ADDENDUM – To Todd Ashker’s Summary regarding Evolving Prisoner Resistance (9/30/15)
The purpose of this addendum is to clarify, and expand upon, some of the points summarized in the document regarding evolving resistance of the prisoner class – subject to dehumanization, social death, torture – cruel-inhumane-abuse-oppression – inside/outside these stone walls. As well as to respond to, and rebut some of the prisoncrats, and their collaborators, propogandist – rhetoric – designed for the purpose of derailing our collective efforts to educate/expose prisoncrats (State Sanctioned Torture Policies and Practices).
The subject(s) to be included in this addendum are – our evolving resistance – and, my criminal conviction, and sentence to 21 years to life in 1990 (regarding the New Folsom case, in response to the vilifying rhetoric by prisoncrats, the mainstream media, and related collaboration thereof, by my court-appointed attorney; and, the mainstream media’s (60 Minutes) collaborative efforts to harm my credibility, …going back to 1994-1995 segment (regarding PBSP SHU abuses)…
I want to be clear that the preceding “Summary…” as well as this “Addendum” are based on my own perceptions – as an ‘observant participant’ my active involvement places me in a position similar to that described by an attorney – historian of some renouwn – whom I am honored to have met, and come to consider a friend, during the course of this struggle for better prison conditions (Staughton Lynd and his wife, fellow attorney and writer, Alice) in is book, “Doing History from the Bottom Up” (2014), Staughton stated,… at p. xiv-xvi: “…The term guerrilla history refers to narratives by such persons who took part in the events they are describing…” “Protagonists’ perceptions of their own history need to be corroborated, when possible, by the testimony of other witnesses and by independent objective evidence, including written sources. Nevertheless, the perceptions of poor people who were present in the flesh, at the time, should be the starting point for history from below. Viktor Frankl puts it this way at the out set of his book on Auschwitz and other concentration camps:
“[D]oes a man who makes his observations while he himself is a prisoner possess the necessary detachment? Such detachment is granted to the outsider, but he is too far removed to make any statements of real value. Only the man inside knows. His judgements may not be objective; his evaluations may be out of proportion. This is inevitable. An attempt must be made to avoid any personal bias, and that is the real difficulty.”
“As I perceive my own work, I have faithfully sought to – how it really happened…”
1. On the subject of ‘Our Evolving Resistance’
From the the perspective of one who’s been doing time in California’s penal system since the late 1970s (as a juvenile, and adult), I’ve seen the prisoner class struggle in these solitary confinement – Control Units – evolve from a primary focus on responding to prisoncrats’ abuse and progressive oppressive tactics with reciprocal violence (1980s), into one utilyzing the legal system as a primary means for challenging/stemming prisoncrats’ abuse, and progressive oppressive tactics (late 1980s to present); and inclusion of peaceful activism efforts (2010 – to present), along with seeking legislative action (2011 to present) ….
As summarized in the preceeding document, I personally began to learn how to use the legal process to challenge, and thereby, attempt to stem, CDCr prisoncrats’ progressive abuse of power, and oppression, starting in New Folsom (back in late 1987), and included with this document is a summary of 15 cases that I have been a party to, and/or assisted on, which were ultimately of some benefit to the prisoner class. And, I will point out here that my efforts and related knowledge about the applicable legal process, and principles, are the result of the years of shared learning experience amongst similarly situated prisoners….
Having personally spent the past 29+ years in SHU, my own experience/education/focus has been on the use of the legal system to try and reign in CDCr’s abuse, and progressive torture tactics intended to coerce prisoners to become collaborative informants for the state….
And, as stated previously, my experience/education/focus has been in tandem with that of other similarly situated SHU prisoners! it has been an evolving process, inside these SHU units, and the expanding consciousness of the prisoner class!! (I’m referring to prisoners, and outside people – prisoners’ loved ones, friends, and those people of conscience who recognize societal problems, that are mainly adverse to the working class poor,.… who seek to involved in the movement for positive change!)
During the course of my experience of incarceration in the CDCr system, there have been a few Class Actions, and literally thousands of individual court challenges, to long-term SHU-confinement… in California, as well as, nationwide. The Class Actions that I am aware of are:
– 926 F.2d 800 (9th Cir. 1990) (citing a few of the Toussaint rulings);
– And the unpublished Castillo v. Alameida, et. al. (N.D. Cal. #C94-2487), Settlement (this case was not a ‘Class Action’ but, the terms in the Settlement were incorporated into the CDCr Regs., and applied to all prisoners).
– And, most recently, the Ashker, et. al. v. Governor et. al. (N.D. Cal .#C09-5796CW)…
These cases have resulted in few ‘victories’ for prisoners, and more often than not, prisoncrats have interpreted any favorable rulings/settlements according to their own twisted interpretations, which have resulted in adverse impacts on prisoners! (This is one reason for the prisoner class’ need to be very wary, and pay close attention to the way rulings/settlements are structured – worded).
The reason for the lack of meaningful reform via the legal sytem, is the U.S.Supreme Court’s directive for the lower courts to refrain from ‘micromanging’ prisons… especially when it comes to the ‘orderly operations of prisons, in a safe/secure manner’ which the Court has stated, “must be per discretionary functions of the [prisoncrat] – experts”?! Some examples of the Court’s directives regarding Segregation (Solitary Confinement), are:
Inspite of the hurdles faced by the prisoner class, it’s crucia1 for us to continue to challange prisoncrats’ abuse, and oppression – every step of the way; all of our combined efforts make a difference – they help to check such abuse of power, and we have whittled away at long-term solitary confinement…eventually, it will be eliminated totally…
Although I’ve been in SHU since August 1986, it wasn’t until January 1992 that prisoncrats placed me on [indeterminate – SHU – Status, based on a CDCr ‘gang classification’], prior to 1992, my SHU placement was for determinate terms, after being found guilty of rule violations. In 1992, I immediately challenged this ‘Indefinite SHU Status’ via CDCr’s administrative appeals process…to no avail…
In late July 2003, Danny Troxell, and I, were allowed to double cell, in response to my request for a cellmate to assist me with my daily activities (per. Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), request for reasonable accommodation.… Based on my permanently disabled arm); Danny wanted to learn about the law, and as soon as we celled-up, Danny raised the subject of challenging CDCr policies/practices regarding long-term SHU, and related conditions therein; as well as, the Parole Board’s unwritten ‘No Parole’-policy for those on indefinite SHU status – serving term-to-life sentences. Once we celled up together, we compared notes, and came to recognize that neither of us knew of a single lifer in SHU who had been granted parole … ever since CDCr created their ‘Indefinite SHU – Parole, Snitch, or Die – in SHU’-policy, around 1987….
