My name is Todd Lewis Ashker, I’m a 52 year-old state prisoner, who’s now spent a total of 36+ years of my life in California’s failure of a penal system….
The following is a summary of my relevant life experience-intended to bring my perspective to what is intended to be a focus on a personal subjection to 28+ years of continuous forms of solitary confinement, and related sensory-deprivation (and other, related forms of state-sanctioned torture) therein; and, the evolving types of resistance that I myself, and those similarly situated prisoners, have utilized during our collective-ongoing-struggle to be treated with the dignity and respect deserving of all living beings–and thereby force an end to longterm solitary confinement, and related policies and practices that dehumanize the prisoner class.
THE EARLY YEARS
I was born in July of 1963. The first ten years of my life were in Denver, Colorado. My mom raised my younger sister and I largely on her own. When work was available, she worked long hours as a legal secretary; this included commuting to and from work, leaving us on our own from 6am to 7pm. Periodically, we were on welfare. Mom did her best, and tried to instill the values of right and wrong in us. We got by on the bare minimum of essentials—no extras of any kind, and often our clothes were obtained from the goodwill-thriftstore.
I can’t explain what prompted me to begin stealing the things that I thought any sister and I needed, but I recall the first time was at age six; it was Easter morning and we had nothing for coloring eggs so-I went a block to the corner store and stole a coloring kit. My first arrest was at age eight, for shoplifting some toys.
We moved around alot, never staying in one place more than a year, on average; living mostly in low-income apartment projects. I hated this. When I’d just be settled in, and have formed some good friendships in a place, we’d be on the move again. I got in many fights too-being the new kid who the other kids wanted to test.
The summer of 1973, we moved to California; initially living near San Diego, where I was able to participate in various youth sports programs for one year-stealing-most of the equipment I needed to do so beceause we could not afford such extras—even still, after a year I was not able to continue due to our inability to afford the basic costs of such. In 1975, we relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area, and between the ages of 13-17, I was in and out of juvenile facilities for various property type crimes, and other minor offenses, fortunately, never causing any physical harm to anyone.
The last school year that I completed was the 7th grade—up to this point, I was always an A-student. I did just manage to pass the G.E.D a few months prior to my 18th birthday (just before paroling from the youth authority in 1981).
I’ve thought a lot about the cause of screwing up my youth, and can’t put my finger on it. I always seemed to have poor impulse control, and lack of self-discipline. The bottom line is, I blame no one I was given many great opportunities, and I’m responsible for passing them up.
Soon after turning 18, I was arrested for a burglary (the jobs I had been working-industrial laundry, painting/sheetrocking, ended, and I needed money to support my pregnant girlfriend and I). I plead guilty, and served close to nine months in the county jail with a suspended prison sentence)…. My girlfriend got an abortion-against my wishes, while I was in jail.
Once out, I only managed to stay out for about 70-days before being nabbed for another burglary, a few days prior to my 19th birthday (this was 1982) —the result being 26-months inside; the bulk of which was spent at Deuel Vocational Institution (DVI), located near Tracy, California, wherein, I was in general-population learning auto-body and paint trade, and working in the cell-block as a tier tender. It was at DVI where I got my tattoo work done; I was 19-20 years old at the time and a rebel at heart, and the ink I got was reflective of this view—as well as representing pride in my race and culture (this is common practice for many young prisoners-of all races in the California prison system, to get tattoos’ symbolizing pride in one’s race and culture). I’ve never been a party to any type of “Neo-Nazi” groups-period. What bugged me about the 1982 burglary charge was the fact that I had no part in it! I’d been working and doing okay-doing side jobs, painting and sheetrocking. At one point the court offered me a deal-“Plead guilty, and do 13-months.” I couldn’t plead guilty to something I’d not done, went to trial-and lost. I paroled from DVI on August 31, 1984-with a poor attitude behind having spent 26 months in prison for a crime I didn’t commit, and no type of support system. I spent my time partying and acting a fool. On October 2, 1984 I was arrested for burglary again—plead guilty in December 1984, and received a 5-year term in prison.
FOLSOM STATE PRISON
February 1985 I landed at Folsom State Prison to begin serving my 6-year term. I was 21-years old, in good health-with a strong spirit. My goal was to take things in stride, one day at a time, and make the best of a dim situation. I’d landed at Folsom during the bloodiest-most violent time period of its entire history! And, during the first two months, we never left our cells, and were fed two small sack lunches per day—the lock down was behind an ongoing dispute between Africans and Mexicans (exacerbated by prisoncrats’ agenda re: provoking prisoner-on-prisoner violence to support their move for more control unit type prisons!).
After two months, they’d unlock one tier at a time-for a hot meal and a shower every third day, and every time-madness would jump off.
By October 1985, the dispute had been squashed, and the general population was wide open (with a lot of daily madness going down amongst prisoners’ own races). I spent as much time as I could, hanging’ out on the yard-lifting weights, and b.s.ing with a few friends.
August 1986, I was put in the “hole” (Folsom’s Security Housing Unit-SHU), behind a minor misunderstanding my cell mate and I had with some staff. A month later I was charged with assaulting another prisoner in SHU, resulting in a determinate SHU-term; plus, three years added to my sentence when I pled guilty in court to possession of a weapon, in exchange for dismissal of the assault charge.
DECADES OF STATE-SANCTIONED TORTURE (SOLITARY-CONFINEMENT)
I’ve now spent nearly 29-years in solitary-confinement (SHU) units. My original 6-year term was increased to 21years-to-life. And, I’ve been personally subject to, and/or have witnessed, almost every form of torturous abuse imaginable (although, if you have not had the personal experience, it’s impossible for you to truly imagine it). The following is a summary, inclusive of my perspective of my own personal experience’s —together with many similarly situated prisoners’— evolving resistance and fight for our collective human rights and dignity.
NEW FOLSOM PRISON
New Folsom (California State Prison-Sacramento County (CSPSC) ), opened in late 1986, at the same time as Tehachapi (CCI), and prisoners from the SHU’s at Old Folsom and San Quentin were sent to the New Folsom/Tehachapi SHU’s.
The small concrete SHU-yards at New Folsom were suddenly integrated, after years of segregated SHU yards. This happened at the same time CDCr Administrators instituted the “No Warning Shot” policy–meaning that staff providing gun coverage in the cell blocks, and yards, were mandated to use deadly force (via their high power Ruger Mini-14 assault rifles), in response to prison fights-regardless of type of fighting going on.
Additionally, staff had a mandate to “take control of the prisons,” and follow the 1979 Penal Code directive re: “… the purpose of imprisonment in California, is punishment.”
