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Friday, 31 July 2015

Chocolate Milkshake: The Power of Hope

Bryan Stevenson’s inspiring story of hope. According to Stevenson,
founder and president of the Equal Justice Initiative, without hope
there is no justice. South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls
Stevenson, “America’s Nelson Mandela.” Join the Children’s Defense and
advocates around the country and stand with us for children, together we
can end child poverty now. http://ow.ly/P3m1p

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

IRP Solutions Executives Fit Well Into Obama's Tech Insurgency, Says Advocacy Group, A Just Cause

Source: A Just Cause

A Just Cause 
July 28, 2015 06:48 ET

IRP Solutions Executives Fit Well Into Obama's Tech Insurgency, Says Advocacy Group, A Just Cause

The Case Investigative Life Cycle (CILC) Software Developed by IRP6 Followed President Obama's Approach to Solving Washington's Technology Woes

DENVER, CO--(Marketwired - July 28, 2015) - The advocacy organization, A Just Cause, believes that the IRP6 could assist the Department of Homeland Security, FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies with the overhaul of their case management technology and increase their overall effectiveness in conducting international and domestic terrorism investigations in the same way Silicon Valley technology professionals were used by President Obama to help fix the Obamacare website (healthcare.gov) and are currently being deployed at other federal agencies. "Unfortunately, these six technology innovators remain in prison after suffering an indisputable wrongful conviction, the facts of which have been exposed by AJC on the Internet and disseminated to President Obama, Attorney General Lynch and members of Congress," says Cliff Stewart, A Just Cause.
The IRP6 case concerns an African-American company (IRP Solutions Corporation) in Colorado that developed the Case Investigative Life Cycle investigative case management software for federal, state and local law enforcement. The "IRP6" (David A. Banks, Kendrick Barnes, Clinton A. Stewart, Demetrius K. Harper, Gary L. Walker and David A. Zirpolo) were convicted in 2011 after being accused of mail and wire fraud. (D. Ct. No. 1:09-CR-00266-CMA). The IRP6 have been incarcerated for 36 months in a federal prison in Florence, Colorado while A Just Cause continues to fight for their exoneration.
In a recent interview with Fast Company magazine's editor-in-chief Robert Safian, President Barack Obama discussed his recruiting of top tech talent from Silicon Valley to help modernize Washington's information technology. "If we can leverage the best technology teams in the world and pair them with some really effective government managers, then we can get a really big payoff," Obama said. "You know, the federal government is full of really smart people, with a lot of integrity who work really hard and do some incredible stuff. And it is on par with the private sector on all those measures. But technology [has been] terrible," Obama added. "Government has done technology and IT terribly over the last 30 years and fallen very much behind the private sector. And when I came into government, what surprised me most was the gap... so in our policy making, we're trying to make sure that insights and knowledge coming out of tech are informing how we are thinking about regulations, how we think about opportunities to solve big challenges," Obama elaborated.
Jack Israel, former Chief Technology Officer of the FBI, in a 2012 interview with Fierce Government IT discussed the challenges and failures of the FBI's recent case management modernization initiatives. In 2005 the FBI launched the Sentinel project to modernize their case management system after failure of the $400 million Virtual Case File project by SAIC in 2004. Lockheed Martin was awarded the Sentinel contract which ended up costing taxpayers another $825 million dollars. The Sentinel project "started unraveling" when the bureau tried to "build... an independent electronic case management system," says Israel.
"In developing CILC Case Management, we teamed with some very smart and dedicated law enforcement professionals from the FBI, DHS and NYPD," says David Banks (IRP6), Chief Operating Officer of IRP Solutions Corporation, "and we got a really big payoff with a case management solution that enables our law enforcement to work smarter and help them stay ahead of threats like ISIS. Being a part of the IRP team has been one of the most gratifying accomplishments of my life," adds Banks.
On July 15, 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that DOJ inspector general Michael Horowitz found that the DEA's confidential-source program "lacks sufficient oversight and lacks consistency with the rules" and diverges from the regulations for other parts of the Justice Department.
Discovery documents in the IRP6 case show that DHS officials were working towards acquiring CILC Confidential Informant Module and on December 7, 2004, requested formal quotes for the CILC Confidential Informant module as well as the Case Management module for inclusion into their 2005 budget exercise. "Bill Witherspoon and Stephen Cooper of DHS's Consolidated Enforcement Environment initiative told me that their team was highly interested in Confidential Informant module," says Banks. The Confidential Informant module was designed based on input from senior law enforcement officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the FBI. CILC incorporates U.S. policy and guidelines as part of the functionality. It certainly could provide the DEA with a modern system to manage all of their confidential sources consistent with attorney-general guidelines," adds Banks.
"There has also been much debate regarding the elimination of the NSA's bulk phone-records collection program and the resulting impediment of law enforcement to acquire timely phone records via a slower search warrant process," says Banks. "The CILC Search Warrant module computerizes the entire search warrant process and expedites judicial approval. Upon the entry of the affidavit by an agent, it is immediately routed to the judicial authorities via secure means for authorization and expedited return to agent for immediate investigation," add Banks. "In adhering to the USA Freedom Act legislation, I see other ways CILC can accelerate the return of information from the phone company to law enforcement," Banks elaborates.
Court records show that in February 2009, the Philadelphia Police Department was in the process of purchasing the CILC Search Warrant module as a part of their modernization initiative. Philadelphia Director of Information Technology, Gerry Cardenas, said that "CILC was exactly what Philadelphia Police Department was looking to purchase" and "PPD was very close to having the (CILC) product installed." "CILC is adaptable to any agency's processes, procedures and policy, which makes it suitable for federal, state and local law enforcement operations," concludes Banks.
"A Just Cause will continue to publicize the terrible facts that led to the IRP6's wrongful conviction to try and shock the conscience of President Obama, AG Lynch and members of Congress. The case is so bizarre that retired federal appellate judge, the Honorable H. Lee Sarokin, who was appointed to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton, has spoken out against the wrongful conviction," says Stewart. "It is un-American and grossly unfair for these bright and talented technology entrepreneurs to continue to endure this gross injustice and languish in prison for crime they didn't commit when their invention could be making a difference for this country," concludes Stewart.
For more information about the story of the IRP6 or for copies of legal filings got the http://www.freetheirp6.org
Related press releases: http://www.a-justcause.com/#!2015-press-releases/cl69


Contact Information

    A Just Cause
    (855) 529-4252 extension 702

Monday, 27 July 2015

SIGN THE PETITION NOW TO PROTECT CHILDREN IN WAR: http://warchild.campaignion.org/help

Video: Warning graphic content

The scenarios in this innovative, gaming-style video are drawn from real-life testimonies of children in War Child’s projects across Africa and the Middle East, who have witnessed and experienced the most unacceptable violations to their rights.