This subject also came about because, I’d just had my first parole hearing a few days prior to Danny and. I celling up, and the Board had recommended that I “upgrade your education and vocation, and reduce your custody level”; this is the standard recommendation for all SHU prisoners, and exemplifies the Board’s unwritten ‘No Parole Policy for SHU Lifers’ because there were no educational / vocational opportunities in SHU; it also exemplifies the Board’s part in CDCr’s coercive use of SHU to try and force prisoners to become informants for the state, by the fact that the Board knows the only way out of SHU, to get said educational / vocational opportunities, and reduce one’s custody level, was to ‘debrief ‘!!! So, once Danny and I celled up we talked about these issues, and started requesting CDCr / PBSP Administration to provide such to SHU pisoners, and when they refused, we began the process of exhausting the administrative remedies necessary prior to bringing suit in court.
I’m including [to be included] a document with this paper- that contains a summary of 15 cases I’ve been involved in over the past 26 years (which resulted in rulings favorable to prisoners); the first 3 cases are all related – these are the cases Danny and I filed as co-plaintiffs, beginning with the first one filed on May 19, 2004… challenging CDCr’s policies and practices regarding long-term (indefinite SHU) solitary confinement, and related ‘no parole’ for SHU lifers!
The third case was filed on December 9, 2009; this is the case that evolved into the class-action suit via our legal team’s filing of the Second Amended Complaint on September 10, 2012. This case resulted in a favorable Settlement Agreement on August 31, 2015, as more fully detailed in the accompanying docment ref’d above, and which I want to clarify / elaborate on with respect to this civil case’s relationship to our evolving collective resistance – as a growing Prisoners’ Human Rights Movement…
1) EVOLVING RESISTANCE
To be clear – although Danny and I initiated the cases that evolved into our Class Action, it is only through the collective efforts of countless prisoners’ litigation efforts – nationwide, spanning nearly 30 years, that Danny and I were able to write up the claim, and with the aid of our legal team, structure the solidly structured Class Action Claims in our Second Amended Complaint! (the Second Amended Complaint is based on the efforts of our great legal team, with input from the named plaintiffs representing the prisoner class).
Additionally, a big part of what lead to the favorable Settlement Agreement (and of great importance… gaining the assistance and support of the people who became our legal team, and tireless supportive efforts of our countless outside supporters), is directly related to our peaceful activism efforts behind these walls!!
This evolving resistance strategy consisting of the right collective group of similarly situated prisoners all landing in the right place at the right time – talking, and recognizing we needed to include peaceful activism-action(s), in tandem with litiation, is a major factor in our growing success! And, it involves so many dynamics of complexity that it’s not possible for me to touch on every aspect of import, therefore, I’m referring to those that are standouts – from my personal perspective….
Many people have asked me, ‘How was it possible for you prisoners to form your Collective, especially when considering your differences, in a system known for race / geographic area-based divisions / hostilities?’ This is a natural area of interest by social scientists, and people of conscience, interested in societal movements – especially those looking to find solutions to societal problems relating to the working class poor! (How can we bring the people together – collectively – and, with the power such collective unity entails, – create a movement for meaningful change to the status quo:???)…
In February 2006, CDCr/OCS/PBSP/IGI implemented their unwritten gang management policy via moving approximately 200 PBSP-SHU prisoners to the ‘Short Corridor’ (D-Facility SHU, Cell Blocks #s 1 through 4), based on the recommendation of one of their prisoner informant collaborator-pieces of garbage!!!
This move on the part of prisoncrats was intended for the purpose of further isolating the men who CDCr had labelled as ‘Gang Leaders/Influential/Worst-Of-The-Worst-Of-The-Worst’…
All of us were long-term SHU survivors; all of us had been subject to / witnessed countless forms of physical and mental torture at the hands of our oppressors – for decades, and now, we were all placed into the same four cell blocks refered to as “The Short Corridor”!
Danny and I landed in the “Short Corridor” in side-by-side cells [D1-19 and D1-20], on February 6, 2006. In our pod there were 6 other men – all of us in single cells; our age range was between 41 to 63, and we ‘d been serving time in SHU for more than two decades at that time… a few had been serving time in CDCr System,… going back to the 60s! At the time, our pod was made up of two Whites, and six Mexicans; In January 2010, staff moved one of the men across the hallway, to 4-Block (the “Short Corridor” consists of PBSP-SHU, D-facility, Blocks 1, 2, 3, 4), they placed him into a cell covered with lexan plastic plexiglass! This was an informal punitive move based on staff belief that this man – who was the tier tender in our pod – was the instigator for the entire group of tier tenders in l-Block going on strike – thereby forcing the staff to have to clean the tiers, showers, etc., several times a week behind staff refusal to give the extra dinner tray to tier tenders for their ‘volunteer’ services! (When IGI moved me to 4-Block on Sept. 6, 2012, in retaliation for my part in our peaceful activism efforts, and related exposure of CDCr’s state-sanctioned, decades old, torture policies regarding long-term solitary confinement, I was placed into the Lexan cell -next door to this man!!)! When they moved this man out of our pod in January 2010, they brought Sitawa, and his celly Mutope over from 4-Block, and put them into this man’s cell (in January 2010).
As summarized in the preceeding document, all of us had been similarly situated, tortured in CDCr’s SHU Units (Solitary Confinement / Control Units) for a time period of 15-to-25+ years; being in close proximity to one another, able to communicate by speaking over the tier, we did so! This is what human beings’ brains are wired for, building community… And, whenever similarly situated, oppressed people are forced into close proximity to one another, in the situational context / circumstances as we were… it’s not surprizing to have them form a type of ‘symbiotic’ relationship (a symbiotic relationship of an oppressed people).
An example of what I am referring to here is discussed in the book “Captive Nation” by Dan Berger (2014), as follows (to provide some context, the book’s central position is that in America’s prisons, prisoner resistance, and related tactics thereof, are rooted in the “black nationalist (principally New African) politics and multiracial in expression.” (p. 270-271); I can’t say whether this is true, or not?! But I do know that this was not a part of the processes that our collective considered when we came with the idea to use ‘peaceful-protest’ activism tactics, in tandem with litigation, to force an end to long-term solitary confinement – and related improvements to conditions therein!! I’ll qualify this statement by saying that … I’m sure that Sitawa and Mutope were familiar with the history of black nationalist politics and related resistance, action(s), etc., in these -prisons back in the 60s-70s! I’m certain this history did play a big part in their mindset!! I can also say for sure that Danny, Arturo Castellanos, George Franco, and others in our immediate area in one block, were not aware of this history, and it played no conscious role in our thought-processes as we conversed, and made decisions regarding forming of the collective, and related statements!! Also, the book speaks of what the author describes as the evolving nature of the resistance… from one of “freedom through violence” to one of “freedom from violence.” ( p. 270-271).