A recipe for disaster was thereby systematically set in motion…
I was sent to New Folsom SHU in December 1986. Within my first year there, I learned first hand that prison staff were the real enemy; more corrupt, and prone to dirty, illegal moves, than any convicted felons I’d done time with!!! By “Prison Staff” I am refering to ALL prison staff, from the top-to-bottom— I’m talking about …custody, medical, and free staff (like plumbers, electricians, etc.). The staff mentality was “us against them.” This mentality was by design on the part of the top CDCr Administrators, in order to dehumanize the prisoners in the eyes of the staff we’re forced to imteract with to some extent every day; this was especially prevalent in the SHU’s, with the purposeful intent of creating a ripe environment for the systematic-ongoing torture of prisoners. This mentality was combined with integration of historically rival prison groups, on small concrete yards, together with the “No Warning Shot”-policy…
Between January and July 1987, New Folsom staff began operating like a gang of thugs; indoctrinated with their “staff against prisoner”-mentality. It was common practice for staff to deny prisoners their issue of food, as well as yard time. Prisoners often responded in the only ways they knew how to, …by papering up their cell windows in order to force group cell-extractions of the entire tier.
Staff then escalated their “war on prisoners” efforts by setting up yard incidents-playing groups of prisoners (newly integrated on the small concrete yards) against each other. Then, when incidents occured, staff would shoot the prisoners with their high power assault rifles. An example is an incident in June of 1987….Staff encouraged the Africans to attack the Whites on the yards, and vice-versa.
When the incident occurred, the guard overseeing the yard followed the script he been promoting, and shot my friend in the stomach with a Mini-14. rifle round-neary killing him. Then once the yard was cleared of prisoners staff planted, then claimed to ‘discover’ weapons secreted in the yard drain, alleging they were used in the melee—to justify the shooting (the shooter was a guard named David Pitts; his brother-Mike Pitts-was also involved in a lot of the dirty-ass, illegal shit guards were into there. As for the alleged weapons ‘discovered in the yard drain’ after the incident? What’s not stated, for obvious reasons, is the undisputable fact-per. incident reports of response staff-is that as soon as the shot was fired, the entire yard was frozen in place—all prisoners lying down, with no movement and under direct observation of at least 10-staff. There was no opportunity to stash the alleged weapons involved in the fight in the drain-period.
In response, a few days later, a guard was stabbed in the neck; and (according to TV news reports at the time), the guard who shot my friend had his windshield blown out by a shotgun blast on the freeway.
CDCr administrators then authorized their subordinate staff to initiate “Hell Week,” wherein beginning on July 9th and 10th, 1987, a large group of “staff” took 20 Whites and 4 Africans out of our cells, one cell at a time for an alleged “cell-search,” and took us to a secluded area to beat the crap out of us, while our hands were handcuffed behind our backs the entire beating. My cellmate and I had nothing to do with the above summarized incident re: guard stabbing, etc.; still, we were the first ones to get the beat down in our cell block. At about 6a.m., 4 guards came to our cell and told us to “cuffup for a cell-search” (we had no idea what was going on). We were then escorted in our boxer shorts and flimsy shower shoes to the cell-block office area, where at least 30 staff (consisting of, guards, supervisors, administrators, and “free” staff-plumbers and electricians, etc.), all started beating, kicking, and stomping us, yelling that they were going to “kill us, and bury us behind the prison.” I ended up with minor injuries consisting of a broken foot, cracked ribs, and my front teeth through my top lip-covered from head to foot in my own blood.
As they escorted us the few hundred yards to the medical clinic, I was smiling. The Sergeant asked me what I was smiling about (his name is Mike Powers, and he was later found guilty of civil rights violations, re: operating a gang of prisoner debriefer-rats on the mainline G.P., at PBSP-in the 1990s!)? Being a bit of a knucklehead, I replied, “Well, for being killed and buried, I feel pretty good.” At the clinic, I refused medical treatment, basically because after seeing “staff,” including medical personel, high-fiving each other and laughing about our beaten-bloodied appearance, I wasn’t about to ask for shit from them! The Sergeant then told the guards to put me in the rotunda cage-holding cell, so they could give me another beat down later since I thought it was a joke.
For the next several hours, while in the holding cell, I watched these cowards fast marching men by to the clinic, all of whom had been severely beaten. When they’d take breaks, they would do typical little coward-juvenile type stuff-like pour soda on me from the stairs above the small cage I was in. Later in the afternoon, they just took me back to my cell.
Notably, and in typical fashion, all 24 of us that were beaten-while our hands were restrained behind our backs-were charged with “assaulting staff.” However the Sacramento Prosecutor’s office declined to file charges (it was well known what had really happened, and they didn’t want the truth coming out in court! Naturally, we were all found guilty in our prison hearings!). After this incident, the entire SHU was on lockdown for more than a month, while they turned a section of 24-cells into a unit they called “Bedrock.”
On May 22,1987, I attended a New Folsom SHU Committee Hearing, at which it was noted that I had NO “gang-affiliation,” and they recommended any release to the general population prison in July 1987, so long as I remained disciplinary-free in the interim. The problem was, a guy who had fabricated a beef with me in his own mind, had challenged me to a “fist-fight” to settle the matter, and I had to accept. I had no choice. It was that, or ask for protective custody, which’ I’d never do.
This person arranged for me to get the tier-tender job for our section. At the time, the control-booth staff would electronically release prisoners for a shower, one cell at a time, while the tier-tender was out, cleaning the tier. On May 25, 1987, I entered the guy’s cell for our pre-arranged fist-fight. As I did so, his cellmate placed his mattress over the door opening in order to block the control-booth guard’s view. The theory for this was that it would prevent the three guards manning the booth for showers, from shooting blindly into the cell while we fought. As I entered the cell, the guy swings at me with an 8-inch knife. We fought over it, as two guards fired a total of three rifle shots through the mattress. The guy ended up stabbed, and took a Mini-14 bullet in his shoulder. He died an hour later at the outside hospital; and I was subsequently charged with murder (additional details follow in this document).
On August 6, 1987, 4 Africans and 15 Whites and I, were put into the newly created section called “BEDROCK.” This was a section of 24 cells in New Folsom SHU, B-Facility, 1-block, A-Section, wherein, the cells were stripped of all metal via removal of the bunks, lockers, desk, stool, and fluorescent light… Then, concrete slabs were poured for bunks, with a small bare bulb for lighting. I was told that I was being placed there based on prior rule violations.
Bedrock was the “hole” within the hole, and we were the first ones placed there …as soon as the cement had dried. We each were allowed to have about a shoebox size amount of personal property; no shoes in the cell, no appliances, no canteen, nothing. Over time, we managed to create our own little library from the books received by the few men who had them sent in -one at a time- from book stores. The objective of the prisoncrats was to further dehumanize, punish, and completely destroy us. This included various tactics, such as: staff working the unit only giving us half of the already small food rations we were supposed to get. Between August 1987-August ’88, my weight dropped from 485 Lbs. to 164.
