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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

California prison hunger strikers propose ‘10 core Objectives’ for the national Occupy Wall Street Movement

December 6, 2011

by Heshima Denham, Zaharibu Dorrough and Kambui Robinson


“The Constitution, then, illustrates the complexity of this American system: that it serves the interests of a wealthy elite, but also does enough for small property owners, for middle-income mechanics and farmers to build a broad base of support. The slightly prosperous people who make up this base of support are buffers against the Blacks, the Natives, the very poor Whites. They enable the elite to keep control with a minimum of coercion, a maximum of law – all made palatable by this fanfare of patriotism and unity.” – Howard Zinn

Greetings, Brothers and Sisters. A firm, warm and solid embrace of revolutionary love is extended to you all. These words by Brother Howard Zinn are particularly relevant to the survival of the evolving Occupy Wall Street Movement, as these truths have been integral to the success of populist organizing in the U.S. historically and are central to the proposal we’re putting forward here.

Most of you, at this point, are familiar with the NARN Collective Think Tank (NCTT) from the many progressive programs and ideas that have come out of this body from both Pelican Bay SHU and here in Corcoran SHU, most recently our work in the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition.

Like the Arab Spring, which is still rocking the Middle East, and our own struggle to abolish indefinite confinement in sensory deprivation SHU torture units (see the five core demands from Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity), the Occupy Wall Street Movement expresses a fundamental rule of materialist dialectics as they apply to social development – i.e., the transformation of quantity into quality – expressed eloquently by the Honorable Comrade George Lester Jackson some 40 years ago: “(C)onsciousness is directly proportional to oppression.”


“(C)onsciousness is directly proportional to oppression.” – Honorable Comrade George Lester Jackson


The purpose of the NCTT primarily is to act as a clearinghouse for progressive and meaningful solutions to the ills of society from our unique and scientific perspective. As we have followed and supported the Occupy Wall Street Movement, discussing its great potential, analyzing its character, composition and socio-economic motive force, predicting the inevitable violent reactionary response of the fascist state in defense of its capitalist masters, the ruling 1 percent have never, nor will they ever, concede anything, surely not substantive changes, without struggle which requires unity of purpose, broad-based organization, fluid strategy and effective tactics.

Populist and progressive movements in this nation have succeeded or failed, lived or died, based on how effectively they understood and adapted to this reality. We learned this in the epoch following the Civil War as reconstruction gains were effectively repealed and Jim Crow law was introduced.

The populist movements that gave birth to the People Party, the power of organized labor and the Dorr Rebellion learned this very hard lesson on the heels of the Haymarket Massacre.

The Civil Rights Movement taught us the necessity of broad-based organization and accurate agreement of the opposition’s center of gravity: their point of weakness. Only a few years later we learned not to underestimate the power of the ruling 1 percent and insidiousness of its state tools when the Counter-Intelligence Program (Cointelpro) dismantled the Black Liberation Movement, imprisoned many of us, and ushered in the world of individualistic pursuits, greed, corruption, gross inequality and mass incarceration you all have now inherited.

As we watched the National (International) Day of Action unfold and the days that have followed, witnessing the predictable brutal response of the tools of the 1 percent as they beat young men and women bloody, pepper sprayed and pummeled peaceful youth at UC Davis, destroyed the people’s property across the nation, and even peppersprayed and dragged away 68-year-old women and pregnant ladies alike, with great effort we detached from our rage and analyzed the comments, ideas, and responses of various political pundits, common people on the streets, agents of the state and our protestors themselves.

Three things immediately became obvious from that analysis: 1) The mass media and far too many of the various pundits were in essence counting on the national Occupy movements to just peter out and fizzle away. It was this message that those who own these mass media outlets – the 1 percent – want to be disseminated as broadly as possible to undermine mass support for the movement.


The mass media were counting on the national Occupy movements to just peter out and fizzle away. It was this message that those who own these mass media outlets – the 1 percent – want to be disseminated as broadly as possible to undermine mass support for the movement.


2) We, the 99 percent, have no intention of going anywhere until substantive change is realized, and though most in this nation not involved directly in the occupations themselves agree with our ideas in opposition to corporate greed and institutional inequality, there were no clearly articulated demands or objectives around which the movement could organize the broader masses. 3) This lack of clearly articulated demands/objectives and coherent strategic and tactical organization by the national Occupy Movement was undermining its intent, diluting its potential, and degrading its motive force.