I only recently read this book by Dan Berger, and it blew my mind in a way because, the history of resistance to oppression/abuse of state power in these prisons goes back a long ways; and, it’s eye opening to read the history in the book, from my own perspective, and being in the mix on the things we accomplished and the means we used to do so – being so similar!! While ours coincides with this history, it’s also interesting to see the way we naturally evolved from what was the view point/tactical method of seeking change via – “freedom through violence” to that of “freedom from violence” using peaceful non-violent action….
Here’s the quote from Berger’s book I was referring to above:
“Prison protest stages a critical debate between what is and what could be. Poet and anti-prison activist Emily Abendroth describes this debate as “The anticipated commons versus the currently inhabited one.” As gestated in campaigns against imprisnment, freedom from violence begins from shared experiences of abuse, alienation, criminalization, disenfranchisement, and marginalization – that is, from the common experiences of violence, even if one’s proximity to violence differs as a result of social status. From and against this currently inhabited commons emerges the anticipated one, the aspirational vision of life and safety governed by commonly held institutions, practices, and values in tine affirmative rather than by the common exposure to violence. This aspired-to commons is one of collective safety and abundance. It is, in Abendroth’s words, a “frictive gasp for air” that serves as “a critical co-movement” of opposition to state violence.” (p. 271)
Additionally, I want to point out some critical areas relevant to our evolving resistance against our mutual adversaries in this ongoing struggle for human rights and dignity…
Importantly, our struggle has evolved from one nearly exclusively reliant upon the use of the legal process – mostly as individuals – to one incorporating a three pronged, collectively unified, process, via the use of (a) litigation (b) peaceful activism/action (c) legislation.
Between 1985 and 2011, the prisoner class in California was going through a gestational period wherein we were subject to common experiences of violence in these solitary confinement – control units – designed to break us by destroying our sense of human connectivity via dehumanization, and related ‘social death’ systematically applied by prisoncrats as part of the endless, intentional regimen of torture that is our collective existence – for DECADES!!!
It is through this shared experience that we were able to collectively unite for the common good of the similarly situated prisoner class… our shared experience, over the course of many decades, was our gestational period – the catalyst of our collective consciousness, coalescing with the recognition that we needed to stand up to our oppressors, and say “NO MORE”!!! And mean it… Because it is only through a united collective of similarly situated people that we can force positive changes – benefical to all –
At the beginning of our decision to incorporate peaceful nonviolent action into our struggle (in early 2011), we didn’t know what the outcome of our peaceful action would be; but, we were all in agreement that we had to do something – we had to take the initiative for forcing long-overdue changes to occur..… Prior to our first Hunger Strike action in July 2011, I had mentioned to Danny (and subsequently to the rest of the collective in our area), that the reason we were unable to gain any attorney’s interest in our law suit was because, from the perspective of people outside these walls, it must appear as though we had all pretty much accepted our lot in life here!?! The reason I said this was because, while many of us had been challenging our conditions / long-term solitary confinement in the courts for two decades, we had not really gotten much, and it must appear to outsiders like we had no complaints about our circumstances.…
This came to my mind while reading the book by Denis O’Hearn, “Nothing But An Unfinished Song” regading Bobby Sands, and the Irish struggle; one thing I got from reading this was the fact that Bobby and the men with him, refused to sit back and accept their lot! They knew better than to believe they could just sit back and expect things to get better, on there own acount; nor were people on the outside going to make positive changes happen for them.… (Bobby believed that each moment was an opportunity for making something positive happen, and according to what I also picked up on from the book – bobby was farsighted in the sense that he recognized early on, that the political prisoners’ struggle inside was critical to the entire IRA movement… and, he was correct because prior to their hunger strike actions in 1980-’81, the movement had lost a lot of steam and support; the hunger strikes got the world’s attention, and breathed new life into the movement!!)
In my March 30, 2015 article titled, “Moving Forward With Our Fight To End Solitary Confine-ment,” I go into some detail about subjects related to our struggle, and evolving resistance; including several references, and quotes from books I’ve read that helped expand my conscious awareness of what prisoncrats have been systematically doing to the prisoner class – for the past 50 years, and this article is included on this site.
This article includes a summary on subjects regarding social psychologists recommending prisoncrats employ Chinese mind-control techniques from the Korean War (used to break P.O.W’s), as a method to ‘rehabilitate’ prisoners – especially those prisoners deemed ‘control problems’!!
Out of these 1960s-era recommendations, the U.S.A. Control Unit Prison was born; from what I’ve read, the first of these was created at the federal prison at Marion, IL., in the 1970s, wherein priso-ners deemed ‘dissidents/non-cooperative/tending to challenge the status quo’ were rounded up from around the federal system, and placed in the new Control Unit – wherein their treatment amounted to a form of torture, and after a spell, via litigation some of the tactics were halted… notably, to this day, the federal system has some of the most barbaric -torturous policies/practices in the nation when it comes to the use and human rights abuses – going on in what have become refined, modern day dugeons of torture – called ‘Control Units’! The one opened in 1994, known as Florence ADX, is also referred to as “The Alcatraz of the Rockies” (interestingly, ‘Alcatraz’ is Spanish for ‘Pelican’ and California’s Control Unit, opened in December 1989, is located in the most isolated part of the northernmost corner of the state, and. called “Pelican Bay State Prison”); the article also mentions social scientists / psycholoigsts refinement of related techniques, employed by prisoncrats to break prisoners – such as the constant subjection of prisoners to ‘dehumanization’ and ‘social death.’
All tactics employed by prisoncrats, especially those employed in ‘Control Units,’ are intended to totally break the spirit and the sense of human connectedness in these prisoners! The intent is the opposite of ‘rehabilitation’ of a fellow citizen, for the purpose of helping him / her be able to better themselves, and remain free of prison once they parole; the intent is one of warehousing – torturous treatment and conditions, promoting violence amongst the prisoner class, and ensuring a high recidivism rate… thereby guaranteeing the continued growth of the Prison Industrial Complex! (The article also briefly touthes upon the subject of ‘class war’).
