Friday, July 12, 2013


It's prison friday here at Scission and as you know the story has to be about the historic hunger strikes taking place on the West Coast, centered in California, but spreading beyond.  I think rather then waste space and time with my own comments, I will instead post two separate pieces.  The first from Prison Culture and the second from Solitary Watch.  


Death Row prisoners in the Adjustment Center (A/C) Unit at San Quentin State Prison are organized and united in planning and executing a Hunger Strike this summer of 2013 to protest inhumane conditions of isolation and long-term confinement of prisoners in the A/C:
·         the lack of law library access
·          the lack of exercise and yard equipment
·         the unfair administration and classification committee practices
·         the controversial and unfair practice of using inmate informants, anonymous informants and confidential information
·         to retain prisoners in the A/C for years
·         the unlawful and under the table use of labeling a prisoner as an alleged prison gang member, associate or affiliate
·         using prisoners alleged gang status, validation, confirmation and documents (such as 130s, 128 A/B, staff information) to hold them in the A/C as grade B prisoners, yet treating them as S.H.U. / ad-seg –grade D prisoners for an indeterminate amount of time
·         the unlawful practice of group punishment tactics and lockdowns
·         the unlawful practice policy of “interviewing” / forced interrogation
·         the illegal use and excessive practice of property restriction or “property control”
·         the degrading practice and policy of “shower shoes only”, stripping prisoners at yard in front of everyone, and not allowing prisoners to be fully dressed in state blues when going to Law Library
·         the denial of religious, hobby craft, library books and educational programs or materials
·         the unlawful practice of withholding, censoring, denying and returning prisoners´mail without notification or legitimate reasons to do so
·         the denial of contact visits, phone calls, participation in food charity drives, nutritional items, honoring medical chromos and legal books or materials
·         the excessive abuse of power and authority by Warden, his administration and staff to do as they wish with condemned, S.H.U./ ad-seg prisoners in the A/C
In spite of the ongoing negotiations between the Pelican Bay Human Rights Movement and top CDCR administrators, the San Quentin administration is resisting any attempt to improve the plight of death row prisoners housed in the A/C. Unlike the Title 15- California´s Code of Regulation for all California State prisoners- San Quentin top officials have concocted and enacted an exclusive code of regulations called the O.P.608., which mandates that death row prisoners are under the control of the Warden of San Quentin. It is this illegal and repressive code of regulations that A/C death row prisoners are vigorously challenging as well.
Some may know about the A/C, but for those that don´t, it´s a prison within a prison and S.H.U. unit, housing 102 prisoners with over 90% of it being condemned prisoners. Many of us have been housed here since our arrival into the prison system as condemned men. The majority hasn´t have a disciplinary infraction and for those that have, have exceeded the time limitations triple the max set to be served for them. It´s a punishment unit and a psychologically torturous dungeon. We hardly ever leave the unit unless it is to see medical specialists. We´re fed and shit in our cells. We´re kept confined to our cells 22-24 hours a day, only to come out for five purposes:
1.      yard, which is held three times a week for 2-3 hours
2.      showers, which are done three times a week
3.      medical sick calls
4.      visiting (that is behind a dirty plexiglass window, through a 25 year old 2way intercom that interferes with and shares everyone´s conversations, leading everyone to shout over one another for an hour. You hardly ever get extended visits, even when it´s possible, or a courteous staff.)
5.      Law library, which takes up to three months to physically access it
Prisoners here are constantly deprived, harassed, ridiculed, psychologically tortured and have our only form of communication (mail) withheld for weeks and months –both incoming and outgoing. Often times we will learn of the death /passing of a family member or friend three months after the fact. Not allowing us to send our condolences, or what we would like to have shared in our absence at their burials, causing our family and friends to worry about us and not allowing us to pay our last respects to the dearly departed. All with the purpose of intimidating and breaking a prisoner´s spirit. In order to have them submit and fabricate information on fellow prisoners to be released from this torturous dungeon and gain better privileges for themselves and their loved ones.
Our Hunger Strike begins July 2013 in solidarity with the National Strike. Our demands are fair, reasonable, create no serious threat to the safety and security of the A/C, and are all within the power of authority of the San Quentin Warden to order the following immediate changes without delay. It´ll create a more positive and productive environment because it will ensure that prisoners be treated with human dignity and fairly.
We ask you for your support as we place our health, bodies and lives on the line in order to bring about a positive change –peacefully. None of us want to die, but due to our deteriorating circumstances, having been sentenced to death and now the administration has unjustly sentenced us all to an unlawful and indeterminate S.H.U./ grade B program. A “civil” and psychologically torturous death in the A/C as well as their abuse of power and authority and abuse of discretion has left us with no other alternative but to place what we value most at stake – our lives, for positive change and human dignity. We would truly appreciate and welcome your support. Your help will give us strength and will nourish our starving bodies.


Voices from Solitary: This Place Is Nothing More Than A Torture Chamber

Pelican Bay State Prison
Pelican Bay State Prison
The following was written by Tony, 35, who is engaged in the statewide hunger strike against long-term solitary confinement and related issues at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California. Incarcerated sine he was nineteen years old, he has been in the Security Housing Units (SHU) for over nine years, longer than the average term of 6.8 years. He writes about the mental challenges that he faces while locked in what he calls a “tomb box,” and makes an important, practical appeal to the reader: “Ask yourselves do we want a rehabilitated person with an education and job skills who can contribute to society?  Or do we want an angrily, hateful, uneducated, and unskilled person who was mentally tortured back on the street?”