The HELP campaign is urging reform in the humanitarian system which currently neglects the needs and rights of children in war.

You can sign the HELP campaign petition at http://warchild.campaignion.org/help

The hard-hitting ‘Duty of Care’ video is at the forefront of War Child UK's HELP campaign. It subverts first person shooting games by showing the horror of war through the eyes of Nima, a nine-year-old girl.

The creative team behind the video were Heydon Prowse from BBC3's The Revolution Will Be Televised, Creative Directors Guy Davidson and Daniel Clarke from London-based agency TOAD, Director Daniel Luchessi and the post production team at H&O and OgilvyOne.

The purpose of the campaign video is to engage people to sign the petition which calls on the UK Government to become champions for children in war, such as those Nima represents in the video.

Providing protection can reduce and prevent atrocities against children. Yet a shocking new statistic released by War Child UK reveals that less than 3% of humanitarian funding is spent on protecting children in war zones, despite them making up more than 50% of the population.

The campaign is targeting the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit to ensure that this unjust disparity is addressed. The greater the level of support, the more difficult it becomes to ignore the protection of children in war when world leaders meet at the World Humanitarian Summit next May.

War Child UK knows, from over two decades of expertise in the field, that child protection interventions in war save lives and that children and their families prioritise their safety and education above even the most basic needs such as food and shelter.

The simple truth is, whilst food, water and shelter are daily necessities, they do not keep a child in war safe from harm.

The medical kit in the video demonstrates that these tangible forms of aid are offering a cure to only part of the problem – they cannot treat trauma, and they cannot stop the violent acts that cause the trauma in the first place.

2014 was the worst year on record for children in conflict and 2015 has seen further deterioration; being dubbed the ‘year of fear for children’ by UN Envoy for Education, and former UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

The landmark summit, which will determine the fates of millions of children worldwide, takes place in Istanbul next May and is an initiative of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who stated: “The world is changing, and we need to make sure we change with it to meet the needs of those affected by crisis in a timely and effective manner… The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance around the world has doubled in just ten years.”

He has called on UN member states to “aim high" and said the World Humanitarian Summit is “a major opportunity to align major global commitments to support the world’s most vulnerable people.”

War Child is calling upon the UK Government to seize this unique opportunity and use its influence to prevent grave violations occurring against children in conflict emergencies.

The HELP campaign aims to unite thousands of people behind this goal and asks them get behind the campaign by signing an online petition.

You can sign the HELP campaign petition at http://warchild.campaignion.org/help

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine TRAILER (HD) Documentary Apple Movie ...

►Subscribe to JoBlo Movie Trailers: http://bit.ly/JoBloTrailers
"Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine" TRAILER (HD) Documentary Apple Movie 2015

A look at the personal and private life of the late Apple CEO, Steve Jobs.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Children Of The Dirty Gold

Children Of The Dirty Gold:

India's Criminal Child Mines


Uncovering Bolivia's Controversial Child Labour Law


How Asia's Economic Miracle Collapsed


Hard Labour Nicaragua


Subscribe to Journeyman for daily uploads: http://www.youtube.com/journeymanpict...

For downloads and more information visit: http://www.journeyman.tv/?lid=68884&a...

of Philippines' 5.5 million child workers are risking their lives
digging for "Dirty Gold" in unbelievable conditions. Desperate men and
children scour underwater mine-shafts in this terrifying report.

through nothing more than a thin pipe connected to an air compressor,
going 30 foot deep underwater for hours in search of gold is all in a
day’s work for 16-year-old Gerald. "I'm afraid, if the earth collapses, I
will get buried underneath" says the teenager. Surrounded by rock walls
in the pitch black darkness of the water, the men chip away at walls
for 3 hours. They find no gold. For many like Gerald school is a distant
memory, and illegally diving for gold the only alternative to
starvation. Hundreds of deaths by electrocution, drowning and even the
possibility of Mercury poisoning have had little impact on compressor
mining activities, which continue un-policed and unregulated. There
appears little hope of change on the horizon. "If I could only give job
opportunities - I will take them away from compressor mining. It is just
that I have no alternative at this point" says Ricarte Padilla, Mayor
of Jose Panganiban - Philippines' so-called "Gold Coast". As it is, the
children and family men unearthing 60-80kg of gold per month see the
lions share of wealth disappear into the Chinese black market.

ABC Australia - Ref 6509

Pictures is your independent source for the world's most powerful
films, exploring the burning issues of today. We represent stories from
the world's top producers, with brand new content coming in all the
time. On our channel you'll find outstanding and controversial
journalism covering any global subject you can imagine wanting to know

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Meet the Youngest US Woman Sitting on Death Row / Florida

Act 4: Convicted of murder, Emilia Carr, 30, is imprisoned at Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala, Florida.

This man got 37.5 years in prison for selling one gram of crack cocaine

is an interview with Darrell Padgett, a former inmate in the federal
prison system. Darrell, then-father of an 18-month old baby, was
sentenced to 37.5 years in federal prison for selling one gram of crack
cocaine to an undercover police officer.

Darrell tells his
story, what it was like to be in prison, and how his wife waited for 20
years for him to get out and was also waiting for him when he walked out
that prison two decades later. He also discusses how he spent 20 years
studying law so he could fight for his own early release, despite the
fact that the government gave him no chance for parole.

Darrell's website is http://www.insightintoprisonconsultan.... Please give him your support.

Monday, 13 July 2015

The Shameful State of America’s Wrongful Conviction Laws

State laws for paying the wrongly convicted vary wildly: some don’t pay at all.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Psychologists Shielded U.S. Torture Program, Report Finds

WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency’s health professionals repeatedly criticized the agency’s post-Sept. 11 interrogation program, but their protests were rebuffed by prominent outside psychologists who lent credibility to the program, according to a sweeping new report.
The 542-page report, which examines the involvement of the nation’s psychologists and their largest professional organization, the American Psychological Association, with the harsh interrogation programs of the Bush era, raises repeated questions about the collaboration between psychologists and officials at both the C.I.A. and the Pentagon.
The report concludes that some of the association’s top officials, including its ethics director, sought to curry favor with Pentagon officials by seeking to keep the association’s ethics policies in line with the interrogation policies of the Defense Department, while several prominent outside psychologists took actions that aided the C.I.A.’s interrogation program and helped protect it from growing dissent inside the agency.

