Wednesday, June 23, 2004

SACRAMENTO: Prisons to reform solitary confinement rules

Suit by inmate, [? prisoner], isolated for 10 years results in 'up-front due process'

US: Sacramento -- California corrections officials will revamp procedures used to keep thousands of prisoners isolated in tiny cells in some of the most remote lockups in the state, according to the settlement of a 10-year-old lawsuit brought by a jailhouse lawyer doing time at Pelican Bay State Prison.

The settlement will, [allegedly], reshape policies for the use of secured housing, or "supermax,'' units, which have long been decried as inhumane by human rights groups and many mental health professionals. About 3,000 California prisoners spend 22 or 23 hours a day in 8-foot-by-10-foot cells with little human contact.

Prison officials say the secured housing units -- referred to as SHU's in corrections parlance -- are reserved for the worst-of-the-worst inmates, [prisoners], those who cause too much trouble when mixed among general prison populations.

[? And those who are targeted by authorities for special punishment!]

But corrections regulations also allow for inmates, [prisoners], who are declared, [? alleged], members of a prison gang to be shipped off indefinitely to the units, rules that inmates, [prisoners], and activists have complained are too ambiguous and let prison officials sentence inmates, [prisoners], they don't like to years of solitary confinement.

A 1994 lawsuit, brought by an inmate, [prisoner], who has spent nearly a decade confined in the secured housing unit, [solitary confinement], at the notorious Pelican Bay prison near the Oregon border, challenged the rules.

Steve Castillo is serving a 35-year sentence for attempted murder and was validated by prison authorities as a member of the Mexican Mafia prison gang. Castillo, who has filed numerous lawsuits against the corrections department and organized inmate, [prisoner], hunger strikes, contends he is in the housing unit as retaliation for his activism.

Ten years after the lawsuit was first filed, lawyers for the state and Castillo have reached a settlement that corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton characterized as "more clear, concise, up-front due process'' for inmates, [prisoners], facing time in secured housing.

The deal was reached late last month but must still be approved by U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins in San Francisco.

"The hope is that this will keep thousands of people out of SHU's,'' said Charles Carbone, a San Francisco attorney for the inmate-rights group, [prisoner-rights group], California Prison Focus who helped represent Castillo. "It's been a system that has been prone to abuse, and this settlement should change that.''

While acknowledging that "there were problems with the gang validation process,'' corrections spokeswoman Thornton denied that policies have been stretched to banish activists, [?], and said the new policies would likely not result in a dramatic decline in the secured housing population. She pointed to a review done last year that reaffirmed that virtually all of the inmates, [prisoners], in secured housing, [solitary confinement], for gang activity, [? activism], were truly gang affiliates. [? Just plain rubbish and propaganda.]

Policies surrounding the use of secured housing, [solitary confinement], for gang members, [? activists], have been criticized for several reasons.

Corrections officials, not judges, administer the sentence. Inmates, [prisoners], have virtually no opportunity to challenge charges that they are active in a prison gang. And evidence used to prove gang activity has often been flimsy, according to Carbone.

"You could have correspondence between two inmates, [prisoners], about the weather and it could be used against one of the inmates, [prisoners], as gang activity,'' if the other inmate, [prisoner], was already a, [an alleged], validated gang member, he noted.

Under conditions of the settlement, inmates, [prisoners], would have the right to dispute evidence. Prison officials also would have to detail how a piece of evidence indicates gang activity.

Regulations concerning inmates, [prisoners], who accuse other inmates, [prisoners], of gang activity also will be altered. The practice is referred to in a common prison phrase as one of three ways to leave the secured housing unit, [solitary confinement unit]: "Snitch, parole or die.''

Prison officials say the units are necessary to isolate troublemakers and members of gangs such as the Aryan Brotherhood and Black Guerrilla Family, which they argue are behind most of the illegal drug trade and violence inside lockups.

But the units, which are used by the federal government and several other states, remain a continuing source of criticism. Groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have condemned their use, and several studies have concluded the isolation in secured housing can create serious mental- health problems.

Oakland-based psychiatrist Terry Kupers, who has worked with hundreds of inmates, [prisoners], in secured housing, [solitary confinement], has written about an anxiety disorder he refers to as "SHU-induced mental illness.''

Others are even harsher in their assessments.

State Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-San Jose, who has been involved in legislative hearings on secured housing, [solitary confinement], and is a frequent critic of the Department of Corrections, offered a scathing critique of the department's use of secured housing.

"It's a department of destruction and torture, and SHU's are the most exaggerated example of their perversion,'' said Vasconcellos, who is carrying legislation this year to re-emphasize rehabilitation in the department's mission.

Inmates, [prisoners], in secured housing in California have about 90 minutes a day to shower or spend time in larger, outdoor caged areas. They are not allowed phone calls, family visits are difficult, and there is no educational or vocational programming.

By Mark Martin posted june 23 04

E-mail Mark Martin at


Silencing the Cells: Mass Incarceration and Legal Repression in U.S. Prisons People without a voice are not people in any meaningful sense of the word. Silenced people cannot express their ideas; they can neither consent nor protest. They are reduced to being pawns in the schemes of the powerful, mendicants who must accept whatever is imposed upon them. In order to keep people in a state of subjugation, silencing their voices is essential. Nowhere is this clearer than in U.S. prisons.

USA: An ugly prison record
US: For a nation founded on slavery and genocide, Americans retain an astonishingly enduring faith in their continuing righteousness. They are sounding this note again as the prison torture scandal continues in Iraq.

From Terrell Unit in Texas to Abu Ghraib Doesn't It Ring a (Prison) Bell If the president wasn't so forthright about his disinterest in the world, it would have been hard to believe him Wednesday when he said the abuse in Abu Ghraib prison "doesn't represent the America I know." But being stripped, hooded and urinated on while your friend is forced to masturbate next to you? The only member of the Bush clan who knows about that kind of thing is Jenna.

Restorative Justice Practices
This is part one in a series of articles about restorative justice practices of Native American, First Nation and other indigenous people of North America. Part one of this series includes inter- views with three justice practitioners of the southwestern United States:

USA: Problems, blame abound in prison system
A correctional officer, [guard], watches over the central exercise yard at Folsom State Prison. California built 21 prisons and tripled prison staff as the statewide inmate, [prisoner], population grew in the '80s and '90s.

Mistreatment of Prisoners Is Called Routine in U.S.
Physical and sexual abuse of prisoners, similar to what has been uncovered in Iraq, takes place in American prisons with little public knowledge or concern, according to corrections officials, inmates, [prisoners], and human rights advocates.

A Catch-22 for Ex-Offenders
Tuesday, April 6, 2004 -- As the Bush administration focuses attention on ex-offenders with its modest program to help them return to the community, an eye-opening new study shows that the effort will require a lot more than re-entry programs.

A Quite Deliberate Failure: Reflections on the Politics of Crime
Though it is always difficult to predict the outcome of an election in the United States, it is quite a bit easier to make accurate pronouncements about the way in which an election campaign will unfold.

Personal Voices: America From Inside Federal Prison
I offer these thoughts to readers who may have an interest in knowing how the growing American prison population perceives the electoral process. Elections are the essence of democracy; they give each eligible voter an opportunity to be heard.

Fighting for Florida: Disenfranchised Florida Felons Struggle to Regain Their Rights US: TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Gov. Jeb Bush looked out over a roomful of felons appealing to him for something they had lost, and tried to reassure them.

Abolish the Security Housing Units: MIM
March 6 -- Protesters took to the streets in cities across the state of California to demand California prisons shut down the Security Housing Units (SHU). Like other control unit prisons across the country, the SHU are prisons within a prison. They are solitary confinement cells where prisoners are locked up 23 hours a day for years at a time. The one hour a day these prisoner sometimes get outside of their cell is spent alone in an exercise pen not much larger than their cell, with no direct sunlight.

USA: Sobering Prison Statistics
US: If recent incarceration rates remain unchanged, an estimated 1 out of every 20 persons (5.1%) will serve time in a prison during their lifetime.

Helping Prisoners Find Their Way Home?
Antonio Pinder used to be scared of returning home from prison, stricken by fear that he would fall back into the life that landed him behind bars. He hadn't had a steady job before he was sent away 13 years ago, and he worried that he never would. A year out of prison, he is still searching for work.

US Prison system ending love affair with incarceration?
After 25 years of explosive growth in the U.S. prison system, is this country finally ending its love affair with incarceration? Perhaps, but as in any abusive relationship, breaking up will be hard to do.

