views, artwork, culture, or most anything they choose, your mail will be confiscated and you’ll be subjected to even more punitive sanctions by CDCR.
  • You can receive visits with your family on weekends; behind a thick pane of glass, talking over a telephone in the wall, for only an hour – no human contact. SHU torture units are by design, situated in remote, rural areas of California, far from the urban centers most SHU prisoners hail from, which makes visits difficult to impossible for most SHU prisoners to get any outside contact at all.

In the final analysis, misinformation disseminated by pro-torture activists like Debra J. Saunders moves beyond the realm of “irresponsible journalism”: and into active support for systemic torture. In U.S. capitalist culture, the news is a powerful tool of the ruling class and the State to a degree that misinformation is now par for the course, but that doesn’t make it correct. Misusing it in such a way as to justify a practice dependent on dehumanizing and brutalizing other humans to achieve its ends, is neither “objective” nor in the public interest.
When such reporting is grounded in lies, intentional distortions, and rampant mischaracterizations, it becomes complicity in these human rights abuses themselves.  Article 4, section 2 of C.A.T. states in part, “Each State party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law (and) shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to any act by any person which constitutes complicity…in torture.”  This “article” by Debra J. Saunders places her in violation of article 4, section 2 of C.A.T. and makes her complicit in torture.  If there is any justice in this world, when pro-torture prison industrialists are judged by the people, Debra J. Saunders and her ilk will be right with them. For now, history has already judged them, and they have been found wanting. 

NCTT– COR-SHU
For more information on the NCTT-COR-SHU and its work product, contact:
Michael Zaharibu Dorrough, D83611
J. Heshima Denham, D38283
Kambui Robinson, C82830
Jabari Scott, H30530

Address for all is: 

CSP-COR-SHU 4B-1L
P.O. Box 3481
Corcoran, CA 93212

On Unity of Purpose Within the Protest Movement

“A Small Body of Determined Spirits Fired by an Unquenchable Faith in Their Mission Can Alter The Course of History”   Gandhi


Greetings Brothers and Sisters,

History teaches us that unity is strength; that the collective will of a people expressed toward a common goal often results in that goal being realized. This should indicate to us all the vital nature of preserving unity of purpose within the protest movement, and within the movement to abolish domestic torture units in particular (solitary connement units, SHUs, super-maxes, etc). Protest movements in the U.S. are often formed out of necessity because the U.S. state and the oppressive, exploitive methods it uses against the people who stand in opposition to, are one and the same, sharing a mutual interest in repressing a specic segment of society or reaping some material benet from their exploitation. In the case of indenite sensory deprivation connement and mass incarceration in general, we nd both an oppressive and exploitive dynamic.

The unemployed area, a necessary component of surplus labor value expropriation in the U.S. capitalist arrangement (wage slave system) is key to a process we can call underdevelopment. In the U.S. such underdevelopment is targeted and contained, for the most part, in poor and minority communities, where no viable place in the mainstream economy is available to these segments of the population. They must resort to the underground economy to survive. These survival activities, be they service based (narcotics, prostitution, illegal gambling, etc), or predatory (robbery, extortion, identity theft, etc) are all “against the law.” Exposing those forced into the underground economy to imprisonment being the predatory capitalist state that the U.S. is, corporate and political interests from across the industrial spectrum, saw an opportunity in this, reminiscent of the old southern prison bond system, only in this case it was not the prot that could be made from exploiting prisoner labor, but the prot that could be made from each prisoner representing a portion of the publics’ tax dollars which could be expropriated (taken) by a new joint venture of industry and labor aristocracy (prison guard unions and administrators) on an ever-expanding industrial scale.

With the cooperation of the politicians, who overnight created a new and powerful constituency which only required them to parrot the ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric to harness such powerful lobbying and polling resources, law enforcement and judiciaries who would, of course, see an expansion of power and privilege of their own, as legislators enacted ever more intrusive laws broadening the net and widening the gavel for potential citizens daily lives to be intruded upon by the ‘rule of law’ – and more of their tax dollars. The prison industrial complex was born, forming a sixty four billion dollar oligarchy of corporations, and the state that tendrils extend well beyond that meager dollar amount annually.

As the U.S. became the most populous prison population on earth, those subjected to those contradictions, prisoners, resisted, some becoming advanced socio-economic and political activists, who sought to actively resist the social evil of the P.I.C. The state and its corporate masters saw no distinction between these and other groups of prisoners that formed within these environments, and when pitting them against each other did not work the concept of the supermax was born, a place where those who would not submit to the prescribed role of oppressed man would be sent to, subjected to, experimental psychological torture techniques until they “paroled, debriefed or died.” These units were even more lucrative than the expanded prison yards sprouting up like mushrooms across the rural areas of the nation, their very concept and purpose requiring a more robust infusion of tax payer dollars, and giving rise to an interest to manufacture the fantasy of the “worst of the worst,” while simultaneously media access and independent oversight, but capitalism, with its imperative of “unending growth” is, as always, unsustainable, and the prison industrial complex is no different.

As contradictions of its own explosive expansion collided with the limits of U.S. socio-economic capacity, the prospect of eternal damnation in these torture units nally burned away the miasma of disunity affecting the thousands of men and women consigned to these torture units, leaving only their mutual interests behind. Finding its organizational expression within the Pelican Bay D-Short Corridor collective and its unity of purpose in the historic “Agreement To End Hostilities” the movement to these torture units which began so many years ago when the U.S. government replaced Alcatraz with Marion, has not reached its highest form with this national coalition.