Free All Political Prisoners!


Robert Seth Hayes
Medical Justice Campaign
As previously noted, Seth Hayes finally began to receive medical intervention for both his Hepatitis C and poorly-managed diabetes roughly a month ago. This development is no doubt thanks to many people who made calls on his behalf. Unfortunately, Seth is still suffering from undiagnosed and untreated chronic bleeding and abdominal growths. Many calls have been made to Health Services in regards to these conditions that warrant urgent assessment, and there has been no response. Please join in calling and faxing Health Services this week, stating that you are calling about Robert Seth Hayes, #74-A-2280, at Sullivan Correctional Facility, and requesting:
For coughing up blood, that he be given the results of the chest Xray he was given in May, as well as a PPD (TB skin test), and (if chest Xray was unrevealing) a chest Cat scan. Additionally, if there is any concern about heart failure from the chest Xray, that he be given an ECHO.
For the lump on his abdomen, an abdominal ultrasound or Cat scan. For the ones on his chest wall, a Dermatology consult where they do a biopsy if it is appropriate next step or advise Seth as to what the lesions are.
We must be persistent, insistent and consistent in order for Seth to get his needed medical care, so please continue to call and fax:
On Monday 7/13, Tuesday 7/14 and Wednesday 7/15 please call:
Dr. Carl J. Koenigsmann, Chief Medical Officer, DOCCS Division of Health Services at (518) 457-7073
Holly, Health Services Supervisor, at (518) 445-6176
On Thursday 7/16 and Friday 7/17, please fax (you can use a free online fax service likefaxzero.com if needed):
Dr. Carl J. Koenigsmann M.D. at Fax: (518) 445-7553
Holly at Fax: (518) 445-6157
To contribute to ongoing efforts supporting Robert Seth Hayes, please donate online at:https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/810a58
Write to Seth and let him know he is in our hearts and on our minds.
Robert Seth Hayes #74A2280
Sullivan Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 116
Fallsburg, New York 12733-0116

Free All Political Prisoners!

Saturday, 11 July 2015

For immediate release: Thurs July 9, 2015 Judge slams 'frivolous' Government appeal; pledges to 'move fast' on Guantánamo tapes release

Reprieve US 001 (917) 855 8064   For immediate release: Thurs July 9, 2015
Judge slams 'frivolous' Government appeal; pledges to 'move fast' on Guantánamo tapes release

A federal judge has slammed the Obama Administration’s stalling over the release of 32 force-feeding tapes from Guantánamo Bay, calling the Government’s prior appeal ‘the most frivolous I have ever seen.’

In a hearing this morning in Washington DC's District Court, Judge Gladys Kessler expressed her frustration at protracted Government delaying tactics in Dhiab v Obama, a legal challenge by Guantánamo's hunger strikers to prison conditions at the military facility.

Today's hearing relates to classified video evidence of Mr Dhiab being violently removed from his cell and force-fed by the military authorities, which was originally presented to closed court by his attorneys. 
On June 20, 2014, 16 media organizations sought the public release of these videos on First Amendment grounds. On October 3, Judge Kessler ordered the footage to be released to the press, with appropriate redactions for national security.

In court today, lawyers for Obama’s Justice Department made two main points, which found little favor with Judge Kessler.

First, Obama's lawyers announced plans to to ask the Court to reconsider its prior order to release the videotapes. After months of litigation, they plan to ask the Judge yet again to change her mind.   Second, they claimed it would take several more months for the Obama Administration to redact any tapes -- a prerequisite for their release. This contradicts the Government's previous assessment that they would need five weeks to redact all 32 tapes.

Judge Kessler interjected very swiftly when Andrew Warden of the Justice Department began asserting that it would take until the end of August to prepare even 8 of 32 tapes, stating:

“No, that’s not how we are going to it. The Government has made it possible to delay this for, according to my count, eight and a half months. Eight and a half months. The Government’s appeal was as frivolous an appeal as I have ever seen. Of course the Court of Appeals didn’t have jurisdiction. The minute I heard you were going to go up [to the Court of Appeals] I remember then talking to my law clerk saying ‘I don’t understand this, the case is still on my docket. The Court of Appeals doesn’t have jurisdiction now. But that’s neither here nor there.”

Judge Kessler made clear she was not going to tolerate excessive further delay on the part of the Justice Department."We are going to move as fast as we can,” she said.

An order in the case is expected later today or early tomorrow.

Cori Crider, Reprieve attorney for Dhiab, said The Defense Department has been playing stall ball from the second we forced them to turn over this grisly secret footage, and they remain determined to keep every second of it out of the hands of the US media.

"Their motive is obvious: if Americans were permitted to see the truth in these tapes, the conversation about Guantánamo would change overnight.

"But instead of just respecting that the media intervenors won their case for publication fair and square, the government plans to repeat its ‘sky-is-falling’ claims in a desperate attempt to stop a single frame of the force-feeding footage of my client ever being seen by the public.

"The press have a Constitutional right to report on these trials, and the footage is of major public interest. We still hope to wrest this evidence into the daylight.”


Notes to Editors

1. The arguments and amici submissions in Dhiab v Obama may be downloaded at reprieve.org

2. A timeline of the Dhiab v Obama court case is here 

3. Reprieve is an international human rights group.

4. For further information, please contact Katherine O'Shea at Reprieve US: katherine.oshea@reprieve.org / (+1) 917 855 8064

Freedom Archives 

Free All Political Prisoners!

Friday, 10 July 2015

"Locked [in]" (Off/Page Project)

“Locked [In],” written and performed by Gabriel Cortez, depicts the disturbing reality that many youth face in solitary confinement. The poem is inspired by an investigation from Trey Bundy and Daffodil Altan of The Center for Investigative Reporting. 