CONS COMMIT CRIMES IN HASTE, NOW CAN REPENT AT LAWTEY - -- Gov. Jeb Bush, in a Christmas Eve address to prisoners at the nation's first ''faith-based'' prison, in North Florida.

CURE --- Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants
CURE --- is a nation-wide grass roots organization dedicated to reducing crime through reform of the criminal justice system.[Criminal Law System.]

The Truth About Private Prisons
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation's largest operator of prisons for profit, is celebrating its 20th anniversary throughout this year "at both the company's corporate Nashville office and at all of the more than 60 prisons, jails and detention centers under CCA ownership and/or management."

New National Study of Corrections Corporation of America Warns Investors and Legislators of Risky Investment. Report explores continuing operational and financial problems; questions CCA's long-term viability as states reassess prison policies.

Finally, States Release The Pressure on Prisons?
US: After decades of massive prison growth, America may be ending its love affair with incarceration. Policymakers around the country, some of whom previously supported ratcheting up punishments, have begun to rethink the wisdom of unbridled prison expansion, and are advocating alternatives to simply "locking them up and throwing away the key."

California Parole System Deemed 'Broken'
SACRAMENTO, Calif: California spends $1.5 billion annually on parolees who mostly fail and are sent back behind bars because they are no better prepared for life on the outside than the day they entered prison, according to a report.

People with Mental Retardation in the Criminal Justice System
Based on the 1990 census, an estimated 6.2 to 7.5 million people in the United States have mental retardation. Various studies have suggested between 2 percent to 10 percent of the prison population has mental retardation.

USA: With Cash Tight, States Reassess Long Jail Terms
OLYMPIA, Wash., Nov. 6 - After two decades of passing ever tougher sentencing laws and prompting a prison building boom, state legislatures facing budget crises are beginning to rethink their costly approaches to crime.

After a war waged by the U.S. military against Vietnam which took the lives of more than 3 million Vietnamese people and more than 58,000 GIs, the U.S. finally withdrew in 1975. It had suffered its first official major military defeat by a united people struggle led by the Vietnamese, along with a mass U.S. anti-war movement.

Report on State Prisons Cites Mental Illness
NEW YORK: Nearly one of every four New York State prisoners who are kept in punitive segregation [solitary confinement], confined to a small cell at least 23 hours a day are mentally ill, according to a new report by a nonprofit group that has been critical of state prison policies.

High court keeps alive case of prisoners held in solitary
NEW ORLEANS: The nation's highest court refused Monday to kill a lawsuit brought by two prisoners and an ex-prisoner at the Louisiana State Penitentiary who spent decades in solitary confinement.

US: Mentally Ill Mistreated in Prison More Mentally Ill in Prison Than in Hospitals (New York, October 22, 2003) Mentally ill offenders face mistreatment and neglect in many U.S. prisons, Human Rights Watch. "Prisons have become the nation's primary mental health facilities. But for those with serious illnesses, prison can be the worst place to be."

Shut down the Security Torture Units
San Francisco: October 18 In solidarity with other prison activist organizations, MIM, RAIL, the Barrio Defense Committee (BDC) and the Prison Reform Unity Project held a four hour rally in San Francisco demanding the Security Housing Units (SHUs) in California prisons be shut down.

Solitary Confinement: Mental illness in prisons
As noted earlier, inmates [prisoners] with mental illness are over represented in our toughest prison settings. Symptoms of mental illness (i.e., delays in response time, paranoia, difficulty interpreting the actions of others, command hallucinations, and so on) can make complying with prison rules difficult.

Post-Incarceration Sentences
Pat: "The 1990s brought a new front in the war on drugs, featuring a new layer of the Prison Industrial Complex, which has the effect of ensuring that people coming in contact with the criminal punishment system remain within the grasp of the Prison Industrial Complex even beyond prison walls."

Inside Prison, Outside the Law
Every year, tens of thousands of prisoners in state and federal custody are attacked. The exact number who die is difficult to determine: According to the nonprofit Criminal Justice Institute, in 2000, the most recent year for which figures have been compiled, 55 prisoners were murdered, 39 died "accidentally," and 118 died for unknown reasons.

Day Seven of the Fast for Freedom in Mental Health:
PASADENA, CALIF: On the seventh day of a hunger strike by six psychiatric survivors to oppose human rights violations in the mental health system, the American Psychiatric Association faces a direct and unprecedented challenge from a Scientific Panel of 14 academics and clinicians.