As you read this, consider where the men who wrote it live: Here, in Corcoran State Prison, labeled the "worst of the worst," they've survived as long as decades in solitary confinement in the SHU (security housing unit), one of the worst hell holes on earth. Out of despair and unimaginable cruelty and brutality, they forge hope for the beloved community. These men were leaders in the hunger strikes this summer and fall that involved over 12,000 California prisoners.

This state of affairs left unaddressed, as in most every similar movement in the U.S. historically, will lead to its isolation. This cannot be allowed. The first step in defeating an enemy as powerful, all-encompassing and organized as the ruling 1 percent is understanding the nature of struggle and the basis of their power. When you analyze opponents, you must see beyond the superficial for the origins of that power, the point of vulnerability upon which it is based. Striking this point of vulnerability will inflict disproportionate damage.
It must be understood that substantive, radical, progressive social change is no different than warfare and warfare is a form of power. Power systems, no matter their myriad manifestations, share the same basic structures. The most visible thing about them is their appearance, what is seen and felt.

Great power systems first try to ignore challenges to them, to dismiss them. When this fails, they opt to crush them. This is exactly what the Occupy Movement has experienced thus far. But all too often this outward display is a deceptive fabrication, a manifestation of insecurity, since power dares not expose its weaknesses.
The key lies in determining what their point of vulnerability is, and to do so you must understand the structure of the power system and the culture in which it operates. I began this discussion with a concise analysis of just this point by Howard Zinn.

The real point of vulnerability in American democracy is the social and political support of its citizens.

Unfortunately, the key apparatus in influencing public opinion is the American mass media – yet, ironically, they are equally vulnerable to the power of the mass support of the people. The key factor thus far in failing to harness this mass support is the lack of broad-based, articulable demands/objectives around which the uncommitted people who may support our message but not our movement can be educated, organized and mobilized to join the movement and transform not only the nature and structure of U.S. society, but the WORLD.

The key factor thus far in failing to harness the mass support of the people is the lack of broad-based, articulable demands/objectives around which the uncommitted people who may support our message but not our movement can be educated, organized and mobilized to join the movement and transform not only the nature and structure of U.S. society, but the WORLD.


To that end the NCTT Corcoran SHU has made a comprehensive analysis of statements from participants of all the national Occupy movements and some of those abroad and compiled these ideas into 10 core Objectives of the Occupy Wall Street Movement national coalition.

We call on you brothers and sisters to disseminate these 10 core objectives to all the Occupy movements across the nation and the world, and we call on all the Occupy movements to convene a national forum – which can take place online or at a national convention – to discuss the adoption of these 10 core Objectives as the definitive goals and organizing points around which the movement is based and the next level of our struggle is to be waged.

These 10 core Objectives can be modified, augmented or amended to take into account the broadest cross-section of the 99 percent possible and the collective will of the movement:

The 10 Core Objectives of the Occupy Wall Street Movement National Coalition

1. We want full employment with a living wage for all people who will work, and for employment to be enforced as the right which it is.

The U.S. Declaration of Independence states in part “that all men … are endowed … with certain inalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” “Life” is thus a right guaranteed by this nation and the means to live – work, making a living wage for all of those who will and can work – must be equally guaranteed as the right which it is – as must a guaranteed income for those who can’t work. This is the responsibility of the federal government.

If the corporate U.S. businessmen will not provide full employment even as they sit on trillions of dollars in cash reserves fleeced from the surplus value of labor, then the means of production should be taken from them and placed in the community so the 99 percent of the people can organize and employ all the people, ensuring a quality standard of life for all.

2. We want an end to institutional racism and race- and class-based disparities in access to, and quality of, labor, education, health care, criminal defense, political empowerment, technology and healthy food.