But, as most may realize, the unity of our coalition and thus its very purpose is under constant assault, everything from political immaturity to cointelpro-style attacks, challenge our resolve every day. As such, we feel it important to have a discussion about the most fundamental aspects of unity and how adhering to them will not only preserve our purpose, but ensure our circuit. Unity is based on dialogue and commitment; dialogue which is egalitarian and open in its inclusion, yet productive and efcient in its outcome. We should dialogue regularly at all levels around those points which we seek to unify on and from that common ground, commit to those actions and ideas which will most effectively realize our purpose.

Unity does not require uniformity. Coalition building is all about people from different walks of life, politically, socially, sexually, culturally, economically, educationally and geographically coming together to realize a shared value. In this case, the very basic human right that we should all be allowed is to live free of torture. Unity is a broad enough concept to encompass differing opinions and perspectives without it fracturing into a factualism which can be exploited by our collective opposition.

This is why dialogue is such a vital component of unity. The views and perspective of those we are waging struggle with are important, and bilateral communication is the cornerstone of conict resolution. If unity is based on its purpose, it will be difcult to encounter a dispute which cannot be resolved through dialogue. Commitment to a course of action, and to one another, is often as powerful as the unity itself.

Power concedes nothing without demand and actively seeks to destroy opposition to its authoritarian dictates. Commitment to remain unied is a form of unilateral political discourse all its own, which demands that he oppressive power bend – or break. As July 8th approaches and principled people across this nation and abroad prepare to take up this struggle with us, we should all be comforted by the victorious win underlying our unity of purpose. As we speak, hunger strikes in Guantanamo Bay have gripped international attention, yet right here on U.S. shores, over 80,000 men, women and yes children, are languishing in identical conditions, in SHUs, supermaxs and Ad Seg units, from Pelican Bay, Corcoran and Tehachapi to ADX and Oregon State Prison – solitary confinement.

There is only one force which has any hope of abolishing this inhumanity in the U.S. once and for all: The Unity of Purpose of Principled People Like You and Us. Be amazed and inspired!

N.C.T.T. – COR-SHU

Published first in: The Rock, vol. 2 (2013) nr 7 July, pp. 9-10.

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

Creating Broken Men, Pt 2

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Section 700.2 states, 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first principle of the Nuremberg Code states:

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


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

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

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

It goes on to state that: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unity in Organization

From: SF Bay View

by Kamau M. Askari, Feb. 26th, 2013

Organization is a framework through which collective power can be achieved. Organization is also a byproduct of unity.

Prisoners of varying racial and ethnic backgrounds and ideological and political persuasions have forged a united front – best reflected by the Short Corridor Collective confined in Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit – around common goals and interests of ameliorating the tortuous concrete conditions inherent to long-term solitary confinement.

  

[photo: A rally organized by LA’s Youth Justice Coalition ushered in a new era for California prisoners – the End to Hostilities – on the day it took effect, Oct. 10, 2012. A prisoner at Corcoran said recently, “The End to Hostilities has opened up a whole new world to us.” Spreading the spirit of solidarity to the streets is critical now that the California prison system has expanded eligibility for indefinite placement in solitary confinement from prison gangs only to street gangs. – Photo: Virginia Gutierrez]

The previous call for prisoner hunger strikes on July 1 and subsequently Sept. 26, 2011, constitute the initial acts of mass prisoner unity.

Out of this initial unified front has spiraled the positive, productive and progressive mass prisoner cessation of unscrupulous racial violence and hostilities within prisons throughout the system of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (CDCR), as well as various communities of California society at large.

Those of us who study the dialectical laws of development as it relates to history and the science of struggle are acutely aware that any activities geared to unifying and organizing prisoners pursuant to the particulars of a prison movement – in this instance challenging the tortuous conditions of long-term solitary confinement – will be targeted for neutralization by prison authorities who stand to benefit the least from a progressive change in the currently existing relations relative to long-term solitary confinement.

We know this because we also know that prison mirrors society! Prior history and practical experience inform and guide our present approach so as not to repeat mistakes of the past.

For example, in the 1960s-1970s era of the Black Liberation Movement in Amerika, which sought to achieve political, socio-cultural, economic and national independence for New Afrikan (Black) people, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) launched a counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO) for the precise purpose of identifying, disrupting, discrediting, disabling and/or destroying Black revolutionary nationalist organizations and formations: namely, Black Panther Party (BPP), Black Liberation Army (BLA), Republic of New Afrika (RNA), Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), et al.

Behind prison walls similar events were occurring, yet the level of class and racial social relations were intensified substantially beyond that existent in society. CDCR propaganda fostered a relation that perpetuated a state of racial hostilities and violence among prisoners, which has proceeded until the current initiative undertaken by our Short Corridor Collective.

Now this brings us to our focal point of discussion: making ineffective prison authorities’ counter-productive plots, and identifying individuals whose activities seek to undermine our prisoner unity and organization.

Any activities geared to unifying and organizing prisoners pursuant to the particulars of a prison movement – in this instance challenging the tortuous conditions of long-term solitary confinement – will be targeted for neutralization by prison authorities who stand to benefit the least from a progressive change in the currently existing relations relative to long-term solitary confinement.

Prisoners must be dedicated, committed and determined to maintaining the progress made in our racial and social relations thus far – exercising vigilance and caution against having our prisoner racial and social relations deteriorated or undermined by any tactics or measures which could possibly be employed by prison authorities and/or some programmed androids having the same type of functions and objectives, i.e., collaborators, agent provocateurs, infiltrators, asinine lackeys etc.

The key to maintaining progressive prisoner relations is to not let “subjective sentiments”, i.e., personal prejudices and biases, petty differences, prisoners sitting around hating on other prisoners through their own personal misery or envy, etc., take precedence over prisoner unity in organization.

Prisoners must remain cognizant of the fact that our ultimate goals and objectives, i.e., ending tortuous, long-term solitary confinement, and maintaining progressive prisoner racial and social relations are greater than the varying manifestations that can give rise to differences among prisoners stemming from petty subjectivism!

