A Discussion on CDCR’s New Brainwashing Mandate for SHU Torture Units
By the N.C.T.T. COR-SHU [NCTT stands for NARN (New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalism) Collective Think Tank.]
Published by California Prison Focus #39, January 2013
“I would like you to think of brainwashing, not in terms of politics, ethics and morals, but in terms of the deliberate changing of human behavior and attitudes by a group of men who have relatively complete control over the environment in which the captive populace lives.”—Dr. Edgar Schein to U.S. wardens and social scientists, 1962
Greetings, Brothers and Sisters. We’ve had an opportunity to review the over 100 pages which constitute CDCR’s STG Pilot Program, and felt compelled to discuss provisions of §700.2 (the Step Down Program) in the wake of our last discussion on “Creating Broken Men.”
There should be no doubt indefinite solitary confinement is torture. Yet in §700.2, the CDCR has devised an insidious program whereby they can leverage this torture to coerce validated SHU prisoners to submit to brainwashing in lieu of debriefing; the end result being qualitatively no different: the production of a docile, submissive, quasi-informant population who reproduces in themselves the values of the same authoritarian order responsible for mass incarceration and the domestic torture program. In other words, “broken men” will be created by a new process.
In §700.2 of the STG Pilot Program, CDCR outlines, beginning in step 3, a requirement that prisoners complete “12 months of journals... that lead to responsible thinking and behavior.” This behavior modification program (and that’s exactly what it is) is preparatory, designed to condition the minds of the targeted population to accept cognitive restructuring. This intent is clear in the themes of the journal.
For example, “Values guides prisoners through an evaluation of the criminal values that have influenced their lives and help them weigh the consequences of living a life based on criminal values versus responsible values.” This presupposes everyone currently confined to these torture units holds true to “criminal values.”
An absurd notion. The overwhelming majority of validated SHU prisoners have committed no criminal act(s) or rules violation(s) (a natural outgrowth of so-called “criminal values”) to be confined to SHU by CDCR’s own admission.
Many are in SHU on purely ideological grounds: for holding revolutionary attitudes or socialist values which oppose authoritarian social control and exploitation of the underclass.
This begs the question, What are “criminal values” and who defines “responsible values”? Surely it’s “criminal” to hold a population captive under conditions of indefinite torture unless they become informants or submit to having their “values” modified. Are we to assume an entrenched industrial interest that has intentionally manufactured the legislative and physical conditions (in prisons) to perpetuate mass incarceration to establish their own labor aristocracy, while presiding over the largest domestic torture program on the planet, are now going to be the instiller of “responsible values”? The answer is: No, of course not!
The Self-Directed (S-D) Journals component of the SDP is replete with other Orwellian themes like “thinking errors,” “social values,” “responsible thinking/healthy personality,” and “peer relationships.” These themes constitute classic “character invalidation,” an essential Schein model brainwashing technique employed to induce guilt, self-loathing, anxiety, irrational fear and suggestibility, while simultaneously providing social and emotional supports which reinforce the new subservience/ docility.
This is in fact an improvement on the original Schein behavior modification model outlined in his paper, “Man Against Man: Brainwashing,” the basis for previous SHU best practice. Up to now, torture unit administrators, IGI, and OCS have relied on staff and their specialized SHU training to observe prisoners’ behavior patterns, record them in the “daily activity log” and utilize this data to calculate a prisoner’s sensitivity to pressure, or vulnerability to the same, with a degree of precision. This is one way the IGI is able to anticipate and target specific SHU torture victims who are prepared to—or on the verge of—debriefing. They now intend to use the prisoners themselves to provide additional input data to facilitate and reinforce their own brainwashing.
Section 700.2 states,
“Personal reinforcement check sheets ... will be used by the inmate to monitor weekly/monthly program participation and progress. In addition, Individual Change Plans will be initially completed by the inmate after 6 months in the SDP.... These documents will be submitted to the Correctional Counselor II and may be used ... in determining an inmate’s movement between steps.”