It’s all about maximum ‘Control,’ and related complacency of the prisoner class subject to the proressive oppression and escalating abuse – from my perspective, many prisoners in the California [prison] system, including those in ‘Control Units,’ had become very complacent! Prisoncrats have their ‘ behavioral control/manipulation’ process down to a refined science… from the first entry into the system, they are stripped of their sense of individual identities, literally – via stripping their personal clothes from them, and giving them prison-issued clothing, and figuratively – via, replacing their name with a prison I.D. number! Any prisoner who refuses to bow down, and instead seeks to maintain a sense of personal dignity – demanding the respect all human beings are entitled to – holding one’s head high, and looking prisoncrats in their eye – is targeted to be broken…
From my experience, prisoncrats operate the California system of state-sanctioned torture – especially in, but not limited to, the ‘control unit’ SHU/Ad-Segs [administrative segregation] with intentional cruelty; it was all about a slow, progressive, process of increased punitively oppressive actions on the part of prisoncrats… over the course of a 30-year time period! And, prisoners’ complacency was come about naturally, in direct response to these intentional oppressive conditions – wherein prisoncrats instill a belief amongst prisoners, and their outside loved ones, that they are completely powerless, and, if they complain or challege prisoncrats, things will get worse!!! (don’t rock the boat). This is what occurs when one’s oppressors have total control of every aspect of one’s life (inside / outside the prison environment).
This is what occured in California’s SHU [Total Control Units], over the course of 25 years; and subjecting prisoners and our outside loved ones to ‘social death’ is a part of this process of instilling complacency [apathy], thereby effectively inhibiting one’s spirit of effective oppositional resistance to progressive oppression…
“Social Death” is the effect of a social practice in which a person or group of people is excluded, dominated, or humiliated to the point of becoming dead to the rest of society. Although such people are physically alive, their lives no longer bear a social meaning; they no longer count as lives that matter. The social dead may speak, act, compose symphonies, or find a cure for cancer, but their words and deeds remain of no account…
“…It takes a whole network of interconnected obligations, both in the present and extending into the past and future, to create and sustain social personhood, and it takes a whole network of exclusions, interruptions, and violations, not only against individuals but against the social and temporal horizons of their lives, to destroy that personhood.” (Guenther (2013), Solitary Confinement)
I mention the above points in order to provide some sense of context to my view on our evolving resistance, and, related – evolving collective consciousness – we collectively united in our 2011 decision to replace ‘apathy’ with ‘actions’, recognizing that if we wanted things to change, we needed to stand up and take responsibility for doing our active part in making / forcing change to happen!! I BELIEVE THIS DECISION ON OUR PART, AS A UNITED COLLECTIVE, WAS A MAJOR – POSITIVE TURNING POINT IN OUR STRUGGLE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND DIGNITY!!!
Additionally, a major factor in play has been the incorporation of peaceful activism – action, in the form of our hunger strikes/work stoppages, at a time when such actions had the potential for being most effective! At the time, we had no idea of the effectiveness of using such tactics, in tandem with the litigation; but, based on the way we put everything together, including the outside support networks across the nation, and globally (via outside friends who are long-time civil rights/human rights activists, who were already plugged in to a global network of like-minded people), as well as, (at least from my perspective) structuring things similarly to the way Bobby Sands, and the men with him did in 1980-1981 (e.g., 5 reasonable demands, and a commitment to die for the cause if absolutely necessary!!), based on these points we felt our position was fairly strong! And, the bottom line was, we had had enough!!
There’s no doubt in my mind, that our coming together as a collective – inside the PBSP Short Corridor, and spreading from there across the state system, is what has enabled us to make the positive progress we have achieved to date! Our unified commitment to our cause, going without food for a total of 98 days; willing to die if necessary to force an end to decades of unending torture; our outside groups of fully committed supporters – rallying to our cause out of love and. the recognition that we were committed to this movement, collectively – across racial/geographic lines… standing up, demanding to be recognized as human beings – doing our part to lead this struggle – from behind these walls – this is what has grabbed the worlds attention… and, our collective efforts of peaceful resistance action from inside these walls is what has gotten us this far! Without our combined efforts, the civil suit would have never been picked up by any attorneys! (Danny and I had sent more than 100 letters to various attorneys and received no assistance at all!!); and, it’s from the combination of our united collective efforts inside and outside, that have kept the subject in people’s minds. The global condemnation has been a big factor in forcing prisancrats to change policies/practices… all efforts combined are what led CDCr / Governor Brown to settle the class action suit!!
The point I am trying to make very clear to all concerned/involved, etc. y is that the prisoner class is responsible for our victories to date, and from here on out we are the ones who have the responsibility for taking our victories to the next level… if apathy returns – we will lose much of what we’ve gained to date, and lose out on our ability to achieve much more in the way of meaningful reforms/changes beneficial to all concerned!!!
2) On The Subject of Prisoncrats’ Propagandist – Villification Dehumanization Tactics
Over the course of these past 10 years or so, I’ve gotten what I hope is a clearer understanding about the purpose/intent of our penal systen, especially when it comes to the SHU / Admin.Seg. Units (‘Control Units’), at least from the perspective of a California prisoner…
California’s Control Units are all about torturing prisoners relentlessly, to the point of totally breaking them – mentally, physically, spiritually – completely severing their sense of human beingness; coercing them to become informants for the state; going. seriously insane; and/or becoming ”The-Worst-of-the-Worst”-type of subhuman that the prisoncrats propagate the SHU prisoner as being, in order to have the public deem these prisoners as the dehumanized enemy – unredeemable – and thereby, enabling prisoncrats to torture and abuse them with impunity! As well as, use them for their own agenda(s) (e.g., expansion of the prison industrial complex, especially the ‘Control Unit Prisons’)…
Such diabolical state-sanctioned policies and practices may seem far fetched to the uninformed but the fact is, these ‘Control Units’ are intentionally designed to break people via refined torture, and/or, ‘behavior modification’ techniques! These techniques are solely for the purpose of destroying the prisoner’s sense of human worth and dignity; making the prisoner into a ghost of a being; one who is totally compliant, even in the face of extreme abuse!!!
In my article from March 30, 2015, I go into some detail about these subjects, and this article is included on this site, so I won’t reiterate them here. (I hope people who have not done so already will take the time to read and think about the points in this article!)
The purpose of this section of this ‘Addendum’ is to more fully refute some of the propogandist villifiations spewed to the public (by prisoncrats), in order to try and turn the public attention away from their focus on the issue(s) regarding California operating a decades-old policy of state-sanctioned torture of thousands of state prisoners.…
To give this subject a bit of context…When we announced our intent to peacefully protest our decades of state-sanctioned torture, via indefinite hunger strike in June 2011, prisoncrats (at least those at Pelican Bay SHU), were making a joke about it… loud talking in front of people’s visitors along the lines of, “It won’t last more than a few days,” and, “There’s no way these prisoners unite to accomplish anything.” After decades of ‘apathy’ on the part of the prisoner class, prisoncrats had no respect, believing the prisoner class was completely broken as far as being able to coordinate any type of effective resistance/challenge to their abusive-torturous treatment and conditions! (and, most people outside of the prison had no clue about what had really been going on – most prisoners subject to such conditions don’t want to even mention it to their loved one’s/friends! They naturally don’t want them to worry…!!!).