We responded to the ongoing food shortage via minor “dirty protest.” We filled , milk cartons with shit, and slung it all over the section-including the control booth windows-every time we’d come out for showers, one cell at a time. After about 2 weeks of having to clean up our shit everyday, staff got right, and began giving us our full issue, plus extras (with no canteen or packages, we still starved and lost weight). I was personally kept in Bedrock from August 6, 1987 to May 2, 1990, which is when I was permanently transfered to Pelican Bay SHU. During the time I was in Bedrock, staff also setup a bunch of yard incidents (in Bedrock, and throughout tile rest of the SHU); many prisoners were being shot on the small concrete yards, mostly for fist fights, and once out of the hospital many would be placed in Bedrock-which looked like a ward in a military hospital. Men were missing arms and legs, others with “dead” arms and legs from permanent nerve damage. Others had colostomy bags, and one lost his eye. At least two men in Bedrock were shot and killed while I was there-murdered by staff. And, there were at least 7 murdered in the same way during this time period, in the rest of the SHU blocks at New Folsom. There were also many brutal incidents of staff beating solitary men, who were always restrained-with their hands cuffed behind their backs….The staff would take them out to the small concrete yard and beat them mercilessly- enmass, at least 20 staff participating-and you could hear the bloodcurdling screams, and feel the vibrations through the concrete. When these men were carried in off the yard, butt naked-covered in their own blood… staff would be laughing at what they had done–these men were beaten half to death, and unrecognizable as being human; staff would just toss the unconscious men into their cells like discarding pieces of meat. There were regular brutal cell-extractions too, leaving men with very serious injuries… including broken jaws, and gaping head wounds; having to wait for more than a week for any sort of medical treatment.
One example of staff murdering a prisoner in Bedrock occurred in November 1987, when staff set up an incident on our yard, and used it as an opportunity to shoot a friend of mine in the forehead with the Mini-14 rifle; killing him instantly. Staff then wrote all of us on the yard up, alleging “conspiracy to commit assault.” The friend they murdered that day had previously stabbed an abusive guard in the Adjustment Center at San Quentin, where they killed George Jackson in ’71. This was payback! The guard who blew my friend away that day was named Mayorga (? sp.) ; he was rewarded with a two week, paid-vacation, and promoted to a job outside the prison.
Within the first 9 months in Bedrock, half the men confined therein became informant debriefers, in order to get out of there, and into protective custody. Due to the repeated staff yard setups, everyone in Bedrock was on “Walk-alone Restraint Yard.” Our yard “exercise time out of our cells” was alone, with our hands handcuffed behind our back, and attached to a waist-chain threaded through our pants’ belt loops; often times, with ankle chains too. Such restraints make “exercise” impossible, and are very painful after three-to-four hours on the yard.
Try to imagine your reaction to the above environment-wherein it’s akin to being subject to a type of sub-human status.… Systematically tortured on a daily basis. Try to imagine being completely under the total control of sadistic armed guards who, with the blessing, encouragement, and often-times participation of all the other staff–including top CDCr-administrators, who enjoy using you for Roman Gladiator-pit style fights, and then, using deadly lethal force-intentionally maiming, and killing with impunity. Then filing charges against the prisoners in order to keep them confined, subject to such treatment longer! As well as, using all the incidents the prison staff had for the most part created/setup, to further the CDCr prisoncrats/guard union (CCPOA), and fascist top CDCr administrators—agenda! (e.g., more Supermax Control Unit Solitary Confinement-type cells!). You can’t even begin to imagine what this is like, unless you’re one of those unfortunate enough to have experienced it….
You either break, or you do all you can to survive. At this time, we were all young men in our 20s and 30s, who basically knew of only one way to deal with this environment –by responding to violence, with violence,… as best as we were able.
Eventually, some of us began to recognize that responding to staff’s illegal acts with violence was a “no-win” situation for us; and it was around late 1987 early ’88, that a few of us decided to learn the law, and utilize the legal system to try and challenge prison conditions for the purpose of reigning in the out-of-control abuse of power, and hold prison officials accountable.
Our RESISTANCE was beginning to evolve….
THE GANG CLASSIFICATION & 1990 MURDER TRIAL
I was arraigned on the May ’87 homicide charge in the Sacramento Municiple Court in March 1988, wherein, I was formally charged with 1st degree murder, with use of a knife, and 2 prior felony conviction enhancements. I was facing 36 years-to-life, and elected to represent myself (with court- appointed co-counsel assisting me, in part); and it was during the case, while I was representing myself, that I first learned that prison officials had validated me as as member of the Aryan Brotherhood. They did this the same month that I was arraigned on the murder charge (March of 1988).
The manner in which this gang-validation came about is.… Shortly after the May ’87 incident had occurred, New Folsom SHU staff began circulating the rumor that the incident was an ‘Aryan Brotherhood hit” carried out be me.
You’ll recall the above reference re: New Folsom SHU,… “on May 22, 1987, I attended a New Folsom SHU Committee Hearing, which documented their determination that I had no “gang-affiliation.” This was 3-days prior to the incident. Naturally, it wasn’t long before 2 prisoners seeking a way out of SHU corroborated the staff rumor re: Aryan Brotherhood hit. And on this basis, I was validated as a gang member (as stated above, I didn’t know about this validation until nearly 2 years later, during the court process!).
In February 1990, I gave up any self-representation status, and had my court-appointed co-counsel, Philip Cozens, take over for trial. Notably, in March of 1990, the prosecutor informed the judge that he was NOT calling the 2 informants (Robert Rowland, and Steve Larson), because he “does not find them to be credible”! The prosecutor doesn’t present any affirmative evidence re: ‘gang-hit,’ and, during closing argument, he tells the jury that he “doesn’t know what the motive may have been.”!!!
The jury acquits me of the first-degree premeditated murder charge, and finds me guilty of the lesser charge of second-degree, non-premeditated murder…in spite of the extremely prejudicial occurrences mid-trial (see footnotes at end of this document).
The court found one of the prior felony convictions’ enhancements true, and sentenced me to a term of 21 years-to-life on April 23, 1990. On May 2, 1990, I was transfered to Pelican Bay SHU to complete my Determinate-SHU term for the ’87 homicide charge, and other in-prison beefs.(Notably, I went to Committee in January 1992, for consideration of release to the general population-per expiration of my determinate SHU-terms, and at that time, they changed my SHU term to ‘Indeterminate’ based on the Aryan Brotherhood validation from 1988… When I challenged this ‘Indeterminate SHU/Gang-Validation’ via the prison-appeal process, I attached the trial transcript re: Prosecutor stating -on the record- “The informants re: gang hit, were not credible” … These informants were the basis for my validation! Prison officials denied my appeal at all levels, stating “CDCr‘s credibility standard is different from a prosecutor’s!”).