We recognize institutional racism – the U.S. race caste system – and systemic class disparities in the U.S. capitalist structure as not simply an obstacle to equitable educational opportunities, labor access, wage equality, proportionate rates of chronic disease management, access to quality and preventable health care services, non-predatory community policing, equitable treatment of criminal offenders, access to the political process for all, access to communications technology, the internet and fresh, unprocessed foods but as structural features of U.S. market capitalism primarily designed to prevent broad class cooperation between the 99 percent from various racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

We will no longer allow this divide and rule arrangement to govern the socio-economic relationships upon which the nature and structure of U.S. society is based.

3. We want decent and affordable housing for all people and for it to be enforced as the right which it is.

We recognize that housing, like living wage employment, is a fundamental necessity of life and as such a right that we have invested this government with securing on our behalf. Instead, government has consistently sided with those on Wall Street, who are responsible for the single greatest loss of housing in the nation’s history, while federal, state and local officials have in essence criminalized homelessness and chronic poverty and made a practice of attacking, destroying the property of and displacing the homeless wherever they’ve tried to erect shelters in this locked, anti-poor society.

Since it was corporate greed, government deregulation and financial speculators that led to the creation of exotic financial instruments like credit default swaps and sub-prime loan bundles which fleeced the 99 percent of much of their wealth and home equity, the government should mandate a “cost of living” readjustment to home equity debt on all U.S. homes so what the people owe actually reflects what these properties are now worth.

This would eliminate “underwater” homeowners and bail out the 99 percent of the people for a change. Simultaneously, vacated and empty federal housing authority properties (FHA) should be made into cooperatives so that our communities, with government aid, can create and build decent housing for all.

4. We want affordable and equal access to higher education for all and access to education that teaches the true history of colonialism, chattel slavery, repression of organized labor, the use of police repression and imprisonment as tools of capitalist exploitation, and the perpetuation of imperialism in the development and maintenance of modern U.S. power systems and corporate financial markets.

 As current trends in the national unemployment rate indicate – for the 99 percent nationally, the rate is 14 percent for Latinos, 17 percent for New Afrikans (Blacks), yet only 4 percent for those with a college degree – higher education has a direct correlation to socio-economic opportunity and prosperity.

Since equal opportunity is a fundamental right of U.S. citizenship, the 99 percent should have equal access to higher education without speculative corporate profiteering in industries related to higher education driving up tuition costs and student loan interest rates to usurious levels, leaving most in perpetual debt and simply pricing the very prospect of higher education out of reach for those in communities of color and the poor.

There should be a universal higher education system open to all based on their capacity to pay with tuitions set at that capacity level, while not barring anyone for an inability to pay. Simultaneously, the usurious debt incurred by students who clearly have no capacity to pay at a sustainable rate should have those debts forgiven in full. 

Our public education system should give all our people a knowledge of the true nature and structure of U.S. capitalist society and its legacy of injustice, genocide, exploitation, intentional underdevelopment, unjustifiable wars of imperialist aggression to secure new markets, resources and spheres of influence, bloody conquest, ecological mismanagement, slavery and murder in service to the development and maintenance of the molding of greed that is the 1 percent ruling elite.


5. We want an immediate end to police brutality and the murder of oppressed people in the U.S., particularly in the New Afrikan (Black), Latino, immigrant and underclass communities and among those protesting in this nation.

We recognize the police and other state paramilitary agencies – sheriffs, FBI, correctional guards etc. – are, and have always been, the enforcement army of the ruling 1 percent. This was again proven when these fascist forces moved nationally, en masse, to attack, pepper spray, beat, destroy the property of, arrest and attempt to crush the national Occupy Movement and its supporters at the two-month anniversary of the worldwide action and every day since. We recognize such brutal and unwarranted treatment is the daily existence of New Afrikan (Black), Latino, immigrant and underclass communities and people in this nation now, and historically, all to ensure the 1 percent “keeps us in our place,” the unfortunate victims of the race/class arrangement.

We recognize the police and other state paramilitary agencies – sheriffs, FBI, correctional guards etc. – are, and have always been, the enforcement army of the ruling 1 percent.


Self-defense is a human right and both the action and means are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and state laws (see the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and California Penal Code Section 50).

We believe community organized oversight and self-defense forces should be organized to monitor and record all police interactions with the people and defend them against ruling class directed and racist attacks when necessity dictates.