You are not only expected to submit to brainwashing in order to escape indefinite torture, but you must actively participate in your own cognitive restructuring or be trapped indefinitely in thetorture unit’s “steps.” This is “Skinnerian operant conditioning,” the rewarding of submission to the character restructuring encompassing the brainwashing objectives by easing the pressure on the subject in this by moving them along to the next “step.” But in truth, this is no “reward” at all. As previously stated, the S-D Journals are only preparing the subjects’ minds for complete restructuring, while weakening (or removing completely) any psychological resistance to the more intense behavior modification techniques to come.
These are introduced in step 4, and as if aware of the pliancy (in this context, easily influenced) and desperation of those prisoners willing to submit to these techniques, the state makes no attempt to conceal their intent. The text states clearly, “Step 4 will include an integrated, cognitive behavior change program that will include cognitive restructuring...” For those of you not familiar with this language, this means brainwashing. The exact nature and composition of the step 4 “cognitive restructuring program” has been intentionally left vague and ambiguous. It is designed for “small groups” of subjects, and will no doubt be a modification of techniques already tested in other SuperMax torture units which include Synanon attack therapy (a form of character invalidation for a group setting), transactional analysis, and encounter group sensitivity sessions.
This progressive step-based approach ensures maximum control for therapeutic administrators to prevent subjects having contact with anyone not sympathetic to the reconditioning methodology, disorganizing group standards among prisoners which are not pro-conformist, all within the confines of an environment that is prohibitive/restrictive towards any activities or ideas which are not supportive of the brainwashing objectives. In the end, the conditioned subject is psychologically no different than the debriefer: a broken man/woman.
What must be understood is participation in such a system of behavior modification on any level exposes any mind to the prospect of restructuring, primarily because most of these techniques target the subconscious mind.
We do not want to get overly technical, but we believe it is important and we will simplify it as briefly as possible with a single example. The conscious mind makes judgments on what is real and correct or illusory and incorrect. But the subconscious mind accepts all information introduced into it as fact. The conscious mind, unfortunately, only functions when you are “conscious” of a thing or are aware; the unconscious mind always functions—it never sleeps. The conscious mind is simply “the computer;” the unconscious mind is “the computer programmer.” If one can bypass or circumvent the conscious mind and go directly to the subconscious, the conscious mind can be made to believe whatever has been introduced into the subconscious. For example, recall our explanation that the self-directed journal models in step 3 require you to complete a theme on “values” which presupposes you function from “criminal values” and need to [acquire] “responsible values.” Your conscious mind, of course, would disagree that your values are “criminal.” However, by participating in this exercise, you expose your mind to contextual adaptation to carry out the exercise (“contextual” referring to a set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc.). Your subconscious mind will not make any distinction in the validity of the presupposition, only that some of your values may contradict those defined as “responsible” and thus by relational context, must be “criminal.” The thought divergence (separation) will manifest itself subconsciously as “character invalidation,” though you’ll not note this consciously.
It will manifest itself in contradictions in your thinking, speech, and conduct too subtle for you to note overtly until the thought divergence progresses. Yes, they are truly insidious. The only sure method of resistance (outside of contra-conditioning techniques) is not to expose yourself to brainwashing therapy in the first place. But some will, and some of those who do will become tools of the state, entering the general population or their communities and reproducing these attitudes in others.
From the perspective of the state, if some of these have influence, all the better for the prison industry. It’s the reason these techniques were included as mandatory aspects of the pilot program. Following the hunger strikes, CDCR did not see victimized prisoners united to end their collective torture, but instead an opportunity to transform the most advanced and influential into broken men and creators of the same; an environment where the orderly extraction of taxpayer dollars in proportion to prisoner commodities is inflated by SHU confinement but uninterrupted by pesky concerns like human rights, international law, or the Constitution. That they will fail is not of import—that they are trying this is.