This is an important point to note here because, in the California prison-system, a gang validation classification results in the placement of the person who is validated, in the SHU, subject to the endless torture therein –INDEFINITELY – until you are paroled, die, go completely insane or, agree to become an informant for the state!!!
In contrast, the murder of a prisoner carries a DETERMINATE SHU-term of 3 years; while the murder of a prison guard, or other ‘free’ person while in prison, carries a maximum DETERMINATE SHU-term of 5 years!!!
PELICAN BAY SHU
I was transfered from New Folsom SHU-to-Pelican Bay SHU on May 2, 1990. Upon arrival at Pelican Bay, I was told by staff that the “only way I’d ever leave was to parole, die, or debrief.” (“Debriefing” means becoming a state informant, by implicating others in gang activity!).
At the time of my arrival at Pelican Bay SHU I had 2 Federal Court Civil Suits pending against Folsom, and CDCr Headquarters staff. Many of the worst staff from New Folsom and San Quentin SHUs had opened, and worked at Pelican Bay SHU. I was already known as a prison conditions litigator by this time, which automatically places you on “shit-status” with staff.
CDCr’s top administrators selected the abusive staff from New Folsom and San Quentin SHUs intentionally, with the purpose of subjecting prisoners confined within the tomb-of-living-dead known as Pelican Bay SHU to the dehumanizing, and endless torturous treatment, and conditions therein INDEFINITELY!!! And these specially selected staff embarked upon their mission with enthusiasm, from the start. The abuses prisoners were systematically subject to were so egregious-
several prisoners confined therein filed a federal court civil suit within weeks of their arrival. This suit became the class-action case known as Madrid v. Gomez, 889 F.Supp. 1146 (N.D. Cal. 1995) – the published ruling, largely in favor of the prisoners, with many specific references to examples of systematic torture of prisoners.
An example of my own personal experience follows:
Between May 2nd and October 1990 staff tried to set me up a few times for gladiator-type tier fights-by opening my cell door via the control-booth operating system, when prisoners from other races were out of their cells-on the tier (being a Supermax Control Unit -only one cell was to be allowed out on the tier at any given time-e.g., for yard or shower time). On October 9, 1990, I had an argument with staff concerning the number of legal books I had in my cell, and they wrote me up -accusing me of- threatening to cut one of their heads off. This was false.
In retaliation for my litigation efforts, staff fabricated the above referenced threat to harm staff-and moved me into a pod wherein, all the prisoners were on shit-status with the staff… then, the control-booth guard (Broduer), opened my door on the afternoon of October 24, 1990, when a prisoner was on the tier near my cell, who this same guard had documented overhearing allegedly threatening me 2 days before. We engaged in a mutual fist-fight, which turned into complete chaos. The two of us were exchanging blows, while the unit alarm was blaring, and 8 to 10 staff (guards, sergeants, lieutenant) started screaming and banging on the pod door grill with their batons, hands and feet…screaming at the control-booth guard to, “Shoot them! Bust a Cap!” The Sergeant (Avilla), was standing a foot away-from where we were fighting; he was on the other side of the open tray slot, with the non-lethal 37mm block gun, screaming away with the others for Broduer to shoot us. The control-booth guard then shot me with his highpower H&K 9mm assault rifle, using a “Glazier” round – designed to explode 180-300 tiny BBs on impact. They are for the express purpose of causing maximum damage.
The guard was leaning out of the control-booth, and shot me from about 9-feet away. The bullet hit me in the right radius bone, about one inch above the wrist fold, disintegrating over 2 inches of the radius, and broke the ulna bone into 10 seperate pieces, as well as, shredding muscle and skin. My hand was literally nearly comp1etely severed from my arm, and was hanging from my wrist onto my forearm-barely attached by some bits of muscle and skin.…
There was another reason behind this setup. Prison staff were desperate to get a serious flaw with the cell-door security system fixed. They often would not come into the pods to feed breakfast without a group of six or more, coming in together, all suited up with helmets, batons and shields, as they checked each door-prior to feeding us.
The state had just spent over 217 Million on Pelican Bay and staff needed to have documented support for additional emergency funds to redo the entire cell-door security system.
Towards this end, they falsely claimed that I had opened my own cell door and assaulted the other prisoner. A month or so later, they pulled a similar move, and shot another prisoner in the hip. Then they made their presentation to the legislature, and received between 6.4 and 7.2 million dollars to redo the entire cell-door security system. It turned out they knew the “nuematic” system they had used for the security system at Pelican Bay, was the same system that had already proven defective in 1988, in Nevada. All the above is documented, including their subsequent admission that there was “No evidence of my ever opening my own celldoor.”
The retaliatory setup, and resultant severe gunshot injuries were only beginning…. It took more than an hour and a half ro get anything for the pain, while I waited at the hospital to see whether they were going to try and save my arm, or amputate it… then, I was in the hospital another five days. It was there in the hospital that I felt treated as a human being –- for the first time in more than six years! The UC Davis hospital nurses on the Orthopedic floor were kind to me. I had forgotten what that was like! Abruptly, I wa returned to the Pelican Bay Prison Infirmary wherein, for the next five weeks I quickly was reminded that my life in Pelican Bay was to be one of endless-systematic torture.
The first five days back in the prison’s infirmary, I was kept with my left arm and both ankles chained down to the bed, on my back. This position caused additional severe pain to my back/body, on top of the pain I was already suffering. My bed was inside a locked-secure cell. Each time I had to have a bowel movement, a bunch of guards from the SHU would stand over me, with their batons drawn, as I sat on the toilet- with ankle restraints on, and my useless right arm in a splint with two external fixators sticking out. The remaining 30 days in the infirmary, I had ankle restraints on all the time, even though I was still in a locked-secure cell, with the bad arm.
From the infirmary I was sent to Pelican Bay SHU’s version of “Bedrock;” placed in a cell covered with old food, feces, and urine– surrounded by insane prisoners, screaming at eachother 24/7… three weeks later, the untreated radial-artery aneurysm under my cast exploded, and I nearly lost the hand again, and did lose the artery blood flow to my hand permanently due to ligation of artery.
A few months later, my wrist joint froze up – permanently – because they left the cast on too long, and, I lived with sharp pieces of bone sawing and tearing out of my skin, under the cast, for about a month – on two separate occasions. My repeated complaints about such were basically put off as being “all in my head,” by prison medical staff. Only to be proven true each time when I would finally get to see the outside specialist.