An example of this lack of respect is demonstrated by these quotes from CDCr’s spokesperson Terry Thornton, taken from the article in the local newspaper dated June 30, 2011:
“Inmates refusing to eat for various reasons is not typically unusual,” “In our experience, organized mass hunger strikes don’t last very long…The last group hunger strike at Pelican Bay was in 2002; it involved 65 SHU inmates,” she said. “By the end of the first day, about a third of them were eating again and the rest followed suit within five days. I don’t know that it’s effective.… Individuals who are driving this are validated gang members who have no interest in walking away from their criminal lifetyle.” (The Daily Triplicate, p.1, 3 [http://www.triplicate.com/News/Local-News/Pelican-Bay-hunger-strike-in-the-offing]) .
Initially, Thornton propagated that “less than two dozen PBSP-SHU prisoners were participating; by July 11, 2011 it came out in public that over that first weekend, “…6,600 inmates at 13 prisons who refused meals during the peak of the strike over that weekend,” Thornton said. (The Daily Triplicate, pp. 1 3, dated 7/11/11 [http://www.triplicate.com/News/Local-News/Hunger-strike-continues-at-Pelican-Bay]).
This initial strike lasted 20 days, and was followed by another 18-day strike in Sept./Oct. 2011 involving more than 12,000 prisoners at its peak. Prisoncrats were no longer joking about our collective action, nor our resolve to remain serious, and fully committed to our cause!!!
Ou third action kicked off on July 8, 2013, and at its peak, involved more than 30,000, on hunger strike, and/or work stoppage… most of whom refused meals as a show of solidarity with our cause… Global attention, and condemnation exploded!!!
California prisoncrats (in addition to Governor Brown) were feeling the heat from exposure as
the evil torturers of thousands of prisoners (for decades); thus, it was all about going into full propoganda / villification-mode via the mainstream media… The prime example of this is CDCr Secretary Jeffrey Beard’s Op. Ed. in the August 6, 2013 Los Angeles Times, titled, “Hunger Strike in California Prisons Is A Gang Power Play.” [http://articles.latimes.com/2013/aug/06/opinion/la-oe-beard-prison-hunger-strike-20130806] Wherein Beard makes several claims intended to villify the prisoners’ protest action – in general – and especially the four principle prisoner representatives; these, and other related claims, were intended to villify the growing – global – public support, and condemnation of solitary confinement torture policies in this nation! These are typical dehumanization tactics employed by policestate facists, in order to be able to continue their oppression of the working class poor, with impunity!!! Here’s a standout example of Beard’s propoganda:
“…violent prison gangs, which called the strike in an attempt to restore their ablity to terrorize fellow prisoners, prison staff and connunities throughout California.”
“… For decades, California has had the most violent and sophisticated prison gangs in the nation. When gang violence exploded during the 70s and 80s, crime rates around the state rose to record highs, state prisons felt the impact. Between 1970 and 1973, 11 employees of the CDCR were slain by inmates, and many others were brutally assaulted.”
“In the nineteen months following the January 13th (1970) incident, at least 40 persons were killed as a result of events and circumstances in the California prison system. The casualties between January 1970 and August 1971 included seven guards, two prison staff members, and Judge Haley, with 23 prisoners charged in those deaths. No guard or staff member was ever charged with the deaths of the 24 prisoners killed in that same time span….”
(What Beard failed to include in his propogandist spiel, was the fact that at this very volatile time in the system, guards were murdering prisoners left and right, prisoners were simply responding in kind, at a time when no one else was even bothering to care what prisoncrats did to prisoners!!!)
A personal example of prisoncrats’ (and their collaborators) propagandist villification of me, is demonstrated below:
(A) The mainstream media contacted the court-appointed attorney (Philip Cozens, of Sacramento, CA), assigned to represent me in the 1990 murder trial – wherein CDCr accused me of first degree murder in the death of fellow Folsom prisoner (Murphy, in 1987, in the New Folsom SHU Unit; as summarized in more detail below).
Court-appointed attorney Cozens entered the case around January 1989, when I fired his predecessor; I was representing myself on this case, and Cozens was appointed as my assistant. At the time I didn’t know that he had been a former prosecutor who had little to no experience in murder case defense; his mainstay it turned out was representing, and obtaining acquittals for sex offenders….
Prior to trial in 1990, I conducted a 4-to-6 week evidentiary hearing regarding New Folsom staff’s interference with my ability to prepare for trial, etc., and the Judge denied my request for a trial continuance; thereby, I believed I had no option other to have Attorney Cozens take over, and handle the trial. Towards the end of the trial, Cozens was stabbed four times by one of my prisoner witnesses. Cozens secretly blamed me for this, and has harbored animosities against me ever since! He told the media (in 2013, more than 23 years after the incident), that I was “a wolf in sheep clothing”; and, that I was the one who had the other inmate assault him for the purpose of obtaining a mistrial, and that inspite of this, he obtained a victory with the second-degreemurder conviction(even though he claimed I was guilty of first-degree premeditated murder)…
These tails on Cozens’ part are totally false! I had nothing at all to do with the assault! I had no reason to try and provoke a mistrial, and it was Cozens who told me a few days after his release from the hospital, that he believed it was critical for me to have him file the motion for mistrial!! Prior to this, during a hearing over the issue, two days after the incdent, while standing next to Cozens in court, I told the Judge that “I had nothing to do with the assault, I was very happy with the way the case was going and I was glad, he didn’t suffer any life threatening injuries”!!!
On the day of the assault, I was on the witness stand all day!! I And, had no contact at all with the prisoner who assaulted him… At approximatey 3pm we took a break, I remained on the witness stand, and without saying a word to me, Cozens went down to the holding cells to tell the prisoners there to testify, that they would not be testifying that day. That’s when the assault occured. The man who did it subsequently did a declaration under penalty of perjury, stating he’d planned to try and stab the Prosecutor that day because he had felt insulted by comments the Prosecutor had made about him; but, when Cozens told him he wasn’t going to be called to testify, and further appeared to be trying to talk him out of testifying, telling him that he didn’t think it wise, based on his prior experience as a prosecutor, well, he didn’t ‘like anything that Cozens was saying so he stabbed him since he wasn’t going to be able to get the Prosecutor… (This prisoner knew his spur-of-the-moment act probly caused me to be convicted of second-degree murder, and thus, his way of trying to make a small amount of amends was to plead guilty to the assault in exchange for a life without parole sentence, and for the two of us to be given pizzas, sodas, and donuts).
Cozens never told the Judge that he actually believed that I was behind the assault on him; he told the court that after the assault, while in the hospital, CDCr gang investigators, and Sacramento County detectives had spoken to him, informing him that they were investigating me as possibly being involved. They further told him that there was probly a gang hit out on him and there were more than two hundred gang affiliates on the streets right then who could do it. (all 100% B.S. intended to scare, and prejudice Cozens against me, and it worked!).