Send our brother some love and light: Kamau M. Askari, b/n Ralph A. Taylor, D-03780, D3-102, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95531. Kamau is coordinator of the NARN Collective Think Tank.

Working the room: Inmates in solitary confinement tell their stories and move people to action against torture and systemic oppression

From: SF Bay View

January 30, 2013by Destiny N. Thomas

Inmates trapped in segregated housing within prisons across the state of California are banding together, setting aside their differences, to expose the human toll of torturous living conditions inside state prisons. While undergoing abusive treatment and sensory deprivation, these organizers have managed to ignite calls for prison reform and self-sufficient communities in a way that transcends the very walls that house them – bringing a voice to a population whose silence is mandated by codes of conduct.

J. Heshima Denham after hunger strike 0711, headshot, web

Heshima Denham

Heshima Denham provides a glimpse of what a day in the life of a prisoner housed in SHU torture units is like. He maintains a daily exercise regimen from within his cell, as he is hardly ever allowed to leave his cell. While the small television in his cell shows the daily news of global oppression, the sharp pain Denham has experienced in his side as a result of a previous hunger strike is his constant reminder of the importance of surviving and resisting while housed in the Corcoran SHU.

The food selection never alternates and is designated by day; it is served at below room temperature, in small portions. In an attempt to maintain some degree of humanness, Denham greets guards with a “thank you” only to be met by laughter. Because bathing is not permitted on a daily basis, Denham takes a birdbath in his cell’s sink.

His day is filled with self-assigned research, caseloads, activism and journalism. The law library at Corcoran is indefinitely off limits. This adds to Denham’s frustrations. Where a person outside of a SHU torture unit would seek other inmates for education on legal and political matters, SHU confines enforce sensory deprivation, so communication is prohibited altogether. The only form of permitted communication, mail, often arrives an entire month after its postmark. To top it all off, Denham has grown accustomed to waking up with migraines, as he has been exposed to constant illumination for 12 years.

The effects of constant illumination

Constant illumination, an unvarying exposure to light around the clock, is a customary practice in prisons nationwide. The effects of continuous exposure to light are vast. Courts have yet to officially recognize this as cruel and unusual punishment as put forth by the Eighth Amendment. One court has cited the benefit to the safety of guards as outweighing the damaging effects of the conditions, although the brightness of the light could possibly be evidence of torture. It was found, constant illumination could only be deemed a violation of human rights if it “causes sleep deprivation or leads to other serious physical or mental health problems.”
However, studies show, constant illumination leads to dramatic decreases in dopamine levels, a biological chemical that affects a person’s ability to control body movement and other sensory-related bodily functions. This leaves people vulnerable to extreme anxiety, hallucinations, decreased motor skills, and likely to develop Parkinson’s Disease.

In 2008, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) launched a documentary titled “Total Isolation.” Six volunteers agreed to be confined to a cell, much like those of solitary confinement in prisons, and live alone in complete darkness for a total of 48 hours. Before being locked away, volunteers were tested for “visual memory, information processing, verbal fluency and suggestibility.”

By the end of the two-day study, volunteers were unable to maintain any meaningful sense of time, they experienced hallucinations, both visual and physiological, and one volunteer was certain his sheets had been soaked. In the two-day time period, volunteers lost the ability to perform basic tasks like thinking of words beginning with the letter “f.”

The participants in “Total Isolation” understood they would be released soon and they entered into the cells without the fear of being abused by staff or retaliated against for expressing discomfort. Prisoners trapped in solitary confinement in the United States have none of these assurances. One could only imagine the ways this would amplify the effects of sensory deprivation.

Solitary confinement a violation of human rights globally

Many have asked the question: Is solitary confinement torture? It is. The United States goes on record as being against inhumane treatment of international prisoners while contradicting itself right here in the United States. The United States – reluctantly – signed the United Nations Convention Against Torture in 1988, three years after Afghanistan, a nation the United States has accused of inhumane practices. One of the main themes in this document is the emphasis on the definition of torture: “any state-sanctioned action by which severe pain or suffering, mental or physical, is intentionally inflicted for obtaining information, punishment, intimidation or discrimination.”

Yes, solitary confinement is torture; it is a violation of some of the most basic of human rights; and the agents of the state responsible for carrying out this abuse need to be exposed.


California’s Pelican Bay State Prison has 1,000 cells delegated to segregation and torture and many prisons nationally assign segregated housing for indeterminate periods of time. Heshima Denham, a prisoner in the torturous SHU at Corcoran State Prison, explains the conditions barred by the United Nations Convention Against Torture virtually “define the validation, indeterminate-SHU and debriefing processes” of state prisons.

Denham goes on to explain, “You’ll only get out of SHU if you parole, debrief or die.” Debriefing, here, is the state’s term for coercing a prisoner to give up information about another prisoner in exchange for being released from the SHU. Often times, the information an inmate is forced to confirm is imposed by prison officials. Whether the information gathered is true or not – this type of coercion leads to murder at the hands of general population inmates and is torture, as defined by the United Nations.

In 1890, the Supreme Court in James J. Medley’s request to be released from solitary confinement found it to be unconstitutional for a prisoner to be held to a sentence handed down by the courts only to then be subjected to more sentencing, in the form of indeterminate segregation, at the will of prison officials. While this same case did not result in a finding that solitary confinement is entirely unconstitutional, justices went on record noting the devastating blow to mental and physical health that these conditions cause.

A common challenge to solitary confinement is the Eighth Amendment – a claim of cruel and unusual punishment. No cases have successfully proven the conditions in solitary confinement are, in fact, cruel and unusual at the United States Supreme Court level.