Directed by Jamie DeWolf
Produced by Jose Vadi, Niema Jordan and Cole Goins
For more information about youth solitary confinement go to: 

Shot by Jamie DeWolf, Adam Parmalee and Asher Kennedy
Edited by Kevin Holmes
Steadicam by Adam Parmalee
Gaffer and Lighting Design by Sean Stueve 

Music by Deadhorse, listen to more here: 

Watch more Jamie DeWolf films here:

The Off/Page Project is a collaboration between Youth Speaks and The Center for Investigative Reporting. Learn more and join the conversation:


AJC Radio Program Announcement -- Spotlight On Capitol Hill.Where A Just Cause Puts the Spotlight on Members of Congress and Senators and Their Legislation; This Week -- Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D - NY)

Source: A Just Cause

July 09, 2015 12:59 ET

AJC Radio Program Announcement -- Spotlight On Capitol Hill.Where A Just Cause Puts the Spotlight on Members of Congress and Senators and Their Legislation; This Week -- Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D - NY)

Spotlight On Capitol Hill Will Give Listeners an In-Depth Review of Legislation Critical to Justice, Safety and Prison Reform, Says Advocacy Group, A Just Cause

DENVER, CO--(Marketwired - July 09, 2015) - AJC Radio airs a weekly segment called "Spotlight On Capitol Hill." The segment allows AJC Radio to shine the spotlight on members of Congress and the Senate from a positive perspective to allow for an upbeat review of legislation that covers a broad spectrum of initiatives. The program format allows listeners to weigh in and have lively dialogue with the AJC Radio team.
Advocacy group, A Just Cause, announces today that AJC Radio will be shining the spotlight on Congressman Hakeem Jeffries on Thursday, July 9, 2015 (www.AJCRadio.com, 8-10PM ET). "Since starting 'SpotlightOn Capitol Hill' we have been honored to share information about some of the excellent work being done by members of both the House and the Senate," says Lamont Banks, A Just Cause Executive Director. "In two of our recent segments we put the 'spotlight' onCongressman Charles Rangel (D - NY) and Senator Charles Schumer (D - NY). Congressman Rangel actually took the time to do an interview with AJC Radio, and it was an excellent opportunity for AJC Radio listeners to hear first-hand from one of the iconic Congressmen on Capitol Hill," adds Banks.
"This week we have chosen to shine the spotlight on Congressman Hakeem Jeffries from New York," Banks explains. "As we shine the spotlight on Representative Jeffries we will recognize him for his tireless efforts for social and economic justice, not only for the people of New York, but for the nation. We look forward to putting the spotlight on Congressman Jeffries," proclaims Banks.
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries represents the diverse Eighth Congressional District of New York, an area that encompasses large parts of Brooklyn and a section of Queens. Serving his second term in the United States Congress, Rep. Jeffries is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and House Education and the Workforce Committee. He is also Whip of the Congressional Black Caucus. During the prior Congress, he served on the House Judiciary Committee Task Force on Overcriminalization. Presently, Rep. Jeffries co-chairs the bipartisan Intellectual Property Caucus. Congressman Jeffries began the 114th Congress determined to lead in a bipartisan manner. At the outset, he teamed up with Rep. Peter King to pass the Slain Officer Family Support Act of 2015, a bill that extended the tax deadline so that individuals making charitable donations to organizations supporting the families of assassinated New York Police Department Detectives Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos could apply such tax deductions to the prior year's tax return. President Obama signed the legislation into law. On the heels of a nationwide outcry demanding meaningful police reform, Rep. Jeffries introduced the Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act of 2015, legislation that will make the deployment of a chokehold unlawful under federal civil rights law. (http://jeffries.house.gov/about/full-biography)
AJC Radio will spotlight Bills/Resolutions sponsored or co-sponsored by Representative Jeffries including, but not limited to legislation regarding criminal justice, public housing, and education.
"'Spotlight On Capitol Hill' gives AJC Radio listeners an opportunity to hear about initiatives that are being pushed in Washington, D.C. that the listeners may or may not know about," says Sam Thurman, A Just Cause. "AJC Radio listeners will be enlightened on a broad list of issues that affect citizens all across the country, and we will see how our elected officials are tackling those issues," adds Thurman.
"'Spotlight On Capitol Hill' gives us an opportunity to reach the masses as we review what's going on with our elected officials," says Banks. "There is so much turmoil in the country and in the world right now that it only made sense to the AJC Radio team to seek out members of Congress and the Senate, and allow the American people to get a Capitol Hill perspective," adds Banks.
"We make every effort to get the Congressman or Senator on the air, but as everyone knows their schedules are pretty hectic. However, I encourage the listeners to tune in, because just as Congressman Rangel appeared on the program to give his first-hand accounts of the state of the nation, you never know what surprise guest might be on the air," Banks concludes.
For more info on AJC Radio programming -- including program archives -- visitwww.AJCRadio.com. Follow the channel on Twitter @AJCRadio. AJC Radio, "Bringing the Message of Justice Around the World," airs Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8-10PM ET.
AJC Radio is an Internet radio presentation produced by the advocacy group, A Just Cause (www.a-justcause.com). The program is designed to captivate the American people by dissecting the United States' judicial system, and exposing the hard truths. AJC Radio ".takes the message of justice around the world." as the panelists review wrongful convictions, judicial misconduct, and mass incarceration across the U.S.
The show provides emotional, as well as entertaining dialogue on issues that may be considered controversial by some, but raw truth by others. AJC Radio promises to deliver open discussions about prosecutorial and judicial abuse in the U.S., with the objective of making the show unique, cutting edge, and intriguing to all listeners.

Contact Information

    (855) 529-4252 extension 703

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Two Years After Pelican Bay Hunger Strike, What's Changed for People Inside the Prison?