The hypocrisy of the government and media is exposed as they criticize Syria, China and Iran for attacking peaceful protestors while they do the same across the U.S. daily. We will suffer no more attacks like those at UC Davis, no more Scott Olsens, Fly Benzos or Oscar Grants to be injured or killed at the hands of the tools of the 1 percent.

The hypocrisy of the government and media is exposed as they criticize Syria, China and Iran for attacking peaceful protestors while they do the same across the U.S. daily. We will suffer no more attacks like those at UC Davis, no more Scott Olsens, Fly Benzos or Oscar Grants to be injured or killed at the hands of the tools of the 1 percent.


6. We want an end to the expansion of the prison industrial complex, as a profit base – from our tax dollars – for the disposal of surplus labor and the poor.

We want an end to the use of indefinite solitary confinement torture units in the U.S. as they are inhumane and illegal. The mass incarceration of people of color and the poor will no longer be tolerated as an acceptable alternative to enforcing socio-economic equality in America.

The disproportionate distribution of wealth, privilege and opportunity in a society is the origin of all crime. The U.S. has one of the greatest disparities between haves and have nots on earth. As a result, the U.S. has the largest prison population on the planet with some 2.7 million of our citizens in prison, 67 percent of them New Afrikans (Black) or Latinos, though they constitute only 26 percent of the nation’s population.

The prison population in the U.S. has exploded some 600 percent since 1981, with state and federal prison budgets in excess of hundreds of billions of our tax dollars a year lining the pockets of corporate interests that build, supply and maintain these prisons, jails, courts and staff, not to mention the labor aristocrats like the CCPOA (California Correctional Peace Officers Association) guards union, who’ve created a socio-economic and political power base that guarantees their job security and ever increasing salaries and benefits, while maintaining a lobbying stranglehold on state politicians.

We recognize, in the face of such a corrupt cabal of government and business, the purpose of imprisonment in the U.S. now has little to do with public safety and rehabilitation and more to do with the development of a self-perpetuating, poverty-fueled, recession-proof industry and an accompanying socio-political accommodating labor aristocracy of prison guards, cops and staff as a support base for the interests of the ruling 1 percent.

Prison is a socially hostile microcosm of society’s contradictions, possessing the same race/class and state/class contradictions that currently define the socio-economic inequality that is capitalist Amerika. Prisons serve as warehouses for surplus labor, the poor and those who have been forced to the bottom rung of society.

It is the systemic race/class disparities, intentional criminalization and underdevelopment of poor communities and social apathy which have forced most offenders into the underground economy as the only viable option to survive.

This is unacceptable and unsustainable, equally repugnant, fundamentally inhumane, and illegal as the continued gross violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture – to which the U.S. is a signatory and we agree is the law of the land – which prohibits long-term solitary confinement for extracting information, political views or as punishment for any reason – which is the very purpose of SHU units – as torture, but it is being practiced in numerous U.S. prisons with government approval.

The continued indefinite confinement of human beings in SHUs, SMUs and other supermax torture units must be abolished in the U.S., as they violate the basic tenets of human rights this nation has sworn to uphold.

The basis of true rehabilitation, such as tech and computer-based vocational programs, access to higher education for prisoners and community-based parole boards must become the new order of the day. This is the only way to guarantee true justice in an unjust social arrangement and see our imprisoned citizens are capable of making a meaningful contribution to our society and prosperity.

The disproportionate distribution of wealth, privilege and opportunity in a society is the origin of all crime. The U.S. has one of the greatest disparities between haves and have nots on earth.


7. We want an end to all corporate and financial influences in the political process in the U.S. 

We recognize, since its inception, the nature and structure of U.S. society has been one of the rich, for the rich and by the rich, in which the 99 percent have served as a source of exploited labor and a consumer market for the goods and services of those who own the means of production.

This pattern of usurpations has evolved into a political process in which public policies and elected officials are more often than not determined by lobbying dollars, manipulation of public opinion by corporate-controlled mass media, and the overwhelming influence of financial markets and industries on policies and policymakers, effectively marginalizing the people, their interests and their will, reducing them to pawns in a game of corporate pandering.

This will stop now. The U.S. will finally become a nation of the people, for the people and by the people, where only individual citizens may have any influence in the nature and structure of the democratic process in the U.S. This means banning all lobbyists, donors, financial market proxies, strategic advisers and special interest groups from local, state and federal electoral and legislative processes in the U.S. We are sick of this “legalized” corruption.