I also lost a bone that stabilizes the ulna-to-the-wrist/hand; and, required surgery related to the ulnar nerve that was not successful, leaving me with permanent, severe chronic nerve pain. When cadaver dust failed to fill in the gap in my radius, I needed a bone graft from my hip bone, and, to this day, have a 6-inch steel plate with multiple screws holding my radius together. The arm is permanently disabled – chronically painful, weak, with limited range of motion.
I filed suit in Federal Court in 1991, regarding the shooting, and inadequate medical care. On October 2, 1995, the jury found the guard who shot me (Broduer) liable for assault and battery; and the Pelican Bay Chief Doctor (Astorga) liable for negligence. Additionally, the Federal Court’s opinion in the class-action suit against Pelican Bay SHU (Madrid v. Gomez), refers to my 1990 shooting incident and lack of adequate medical care related thereto, as examples in suport of the Court’s finding that Pelican Bay SHU staff systematically subjected prisoners to unnecessary excessive use of deadly force via the “No Warning Shot”-policy, and systematic-deliberately indifferent policy regarding the prisoners’ serious medical needs… in violation of the U.S> Constitution’s Eighth Amendment.
The jury verdict in my favor on October 2, 1995, was the second time in eleven years that I felt like other people viewed me as a fellow human being.
These cases, together with the ‘Tate’-case (re: the Corcoran-SHU yard incident, wherein a prisoner named Preston Tate was murdered by guards! One of many of those murdered at Corcoran SHU. Notably, between Aril 8, 1989 and June 1st, 1994, seven Corcoran-SHU prisoners were murdered by guards – shot to death while on the small concrete yards!)… were the catalysts for CDCr ending its “No Warning Shots”-policy – in late 1995. Between January 1987 and late 1995, this policy resulted in staff murdering at least 39 prisoners, and causing severe, permanent damage to countless others, at a cost of millions in tax payers’ dollars for medical care and litigation expenses.
During a Federal Court trial in 1994 regarding my suit challenging New Folsom’s Restraint Yard policy (referenced above, in the section on Bedrock), a top CDCr-administrator admitted on the witness stand, … “… the No Warning Shot policy was an experiment, to see if prisoners would learn to get along on the newly integrated SHU yards.” They knew this dual policy change (integrated yards in the new SHU’s, and No Warning Shot policy) would result in prisoner damage, but felt that, “Over time, the prisoners would learn to get along if they wanted yard exercise.” Not one single CDCr administrator has ever been charged for civil rights violations behind this “EXPERIMENT” that resulted in the above referenced 39 prisoner murders, and countless related injuries! And, notable is the fact that the State Attorney General’s office defended the CDCr’s blatantly illegal policies and practices – and continues to do so to this day- including SHU-torture!
Part of the ongoing torture I’ve personally experienced during the past 25+ years pf solitary confinement in the Pelican Bay SHU has been the systematic-intentional denial of adequate pain management, and other related– required care, treatment, and assistive aides, for my chronically painful, permanently disabled arm. With the medical staff doing their part in furtherance of the State-Sanctioned Torture policies/practices, via denying me such care and treatment, …. telling me I “hold the keys to get out of SHU any time I want” and the care and thereby receive better care for my arm, by debriefing (i.e., in order to get the care and treatment my arm requires, I’d have to become an informant for the state via ‘debriefing’).
I have also been intentionally infected with potentially deadly disease in SHU. In 1992-1993 I tested positive for Tuberculosis after being forced to use a shower used by prisoners who had tested positive for the active TB virus. And in 1996 many of us tested positive for Hepatitis C, possibly from years of exposure to each other’s waste via the connected toilet system – wherein our waste would flow into each other’s toilets. The toilet ‘connections’ were not fixed until around 2006-2007.
During my first years of imprisonment, the only way I knew how to deal with the abusive conditions I was subject to, was violent types of resistance (as was true of most similarly situated prisoners)! Over time, the manner of our resistance evolved…
Beginning in the late 1980s, some of us recognized that the manner in which the staff were manipulating prisoners – in furtherance of prisoncrats’ own agenda(s) – was a ‘no win’ situation for us; obviously, we were coming out on the short-end of things (e.g. staff/administrators using our responsive violence to their abuse to justify progressively more punitive conditions. Plus, filing charges in court to keep us in longer, etc.). This is when a few of us held in Bedrock decided to learn the law, and try and use the legal system to reign in the CDCr’s abusive policies and practices, based on the fact that such were illegal, and the principle of the law applying to all. From 1988 to the present I have been doing so, challenging prison conditions in the courts. And, I have been a named plaintif- and I have also assisted in several cases resulting in positive rulings – beneficial to all prisoners – over the course of the past 28+ years, and attached hereto is a list summarizing 15 of these cases (confirmed via the included case numbers).
Additionally, I will point out that the last time that I was formally charged with committing a violent act in prison was back in June of 1992; at that time I was charged for allegedly committing two (2) separate staff assaults, on the same day, on the same staff-member. The short version is – I was placed on a CDCr transportation bus in the early a.m. for transport t New Folsm re: follow-up medical appointment at U.C. Davis for my right arm injury (behind 1990 shooting). I had been in a holding cell since three in the morning, prior to getting on the bus, and the guard did not like the way I asked to use the bathroom prior to getting on the road. We argued, and he ended up jumping on me while I was fully shackled – hand and foot. Then, when we arrived at New Folsom that evening, there was a gang of guards waiting for me; I was taken off the bus last, in the New Folsom R&R parking lot, and as they all were crowded up on me from all sides, the guard who had jumped on me that morning while I was fully shackled stood in front of me and removed my shackles. Naturally I couldn’t resist punching him in his face (with my left hand; my right arm was still totally out of commission from the 1990 shooting!), and per plan, the the rest of the guards instantly jumped on me from every direction – beating me down, and then holding me down on my knees as they took turns throwing haymakers into my face and head, to the point that my head and face were so grotesquely swollen and deformed, that I was not recognizable as being a human! That said, it was worth it for me to be able to get one in on the coward who had started it all that a.m.! Naturally, the D.A.’s office declined to prosecute – and I was found guilty of the two separate charges at the prison disciplinary hearing…
By February 6, 2006, many of us long-term SHU prisoners had been kept virtually isolated – for more than 16 years (at Pelican Bay State Prison SHU), when the prisoncrats decided to further isolate more than 200 of us from the rest of he SHU, based on their claim that we were … “The worst-of-the-worst-of-the-worst,” (alleging we were gang leaders, and/or influential, etc.), in the SHU-Short Corridor. This is located in PBSP-SHU, D-Facility, Cellblocks 1 through 4. The prisoncrats’ definition of who meets the criteria for Short Corridor placement keeps expanding, and all of those housed in the Short Corridor are decent human beings – subject to cinditions that take all our strength and energy to deal with, resist…
All of those originally placed in the Short Corridor were long-term SHU-prisoners, who all knew or knew of each other – having been subject to the same type of torturous soltary confinement / sensory deprivation-conditions for the past two to three+ DECADES. Thus, over time, many of us have come to recognize, and have mutual respect for – our racial, cultural differences… And, the fact that we are all in the same boat when it comes to prisoncrats’ systematic dehumanizing abuse… The prisoncrats being our common adversaries / torturers!