Two years have passed since people confined in California's Pelican Bay State Prison initiated a 60-day hunger strike to protest the conditions associated with the prison's "security housing unit," or SHU.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) continues to claim that "there is no 'solitary confinement' in California's prisons and the SHU is not 'solitary confinement,'" but people inside the Pelican Bay State Prison's security housing unit say they remain locked in for at least 23 hours per day.
Meanwhile, in June 2015, the CDCR released proposed new regulations around its use of the security housing unit and administrative segregation - regulations that may, in part, curb participation in future strikes and other prison protests.
Among the proposed changes is a new subsection increasing the penalty for active participation in acts like a mass hunger strike. Noting that disturbances have "become an increasingly serious problem, often resulting in the serious injury of others," the new regulations increase security housing unit sentences: Active participation in a disturbance, strike or riot, which currently carries two to six months in the security housing unit, will increase to three to nine months. (The penalty for leading a disturbance, strike or riot remains six to 18 months.)
The regulations are currently going through the required public comment period in which any member of the public, incarcerated or otherwise, can submit written comments. A public hearing is scheduled for August 7, 2015.
Do California's Prisons Have Solitary Confinement?
Author Todd Ashker, who was locked in the security housing unit at the Pelican Bay State Prison, disagrees with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's assertion that its prisons do not have solitary confinement.
In a 13-page typed statement, Ashker describes how, along with over 1,000 other people, he is locked for 25 years of his life into 11-by-seven-foot cells for at least 22 hours a day. The security housing unit cells have no windows and their doors face a wall so that those inside cannot see each other through the door slot. Any time they are taken out of their cells - for a shower, a visit or an hour of recreation in an exercise cage - they are handcuffed and ankle chained.
"What would it be like to have one's bodily contact with others reduced to the fastening and unfastening of restraints, punctuated with the most intimate probing of the surface and depths of one's body?" Ashker writes in his statement titled "Moving Forward With Our Fight to End Solitary Confinement." "Not to be able to speak to anyone except through intercom or by yelling through a slot in the door? To be kept in solitude and yet exposed to constant surveillance and to the echoing noise of other prisoners?"
For those who break prison rules, the security housing unit is temporary (up to 60 months). Those labeled as part of a "security threat group," however, have no fixed end date. Until recently, accusations leading to security housing unit placement relied on confidential informants and circumstantial evidence, such as tattoos, books or associations. Hundreds have been confined within the security housing unit for more than a decade. Until recently, one of the few ways to be released from the security housing unit was to "debrief" (provide information incriminating others, who are then placed in the security housing unit for an indeterminate sentence). The other ways? Be paroled or die.
It was in response to these conditions that Ashker and 30,000 other people imprisoned throughout California launched a hunger strike demanding an end to security housing unit practices on July 8, 2013. That was not the first time they had staged a hunger strike to change prison policy. In 2011, security housing unit prisoners held two mass hunger strikes, each lasting three weeks, with five demands:
1. Eliminate group punishments for individual rules violations;
2. Abolish the debriefing policy, and modify active/inactive gang status criteria;
3. Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement;
4. Provide adequate food;
5. Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite security housing unit inmates.
The strikes spread throughout several prisons and, at their height, involved nearly 12,000 people. The strikes also galvanized outside actions: Family members who had resigned themselves to their loved ones' isolation began connecting and organizing together; advocates began connecting with those resisting inside the security housing unit. The strikes also made headlines, bringing solitary confinement - particularly California's security housing unit - into the national spotlight. CDCR made several concessions, granting incarcerated people the ability to own a typewriter, limited access to college courses and the ability to send a yearly photo to loved ones. But, according to those inside, four years after the initial strike, their five core demands remain unmet and they remain locked in for at least 23 hours a day.
California's "Step Down" Program
In May 2012, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed Ashker v. Brown, a federal lawsuit on behalf of people who have spent 10 or more years in Pelican Bay's security housing unit. The suit alleges that prolonged solitary confinement violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment and that the absence of meaningful review for security housing unit placement violates the right to due process. In June 2014, a federal judge certified it as a class-action suit with two classes, one encompassing anyone who has spent 10 years or more in Pelican Bay's security housing unit and the other, a due process class, consisting of those assigned to an indeterminate security housing unit term as a result of "gang validation" (being labeled as gang members).
That same year, CDCR unveiled two major changes to its security housing unit policies, changes which, CDCR deputy press secretary Terry Thornton told Truthout, had been in the works since 2007. In October 2012, CDCR changed criteria for security housing unit placement from gang affiliates to those who are identified as part of "security threat groups" (STGs) and have demonstrated behavior that is gang-related. In other words, Thornton explained, "We're not even asking them to drop out of their gang as long as they don't participate in gang behavior." The new policy also prohibits security housing unit placement based solely on information by confidential informants: "Unsubstantiated confidential source information from a single source will not establish a foundation for confirming the existence of STG-related behavior."
The second change was CDCR's new Step Down program for people serving indefinite security housing unit sentences for gang affiliation. Each person is reviewed by the Departmental Review Board (DRB) and assigned to one of five steps. To progress to the next step, he must participate in specified activities such as journaling. If he refuses, he will be returned to the previous step. Of 65 cases reviewed, the Office of the Inspector General found that 31 people (48 percent) progressed to the next step, 27 remained on their current step and seven regressed. Of those who did not progress, 27 had refused to participate in the program and three had refused to do the journaling requirement. Those placed in step five are transferred to other prisons where they are allowed into general population under close monitoring from gang investigators.
Thornton has noted that, under the Step Down program, those in the security housing unit are no longer required to debrief or drop out of their gang. But debriefing has not been eliminated: A validated STG affiliate can still choose to debrief; that person would then be moved to a transitional housing unit.
Although they had resumed eating, those inside the security housing unit were not passively awaiting release either via the lawsuit or the Step Down program. In a statement entitled "Agreement to End Hostilities," they called for an end to the interracial fighting that had plagued California's prisons for decades. "We can no longer allow CDCR to use us against each other for their benefit," declared the 16 men from within their security housing unit cells. "Because the reality is that collectively, we are an empowered, mighty force that can positively change this entire corrupt system."
The following year, security housing unit prisoners decided to strike again. On July 8, 2013, more than 30,000 people incarcerated throughout California refused meals, launching the nation's largest prison hunger strike. The strike lasted 60 days, ending after California legislators Loni Hancock and Tom Ammiano promised to hold hearings around the issues raised by the hunger strikers.
Family Members Continue to Press for Change