Where courts have agreed constant darkness poses a hardship on physical and mental health, prisons now enact constant illumination. Where a prison administration finds segregated prisoners’ complaints may be valid, parallel conditions to those of solitary confinement are then imposed on those in general population, making it difficult for prisoners to prove their hardships are due to conditions unique to solitary confinement.


The Supreme Court requires, to prove an Eighth Amendment violation, prison officials must be shown as having been purposefully unresponsive to the harshness of conditions. In Sandin v. Conner (1995), the Supreme Court noted, if a move to segregated population led to an “atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life,” a prisoner would have a cause of action.

The vagueness of the Sandin v. Conner requirements for proving Eighth Amendment violations – the precondition of proving something is in fact harsh and then showing prison officials were aware of the harshness and took no action of improvement – has led to prison officials imposing policies and conditions that conceal the true harshness of conditions.

The courts do not require a significant improvement in conditions when harshness is demonstrated. So prisons make minor changes that satisfy the need for action but don’t necessarily improve conditions – barring inmates from claiming intentional harm was inflicted on them.

For example, where courts have agreed constant darkness poses a hardship on physical and mental health, prisons now enact constant illumination. Where a prison administration finds segregated prisoners’ complaints may be valid, parallel conditions to those of solitary confinement are then imposed on those in general population, making it difficult for prisoners to prove their hardships are due to conditions unique to solitary confinement.

The state’s evasive tactics for avoiding bad publicity

Several inmate organized hunger strikes have brought attention to the harsh conditions of solitary confinement. Prisons now face pressure from the media and public who demand immediate changes to prison policies. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) claims to be in the midst of making changes to the SHU assignment and release procedures. However, there is no mention of changes being made to actual conditions within SHU, where significant degradation of health begins to set in within the first several hours of isolation and sensory deprivation.

Specifically, the CDCR claims to be making temporary changes to the “way [they] manage gangs.” Institutional Gang Investigators are establishing new gang profiling tactics, no longer singling people out as gang members by association or symbols. This policy change does not equate to the immediate release of inmates already confined to SHU for tattoos, artwork and writings as a result of the previous policy. In fact, a new “step-down” program has the potential to increase time spent in the SHU.

What the CDCR says will not change is the “option” to debrief – now formally called “cooperation.” The new policy grants more arbitrary power to prison officials when deciding to lock someone up in the SHU.

Self-sacrifice and the toll of resisting behind bars

Organizing against capitalism while behind bars poses a significant risk to the physical and mental health of politically organized prisoners. While participating in nation-wide hunger strikes in 2011, Heshima Denham lost approximately 45 pounds. Denham’s story is not unique. Many prisoners succumb to the stress on their bodies entirely.

Knowing inmates were experiencing health complications as a result of the hunger strikes, in addition to outright denying strike participants food, the CDCR “revised its medical evaluation policy for hunger strikers to minimize the amount of medical evaluation and data … They have ceased taking vital signs – blood pressure, heart rate, temperature – altogether and are weighing [inmates] only twice a week unless “it appears [they] need it.”

One wonders to what extent retaliatory SHU housing impacts a prisoner’s quality of life and will for freedom. Solitary Watch, a web-based collective with the aim of exposing the realities of solitary confinement, tells the story of Armando Morales (CDCR No. P-80673) who hanged himself to death in his solitary confinement cell at the California State Prison in Corcoran on Aug. 28, 2012. “He was found on his cell floor with a shoelace and a blue blanket wrapped around his neck.” Another inmate housed in Morales’ unit reported Morales was intimidated and threatened by IGI efforts to force him to debrief.

Inmate calls to action

The New Afrikan Revolutionary Nation (NARN) is a community of Black people who seek transformative discourse, nationwide networking and an end to systemic oppression. Their common interest in anti-oppression work unites them, even while behind bars. The NARN Collective Think Tank (NCTT) is active in the torturous SHUs of California’s prison system.

'NARN Collective Think Tank NCTT' logoInspired by the Occupy Wall Street movements across the country, Occupy NCTT works to develop and implement programs, policies and initiatives that align themselves with “Occupy” objectives and community activists globally. The NCTT is a collective that ultimately works toward the day when “freedom, justice, equality and human rights are extended to all mankind,” heavily aligning with the 10 Core Objectives of the global Occupy movement.

Heshima Denham, a very active coordinator of the NCTT, works daily with fellow members to develop “programs that improve the daily lives and material living conditions of the people and contribute to the end of oppression of man/woman by man/woman.” Denham likens systemic oppression to a wooden board, saying the likelihood of shattering that board is far greater when the hand – the fingers representing individual groups resisting oppression – is a clinched fist, as opposed to an open hand of stiff fingers.

Following this rationale, according to Denham, solidarity does not require a monolithic stance. With that, the NCTT seeks to rally solidarity through a central blog for the purposes of networking amongst interest groups, activists and those with the common goal of ending oppression – fortifying the proverbial fist.

NCTT Closed Circuit Economic Initiative

The NCTT Closed Circuit Economic Initiative was born out of the realization that lower income communities – not just Black ones – do not spend money in ways that enrich their own communities. The idea is that a neighborhood is more likely to thrive when that community is self-sufficient and invests close to home. The Closed Circuit Economic Initiative solicits the help of the broader Occupy movement in educating communities about the benefits of investing in one’s own neighborhood and about the program itself.

By surveying the community, organizers will be able to identify which goods and services are of greatest importance to that particular community. Once those goods and services have been identified, the most common good or service will become the basis for a cooperative economic venture in that community, thereby keeping funds circulating within the community for that particular commodity.

Essentially, with each member of the community committing to a minimal monthly financial contribution of even $1, a grocery store would be kept running on a monthly basis until it could sustain itself. The business would be jointly owned by all who contributed, with those who have technical expertise also owning a share and contributing their know-how to the maintenance of the business.