Which leads us to the core of the matter. There exists no moral or legal basis for compulsory brainwashing in civilized society. With all of the self-inflicted behavior modification in the capitalist consumer culture from Weight Watchers to anti-smoking products like Nicoderm, US society has become acclimated to being brainwashed, to say nothing of social automation.
But camouflaging Dr. Schein’s abhorrent techniques under misleading language that not only conceals its meaning and intent from prisoners, but the public as well, does not make them any less illegal. The very assertion by the state that one’s political ideology and cultural values are “criminal,” or are somehow a legitimate pretext for indefinite solitary confinement torture, violates the First Amendment, just as holding the threat of indefinite SHU torture over a prisoner’s head unless they become an informant violates the Eighth Amendment.
But coercing a population into submitting to a brainwashing program that most don’t even understand, and passing it off as a “social good,” is not simply illegal, it’s evil . These provisions laid out in §700.2 not only violate the First and Eighth Amendments, but also the UN Convention Against Torture [original text is not available right now], the UN Standard Minimum Rules forTreatment of Prisoners, and most disturbing of all, the Nuremberg Code.
The first principle of the Nuremberg Code states:
“Voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; ... able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, overreaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of ... the subject matter involved ... to make an understanding and enlightened decision....” (In this instance, indeterminate SHUs, indeed SHUs themselves, are torture units).
CDCR has made it clear that no one is going to escape these torture units unless they submit to the techniques. Their new mantra is thus, “Parole, debrief, submit to brainwashing, or die.” Most prisoners, and for that matter most citizens in the US, have little to no understanding of the Schein, Levinson, Skinnerian cognitive restructuring model, or its intent. This should outrage us all.
The best, the clearest proof of the CDCR’s intention can be found by reviewing a document issued by the CDCR entitled, “Security Threat Group Pilot Program Information.”
[This is a pamphlet that was handed out to some or all SHU prisoners. –Ed.]
Page 4 of this document states, under “Reporting STG Involvement,” in the first paragraph,
“You have the responsibility to report STG or criminal activity when known or observed by you.”
It goes on to state that:
"this process is not intended to compromise your safety, but to enhance your safety through the identification and removal of those involved in STG or criminal activity.”
Of course, you would have to be brainwashed/broken to believe and subordinate yourself to this. If it was true that snitching does not compromise the informant’s safety, it would not be necessary to separate (known) informants from the non-SNY/PC general population. Once a person debriefs, that person is automatically assigned to SNY [special needs yard].
It has been demonstrated time and time again that the abuse of your tax dollars by the CDCR is based upon the lawlessness of the CDCR. A lawlessness that includes a complete disregard for those of us housed in these madhouses. And in particular for those who would dare oppose the disrespecting of our humanity. The humanity of us all.
The Agreement to End Hostilities by the Pelican Bay representatives is a crucial step in our reclaiming our humanity and creating opportunities to put an end to the efforts to destroy us all. We must take advantage of this opportunity to demonstrate to the world that we are willing and capable of being the history makers that this opportunity now provides us all.
That the state has actually created a whole new bureaucracy to manage this brainwashing program within an already existing domestic torture program designed to grow under this policy should compel us all to act, as this new bureaucracy will be funded by your tax dollars.
Are we as a society going to stand idly by and listen to our politicians stride the world stage criticizing other nations for human rights abuses while this Orwellian, pseudo-scientific torture initiative is carried out in your name within your national borders?
We need each other if we are to be free. We can all reclaim our humanity by demanding that the humanity of all be respected. Let us reclaim it together.
Love and struggle, N.C.T.T. COR-SHU,
Michael (Zaharibu) Dorrough #D83611
PO Box 3481
Corcoran, CA 93212
Heshima Denham #J38283
PO Box 3481
Corcoran, CA 93212
Kambui Robinson #C82830
PO Box 3481
Corcoran, CA 93212
Jabari Scott #H30356
PO Box 3481
Corcoran, CA 93212
Published in: p. 2 of California Prison Focus #39 (Spring 2013)