As of June 12, 2015, CDCR had conducted 1,274 case-by-case reviews of those validated as STG affiliates and housed in security housing unit or administrative segregation (Ad Seg), which is normally used to isolate people who pose an immediate safety threat. Of those, 321 were placed in various phases of the Step Down program while 910 have been released directly to step five, where they can be around other people, participate in vocational programming and hug their families. But, observed Ashker, "None of the cells stay empty for more than a day or two. They've filled most of them with men from the SHUs at Tehachapi and Corcoran."
Mutope DuGuma, who authored the original call to hunger strike, reported that people newly validated as part of security threat groups are also filling the emptied beds. "The sad part [is] these youngsters are the same age we were when we came in," noted DuGuma, now age 48 and in his 14th year in the security housing unit. For newcomers - and their families - support networks now exist to help them navigate the confusing - and sometimes frightening - change, networks that only emerged because of the hunger strikes.
Being moved from one security housing unit to another does not exclude participation in the lawsuit against CDCR. In March 2015, a federal judge ruled that those who had spent 10 or more years in Pelican Bay's security housing unit but have since been transferred to the security housing unit in Tehachapi under the Step Down program can file a supplemental complaint about their continued treatment. As of April 2015, over 800 people remained in the due process class and approximately 130 are in the Eighth Amendment class. The trial date is set for December 7, 2015.
In the meantime, the people inside - and their family members outside - continue pressing for change. Dolores Canales' son Johnny has been in the security housing unit for 14 years. In 2011, when he announced his intention to join the hunger strike, Canales began organizing, joining with other family members to not only support their loved ones but to fight for systemic change. Out of these connections came California Families Against Solitary Confinement, a group pushing for an end to the security housing unit. Now when a person first enters the security housing unit, Canales told Truthout, "The men will let the newcomers know who their family members should contact." They also pass along the phone numbers of the newcomers' families to Canales and others so they can reach out.
California Families Against Solitary Confinement is organizing a bus for family members in southern California to Pelican Bay, which is 13 miles from the Oregon border. Half of the riders will be going to Pelican Bay for the very first time. The other half have been making the trek for years, if not decades. In addition to alleviating costs and fears, Canales hopes that the bus ride enables families to connect with one another so that they can carpool and share hotel rooms for future visits.
Daletha Hayden will be one of the new family members. Her son Ian has spent nearly six years in the security housing unit at the state prison in Tehachapi. But, in April 2015, prison staff told him that the units at Tehachapi, in the southern part of California, were needed for people in steps three and four. Ian was transferred to Corcoran, 104 miles northwest. Only weeks later, on June 1, 2015, he was moved over 500 miles further north - this time to Pelican Bay, where he was placed in Ad Seg. But Ad Seg is also used to house security housing unit overflow; as of April 2015, of the 156 people in Ad Seg, 76 were awaiting beds in the security housing unit, which held 1,147 people. Like those in the security housing unit, people in Ad Seg spend 23 hours a day in their cells. While in Ad Seg, however, Ian is not allowed to have his belongings, including his photographs, art supplies or books.
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa has gone in the opposite direction. In May 2014, he was assigned to step three. Two months later, in July, he was transferred to Tehachapi. "He describes Pelican Bay as being 'the penthouse' and Tehachapi as being 'the dungeon,'" his sister Marie Levin told Truthout. Upon his arrival, he was issued clothing that was not only too small, but also dirty. Because people are issued clothing only once a week, he had to wait another week for a set that fit. Jamaa has also told his sister that men are given paper cups instead of mugs, are allowed to shower every three days and still cannot participate in group activities. In response, they are now refusing to fill out the journals or participate in any of the other activities required by the Step Down program.
For those in step five, the specter of the security housing unit continues to haunt them. Luis Esquivel had been in the security housing unit for 17 years before being assigned to step five and transferred to Corcoran in February 2015. There, he was able to call his sister Martha, who was attending a conference with her daughter Maribel Herrera and other members of California Families Against Solitary Confinement. That was how the family learned that he was no longer in isolation. "She couldn't believe that he called, that he's not in the SHU," Herrera told Truthout. Shortly after, Esquivel was transferred to Calipatria, a two-hour drive from his family in San Diego. In April, Herrera and her husband had their first contact visit with him. "I gave him a huge hug," recalled Herrera, who last hugged her uncle as a toddler. But, she added, her uncle, unused to eating in front of other people after 17 years in the security housing unit, barely touched the small bag of peanuts they bought him from the vending machine.
Her uncle has not forgotten about those he left behind. Although he has access to a wider variety of food, a microwave, contact visits, yard time twice a week and weekly phone calls with his sister, he knows that others do not - and that they remain locked in their cells 23 hours a day. "He thinks, 'How can I enjoy this when they're still in there?'" Herrera said.
Three people have been paroled while in the Step Down program. But for Lorenzo Benton, spending 25 years in the security housing unit continues to be a barrier to freedom. Benton was placed in step five and transferred to Ironwood State Prison, where he joined various programs, including a vocational masonry program. But when he appeared before the parole board, he recounted, "The board felt that I continued to demonstrate criminal-minded thinking because I refused to debrief. The board had the audacity to tell me that, because I refuse to debrief, it appears that I was trying to retire from the gang with honor." The board also held his previous rules violations reports against him, including one issued in 2013 for his participation in the hunger strike. "I had not received a 115 since 2007 (disobeying a direct order) and prior to that, 1997 (contraband: possession of staples)," he explained. He was given a five-year denial, meaning that Benton, who has been in prison since 1977, will not be eligible for consideration until 2020. Still, he does not regret his actions. "Initially, I was not a strong believer in the success of a hunger strike," he wrote in May 2015, months after his parole denial. "I mistakenly felt we did not have the mass/organized support that would be needed to force change on the system of solitary confinement, but I am glad to have been proven wrong on this."
In an email to Truthout, Terry Thornton, CDCR's deputy press secretary, noted, "The Step Down Program and the regulations about Security Threat Groups will not be affected by the new regulations." In a follow-up call with Truthout, she reiterated, "The CDCR does not consider the SHU 'solitary confinement.'"
At present, over 1,000 people are confined to Pelican Bay's security housing unit. But both those inside and family members outside remain hopeful. Noting CDCR's assertion about solitary confinement, Canales told Truthout, "You can change the wording all you want, but the situation hasn't changed. What we want is not the words changed. We want the situation changed." But, she added, "More progress has been made in the last three years than in the past 30 years. This wouldn't have happened if the men hadn't starved themselves."
Even family members whose loved ones are no longer in the security housing unit remain committed to organizing. Herrera and her mother continue to speak out and organize. Both participated in the Chicano-Mexicano Prison Project's annual conference on prisoners and colonialism, Herrera as the conference's emcee and her mother as a speaker about the security housing unit. "Although he [my uncle] came out of the SHU, a lot of people are still in there," said Herrera. "Solitary confinement should never be used for any human being - or any animal. We're never going to accept it. Even if my uncle gets out of prison, he'll be right there speaking alongside us."
"We've already demonstrated the power we have when united and collectively fighting for the benefit of all who are similarly situated; it's time for CDCr [sic] to see and respect us as human beings, and end long-term SHU," Ashker wrote. "It will be a start towards meaningful reform of the entire system."