Sixty percent of profits would be paid to members of the community who contributed and 40 percent would be kept in an interest-bearing account. The money from this savings account would then be used to purchase and support additional businesses that support the initial venture.

NCTT Sustainable Community Agricultural Commune

The NCTT is very vocal about the need for accessible, quality food and resources in lower income communities. The Sustainable Community Agricultural Commune relies on alliances with Occupy the Hood and Occupy Wall Street. It calls for a joint effort in taking inventory of all land on a per-community basis – making note of who owns what – for the purpose of converting unused land into community-owned agricultural land. With the incorporation of innovative farming techniques and minimal contributions of community members in the form of labor and/or $1 per month, per resident, the commune would be able to distribute 60 percent of the revenue brought in by the agricultural space and farmers’ markets to community members and utilize the rest of the profits for expansion.

The belief here is that the availability of healthy, affordable food promotes healthy living, creates community-based jobs and lessens the likelihood of incriminating activities associated with the present lack of resources and income in underserved communities.

NCTT Block Vote Initiative

In response to tainted political representation and political corruption, the NCTT proposes a uniform platform centered on interests that generally improve the quality of life for those who seek to dismantle systemic oppression. The idea is that through surveys, public forums, community education and dialogue, the agreed upon will of the people participating in the initiative becomes the national platform for their public political voice.

A Voter Access Fund would work to ensure people are properly registered and prepared to vote. Where a policy or political action is either supported or challenged by the Block Vote Initiative collectively, related public actions would take place to insure sufficient public awareness. The pre-established initiatives would then become a national push for legislation. The proposed initial actions include:

  • A total ban on corporate lobbying and “strategic analysts” during elections;
  • An establishment of community-based parole boards so that the actual community the incarcerated person is returning to is able to make their own decisions about whether or not a prisoner is ready to return home, as opposed to probation decisions being left in the hands of law enforcement, the DA and members of traditional parole boards typically not as interested in community well-being and sustainability;
  • Comprehensive, universal healthcare for those earning under $25,000 and families earning under $50,000.

'Occupy the Beat' graphic by Heshima Denham

Occupy the Beat

The three proposed NCTT initiatives are in need of publicity, funding and organizers. One mode for raising the necessary startup resources is Occupy the Beat, a benefit concert series designed to create awareness about oppression and raise funds for the development of these and future initiatives.

A Nationwide Call to Unity

Heshima Denham explains a ban against media interviewing prisoners has meant endless retaliation by prison authorities and a lack of transparency that leads to increased prisoner vulnerability, especially following the last two hunger strikes. This leaves mainstream media in a position to misrepresent and further “dehumanize” the prison population. Without the protection of direct media attention – and with newly incorporated prison medical procedures for those participating in hunger strikes – prisoners need to mobilize to protect one another from within.

With that, an “Agreement to End Hostilities” was issued to take effect on Oct. 10, 2012, by a group of prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison. The significance of this document is in its call to end racial tensions within prisons for the sake of banding together to demand prison reforms and improved housing conditions. Specifically,

“beginning on Oct. 10, 2012, all hostilities between our racial groups in SHU, ad-seg, general population and county jails will officially cease. This means that from this date on, all racial group hostilities need to be at an end. And if personal issues arise between individuals, people need to do all they can to exhaust all diplomatic means to settle such disputes; do not allow personal, individual issues to escalate into racial group issues!”
The agreement, signed by members of each racial group represented in the prison system, warns inmates of possible administrative retaliation and divisive tactics, but encourages inmates to remain vigilant and move in solidarity.

By taking to heart the experiences shared by Heshima Denham, housed in the Corcoran State Prison’s Secure Housing Unit (SHU), we learn that one of the greatest gestures of support and reassurance of the safety of prisoners who are vocal about their circumstances is constant visibility. The danger and risk associated with being in prison is magnified if at any point a prisoner becomes just another voiceless number.

This notion is not far from the realities underserved communities face daily. The reality is that all evidence points to capitalism. To put it succinctly, yes, solitary confinement is torture; it is a violation of some of the most basic of human rights; and the agents of the state responsible for carrying out this abuse need to be exposed.

Destiny Thomas, a graduate student at the California Institute of Integral Studies studying prison activism with Anthropology Department Chair Andrej Grubacic, can be reached at destinynthomas@gmail.com. Readers are encouraged to write to Heshima Denham, J-38283, Cor SHU 4B-1L-43, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran CA 93212.

CDCR’s Security Threat Group Pilot Program: a document intentionally designed to fail

California’s CDCR’s Security Threat Group Pilot Program (which includes its proposed step down program [S.D.P.] ) is a document intentionally designed to fail. It not only grossly deviates from the behavior-based intent the department swore to the public, legislators, and prisoners subjected to these torture units for the past 10, 20, 30, or 40 years – but actually codifies an expectation of all prisoners to become state informants in the service of maintaining these torture units in violation of already established law.


As you can see on the “Reporting S.T.G. involvement” segment of the “Step Down Program” in the official CDCR press release ( see illustration below, marked with our *, page 4), CDCR has codified an expectation that one becomes a “confidential informant,” qualitatively no different than debriefing. They state in clear language that prisoners “have the responsibility to report S.T.G.  or criminal activity when known or observed by you.”
This is informing, snitching, ratting and will result in someone else being subjected to years of torture. They go on to state:

“This process is not intended to compromise your safety, but to enhance your safety through the identification and removal of those involved in S.T.G. or criminal activities.”

This is an intentional lie. By CDCR’s own admission, one of the primary reasons they have maintained these torture units and created ‘sensitive needs yards’ is that such informing will incur violent retaliation against suspected informants. Their inclusion of this provision has a more insidious purpose related to their Schenerian behavior modification program, but for purposes of this discussion we’ll stick to the 8th Amendment violation inherent in this action by the state.