8. We want an end to imperialist wars of aggression and sending our youth off to kill and die to enforce the economic interests of big oil and other corporate concerns seeking new resources to exploit, new markets to open for sale of their goods and services and as an impetus to keep from addressing domestic ills.

We recognize, as Bolton Hall said, “If there is a war, you will furnish the corpses and the taxes and others will get this glory. Speculators will make money out of it, that is, out of you (us).”

Thousands of our young men and women died in Iraq and across the Middle East and caused the deaths, either intentionally or unintentionally, of many thousands more Third World people, all based on the lies of greedy and bloodthirsty politicians with multiple ties to big oil and corporate interests. The current administration has only slightly modified this same imperialist tendency by shifting it to a more palatable target at the cost of billions of our tax dollars and thousands of our youth that could have been contributing to the prosperity of the nation and its people.

We support our young men and women, but we do not support imperialism.

9. We want a bottoms-up approach to economic development and labor-capital relations in the U.S.

This nation is empowered by “we the people,” the 99 percent, to secure our rights to life, liberty, and prosperity; yet we recognize the state has aligned itself so intimately for so long with the exclusive interest of the ruling 1 percent that it has become enamored exclusively to a top-down approach to socio-economic and political solutions which always favors the rich first and everyone else when or if possible. This has resulted in a 281 percent increase in the growth of wealth in the top 1 percent of this nation, while the bottom 90 percent have seen their incomes flat over the past 20 years.

We recognize that this fascist alliance between corporate capital and government has become obstructive to the ends of securing the rights of life and prosperity to the 99 percent of this nation’s people and will now come to an end. Socio-economic and political policy must now uplift the quality of life from the bottom rung up – empowering the disenfranchised, providing opportunities for those with no options and directing bailouts and subsidies to the people, not banks and billionaires.

We recognize the state has thus far been a tool to guarantee the dominance of one class over others, of the 1 percent over the 99 percent, and that arrangement will now come to an end.

Socio-economic and political policy must now uplift the quality of life from the bottom rung up – empowering the disenfranchised, providing opportunities for those with no options and directing bailouts and subsidies to the people, not banks and billionaires.


10. We want a more equitable distribution of wealth, justice and opportunity at every level of society, reflecting the objective reality that it’s the socio-economic, political, intellectual and cultural contributions of the 99 percent upon which this society stands.

 We recognize that there is enough food in this nation that no one need be hungry, enough unoccupied structures in this nation that no one need be homeless, enough educators, institutions, knowledge and technology in this nation that no one need be without a degree or skilled trade, enough work to be done that no one needs to be without a job; and it is only due to the insistence of an entrenched, super-rich 1 percent and their stranglehold on every institution and apparatus of this nation’s infrastructure from the government to the mass media that their opulence and privilege be maintained at the expense of the 99 percent.

We recognize that this is not our national reality, the ruling class has mismanaged our society – woefully and criminally mismanaged – and those in power at every level are either unable or unwilling to change the nature and structure of capitalist society. So it falls to us, the 99 percent, to forge a new basis upon which socio-economic relationships will be based, ushering in a new social order in Amerika and around the world, that serves the interests of all the people and not simply the privileged few.


For an hour a few times a week, prisoners in the Corcoran SHU are allowed to "exercise" in these yard cages.

It is our request that all of you please send a copy of this proposal to each individual Occupy Movement coalition, which includes but is not limited to Occupy Wall Street (New York City), Occupy Oakland, Occupy NOLA (New Orleans), Occupy San Francisco, Occupy Boston, Occupy L.A. (Los Angeles), Occupy Seattle, Occupy UC Davis, Occupy Phoenix, Occupy Fresno, Occupy Cleveland, Occupy Chicago et al. Post a copy of this proposal online at as many sites for the Occupy movement as possible. Post it on Facebook, blog sites and wherever social commentary is held.