Victoria Law

Victoria Law is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women and co-editor of Don't Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities. She edits the zine "Tenacious: Art and Writings by Women in Prison" and proudly parents a New York City high school student.

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Pelican Bay Hunger Strike: Four Years and Still Fighting

Four years ago prisoners in California – led by those in the control units of Pelican Bay – organized a hunger strike to demand an end to the torturous conditions of solitary confinement. Two more strikes would follow, with over 30,000 prisoners taking united action in the summer of 2013—both in isolation and in general population in nearly every California prison. The strikes reflected significant shifts in political consciousness among prisoners and their loved ones. The violence of imprisonment was further exposed by demands and heightened organization from within the cages. Prisoner-led collective actions as well as growing public support dramatically have changed the political landscap
The organization of hunger strikes in 2011 surprised many, especially the CDCr – the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (the lower case ‘r’ by most prison writers derides the Orwellian use of the word rehabilitation), the media, and much of the public.
Current prison organizing continues a historic legacy of struggle. Among prisoners, the strikes of 2011-2013 were compared to the Attica Rebellion of 1971. Shortly before that rebellion, prisoners at Attica refused to speak or eat in the facility’s chow hall, paying tribute to Black Panther Party member and California prison movement leader George Jackson, who had been assassinated at San Quentin prison August 21st. Jackson was a skilled and effective leader who connected the human rights demands of prisoners to revolutionary ideas both globally and in the streets. He argued with powerful clarity that racist and exploitive power relations could and should be changed through political and military struggle, and that Black liberation was achievable as part of an international struggle to destroy imperialism. Within the prisons, he built unity across racial lines – thinking that a unified prison movement could succeed in winning basic human rights both within the cages and in oppressed communities. While the state obviously found Jackson’s ideas and example extremely dangerous, many prisoners and community members found them a clarion call for action.
On September 9th 1971, Attica erupted. Led by prisoners affiliated with the Nation of Islam, the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords, and the Five Percenters, the rebellion seized control of several large areas of the prison and issued a manifesto demanding, among other things, better health conditions, an end to political persecution of prisoners, and a right to organize or join labor unions (these demands were very similar to the Folsom Prison manifesto written in California in 1970). After four days of negotiations, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered that the prison be retaken – in the ensuing brutal military assault 39 people were killed by state police and prison guards.
While Attica is one of the most remembered uprisings, between the late 1960s and the early 1980s, there were over three hundred prison rebellions across the US, including those at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in 1973, the Idaho State Penitentiary in 1972-3, the August Rebellion in 1974 at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women in New York State, a 1975 demonstration at the North Carolina Correctional Center for Women, and the Penitentiary of New Mexico in 1980.
In response to these militant uprisings, prisons developed unprecedented strategies of repression, isolation and for a time resistance took less dramatic forms. Yet prisoners were still inspired to resist. In one example, in 1995 women in CA state prisons initiated a class action law suit against genocidal health care conditions and successfully organized family members and allies across the state to support them.
Prisoners in California in 2011-2013 organized against the very policies, strategies, and technology that had been put into place to neutralize the rebellions of previous decades (both inside and outside prison)—including solitary confinement, gang validation (which includes the criminalization of George Jackson’s writings), and the gutting of educational programming. In turn, prisoners used similar historic strategies – collective direct action, multiracial unity, and building strong support and solidarity networks on the outside.
The prisoners issued five core demands that called for an end to the prisons use of long-term solitary confinement, gang validation, collective punishment, and demanded better food, and access to educational programing. The hunger strikes followed fruitless complaints and attempts to negotiate and ignited the political energies of tens of thousands of imprisoned people in a majority of California prisons, while also sparking life into a vast solidarity network led by prisoners’ families and loved ones, former prisoners, and anti-prison organizations. The strike was multi-pronged. It included a legal, legislative, and mass media strategy, as well as organizing prisoner-led solutions to violence on the inside. Support for the strike was broad and international. Imprisoned people – from those held in detention centers in Washington and Texas to prisoners in Georgia, Ohio, Illinois and Guantanamo, to Palestinian political prisoners held by the state of Israel – all took inspiration from and expressed solidarity with the strike.
From the outset and over the course of three mass actions, the strikers were clear that their demands could be met by honest negotiation and moderate reforms. Todd Askher of the Short Corridor Collective at Pelican Bay explained, “Our struggle adheres to the principles of the Constitution and International Treaty Law and is inspired by all oppressed people’s demands for human rights, dignity, respect, justice and equality – the demand to be treated as living beings.” In turn, the CDCr took an entrenched position – dismissed the legitimacy of prisoners’ concerns, retaliated against strike participants, targeted the strike leadership, harassed prisoners’ loved ones and supporters, and launched a generally harsh and fear-mongering public relations campaign.
Maintaining a collective stance, in May of 2012, prisoners who had spent over ten years in isolation filed a class action civil lawsuit in federal court charging that their being held in solitary confinement constituted a violation of prisoners’ eighth amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment. To date, the CDCr’s attempts to dismiss and defang the suit have been unsuccessful.
Reminiscent of George Jackson’s call 40 years ago to “settle your quarrels [and] come together,” in 2012, California prisoners issued an Agreement to End Hostilities. In it they declared “now is the time for us to collectively seize this moment in time, and put an end to more than 20-30 years of hostilities between our racial groups,” encouraging prisoners to resolve their differences, one of the most feared developments to prison officials. An anonymous prisoner characterized the Agreement as something that creates new horizons for prisoner unity, beyond the demands for an end to long-term solitary and validation: “The inclusion of the Agreement to end race-based hostilities to our struggle against California’s solitary confinement policies, represents a qualitative leap of the insight of all prison nationalities, and unites us beyond the fight to free ourselves from CDCr’s torture units.” Two other prison leaders, Kijani Tashiri Askari and Akili Castlin at Tehachapi prison enlarged upon this by writing that, when it comes to power, “Our exemplary conduct has made CDCr completely powerless over us, as we have successfully taken away the fodder that used to fuel their political rhetoric in labeling us the ‘worst of the worst.’ Our unity now qualitatively threatens the political, social, and economic stability of the CDCr.”
Key to organizing direct support and solidarity efforts around the strikes – including spreading the word about the Agreement to End Hostilities in communities across California – were the family members and loved ones of the prisoners leading and participating in the strike. The prisoner action also had the inspiring effect of renewing connections between prisoners and their families, who grew from being personal supporters, to participants and new leaders of the movement against solitary confinement and the wider anti-prison movement.