In Griffinv. Gomez, the U.S. Northern District Court held,

“The crushing conditions of the SHU present an overwhelming incentive for an inmate to risk debriefing… (and) [CDCR’s] refusal to reconsider the classification of former gang members who are unwilling to risk retaliation (for informing) renders their segregation effectively permanent (Docket no. 120, at 8). It is this mutual reinforcement that extended (prisoners) stay in the SHU for over 20 years… Further confinement is tantamount to indefinite administrative segregation for silence – an intolerable practice in modern society.”


The court accordingly found this compulsory requirement to inform violates the 8thAmendment of the U.S. Constitution, yet here we see CDCR not only expanding it outside the confines of the debriefing process, but codifying it as an expectation for inclusion in the S.D.P., something no principled man or woman currently consigned to these torture units will submit to under anycircumstance, and CDCR is fully aware of this fact. They are fully aware that it ciolates established law. They are fully aware that it violates the U.N. Treaty against Torture and other cruel and degrading treatment… They just don’t care. They are counting on the disinterest and political apathy of youthe people – to turn a blind eye to their maintenance if these torture units in your name, with your tax dollars. The only question facing us as a society is: will you? Only you can answer that question.

Our solidarity always – N.C.T.T.-Cor-SHU
NCTTCorSHU.org

“Reporting STG involvement”

Creating broken men? A discussion on the U.S. domestic torture program

December 4, 2012: SF Bay View

by Zaharibu Dorrough, J. Heshima Denham, Kambui Robinson and Jabari Scott, NCTT Corcoran SHU

“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 a third person.” – United Convention Against Torture, Art. 1, Sec. 2

We extend our heartfelt greetings to you, brothers and sisters.

Many discussions are taking place on the nature of the indefinite solitary confinement program in the U.S. prisons and whether or not it constitutes torture. The debate on what to do about the program itself is being held at every level of social organization, from the U.S. Senate to the United Nations, from the California Legislature to the short corridors of Pelican Bay and Corcoran SHUs.

[Corcoran State Prison – Photo: Ben Margot, AP]

Academics from multiple disciplines, from psychologists to sociologists, have all weighed in with the objective, scientific analysis that indefinite SHU confinement is not only torture, but even limited SHU confinement results in irreparable psychological damage. Yet, as with the Bush era “torture papers,” the socio-economic and political interests of the capitalist tend to supersede and supplant objective evidence, moral reason and human decency.

Such debate, which only continues in the presence of arguments contrary to the obvious reality of the U.S. domestic torture program in SHUs across the U.S., is not only ludicrous, it’s reality, and it is this lethal component to the debate which forces us to share a perspective which should end the debate definitively, leaving behind only the inescapable truth: Amerika maintains the largest domestic torture program on earth. The state of California runs the largest torture program in Amerika, and it continues to exist in your name, with your tax dollars, because you allow it to.

A recent incident here in Corcoran SHU’s short corridor compels us to give voice to the outrage we should all feel at the continued maintenance of the indeterminate SHU debriefing process of the U.S. domestic torture program: Another suicide, Armando Morales (Baby Paya), a validated Mexican prisoner from Los Angeles who had been confined to SHU for almost a decade, hanged himself after the IGI moved him from the 4B-1L-C-Section short corridor, to 4A-1R.

The reason(s) that Armando was moved are the typical ones associated with the coercive tactics employed to break men’s minds: After his girlfriend had been compromised by IGI and other state and federal law enforcement, those same agencies mounted an effort to put pressure on Armando, who was actually a baby in terms of what he did and did not know, as it relates to the enormous pressure that law enforcement will apply to coerce information from persons they’ve targeted.

In response to that pressure, he took his own life. Naturally, IGI and the state will seek to escape any culpability, and their response to this is that each person is responsible for his own conduct. We should all recognize the illegitimacy of such a position – that this is nothing more than an excuse to try and separate themselves from a situation that they are responsible for by their reckless and barbaric disregard for our humanity.

Amerika maintains the largest domestic torture program on earth. The state of California runs the largest torture program in Amerika. 

We know this primarily because the vast majority of us have been in these tortuous madhouses for decades. One day is too long and not a single illegal act or rules violation has been committed by us to justify this, which is, by international law, unjustifiable.
But we also know this because our research into the origins of the torture program reveals that this type of systematic psychological degradation to coerce information and create broken men is its purpose. The domestic U.S. torture program carried out in SHU (aka SMU, control unit etc.) style prisons finds its origins at a meeting of social scientists and prison wardens held in Washington, D.C., in 1962, recruiting the findings of Dr. Edgar Schein, which he delivered to them in his man-against-man brainwashing. In addressing the group Dr. Schein stated:

“I would like you to think of brainwashing not in terms of politics, ethics or morals, but in terms of the deliberate changing of human behavior and attitudes by a group of men who have relatively complete control over the environment in which the captive populace lives.” 

The techniques he espoused would also require, to be effective, a new type of environment conducive to altering the very foundations of one’s perception of reality. For this the state took Dr. Levinson’s sensory deprivation prison unit design and a form of Skinnerian operant conditioning called “learned helplessness.”

This last technique is a key factor of both validation based indeterminate SHU confinement and the debriefing process. “Learned helplessness” is a systematic process of conditioning to crystalize in the imprisoned victim’s mind that he has no control over the regulation of his existence, that he is completely dependent on the state and its guards for the necessities of “life,” that he is helpless and must submit to the state’s power and control.

Our research into the origins of the torture program reveals that this type of systematic psychological degradation to coerce information and create broken men is its purpose.