In his motion for mistrial, Cozens stated, “If defense counsel has even the slightest belief that the defendant had anything to do with the attempt on his life, he’d have every incentive for getting defendant convicted of the maximum penalty!” The Judge never asked him what he actually believed, and ordered him to continue to represent me (at the same time, Cozens is allowed to carry a concealed gun, and has a body guard for the remainder of trial)…
The judge tells the jury that I had nothing at all to do with the assault on Cozens; while at the sane time, having me sitting approximately ten feet away from Cozens, in the front of defense table, practically in the middle of the room, on open display, fully shackled hand and foot, with approximately 6 Sheriffs and CDCr guards standing around me… Plus, I’m no longer allowed to wear the personal clothes Cozens had gotten for me, instead, I was forced to wear jail khakis.… this is the picture the jury has of me, without comment from Cozens, for the rest of the trial!!! This was inspite of the fact that pretrial, we had a hearing in which theJudge acknowledged the serious prejudice visible restraints have on juries, etc., and had things set up so that the jury was not able to see my ankle restraints, and my arms were free, while seated right next to Cozens, wearing personal street clothes….
I found out years later that Cozens believed I was the one responsible for the assault, and had even named me as a defendant in a civil suit (which his attorneys ended dismissing- prior to my being served!).
Cozens has a subsequent prior for lying to the Courts when he is seeking to have his client convicted! Included with this document is a copy of a court case out of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, spelling out another case of Cozens doing this. (United States v. Dexter Moore, 159 F.3d 1154 (9th Cir. 1998)).
(B) A related theme is the collaborating-propogandist-villification(s) by the mainstream media, in support of the Prison-Industrial Complex – decades long, state-sanctioned torture of thousands of prisoners (and, outside loved ones – the prisoner class in general!)! An example follows:
In my ‘Summary,’ I provide a brief summary of the incident some guards here at PBSP-SHU had set in motion (intentionally opening my cell door while another prisoner whom the guard in the control booth had documented that he had allegedly overheard this other prisoner threatening me – 2 days prior – this other prisoner and I then engaged in a mutual fist fight, and the control booth guard then shot me from close range with his high power assault rifle – H&K 9mm – causing permanent serious – disabling – damage to my right forearm,wrist, hand… This was a retaliatory act in response to my legal challenges to prison conditions!!!)
In 1991, I filed a federal civil suit, challenging this illegal shooting and related lack of medical care thereafter (this case is summarized in the accompanying ‘Summary of Cases’). In late 1992, my cell mate paroled, and he tried to get some media attention about this shooting and medical care issue for me. I believed that if I could get the media’s attention, it might help get the attenton of an attorney, who could assist me on my civil suit…
Around mid-May 1993, I was called out of my cell to the custody office, and was told that ‘60 Minutes‘ was interested in interviewing me, and I agreed to do so; the only reason I agreed to be interviewed was for the purpose of getting an attorney interested in my civil suit!!! And, in May, or so, of 1993, I had an interview with 60 Minutes‘ Mike Wallace…Immediately prior to the interview, Wallace comes out to the holding cell where I’m at, and he tells me that they “had heard about the shooting incident, and wanted to talk to me about it.”
The interview lasted about an hour! Wallace began by asking me if I had committed serious rule violations in prison (assaulted any prisoners, staff )? I replied, “I’ve been charged with multiple assaults on staf, prisoners, and numerous weapons violations.” Wallace replied, “All of it true right?” I said, “NO! In this prison system, staff control all that gets documented, some of it is true, some of it is not!!!”
We then talked in some detail about the shooting incident and related lack of medical care, as well as describing the abuse of power we were all subject to here – including the issue of being placed into solitary confinement-indefinitely-based-on-status rather than behavior!! I had a manilla envelope full of documents in support of all I was telling him, and when I tried to hand it to him, the Warden, who was standing off to the side, out of cameraview with several other adminstrators, told me “NO you may not hand him anything!” At the very end of the interview, Wallace asked me “How much time I was doing?” And I replied that I was serving 21-to-life, after being convicted for stabbing another prisoner multiple times, while I was defending myself…
On December 12, 1993, the 60 Minutes aired a segment called “PELICAN BAY” (it was aired again on 1/15/95).; in this segment, there are three or four PBSP-SHU prisoners, each of whom is shown talking about the serious abuses they had been subjected to in the SHU here…The part I am shown on is heavily edited from what actually occured, as follows…
The segment shows me from afar, in the holding cell with Wallace in front of it, and a voice over says, “Meet Todd Ashker, who CDC officials allege is a member of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang.” Then, it cuts toWallace and I sitting face to face, Wallace asks me if I’ve had rule violations? And, it has me responding, “I’ve got numerous assaults on staff, prisoners, and weapons-violations. I’m doing 21-to-life for stabbing another prisoner multiple times while defending myself.” That’s it! 60 Minutes edited my interview in a way intentionally for the purpose of portraying me as an idiot whom PBSP-SHU was designed for!!!
After I saw this interview, I wrote to 60 Minutes, and asked them for a copy of the unedited version of the interview??? They never responded!!! Anyone with half a brain, who knows what was going on in PBSP-SHU (and with me) at the time, would recognize what 60 Minutes did! The entire segment was featuring men who were talking about the serious abuses they’d been subjected to here in the SHU! I had been set-up (shot, permanently disabled, denied medical care, etc., for more than three years at the time of the interview, and there is not a mention by me of any of this???). This is typical for the mainstream media to to do to prisoners… the mainstream media is part of the problem in this nation regarding prisoncrats’ dehumanization of prisoners – the ‘social death’ of prisoners!!!
Notably, one of CDCr’s collaborators posted this 60 Minutes segment from 1993 on YouTube, at the start of this year!?! The sole purpose being to try and damage my credibility as a principle representative of the similarly situated prisoner class! (one of the prisoners who has been instrumental in exposing prisoncrats’ state-sanctioned torture policies/practices – going on with impunity – for decades!!!)
3) On The Subject of Moving forward With Our Struggle
Speaking for myself, these past 5+years have been a positive learning process… And, with that said, I have to say that the book my good friend Denis O’Hearn wrote (Nothing But An Unfinished Song), has had a major influence on my growing consciousness regarding the power of collective-peaceful activism! There have been other influences as well, which I’vementioned previously in the accompanying ‘Summary’ as well as my article from March 2015… I will mention some of them below anyhow; but for now, I will mention this…
Over the course of the past 5+ years, the similarly situated prisoner class has made some very positive strides in our quest for achieving major changes to this broken system!!! There is still a lot to do, and I’ll touch on a few things I believe are important, and achievable…
First, I want to point out that by mid-2011, as we were forming the collective, and planning our first peaceful hunger strike action, the men I was talking with were in general agreement about the following:
– We’d be doing good, if we were to gain the participation of at least 50 men in the Short Corridor (men committed to remaining on hunger strike indefinitely – to the death if necessary)
– Many of us doubted we would ever gain our own release from SHU (Solitary Confinement)
– We hoped to be able to force some major changes; including, limiting the ability of prisoncrats to place youngsters coming into the system in SHU indefinitely – based on a CDCr gang classification. And, better conditions in the SHU, in general.