In addition, we call on each individual Occupy Movement to begin organizing in and with the underclass communities in your city or town and for all my brothers and sisters in the ghettos, projects, barrios and trailer parks across this nation to begin organizing with Occupy Movement coalition reps around collective programs that can serve to begin realizing these 10 core Objectives by our unity and contributions alone. The NCTT, both here in Corcoran SHU and Pelican Bay SHU are committed to making meaningful contributions to the development of such community action programs, which we will outline in our next communication.

We call on each individual Occupy Movement to begin organizing in and with the underclass communities in your city or town and for all my brothers and sisters in the ghettos, projects, barrios and trailer parks across this nation to begin organizing with Occupy Movement coalition reps around collective programs that can serve to begin realizing these 10 core objectives by our unity and contributions alone.


But what must be understood is social movements of this nature are supported only to the degree that their ideas find resonance in the psychological structures of the masses, but even this is not enough. To ensure the realization of any substantive change in the nature and structure of U.S. capitalist society and to prevent this movement from being isolated and neutralized by the forces of repression, it must be firmly embedded in as broad a cross-section of this population as possible.

There are some 47 million people in Amerika living below the poverty line, another 150 million or so barely getting by – two thirds of this nation’s population, all of them part of the 99 percent. It is here that we will find our most lasting support, and thus it is here that you must begin forging meaningful ties. These are overwhelmingly New Afrikan (Black), Latino, immigrant and poor communities.

You champion us all with your ideas and the courage of your convictions, just as we continue to support you with our sacrifices and insight. It is now time to take the movement to its next evolution and ultimately to its inevitable conclusion: victorious revolutionary change.

Your greatest power lies in your unity and cooperation and ultimately your organizational ability. The power of the people far surpasses all the repressive violence of the Babylons attacking you/us or the wealth of the 1 percent, who will stop at nothing to silence us all.

The power of the people far surpasses all the repressive violence of the Babylons attacking you/us or the wealth of the 1 percent, who will stop at nothing to silence us all.


This is a protracted struggle; there will be no 90-day revolution here. Victory will require sacrifice, tenacity and competent strategic insight. The question you must ask is, Are you prepared to do what is necessary to win this struggle? If you answer in the affirmative, commit to victory and accept no other alternative. The people, as we are, are with you. Until we win or don’t lose, our love and solidarity to all those who love freedom and fear only failures.

Send our brothers some love and light: 
Zaharibu Dorrough, D-83611, CSP-COR-SHU 4B1L-53, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212; 
J. Heshima Denham, J-38283, CSP-COR-SHU 4B1L-46, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212; 
and Kambui Robinson, C-83820, CSP-COR-SHU 4B1L-49, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212. 


And read their previous stories: “A brief hunger strike update from the front lines of the struggle: Corcoran-SHU 4B 1L C-section Isolation Unit” (second story in that post), “From the front lines of the struggle,”and “We dare to win: The reality and impact of SHU torture units.” 
This story was typed by Adrian McKinney.

Friday, November 11, 2011

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

Discussion in the wake of the Aug. 23 legislative hearing

In: SF Bay ViewNovember 11, 2011

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


Written Oct. 12, 2011 – These sage words by Dr. King are both appropriate to the discussion we’d like to have on indeterminate SHU confinement and cautionary as to who we are and what we allow as a society in these troubled times. This second point is very relevant to this discussion and we hope you’ll stick with us, as the subject matter is both broad and disturbing; it requires us to share some inconvenient truths.
 
Security Housing Units (SHUs) like those in Pelican Bay, Tehachapi and this one here in Corcoran are torture units. They are used to indefinitely house human beings in solitary confinement based on an administrative determination that they are “gang members” with impetus towards breaking their minds in hopes of eliciting information and coercing them into becoming informants or active agents in the state.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

From the front lines of the struggle

Posted in the SF Bay View: http://sfbayview.com/2011/from-the-front-lines-of-the-struggle/

November 1, 2011

by Heshima Denham
Written Oct. 13, 2011 – A firm, warm and solid embrace of eternal revolutionary love and solidarity is extended to you all. Enclosed you will find an update statement from us on this second hunger strike effort, which I am happy to report met a victorious conclusion only hours ago with our five core demands being sufficiently realized to halt the hunger strike at this time.
For prisoners in the Corcoran SHU, "yard" means these exercise cages. During the hunger strike, they have been denied even this.