This is, of course, contrary to core human consciousness and a linear thought divergence into two options, “resistance or escape.” The program is designed to apply maximum punitive coercion against “resistance” from the outset – from physical removal from the general (prison) population to sensory deprivation, using informants, collaborators and agent provocateurs to erode trust amongst those of like circumstances, punishing uncooperative attitudes, prohibiting collective thought or expression while simultaneously employing group punishment, arbitrary punishment and property restrictions etc.

At the same time, those who are capable of prolonged or indefinite resistance through ideological consistency, political development or force of will – like victims of crucifixion left to rot on crosses during the Roman Empire – they serve as powerful deterrents to those of lesser psychological resilience or those in general population to not resist and instead explore the second option: escape.

The state of California has made its escape option clear since taking the Schein-Skinnerian-Levinson system to its heights in erecting the torture units at Pelican Bay SHU. There are only three escape options available to you: parole, debrief or die. Due to the successful corporate influences of the prison industrial complex on the legislative, political and, to a degree, cultural processes in the nation over the past quarter century, most validated SHU prisoners are serving mandatory minimum, enhanced or BPT (Board of Prison Terms) based sentences and their very confinement to SHU is prohibitive to their parole.

A cell in the Corcoran SHU

The Board of Prison Terms has repeatedly stated to validated prisoners seeking parole:

 “If you want a parole date, you probably want to think about debriefing.” 

This reinforces the psychological pressure on those already weakened by the enforced conviction that they have been abandoned by and isolated from society – and only through submission and subserviency can they be socially accepted as human beings.

This form of “escape” – debriefing – is consistent with points 7, 8 and 9 of Dr. Schein’s behavior modification techniques: (7) exploitation of opportunities and informers; (8) convincing prisoners they can trust no one; (9) treating those who are willing to collaborate in far more lenient ways than those who are not.

Again, our personal experience with the state and its use of such opportunistic broken men against those of us who are committed to resistance has been demonstrated here at Corcoran-SHU on a number of occasions in which agents posing as revolutionary progressives have tried to undermine the efforts of the NCTT (New Afrikan Collective Think Tank), and when those efforts failed, they locked up and debriefed.

It was only through our collective education and insight and experience with these periodic Cointelpro-style attacks on progressives which allowed us to identify and resist the attack and mitigate its political disorder. But this does not negate the damage done by the broken males to the unity and progress of resistance in the SHU population.

Though political immaturity by some elements played a role in the mistrust and disunity that resulted from it, in the broader population, it is the nature of the domestic torture program itself to create such broken males that we must understand is prohibited by the international community – and the U.S. knows this in analyzing the effects of such broken males on the psychology of certain elements in SHU. Other such examples of torture being put to such use against those who resist in Pelican Bay, here and across the U.S. is legion.

The state of California has made its escape option clear since taking the Schein-Skinnerian-Levinson system to its heights in erecting the torture units at Pelican Bay SHU. There are only three escape options available to you: parole, debrief or die. The Board of Prison Terms has repeatedly stated to validated prisoners seeking parole: “If you want a parole date, you probably want to think about debriefing.”

In the etiology of the U.S. domestic torture program, Marion Control Unit was the first. When former Marion Warden Ralph Aron was asked why the torture unit was built, he replied, “The purpose of the Marion (and all) controls unit(s) is to control revolutionary attitudes in the prison system and society at large.” These broken males thus serve to not only damage or destroy progressives in prison but the attitudes and ideas of progressives in society at large.

It was always meant to be this way. To be sure, Dr. Broder, the psychotherapist who implemented Dr. Schein’s brainwashing program at Marion envisions those paroled broken men as “therapeutic technicians” who will take these techniques and warped views back into the community. Some 30 years later we have a snitch culture that derides objective facts in favor of a corporate media-created fantasy, and it owes some of its existence to the disastrous effects of isolation, which leads to the inevitable final “escape”: Death! Suicide rates in these sensory deprivation torture units are magnitudes higher than those in general population.

Speaking these words simply does not convey the reality of what we all know intimately: the transient appeal of the void as an alternative to endless isolation. We all know of the disastrous effects of isolation because we have seen what it does, along with the pressures that the state brings to bear on us all daily in its efforts to break us, efforts that include compelling the taking of one’s own life.

“The purpose of the Marion (and all) controls unit(s) is to control revolutionary attitudes in the prison system and society at large.”

If this domestic torture program did not exist, Armando and so many others would still be alive today. But his is only the “escape” view of death. There is also a “resistance”-based view of death – that all of us who will never be counted amongst the broken men not only understand, but have demonstrated twice before, and may well be compelled to do again: peaceful protest in the form of hunger strikes, mass single cell, work stoppage etc.

Christian Gomez died [a year ago], not “escaping” these torture units but “resisting” these torture units, and it is this dialectical view of this final option – that death is an active and practiced form of both escape from and resistance to indefinite SHU confinement – is the final and definitive proof that it is, undebatably, torture.

During an assembly hearing on solitary confinement on August 24, 2011, a former Corcoran-SHU prisoner testified, “For someone to be willing to lie down and die just for someone to hear the situation … in the SHU program, they must be serious.” His assessment was correct. We are serious. The question is, are we as a society serious about upholding basic tenets of humanity. People are dying who could be saved while you are reading these words.

A former Corcoran-SHU prisoner testified, “For someone to be willing to lie down and die just for someone to hear the situation … in the SHU program, they must be serious.” His assessment was correct. We are serious. The question is, are we as a society serious about upholding basic tenets of humanity.

And now you know. This is a system that must be abolished. It is a system that has robbed us all of some part of our humanity and has caused us to lose our way as a nation. So many of us have stood idly by as the U.S. has strode the world stage criticizing other nations for systematic human rights abuses and demanding that others meet their obligations to the world community, while they maintain the single largest domestic torture program and the single largest prison population on earth. If the U.S. is going to continue to insist that other nations meet their international obligations under U.N. treaty resolutions, they must do the same and adhere to the U.N. Convention against Torture.