As with any collective movement for major social related changes, perspectives, goals, and the belief in what is possible, evolves over time, depending on the way things unfold!!!
Since we began this movement (Prisoner Class Human Rights Movement) we’ve achieved much more than many of us expected, and gained a lot of ground in our struggle for ending the culture of ‘dehumanization’ / ‘social death’ that has been the way of things in these prisons – especially in these ‘Control Units’! And, for anyone who is really familiar with the numerous dynamics, and truly oppressive, adverse, circumstances that we are dealing with in this progressive struggle – our progress to date is even more amazing!!!
Second, the following are some of the areas that I believe require our focus and attention on as we move forward:
* Long Term SHU (Solitary Confinement-Torture) remains a problem. Our recent Settlement Agreement (Ashker, et.al. v. Governor, et.al.), is a major victory in many ways, including, ending Indefinite SHU based on a gang validation; and, progress in our efforts to have the prisoncrats see and treat us as human beings (regarding Dehumanization-Social Death issue(s)!!!)
Prisoncrats can still place/retain prisoners in the SHU, subject to Indefinite Administrative SHU confinement (for ‘limited’ number of reasons: > overwhelming evidence one is an immediate threat to the safety/security of staff, prisoners, etc., if allowed into the General Population > three or more SHU-able offenses within a five year period). These are still open for prisoncrats abuse!!
Also, the SHU Terms (per CDCr Matrix) for rule violations are still too long!!!
We obtained as much as we could in our Class Action Suit… again, more than expected considering all of the relevant factors involved!!! It is possible to chieve more through collective efforts…
Points in support of the position that CDCr continues to over-use solitary confinement, and confines people in such conditions for too long are the following examples:
* The United Nations recently passed major revisions to the U.N. Standard Minimum Treatment of Prisoners (aka the ‘Mandela Rules’ after Nelson Mandela).
These rules (SMR’s) are the leading international body of principles on the treatment of prisoners, originally drafted in 1955, and badly in need of updating. One of the most significant revisions is the addition of restrictions on solitary confinement – a subject on which the original SMR’s were silent. The ‘Mandela Rules’ provide that solitary confinement “shall be used only in exceptional cases as a last resort for as short a time as possible and subjected to independent review.” Indefinite solitary confinement and prolonged solitary confinement – defined as more than 15 days – are prohibited. Solitary confinement is also prohibited in the case of persons with mental or physical disabilities when their condition would bet exacerbated by such confinement.
Although the rules represent a powerful global consensus on minimum standards of the treatment of prisoners, they are not binding on governments or directly enforceable in court.
But it would be wrong to think that the Mandela Rules are irrelevant to prisoners in the U.S. First, both federal and state courts are increasingly looking to international standards to inform their decisions, and the U.S. Supreme Court and. lower federal courts have cited the SMR’s.
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 n.8 (1976) (medical care);
Metropolitan Government of Nashville, 709 F.3d 563, 572-73 (6th Cir. 2013) (use of rstraints); Thomas v. Baca, 514 F.supp.2d 1201, 1218 (C.D. Cal. 2007)(floor sleeping).
Second, the U.S. government is a strong proponent of the ‘Mandela Rules’. The U.S. goverment supported adopting the rules and naming them in honor of Mandela, whom it called “one of the greatest defenders of human rights and dignity in recent history.” And it appears committed to raising awareness of the Rules among both corrections administrators and the public at large. The U.S. delegation in Vienna included corrections directors from two states (Colorado and Washington), and in July 2015 the State Dept. organized a public event to commemorate Mandela Prisoner Rights Day….
* Recently, President Obama and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Kennedy both made public statements which basically condemn the overuse/abuse of solitary confirment in this country!!!
* I will also add a point here that I’ve been raising for a while now! The fact that long term solitary confinement (TORTURE) is a decades-old, state-sanctioned policy, is due to our state law makers enabling, and thus supporting it!!! And, the failure of ‘The People’ to hold them acountable!?! Most recenty, the legislature killed a bill that would have abolished the placement of juveniles into solitary confinement…??? (Notable is the contrasting fact that approximately one year ago, New York did in fact abolish it!!!)
* The Use/Abuse of Confidential Informant Allegations – Remains A Big Problem. Prisoncrats in this state rely heavily on ‘Confidential Informants” allegations about other prisoners, to justify placing/retaining prisoners accused of wrongdoing by said informants – into Administrative Segregation / SHU for lengthy periods of time… Often, these informant allegations are not supported by anything other than the informants’ allegatons!!!
We have tried several times to get the legislature to enact an amendment to the 2011 amendment to Cal. Penal Code section 1111.5 (this penal code section places minimal protections against jailhouse informants’ allegations, in the criminal prosecution arena); these law makers have not been receptive – to date – we should continue to push them for this….
* The Lack of Meaningful Programs on Level IV G.P.’s Remains a Big Problem.
There needs to be a coordinated, concerted effort to force prisoncrats to open up these Level IV General Populations, and provide real programs beneficial to the prisoner class!!! For the past several decades Level IV’s have been nothing but warenouses for tens of thousands of prisoners; locking prisoners up in small cells, without any type of real, meaningful programming opportunities, is at least partially responsible for the high level of violence, and recidivism rates in these facilities…
Prisoncrats’ policies and practices regarding warehousing large numbers of prisoners in these Level IV’s is contrary to public safety issues!!!
There needs to be meaningful programs regarding educational / vocational trades; institutional jobs; and many more leisure activities… And, much more opportunities for maintaining ties with the prisoners’ outside family, friends, and community. Especially a substantial increase in the number of visiting days, and conjugal visits – returning conjugal visits to those serving life sentences!!!
Additionally, there needs to be a strong push for prisoncrats to end the practice of subjecting the prisoner class to what’s clearly a long-standing culture of dehumanizing-social death! We need to continue to do all we can to humanize the prisoner class!!! Prisoners, and our outside loved ones, are part of this society; and, the principles of our evolving society are inclusive of the belief that people are redeemable!!! Instead of demonizing prisoners, and their loved ones, portraying them as the enemy, outsiders, worst of the worst…We need to view them as fellow citizens who made mistakes, and are redeemable, doing what we can to help to make them better during their incarceration, rather than worse!!! This is doable, as shown by polices/practices in place in other countries!!!