–Sal Rodriguez

My letter to family and friends………

I am a prisoner, have been since the age of nineteen. I am now thirty-five years of age. I was placed in the S.H.U without Due Process, originally. Not for infractions of rules and regulations. Rather hearsay and embellishments. The California Department of Corrections, rather than provide me educational/ rehabilitation programs, instead simply warehouse me in a tomb box, windowless cell, with no human contact, I am basically sensory deprived. I live in the worlds infamous security housing unit at Pelican Bay State Prison. For us in the Security Housing Units (SHU) this place is nothing more than a torture chamber.

I have been in the S.H.U. for over nine (9) years . I was placed in Ad–Seg. in 2003, and I haven’t been able to touch or hug my loved one’s since then. Every single minute feels like being under water trying to gasp for air. Day in and day out, confined , isolated within a concrete box. The space is the size of a large bathroom. This is my daily existence. Isolation gnaws at the brain. Imagine yourself in your own windowless bathroom, day after day, with no human touch or able to see the sun, much less feel it. I am keenly aware of every single minute. Time weighs heavy. What is at stake?  My sanity.

Who invented this type of punishment? Who thought it was a good idea to place a human being in a confined space, deeply isolated. Until, to the point, a human breaks and becomes mentally unraveled. Who?   Only in an institution or group of people that have lost their humanness.

The use of isolation as a tactic to break humans was practiced by the once Soviet Union KGB and the North Korean government and Vietnam Government as a torture method. More recently, The United States of America on terrorist at Guantanamo Bay.  P.O.W’s from the United States, would attest to the fact that this was a tactic to break a soldier who were prisoners  of war. Senator John McCain of Arizona was subjected to this tactic for four years, as a P.O.W, in the Vietnam War. Is isolation torture?  YES…

Long term isolation may not leave physical scars, but it scars the mind. With its timed, methodic, sinister, daily isolation, to break

Mental torture methods are being practiced everyday within our nation’s borders! You might say, “WHAT?!”  Yes, everyday imprisoned humans, just like myself , all across civilized America are being subjected to long term isolation.  NOT just in the state of California, but also, Colorado, Chicago, Ohio, New York, etc.  Which most American people do not even know. Within the walls of the prison, I am in their:  Security Housing Units.  This is a cover up name for what is more suitable and should be called:

Mental  Torture Chambers.

Many people think that it’s okay to torture prisoner’s because we have been dehumanized by the system. That we are nothing more than criminals. Worst of the worst. That we are monsters. That we are shot-callers, violent to the core. We have been called this and that long enough. They have conveniently convinced themselves and everyone else that this is to be true.  for that, now, they can treat us anyway that they want. We are less than human to them.

It’s understandable that in a civil society there is a rule of law and justice must be served, but where within the functions of justice did it become acceptable to inflict the injustice of mental torture.  Prisoner’s, criminals, convicts, we are still human.  Are we not?  We feel.  We love and are loved.  We have hope.  Goals.  We even dream…..  We eagerly ask for rehabilitative programs, to be taught skills, to better ourselves, and to be educated.  It’s a proven fact that prisoner’s who are provided such programs, have a greater chance of not returning to prison.  That is a good thing for everyone.  Even with the fact, prison administrations still fit to spend tax dollars not on rehabilitation programs, but rather to simply isolate us in a windowless concrete box.  We are placed in long term isolation where we either develop a mental health condition, or naturally begin to hate our captors.

Our prison system has simply boiled down to a policy of:  LOCK THEM UP AND THROW AWAY THE KEY.   This, however, only works against the interests of society.  Because the reality is simple; a large percentage of all people imprisoned will someday be released.  Ask yourselves do we want a rehabilitated person with an education and job skills who can contribute to society?  Or do we want an angrily, hateful, uneducated, and unskilled person who was mentally tortured back on the street?  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.) is badly enough.  Now, imagine some-thing equal or greater than that.   The answer is quite simple.  We can achieve this.  It’s not impossible:  all that needs to be done is to employ the human element of treating prisoner’s like human beings.  That is all have ever requested.

It is up to us all to demand that the prison system spend tax dollars on rehabilitation programs,Not  on employing long term isolation.  Call and or write your Governor, Senators, Congressman, Congresswoman, and stress to them the importance to end long term isolation.  They have your vote(s) and best of interest to listen.  It’s been said that the humanness of a civilized society is measured in how it treats its prisoner’s.

The Security Housing Unit with its current policies and practices is an entity that does nothing else but breeds hate and despair.  the Security Housing Units should be shut down.  Nothing good is gained from long term isolation.

Every human being imprisoned within the confines of SHU wants nothing more than to achieve the complete closure of the “mental torture chambers”.  It is why on July 8th, 2013 inmates who want better treatment of our human rights will be participating in a state wide, peaceful, non-violent, hunger strike.  Others in other states similar to our situation are encouraged to participate.  We will be demanding that the human element  be the governing part of how prison’s are run.  We will sacrifice our health and or lives for this belief.  The frightening part of it all is, that we the so-called “MONSTERS”. and not our captors, demand this.  We are on the side of human rights.

When you the readers out there hear about our peaceful protest don’t think, “SHIT, IT’S JUST A BUNCH OF SNIVELING PRISONER’S “.   Rather know, get informed, and realize , it’s a group of human beings, from all races:  Black, Brown, White, and Red, within a concrete box risking their health and lives to end the inhumane treatment being inflicted upon us.  Especially to my younger cousins and younger family members whose support I didn’t have in the two hunger strikes in 2011.  Hope this letter to you has opened your eyes and mind.  It is one my reasons to write this letter.  Therefore, we don’t want to spend another minute that feels like a year in mental torture chamber.  We hope.  We believe that justice and humane treatment should go hand in hand.

Tony     Date:  6/16/13
Imprisoned now for 17 years and still full of hope.

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