Supreme Court Justice Criticises Sentencing Guidelines
San Francisco, August 9, 2003, Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said today that prison terms are too long and that he favours scrapping the practice of setting mandatory minimum sentences for some federal crimes.

US prison population 2.1 million
The US prison population grew more than twice as fast last year as in 2001, bringing the total number of people held behind bars in the United States to more than 2.1 million, a record, according to a government report.

McKean Federal Prison: An Alleged Model
McKean, a federal correctional institution [? prison], does everything that "make 'em bust rocks" politicians decry--imagine, educating inmates [prisoners]! And it works. [Allegedly works.]

Prisoners Justice Day Press Release (Montreal)
On August 10th, 1974, Eddie Nalon bled to death in a solitary confinement unit at Millhaven Maximum Security Prison near Kingston,Ontario when the emergency call button in his cell failed to work. An inquest later found that the call buttons in that unit had been deactivated by the guards.

Notebook of a Prison Abolitionist
In his autobiography, Frederick Douglass recalls how as a slave he would occasionally hear of the "abolitionists." He did not know the full meaning of the word at first, but he heard it used in ways that he found appealing.

Study Warns of Rising Tide of Released Prisoners
Washington: More than 625,000 former prisoners will be coming back into U.S. society this year, part of a record flow of prisoners who will face crushing obstacles in finding work and housing and repairing long-fractured family ties, according to a newly released study.

Incite Statement Gender Violence and the Prison Industrial Complex
We call social justice movements to develop strategies and analysis that address both state AND interpersonal violence, particularly violence against women.

Second International Conference on Human Rights & Prison Reform
**This second gathering will be much smaller and more in depth in participation. A report on the human rights violation of discrimination in regard to prisoners will be produced. This report will be given to the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights which will be having its annual meeting near our conference and is the"think tank" for the human rights agenda of the United Nations.

Judged Forever- The Orange County Register
US: California's largest job-placement program for parolees will be shut down May 31 after an Orange County Register investigation found that ex-convicts were sent to questionable jobs [?] and that the state was charged for placements that did not occur. [? According to the ruling-class]

California Family Visiting Case
US: CALIFORNIA: Today (5/03/08) in Superior Court around twenty friends and family members of inmates from CSP Solano showed up to show their support in the Gordon vs. CA Department of Corrections (Case #322862) which deals with the subject of bringing back Family Visits to all inmates.

Prison Rates Among Blacks Reach a Peak, Report Finds
An estimated 12 percent of African-American men ages 20 to 34 are in jail or prison, according to a report released yesterday by the Justice Department.

Justices question prison visitation policies
WASHINGTON: In a case that could affect the visitation rights of millions of prisoners, Supreme Court justices on Wednesday struggled with the question of whether inmates have a constitutional right to visits with friends and family.

Iraq and Afghanistan links:

Prisoner's identity concealed to prevent Red Cross access
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, acting at the request of the CIA, ordered that a suspected Iraqi insurgent leader be detained off the books to conceal his identity from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Pentagon has confirmed.

US has secret prisons: rights group
The United States is holding terrorism suspects in more than two dozen detention centres worldwide, about half of which operate in total secrecy, according to a new human rights report.

This won't hurt much
For some time now, I've been trying to find out where my son goes after choir practice. He simply refuses to tell me. He says it's no business of mine where he goes after choir practice and it's a free country.

Some US prisons as bad as Abu Ghraib
AS MORE images of debased Iraqi detainees ricochet around the world, many viewers are as bewildered as they are outraged. How could ordinary American soldiers, whether they were following orders or acting on their own, appear so untroubled, even exhilarated by their brutish conduct?

Australian Links:

Australia's "GITMO" System
Australia's "GITMO" System In June 2002 on the PM program on ABC radio, PHILIP RUDDOCK is quoted as saying: "Well, let me just say, detention centres are not prisons. They are administrative detention.

Death in custody: In memory of Scott Simpson
Scott Simpson 34 died in custody on 7 June 2004 leaving behind a child. It is alleged that he hanged himself in a segregation yard at Long Bay Prison Complex. Justice Action has reasons to believe that Scott had been mistreated from the time he was taken into custody and the subsequent events that ensued that led to his sad death. We think that his treatment may well have caused his death.

The world was shocked by the images of Abu Ghraib prisoner torture. But around the world the prisoner community knows that worse happens every day.