* Continue To Promote Agreement To End Race Based Hostilities / Peaceful activism.
I believe our evolving resistance to fascist oppression in these prisons, especially over the course of the past five years, has made a lot of positive progress… PBSP-SHU has been the site of a collective transfomation…
From my perspective, what we have accomplished to date – as the ‘Short Corridor Collective’ (now evolved to the ‘Prisoner Human Rights Movement‘), has been through our collective effort inside/outside these walls, using a lot of the principle(s)/theories behind the armed struggles of the
world’ s national liberation/anti-colonial struggles… Indeed, our process of educating people about ‘Control Unit’ Torture, and related ‘leading by example’ to force change via the use of ‘peaceful direct action’ in form of hunger strikes / work stoppages, can be seen as an American foco. Most often associated with Che Guevara and the Cuban revolution, the foco theory held that a small, discplined, and ideologically committed group could inspire the masses to action through exemplary actions…
I personally learned a lot from the book Denis O’Hearn wrote about Bobby Sands (Nothing But An Unfinished Song), and sought to put many of the points therein, into practice during the planning stages, and during our hunger strike actions…
What stands out in my mind, and what I view as a positive point in our evolving resistance – is the expansion of our collective consciousness – as a prisoner class; not only in the way we united across racial / geographic lines for the collective benefit of all similarly situated people (those people making up the prisoner class inside/outside these walls). But equally important is our conscious decision to chose the course of collective – nonviolent – peaceful direct action – beginning from inside this dungeon – our exemplary actions rallying thousands to join our cause in solidarity, around the globe!!!
We chose a course based on the principle discussed in Dan Berger’s book Captive Nation, at pp. 270-271; these principles are based on forcing change via peaceful action – demanding “Freedom From Violence”!!! A few Quotes from this section of the book follow:
“… For its victims, freedom with violence is a bleak and enveloping experience that has at times captured the imagination of subjugated populations. It has fostered an idea that oppressed people might achieve freedom through violence. Some have taken the ubiquity of violence to mean that violence itself can be redemptive, cathartic. Anticolonial thinker, fighter, and psychiatrist Franz Fanon famously suggested the idea that violence not only could eradicate colonization but was necessary to cleanse the colonized world of the disempowerment naturalized by foreign rule. A generationof guerrilla fighters believed that their actions would be transformative in this manner; violent struggle had a metphysical imperative…
Practitioners of freedom through violence have described their efforts as attempting to interrupt the greater violence of state-enforced invisibility and abuse. (Dehumanization and Social Death). As an insurgent philosophy, such violence has always paled in comparison to that of the state. [e.g., the state’s response to Attica ‘s prisoner class ‘uprising’ in 1971!!!] The ability of the oppressed to exact the kind of retributive violence such a freedom dream mandates has been limited to small-scale expressions. Its violence has always been more performative, rhetorical, and even philosophical than it has been physical.
As freedom with violence has become more all-encompassing, some anti-statists of the left and right still hold out hope that freedom might yet be experienced through violence. Yet, precisely because its physicality cannot compete with that of the state, attempts to enact this kind of freedom have been easily countered by the larger system of freedom with violence. Freedom with violence anticpates, requires, and incorporates such violent irruptions as part of justifying its own monopoly on force and rationality. Freedom with violence finds its legitimacy in the (real or imagined) outbursts of its subjects. Each violent act by the oppressed is characterized as further need for the violent, excessive, and increasingly preemptive protection of the state.
Against and beyond these options is is another constellation of freedom: freedom from violence. The back freedom struggle, from the plantation to the prison and beyond, has been rooted in this notion of freedom…
… Freedom from violence is the freedom of mobility and thought, the freedom of bodily integrity and communal action, the freedom of creativity and communication. It is counterfactual freedom, because it is forged in conflict with opponents far more powerful and violent, because it is found in furtive spaces of struggle, because it is both a process and a destination.
Freedom from violence is the freedom dream of prison radicalism. In her poem, “Affirmation,”former Black Liberation Army political prisoner turned exile in Cuba Assata Shakur summarizes this freedom as a belief in living…
A belief in living as a collective goal united prisoner rebellions throughout the country, animated defense campaigns for political prisoners, and led prisoners to conduct study groups and start their own media. It inspired them to keep reaching beyond the confines of the prison. [re. ’60s-70s].
Freedom from violence is an active, enacted set of practices. In challenging the diverse sources and structures of violence, this freedom strives for unity across difference. Prison organizing in the 21st century has made central the question of freedom from violence. It is the reason that many prisoners’ rebellions since the 70s – including the labor and hunger strikes that transpired in dozens of prisons around the U.S. between 2010 an 2013 – have been rooted in black nationalism (principally New African) politics and multi-racial in expression [this is Berger’s opinion, not mine! I don’t know enough about the subject to form an expert opinion; but, I do know this was not in my mind when we were putting things together!!!].
Prison protest stages a critical debate between what is and what could be.”
[See above for the rest of the quote.].
In conclusion to this Addendum… It’s my hope that the Prisoner Human Rights Movement [being composed of similarly situated members of the ‘prisoner class,’ a microcosm of the working class poor, will continue to grow and, ideally, become a type of catalyst for a much needed unified movement for achieving real change in this nation for the working class poor in general…. As occured as a result of the actions by political prisoners Bobby Sands, and Nelson Mandela.
Additionally, I am hoping that the collective resistance evolving from our common experience of the torturous treatment and related conditions within these Control Units during the past three+ decades, will continue to grow across this state, and we will stand strong in our resolve to force those in power to recognize us as human beings – entitled to dignity and respect as such.
We are responsible for what is, is not acceptable in these prisons; its our responsibility to continue to be active in our resistance to the ever present abuse of power we are subject to in these prisons, by staying true to our stance back in 2011! We said “NO MORE,” and our exemplary actions from within these walls are what grabbed the world’s attention… We have demonstrated the power of unified collective action – and, it is my hope that people will not return to the state of apathy that existed for far too long!!
There can be no doubt about the fact that our collective actions – inside/outside these walls, have “ROCKED” this entire prison system – turning more than thirty years of state-sanctioned torture policies/practices completely upside down!!! And, there’s an element within the CDCr rank and file who will continue to do all they can to derail our progress… They have been trying to derail our Agreement to End Race-Based Hostilities; and, they will be escalating the propagandist / manipulative tactics as time passes… they want this system to explode, so they can say, “See, we told you: they were animals!!” And, roll back the progress we’ve achieved as soon, and as much, as possible… This will be an ongoing occurence for so long as these prisoncrats continue to view the prisoner class as something other than fellow human beings!!
Onward In Struggle, and Solidarity.