Don’t let CDCR reverse our hunger strike-won legal victory: Statement of prisoner representatives on second anniversary of Ashker v. Brown settlement


by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Ronnie Dewberry), Arturo Castellanos, Todd Ashker and George Franco

Oct. 14, 2017, marks the two-year anniversary of the approval of the Ashker settlement. We celebrate our victory in the Ashker case, in which virtually all of the over 1,600 prisoners then languishing in indeterminate SHU were released to General Population. This victory was achieved through three hunger strikes and the non-violent legal and political action of thousands of California prisoners, their families, supporters and their attorneys.

However, unfortunately, our general monitoring is due to run out after two years unless the court grants an extension. We believe that CDCR is still engaged in constitutional violations that deny prisoners due process and seeks to put us back in the hole – for many, indeterminately under the guise of Administrative SHU.

Our attorneys will seek an extension of the agreement due to CDCR’s systemic violations of the Constitution. We don’t know what the court will do, but we do know that prisoners and their families have to re-energize our human rights movement to fight against the continuing violations of our rights. Examples are:

  • CDCR’s continued misuse of confidential information to place prisoners back in the SHU, particularly with bogus conspiracy charges;
  • The lack of out of cell time, programming and vocational programs in Level 4 prisons. The last letter of CDCR stands for rehabilitation, and there are almost no rehab programs and opportunities in the Level 4 prisons. They function like modified SHUs;
  • The denial of parole to lifers and Prop 57 prisoners who have clean records simply because of old, unconstitutional gang validations and CDCR’s illegally housing us in SHU for years;
  • The turning of the Restrictive Custody General Population Unit, which was supposed to be a GP unit where prisoners who had real safety concerns could transition to regular GP, into a purgatory where the only way out is to either debrief or die;
  • CDCR promulgation of new regulations which gives the ICC discretion to put people back in the SHU, allows for many prisoners to be placed in the future in indeterminate Administrative SHU, or to be placed in the RCGP on phony safety concerns.

We must stand together, not only for ourselves, but for future generations of prisoners, so that they don’t have to go through the years of torture that we had to. We need all prisoners – young and old – to make our collective outcry public to ensure that the victory that we have won is not reversed by CDCR behind closed doors.

We must stand together, not only for ourselves, but for future generations of prisoners, so that they don’t have to go through the years of torture that we had to. We need all prisoners – young and old – to make our collective outcry public to ensure that the victory that we have won is not reversed by CDCR behind closed doors.

Ultimately, we are the ones who are responsible for leading the struggle for justice and fair treatment of prisoners. That is why we entered into the historic Agreement to End Hostilities, and why it is so important that the prisoner class continue to stand by and support that agreement. We cannot allow our victories to be nullified by CDCR’s abuse of power, and may have to commit ourselves to non-violent peaceful struggle if CDCR continues on its present path.

We need everyone – prisoners, their families and the public – to

  • send comments on CDCR’s proposed regulations to staff@aol.ca.gov,
  • send emails and letters urging Gov. Brown to sign Assembly Bill 1308,
  • make sure that prisoner complaints about unfair treatment are publicized, and
  • work together to rebuild our prisoners’ human rights movement.

We cannot let CDCR increase its use of prolonged solitary confinement either by misusing confidential information to place prisoners in SHU on phony conspiracy charges, or through increasing the use of Administrative SHU. As the Supreme Court stated over one hundred years ago in the 1879 case of Wilkerson v. Utah, it is “safe to affirm that punishment of torture … and all others in the same line of unnecessary cruelty are forbidden by that [the Eighth] Amendment.”

The admired historian Howard Zinn noted the application of that decision to the modern SHU: “All we need then is general recognition that to imprison a person inside a cage, to deprive that person of human companionship, of mother and father and wife and children and friends, to treat that person as a subordinate creature, to subject that person to daily humiliation and reminder of his or her own powerlessness in the face of authority … is indeed torture and thus falls within the decision of the Supreme Court a hundred years ago.”

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Ronnie Dewberry), Arturo Castellano, Todd Ashker and George Franco are the highly respected “four main reps,” who conceived and organized the campaign to end indeterminate SHU through three mass hunger strikes, peaking at 30,000 participants, making them the largest in history; the major Ashker v. Brown lawsuit with representation by the Center for Constitutional Rights; and the historic Agreement to End Hostilities. Having been longtime neighbors in the Pelican Bay SHU (Security Housing Unit), they are now scattered around the state, making collaboration very difficult. They can be reached at these addresses:

  • Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Ronnie Dewberry), C-35671, SVSP C1-118, P.O. Box 1050, Soledad CA 93960
  • Arturo Castellanos, C-17275, PBSP SHU, D1-121, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
  • Todd Ashker, C-58191, KVSP A1-223, P.O. Box 5101, Delano CA 93216
  • George Franco, D-46556, CCC, P.O. Box 2210, Susanville CA 96127

source: Don’t let CDCR reverse our hunger strike-won legal victory: Statement of prisoner representatives on second anniversary of Ashker v. Brown settlement

 

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