Nevertheless the struggle is far from over. The abolition of SHU torture units in California and throughout the U.S. and its interconnectedness to the struggle for socio-economic and political freedom, justice and equality for the unjustly suppressed and all underclass people in the U.S. is protracted and ever ongoing. There is much work left to be done and we here at the NARN collective think tank look forward to working with you all to accomplish meaningful change for the people.


We face many challenges. For example, we sent an update statement to the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition media team on the Aug. 23 legislative hearings, which remain necessary to the people’s education and the advancement of our aims. Institutional Gang Investigations (IGI), however, were directed by the warden to intercept and confiscate all mail, legal mail, from hunger strikers in this 4B1L-C Section. Be mindful that IGI shortstops all our mail and, despite legislation, holds it up without our ability to know if and when it got out.

In addition, I am an artist, an exceptional artist, and I’ve had my efforts to use my talent to generate funds for this and other massive work thwarted by two major factors: 1) lack of reliable and trustworthy personnel with whom to work with the basic resources – i.e., internet access, quality copying capability, time and motivation – and 2) IGI interference. The latter can be overcome; the former cannot without help and I want to put a call out for that help, as it is a mutual and collective beneficial call. I cannot stress enough the potential benefit for all concerned from answering this call. My insight, business acumen and artistic talent in conjunction with this body is truly impressive. Please help us.

With that said, on a personal note, many good souls sacrificed greatly in this effort: myself and Brother Zaharibu in particular. When this started I was 223 pounds – I’m 6 feet 2 inches. As of July 1 or 2, I was 178 pounds. When the second effort began, I had not yet recovered physically nor had Zaharibu and others. I was 192 pounds on Sept. 25. Today I weighed in at 168 pounds and I was both prepared for and close to my death.

When this started I was 223 pounds – I’m 6 feet 2 inches. Today I weighed in at 168 pounds and I was both prepared for and close to my death. I want you to stop and think about that. We are warriors, yet we allowed ourselves to brush the veil of the other side, to embrace oblivion peacefully rather than exist in torturous tombs eternally.

I want you to stop and think about that. We are warriors, yet we allowed ourselves to brush the veil of the other side, to embrace oblivion peacefully rather than exist in torturous tombs eternally. That alone should tell you all you need to know about the righteousness of our cause and quality of our character. Now we must re-strengthen our bodies to match our minds and gird our loins for the next battle in this never-ending struggle for freedom, justice and quality in capitalist Amerikkka. I hope we can count on your aid and support. Our love and solidarity are with you all, always. Until we win or don’t lose.

A brief statement from the front lines of the struggle, from the NCTT Corcoran SHU

Written Oct. 9 from the 4B1L-C Section Short Corridor Isolation Unit – It is Day 13 of the second hunger strike in support of our five core demands and the abolition of SHU torture units as a means of manufacturing informants, containing progressive political ideas and maintaining the status quo for the prison industrial complex. At this writing, all New Afrikan and Southern Mexican partisans in this isolation unit (4B1L-C Section) are fully participating in the hunger strike, while our White and Northern Mexican brothers are providing moral support.

We have not eaten since Sept. 25, and the administration here has unleashed an unprecedented wave of retaliation reprisals against us aimed at breaking the hunger strike and provoking violent reaction which would undermine the nonviolent basis of the peaceful effort. They have thus far failed.

In response to this second effort, on Sept. 29, CDCR revised its medical evaluation policy for hunger strikers to minimize the amount of medical evaluation and data, while maximizing the chance of serious injury or death to those on hunger strike. They have ceased taking vital signs – blood pressure, heart rate, temperature – altogether and are weighing us only twice a week unless “it appears you need it.”

It is only because myself and Brother Zaharibu have lost so much weight since this began – over 10 percent of our total body weight from the first weigh in on July 30 – that our vital signs have been taken. Others who’ve requested it or complained of dizziness, weakness, lightheadedness etc. have been told, “Put in a sick call request,” which will cost you $5. Canteen purchases for hunger strikers have been restricted to hygiene and stationary items only – no food or drink.