Many of us are also long-time litigators – challenging prison conditions. Many are well-read, and we’ve done our best to share reading material – and share our collective knowledge regarding history, culture, sociology, politics, law/litigation, etc.
It was on February 6, 2006, that my good friend Dany Troxell and I were moved to the Short Corridor, D1-block, and housed in cells next door to one another. We had been challenging policies/practices regarding decades of solitary confinement, and the related no-parole-policy for prisoners serving term-to-life sentences. We were only able to manage this collective effort due to my July 2003 formal request for Dany’s appointment as my assistant per Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) – Reasonable Accomodation Request, which was reluctantly granted, and we were allowed to double cell on July 25, 2003.
We subsequently filed our Federal Civil Suit against top CDCr officials, challenging all aspects of the long-term SHU, and no-parole policies/practices (on May 19, 2004). Resulting in prisoncrats placing us on single cell status on June 8, 2004. (They put us in side-by-side cells in order to try to avoid a challenge to this obviously retaliatory move, based on such violating my ADA Accomodation request that had been granted in 2003!). Our suit evolved into the Class-Action suit seeking relief for all long-term SHU prisoners similarly situated to us; and the above referenced retaliatory response on the part of prisoncrats has been just one of many!!! The suit became a Class-Action in 2012.
As soon as Danny and I celled up together in 2003, we began to share our combined knowledge about many subjects, and together we continued to read about various ancient cultures, including those of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Mayans. And it was around 2006 that we also began reading additional political-type books, including one by Thomas Paine (Rights of Man), Naomi Wolf (The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot), Howard Zinn (The Zinn Reader on Disobedience and Democracy)… to name a few.
And, once we landed in the Short-Corridor, we soon discovered that the other prisoners in our pod of 8 cells (as well as, the other prisoners in the immediate area) were all reading similar material, and we all had ongoing dialogues over the tier- and on the yard, on a daily basis, regarding history, culture, politics, law, and our mutual subjection to the decades of progressively more abusive, torturous conditions and treatment we were all collectively subject to…
In mid-2009, Danny and I were introduced to a Sociology Professor, Denis O’Hearn, and he invited us to participate in a class he teaches at Bingham University, regarding Crime and Punishment. We agreed to answer students’ questions about ourselves, and our incarceration experience / insights on certain material that was part of the course. This included our experience and perspectives as long-term solitary confinement captives.
Denis had sent us a few books that were required reading by the class, and he asked us some questions relating to our personal opinions on said subject matter, and during our exchanges – a friendship was formed.
One of the books sent was Denis’ book, “Nothing but an Unfinished Song,” about Bobby Sands and the Irish prisoner hunger strikes of 1980-’81, which we read and shared with other prisoners. This book substantially increased my awareness of, and respect for, the power of peaceful protest/resistance against oppression.
In late 2009, I read an article about a psychiatric association seeking to make it an ethical violation for members to assist in interrogations of Gitmo-detainees (the alleged enemy-combatants detained indefinitely, without formal charges, and subject to daily abuse/torture per directives from the highest levels of the U.S. goverment). We saw a connection with the psychiatric department practices at Pelican Bay SHU, wherein psychiatrists/psychologists are quoted on all of our annual committee review chronos regarding our continued SHU-confinement (chronos are a form the CDCr uses to document our annual commitee hearings), where the common determination by the psychs is: “There is no psychiatric basis for releasing the prisoner from SHU, indefinitely – until he dies, debriefs, or becomes seriously mentally ill.” Most of us never attend committee, because the committee has no authority to release one from SHU (thus, the outcome is a foregone conclusion!), and have had zero interaction with CDCr mental health personnel! And yet, the psych. imput at these committee hearings is used to support and enable our continued subjection to unending solitary confinement-torture!!!
In late 2009, I created a three page memorandum addressed to the psychiatric department, pointing out that their collaboration with CDCr in keeping us in torturous SHU-solitary confinement was an ethical violation, and requested hey end such participation. We received no reply… Thus, with the input from others in our area, I then used this three page memo to create our collective “Formal Complaint” titled: “Re: Complaint on Human Rights Violations and Request for Action to End 20+ Years of State Sanctioned Torture to Extract Information from (Or Cause Mental Illness To) California’s PBSP-SHU Inmates.” (this is available at: https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/education/the-prisoners-demands-2/formal-complaint/ )
And we utilized this document to help educate prisoners, and the public in general, about what has really been going on in these long-term solitary confinement ‘Control Units,’ via mailing copies to as many people and organizations, etc. as possible (hundreds of copies were sent out , throughout 2010…). We received very few replies! By ‘education of prisoners and the public’ I am referring to the fact that 1) many people were clueless, and 2) many people were not aware that such practices are illegal!!
Meanwhile, between late 2009 and January 2011, I reread the book about Bobby Sands several times, which, together with other reading material, opened my eyes to the power of ‘Peaceful Protest Action’ for the purpose of ‘resisting human rights abuse’!! Additionally, we all watched the ‘Arab Spring’ on public television news, as well as the news about the large-scale prisoner work strike in the Georgia prison system – summer of 2010. Then, we heard about the Ohio Supermax prisoners sentenced to death, going on ‘hunger strike’ to protest conditions similar to outs – in January 2011!
And on top of all of the above, we had Pelican Bay administrators / staff all doing their part in subjecting us to ongoing – progressively more punitive / restrictive actions against us, solely for the purpose of trying to coerce people into becoming informants for the state (via ‘debriefing’), in order to gain their release from such oppressive conditions. E.g., January 2011, we were put on a month-long ‘lock-down’ based on an incident in the general population, and property room staff were in the process of further limiting what items we could receive in our annual packages that we can obtain from CDCr’s approved vendors.