They have proven that they will not do so without compulsion. We must ensure that they do so, as a nation of the people, for the people and by the people. If we are doing anything less, we are complicit in the state’s hypocrisy.

The Pelican Bay D Short Corridor has given us the proper onus for unity in their historic “agreement to end hostilities” issued for Oct. 10, 2012. We call upon all of you brothers and sisters across the nation in prison yards and hood blocks, in SHUs and barrios: Take up this call also. Turn your attention not toward one another, but to those who have condemned us all to languish at the lowest rungs of this locked anti-poor society: the ruling 1 percent.

Many of us have stood idly by as the U.S. has strode the world stage criticizing other nations for systematic human rights abuses and demanding that others meet their obligations to the world community, while they maintain the single largest domestic torture program and the single largest prison population on earth. If the U.S. is going to continue to insist that other nations meet their international obligations under U.N. treaty resolutions, they must do the same and adhere to the U.N. Convention against Torture.

Join the movement – embrace, support, join or form your own local Occupy or anti-prison industrial complex formation. Build coalitions. And in doing so, change this world. Come, let us make peace.
Our love and solidarity,
Corcoran SHU NCTT:

  • Zaharibu Dorrough, D-83611, 4B-1L-53, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212 [53?]
  • J. Heshima Denham, J-38283, 4B-1L-43, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212
  • Kambui Robinson, C-82830, 4B-1L-49, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212
  • Jabari Scott, H-30536, 4B-1L-63, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212

NCTT stands for NARN (New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalism) Collective Think Tank. All are held in solitary confinement, an internationally recognized form of torture, in the SHU (Security Housing Unit) at Corcoran State Prison.

Published in: SF Bay View, Dec. 4th 2012

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Don’t let the torturer define torture

by Michael Zaharibu Dorrough, Oct 23rd, 2012
In: SF Bay View and California Prison Watch

In the Crawford case (In re Crawford, 206 Cal.App.4th 1259 (2012)), won by Mutope Duguma (s/n James Crawford), the three-judge appeal panel ruled unanimously that the CDCR cannot confiscate mail and claim that it contains some kind of “coded” message without proving it. It’s an important case not only because it strips the CDCR of an illegal tool that it considered important in burying people in these dungeons.

Equally important is that the judges finally had the courage to actually uphold the law for the sake of upholding the law, and there was no trade-off. There was no “I’ll do this in exchange for that,” which is pretty routine when it comes to the rights of prisoners and criminal defendants.

It really is foul and obviously so. You cannot bury thousands of human beings under conditions that amount to torture – and you cannot leave it up to the torturer to establish the criteria for what constitutes torture. They never see anything wrong with what they do even when violating the law and the humanity of people.

Correcting madness only requires courage. We are a nation governed by bullies. The judge in the Crawford decision, like Crawford himself, had courage.

Equally important is that the judges finally had the courage to actually uphold the law for the sake of upholding the law, and there was no trade-off.

You, the Bay View, your husband, the Pelican Bay representatives, the thousands who resist and supporters who have stood up and continue to stand up and really stand up against the state have courage.

We also received a copy of the latest draft – version 7.0 – of the STG (Security Threat Group, or gang) proposal, and it appears as if this will be the policy. I did not think it could get any worse.

You cannot bury thousands of human beings under conditions that amount to torture – and you cannot leave it up to the torturer to establish the criteria for what constitutes torture. They never see anything wrong with what they do even when violating the law and the humanity of people.

You can actually be given an additional SHU term for what is being called an “STG handshake.” This is the 21st century and a nation that defines itself as the greatest democracy on earth and we actually penalize citizens, put them/us in isolation for shaking someone’s hand.

This drawing by acclaimed prisoner artist Kevin “Rashid” Johnson is titled “Control Unity Torture.” The term control unit refers to the extremely restrictive solitary confinement called in California a Security Housing Unit (SHU) or Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU). U.N. torture czar Juan Mendez classifies as torture confinement in a control unit for more than 15 days. Yet the average stay in the Pelican Bay SHU is 7.5 years, 89 have been there for over 20 years and one, former Black Panther Hugo Pinell, for 42 years.

This is the best proof of how irrational the thinking is: People literally create their own reality, give it a name and then do with it as they please. There is no such thing as an “STG handshake.” There is also a provision that makes it possible for a person to be given a SHU term for “group exercise.” People are actually paid huge salaries to come up with this shit!

The sanity of these people should be called into question. The Pelican Bay representatives and SHU population are absolutely correct: This must be resisted. To not do so, particularly in the face of such disrespect, would be deplorable. It would be weak! And nothing is as pathetic as weakness.

Our hope is that we might be able to come up with something to contribute to the efforts being made by the Bay View, you and others who have been so supportive and so inspiring in the struggle. However it is that we can contribute to any of your endeavors, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

The road is long and hard and rough, but anything worth loving is worth fighting for. Take good care.

Strugglin’ with you – Michael Zaharibu Dorrough

Send our brother some love and light: Michael Dorrough, D-83611, Corcoran SHU, 4B-1L-43, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212. This open letter was written to and transcribed by Kendra Castaneda, a prisoner human rights advocate whose husband, Robbie Riva, T-49359, is being tortured in segregation at Calipatria State Prison ASU.

In a personal, introductory note, Michael wrote: “Dear Kendra, Hello sis. It is my/our hope that you continue to be of sound health upon receiving this and that you will continue to maintain that magnificent fire that you possess. It is the difference between being committed to changing the inhumanities that confront us all and those who are just paying lip service to it. You could never be confused with the latter group.”