On or about Oct. 3, they raided 4B1L-C Section and removed all food and drink items – even coffee and salt packs – from the cells of hunger strikers. A short time later the warden and her entourage arrived in our section laughing and joking like it was a day at the fair and ordered sandbags placed in front of each of our cell doors to prevent any fishing so as to ensure non-hunger strikers are not fishing coffee and kool-aid to those on hunger strike.

Human rights attorneys have been banned and we have been denied access to yard and law library. The warden has directed IGI to open and/or confiscate all legal mail for hunger strikers in 4B1L-C Section. RNs have been dismissive and outright verbally disrespectful to some hunger strikers in a blatant attempt to provoke us.

Human rights attorneys have been banned and we have been denied access to yard and law library.

Earlier this week, pursuant to a 1030 confidential information chrono alleging that two of our Southern Mexican brothers here “ordered the hunger strike,” those same two have had their visits taken by the administration for 90 days – an absurd accusation and blatant abuse of power clearly designed to provoke a violent reaction.

This is a peaceful human rights initiative supported across racial lines making it an impossibility for any single group, let alone individual, to “order” anything. We are all participants of our individual free will guided by a collective desire to see an end to the systematic torture and industrial profiteering at our expense.
It is from the same spirit of basic human dignity and thirst for fundamental socio-economic equality and opportunity driving the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street Movement sweeping the nation that our peaceful hunger strike derives its own political motive force. We have stated the undeniable correlation between corporate greed, socio-economic inequality, imprisonment and indeterminate SHU confinement based on “gang” validation in previous statements, most recently in our NCTT statement in response to the Aug. 23 legislative hearings.

There is a corresponding correlation in the bottom-up thrust of social consciousness now shaking the foundations of the unholy union of government and industrial capital. For this reason the NCTT Corcoran SHU wants you all to know our sacrifices here are also in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and we fully support the aims of the protestors to bring about a world where it is the 99 percent of the people who are prospering from the productive system as opposed to the historic motive force of U.S. capitalist greed, which has maintained an unchallenged opulence standard for the 1 percent ruling elite while the rest of us struggle, suffer, barely survive or languish in these concentration camps, the unfortunate victims of the race-class arrangement.

But like all historically oppressed people, like the valiant brothers and sisters from all walks of life currently besieging the halls of power on Wall Street, in Washington, D.C., Sacramento and across this country, we too will no longer accept the status quo or allow corruption, injustice and institutional inequality to dictate the nature and structure of our existence.

Each meal we miss, pound we lose and pain we suffer we dedicate not only to the realization of the five core demands, but the realization of the aims and aspirations of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, as they are one in the same. We ask you all to support each of these initiatives with your voices, your work, your blogs and, yes, your participation.

Each meal we miss, pound we lose and pain we suffer we dedicate not only to the realization of the five core demands, but the realization of the aims and aspirations of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, as they are one in the same.

Some of us here, myself (Heshima) and Brother Zaharibu included, did not fully recover from the first hunger strike, and our bodies, as with others here, are close to failing. Some of us, myself included, may well die in this effort, but we do so, if that is the Creator’s will, in service of a just cause and in support of freedom, justice and equality.
JOIN US! Stand on the right side of history and together we can forge a new world where poverty, homelessness, corporate usury, government corruption and abuses, state-sanctioned torture, criminalization, underdeveloped men and institutional inequalities are the exception, NOT the rule. You, THE PEOPLE, are the most powerful force in this nation. Let us wield that power together and forge a more perfect union. Stand with us! Our love and solidarity to all those who oppose injustice and oppression, and fear only failure.

JOIN US! Stand on the right side of history and together we can forge a new world where poverty, homelessness, corporate usury, government corruption and abuses, state-sanctioned torture, criminalization, underdeveloped men and institutional inequalities are the exception, NOT the rule. You, THE PEOPLE, are the most powerful force in this nation. Let us wield that power together and forge a more perfect union.

For more information on the hunger strike or the NCTT, contact: 

Zaharibu Dorrough, D-83611, CSP-COR-SHU, 4B1L-53, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212; Heshima Denham, J-38283, CSP-COR-SHU, 4B1L-46, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212;
Kambui Robinson, C-82830, CSP-COR-SHU, 4BIL-49, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212.

We also urge all those who can to donate $10 or more to the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition at California Prison Focus, www.prisons.org.

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