As all the above was coalescing in our collective consciousness, … Danny and I began to tlk about going on a ‘hunger-strike’ (beginning in January 2011), as a way for the two of us to ‘Peacefully Protest’ our decades of unending torture in Pelican Bay, and other SHU Control Units!!! Prior to this, we had been against the idea of ‘hunger-striking,’ because we had not yet understood the power of such peaceful action / resistance…
We then talked with the other prisoners in our pod area, and everyone had been hearing Danny and I talking about going on a ‘hunger-strike’ for a few weeks-discussing the pros and cons of doing so- and everyone quickly agreed with our idea, and together we all spread the word about our idea to the other SHU prisoners as best we as were able, and obtained a good response. We then formed the multi-racial collective; the ‘Short Corridor Prisoner Human Rights Collective’ was born… We agreed on the date of July 1, 2011 – for our hunger strike to begin, and we collectively created our list of ‘Five Core Demands.‘
We spread the word about our plans – via the grape vine – and made it clear in our related articles,… “that no person, or group, was leading the planned protest; it was a completely voluntary action, and being clear that, people with medical problems were encouraged to – not participate.”
I want to point out here that when we were going over the pros/cons of taking action to protest/resist our progressively punitive conditions, and relatedunending SHU confinement, there was never any disagreement about the need to take action!!! When we initially raised the possibility of using ‘hunger strike’ to ‘peacefully protest’ our conditions, many people thought such would be a futile effort based on the two prior Hunger strike protests (2001/2002), having no real effect, and that prisoncrats couldn’t care less if we refused to eat and suffered harm/ death from doing so! I could relate to where they were coming from, because I viewed it the same way prior to becoming better educated and informed as to the effectiveness of peaceful action-hunger-strike! The reason for the lack of real change coming from the 2001/2002 protest actions was, in my view, the fact that such were not ‘serious’ actions! From the start they were presented as ‘limited-duration’ actions… In order to be effective, such action must have the leverage of a real hreat of people willing to take it to the death! Many people in early 2011 expressed their view that they recognized something had to be done, and suggested violent action/resistence… We asked for people to try our peaceful move instead, and fortunately have had a very positive result…
Between July 1st and October 14th, 2011, we collectively went on two hunger-strike protests, lasting a total of 38 days, involving a total of more than 18,000 prisoners statewide; with other prisoners joining in solidarity in other states, jails, countries… Receiving global support!!!
We suspended our action in response to a face-to-face negotiated agreement, in whih CDCr officials agreed to make specific changes – responsive to our Five Core Demands…
Over the course of 2011 -early 2012, our sense of similarly situated collective unity grew stronger, and more widespread. Our ongoing dialogue included the collective recognition of the decades of continual, manipulative tactics being employed by the fascist element within CDCr’s rank and file; elements that are strongly represented by the staff at PBSP. Our collective experience for more than three decades has been our observation regarding prisoncrats pitting the racial groups against each other, across the California prison system – repeatedly – to the point of ‘Lock-Down’ being the common status for most general population prisons, especially the Level IV’s, being nothing more than human warehouse for tens of thousands of prisoners. This means that 24/7 everyone is kept in their cells, without any out-of-cell yard time, nor any type of meaningful programming.
This pretextualized-manipulative exploitation of the prisoner-class, in the Level IV’s (wherein they are played off against one another for the purpose of being used to justify continued ‘Lock-Downs’ in a never-ending cycle of violent madness, all for the benefit of the CDCr prisoncrats), equates to the justification for – higher security, with relaed higher security pay/staffing levels, etc., withno benefit for prisoners, our outside loved ones, nor society in general! The main beneficiaries being the CCPOA (Guards’ Union).
We recognized the prisoner-class has been getting the short end of this, and, on August 12, 2012, we presented our ‘Agreement to End Racial Group Hostilities‘ in order to further educate and expose this decades-old fascist exploitation of prisoners. Our objective being to do what we can to curtail the prisoner-on-prisoner violence, and force CDCr to stop warehousing tens of thousands of prisoners (for weeks, months, years), and open up these prisons, and provide some meaningful rehabilitative type programs beneficial to the prisoner-class…
Unsurprizingly, CDCr prisoncrats have refused to allow us to promote this agreement, and they continue to manipulate – and thereby perpetuate – racial group violence across the system. The CDCr policies and practices referenced in this document exemplify the fact that CDCr prisoncrats, and the lawmakers who enable their abuse of power, are a 100% failure.
By January 2013, it was clear that prisoncrats had no plans to end long-term solitary confinement, nor had they met many of our other demands; thus, we served notice of our intent to resume our action on July 8, 2013, if our demands were not met before then. On July 8, 2013, we began our combination ‘hunger strike/work-stoppage’which included more than 30,000 participating prisoners at its peak – and lasting for 60 days!!! We agreed to suspend this third protest (the third in two years), in response to lawmakers’ (Loni Hancock and Tom Ammiano) public acknowledgment of our issues, and their request for time to enable them to hold public hearings for the purpose of enacting legislation to end long-term SHU confinement, and related policies and practices we brought into the light-of-day via our protests.
We made this informed, collective decision to suspend our 2013 action in response to these lawmakers’ public requests for us to do so, based on many factors, one of which is the fact that these lawmakers came out in public to acknowledge, and thereby validate the legitimacy of our righteous cause, inspite of the onslaught of public vilification by prisoncrats’ propagandist presentations widely accepted by the mainstream media (that we are gang leaders seeking to regain our control of the prison system, and our peaceful actions were a gang-powerplay); and snubbing these lawmakers would be a tactical mistake… in light of the overall circumstances we were faced with at that time, which I am not able to go into here. (Not the least of which was the federal court order issued in August 2013, allowing CDCr to force-feed us if they deemed it necessary; incredibly, this order was issued with the approval of attorney Donald Specter, of the Prison Law Office, who is supposed to be a protector/advocate on behalf of prisoners!? Our leverage at the time was the real threat of us dying… and, on the day they received the force-feeding order, CDCr officials cancelled the meeting they had scheduled with us to discuss our demands!!)
The lawmakers held two hearings in regards to our hungerstrike! The first one was held on October 9th, 2013, and the second on February 11, 2014. These are transcribed, and constitute a public record in support of our position that these long-term SHU/Ad-seg Control Units are a form of solidarity/sensory deprived torture units, that are in violation of International Treaty Law, and are without supportive justification on the part of prisoncrats!! Notably, Tom Ammiano held a hearing on the subject in response to our 2011 hunger strikes – I believe it was held August 23, 2011 – and the prisoncrats in attendance were asked for proof that such practices were in fact effective, such as reducing prison violence, etc.?? And they failed to produce any evidence in support of their claims… Nor did the prosincrats attending the 2013-2014 present any supporting evidence!!
These two lawmakers then drafted and presented two bills responsive to our cause; Ammiano’s bill was killed in the Assembly, in direct response to the opposition from the CCPOA and the Governor (Brown). And, Hancock pulled her bill due to a lack of support. Such lack of support was due to the CDCr/CCPOA and Governor Brown’s repeated insistence on amendments… to the point tht they rendered the bill virtually meaningless.