The hunger strikers made it clear that they also wanted to help shine a light on the conditions of isolation in women’s prisons which too-often are even more invisible and ignored than those in men’s prisons. In January of 2013, California Families Against Solitary Confinement – founded by hunger strikers’ loved ones and overwhelming led by women of color – mobilized as part of a coalition organized by the California Coalition for Women Prisoners bringing hundreds of community members from across California to protest the devastating impacts of overcrowding at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) in the Central Valley city of Chowchilla. Medical care had significantly deteriorated and there was a dramatic increase in women being thrown into isolation. Overcrowding in women’s prisons has aggravated mental health issues causing an increase in the number of mentally disabled people in the SHU even though this is the worst place to put them. In recent years there were several preventable deaths at CIW and as well as numerous attempted suicides. None of the deaths have been made public by the prisons although they clearly signify a state of crisis.
April Harris, imprisoned at California Institution for Women in Corona, described conditions there around the time of the protest, “We have women dropping like flies and not one person has been questioned as to why… I have been down almost 20 years and I have never seen anything like this. Ever.” The hunger strikes helped to address the too-often ignored struggles of imprisoned women (now close to 115,000 in the US) and transpeople against solitary confinement and other violent prison conditions. Many women and trans prisoners also refused food in solidarity with the overall demands emerging from the leadership in Pelican Bay.
An energized movement was critical to supporting the 2013 strike – coordinating mass support, maintaining good communication among prisoners, and developing a strategy to give voice to those inside despite their isolation and lockdowns. The solidarity effort was able establish a relationship with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and was also able to convince key California state politicians to recognize the legitimacy of the strikers’ demands and to hold special public hearings on solitary confinement. This solid work undermined the CDCr’s entrenched position, and supported the prisoners when they decided to suspend the strike in order to support the public hearings.
In the mass media, in the communities, and even among elected officials, the conditions, uses, and devastating effects of—along with the term itself—solitary confinement was pulled from out of the shadows and thrust into the spotlight. In turn, the California prison regime did everything in its power to suppress the strike, retaliate against its participants, target and neutralize its leadership, regain an upper hand in public opinion, and reconsolidate its control, even at the cost of making concessions and changes to its policy. One of the Pelican Bay leaders, Todd Ashker reflected on the historical impact of their mass actions, “I personally believe the prisoncrats’ efforts to turn the global support we have gained for our cause against us will fail. CDCr rhetoric indicates desperation – a very concerning desperation in the sense that it is demonstrative of CDCr’s top administrators’ intent to continue their culture of dehumanization, torture and other types of abusive policies and practices. Our key demands remain unresolved. The primary goal is abolishing indefinite SHU and Ad Seg confinement and related torturous conditions therein: The abolishment of the debriefing policy and meaningful individual accountability.”
At one time, the leaders of the strike were all in the same prison at Pelican Bay – The PBSP SHU Short Corridor Collective was originally: Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry) and Antonio Guillen; and the Representatives Body was: Danny Troxell, George Franco, Ronnie Yandell, Paul Redd, James Baridi Williamson, Alfred Sandoval, Louis Powell, Alex Yrigollen, Gabriel Huerta, Frank Clement, Raymond “Chavo” Perez and James Mario Perez. (As of September 2013, when prisoners suspended the third hunger strike.) The CDCr has dispersed the leadership by sending some people to other SHUs, including Tehachapi and Corcoran prisons. These prisoners largely remain in isolation, despite some having been sent to general population. According to the prisoners themselves and those in close contact with them, rather than suffering a complete collapse in leadership and unity, the prisoners have reorganized and reconstituted an inclusive structure by bringing more people into representative and leadership positions in these other prisons. Their ability to organize and build new leadership has defied the CDCr’s attempts to demobilize and demoralize the struggle.
What the CDCr is peddling as a reform is a Step Down Program (SDP). The SDP claims to offer an “incentive-based, multi-step process that affords offenders placed in a Security Housing Unit (SHU) due to validations and/or documented Security Threat Group (STG) behaviors [‘STG’ replacing the word ‘gang’ in policy], the opportunity to earn enhanced privileges and to demonstrate the ability to refrain from STG behavior, with the ultimate goal of release from the SHU.” The SDP consists of five steps. Typically steps 1-2 to take a year to complete, although in some cases they can be completed within six months. Steps 3-5 each take a minimum of a year to complete. Each step imposes benchmarks on prisoner behavior and participation. A person may be placed in any step, or may be released to the general population at the SDP review board’s discretion. The best scenario that the average person placed in Step 1 can anticipate is that it will take at least four years before s/he is released from the SHU to the general population – assuming that this is ever even a possibility. A prisoner can be bumped back by administrative discretion with no due process. Informing on fellow prisoners is also an element of the SDP. Most of those who led the strike have refused to go along with the new program. Mutope Duguma at Pelican Bay says, “We have been able to examine, evaluate and investigate the STG and SDP policies and we unanimously reject them, because simply put, they are more of the same. They empower the previous policies that we were initially peacefully protesting.”
The CDCr has also tried to use the SDP as a response to the class action civil suit – hoping a dispersal of plaintiffs would nullify their claims and standing as a class within the courts. However, the courts ruled that despite being dispersed, prisoners who met the criterion of 10 years or more in isolation continue to have standing in raising constitutional questions about prolonged isolation.
Conditions for prisoners and their families, particularly following the strikes are very serious. As Mutope Duguma says, “CDCr has turned up its attacks, making it worse for each and every prisoner and his or her family. New regulations on personal property and on ‘obscenity’ – actually censorship, a direct attack on free speech – have been implemented, and the proposed regulations to use canine searches of visitors – a direct attack on our families – are not yet approved but are in effect on a temporary basis.”
Since 2011, imprisoned people living in some of the worst conditions imaginable have been able to organize and take collective action. They have created unity around agreed-upon goals and have coordinated multiple strategies using diverse tactics. Prisoners understand that their fight, like most freedom struggles, is long term. They have built alliances with different movements, peoples, and communities.
The CDCr’s primary goal is to maintain control and legitimacy – using whatever means. The state of California may be forced to offer some concessions given the advances made by the prisoners’ struggle. Some individuals will experience improved conditions, but we would do well to remember the warning of political prisoner Jamil Al-Amin (speaking then as H. Rap Brown), “We tend to equate progress with concessions. We can no longer make that mistake.”
The strike of 2011-2013 and the unity reflected by the coordinated action of 30,000 prisoners will continue to embolden those at the center of the struggle, and with the support of our families and communities, will empower ongoing challenges to the violence of imprisonment, policing and social inequity. The strikes have helped to generate national movement against solitary confinement joined by people inside and outside prisons in many different states. Several states have pending legislation against long-term solitary confinement. Most importantly public consciousness is shifting to understand that it is torture and must be ended. As one of the statements from prison hunger strikers at Pelican Bay said: “This struggle has contributed to progressively changing attitudes in society and prisons. Our collective efforts have repeatedly exposed the state’s contradictions and sparked the Peoples appetite for freedom and new social relationships.”

Claude Marks is the director of The Freedom Archives, a San Francisco-based organization. Isaac Ontiveros was the communications director of Critical Resistance and is a prison abolitionist.

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