With respect to our 2012 Agreement to End Hostilities:
The CDCr’s top officials recently admitted to our legal team, that the prisoner-on-prisoner violence has declined (as of the end of May 2015), while insisting this is not per our Agreement to End Hostilities. Naturally, they will not give us an credit! But, it is self-evident, because they can’t point to anything specific that they have done to cause such decline in prisoner violence…
With respect to our Class-Action Suit [Ashker, et al. v. Brown, et. al.]:
A trial date was set for December 7, 2015, and we have have a great legal team supporting us, who, in turn, have gathered together ten top notch experts, who have each presented excellent reports in support of our position – and condemning CDCr’s policies/practices regarding long-term SHU (Solitary Confinement) TORTURE…
And, on March 9, 2015 the Court Granted our “Motion for Leave To File A Supplemental Complaint.” This was a victory for our cause in the sense that – the defendant prisoncrat officials had been doing their best to try and nullify our suit, beginning with the implementation of their ‘New’ gang mgt. policy, ‘STG’ [Security Threat Group] and ‘SDP,’ [Step-Down Program] which included transfering several of the named plaintiffs to the Tehachapi SHU, per Step Down Program provisions…
The Supplemental Complaint was a blow to CDCrs strategy, because it enabled us to include a related challenge to continued SHU confinement, and conditions, at Tehachapi SHU!! Notably, our suit prior to the Supplemental Complaint was limited to our challenge to the Pelican Bay SHU regarding prisoners confined therein for 10 or more years.
In light of the above cited examples of the positive positions of strength (inclusive of the strong-growing outside support efforts, which have successfully kept the issues regarding long-term solitary confinement in the global psyche!), the prisoncrat defendants (inclusive of Gov. Brow) contacted – and began to engage in settlement talks with our legal team in late April 2015. Our legal team included the plaintiff-prisoners / principle prisoner representatives!!!
These Settlement talks resulted in a Settlement Agreement in August 2015… Which, among other points – beneficial to the prisoner-class – has resulted in the End of Long Term SHU Confinement (based on the end to ‘status’-based, indefinite SHU-confinement, for a CDCr gang validation label)!!!
I see the outcome of the Class-Action as a victory in our ongoing struggle for meaningful changes to this system, that we can all be proud of, and can build upon – as we continue to move forward with our collective fight for the human rights of the prisoner-class (related to the working class-poor struggle!).
One reason that I see the Settlement Agreement as a victory, is the fact that it is directly responsive to what has been the heart of our original 5 Core Demands!!! Our core demand has always been “The End to Status-Based-Indefinite Solitary Confinement.” We demanded a change to the well- entrenched [25+ year old) policy of confining people to indefinite solitary confinernent – based on ‘status’ in order to ensure that SHU-type confinement would be reserved solely for those prisoners who are formally charged with, and found guilty of, committing a ‘serious’ rule violaton. And, in such a case, given a determinate SHU-term. (In other words, a specific SHU-term, with an out-date) .… The Settlement Agreement includes such provisions!!
There are a few, very limited, exceptions to the above referenced provisions; but, it’s important to note that these exceptions are based on individual case-factors – unrelated to the ‘status’ of a prisoner! And I am including a more detailed summary of the Settlement provisions of notable benefit, in the accompanying addendum….
I will say that from my perspective – we have achieved positive progress – to date – and this is based on the fact that the fascist element in our society has vilified the prisoner-class as the ‘worst-of-the-worst’ with their exploitative propoganda designed to progressively dehumanize this class of humanity, and thereby subject them to a ‘social death,’ as well as, continuing the societal mindset of an uncaring callous attitude towards the demonized prisoner-class, thus, enabling the growing culture of exploitative abuse/torture of thousands – for many decades – especially towards those prisoners held in ‘Control Units’!!!
Our efforts over the course of the past 4 years have help to expose the EVIL (STATE-SANCTIONED) TORTURE TO THE WORLD!!! And, our collective of similarly situated prisoners, along with the support of people outside these walls, has contributed in a big way towards ending such policies/practices nationwide!
I hope we can build on our victories, via the growing coalition’s collective efforts! Our 2012 Agreement To End Race Hostilities is a model people can emulate and expand upon, as we move forward… Our 2012 Agreement summarizes our objectives – these include, our push to have these level-4 prisons opened up in order for such prisons to be able to provide meaningful programs / privileges beneficial to all concerned…
There should be no question about the common sense of our position on the subject of the 2012 Agreement To End Hostilities, and purpose thereof! Without the ability to rely on ongoing race-based violence in this sytem, the prisoncracs have no justification for continuing to warehouse tens-of-thousands of prisoners in the level-4 general population prisons!!! They will then have to use the billions of tax payer dollars received to operate this system each year, for meaningful programs of substance, that are of benefit to society as a whole…
Programs and privileges benefitting prisoners, our outside loved ones, and the youngsters in our communities who, absent additional societal changes, are destined to follow behind us – thereby landing in these horrendous tombs that remain hopeless pits for the living dead. We need to stand united as a prisoner class, not for ourselves alone, but as a collective part of the working class-poor struggle for human rights and dignity…
It has been an honor for me to be a part of our collective coalition! It has been through our collective group efforts towards actively resisting our mutual oppressors’ torture programs – via collective peaceful action – that I have felt a real sense of human connectedness, for only the third time in more than 31 years! Such connectedness comes from the global support we have achieved to date!!!
Our collective energy – inside and outside these walls – keeps us going forward in positive ways, with the sense that we are not the vilified, socially dead, ‘worst-of-the-worst’ the prisoncrats, and their collaborators would have us be. Our collective voice is being heard around the globe – we are being recognized, and our voices heard, as fellow living beings – greatly empowered through our united collective efforts of active-peaceful resistance, and demand for human rights, dignity, and respect!!!
Our hope remains that of simply being able – one day – to see real trees, feel the earth’s soil and the warmth of the sun, the hugs, and related human contact, of our mothers, fathers, wives, girlfriends, siblings and grandchildren… And perhaps one day, our freedom from these dungeons, and thereby the ability to do our part out in society to make our community a better place too….
I remain thankful for our united collective efforts to gain human rights, and our related struggle for a better tomorrow; even within these tombs of the living dead – we have come back to life via our collective energy, and the positive steps we are taking towards achieving complete victory. I stand with all those similrly situated in struggle, united in solidarity – resolved to win!
Pelican Bay State Prison SHU (May 2, 1990-to-January of 2016)
Crescent City, California
Please read more in the ADDENDUM to Todd’s Bio.