Friday, April 8, 2005

Unlock the Box:

An Organizing Conference to Shut Down Prison Control Units

Unlock the Box is a product of many years of struggle to shut down the Security Housing Units in California. During this time, the United Front to Abolish the SHU was created as a forum to coordinate the actions of everyone involved in this campaign.

Since its creation, the United Front has continued to expand in membership and in the number of people we reach with our message. This conference is a step in the process of building more unity with groups all over the country and the world who are engaged in the struggle to end this torture.

The goals of Unlock the Box include increasing communication between groups over a wider geographic area, coming up with plans of action that we can agree to work on as a whole to help strengthen those connections and strengthening our cause thru mass participation.

The event will be a combination of presenters with vast experience in this struggle and working groups to come up with plans of action, with performances and food in between.

As the date approaches we will be contacting everyone with a more specific schedule and plan. Until then, we welcome your input, help and donations to make that happen.

Saturday, October 8, 2005
10 am - 6 pm Cell Space
2050 Bryant Street (near 18th street)
San Francisco, CA

Please fill out the questionnaire below and return to:
RAIL PO Box 40799 San Francisco, CA 94140 or email to:

name(organization, if applicable):________________________________
contact info:_______________________________

[ ] We/I do not want to receive future updates on the Unlock the Box Conference.

[ ] We/I cannot attend the Unlock the Box Conference, but would like to support the struggle to abolish control units in the following ways:

[ ] sign me up for the Abolish Control Units email list to receive and share information ( this is a low volume, monitored list) my email address________________________

[ ] add our organization to the 'Shut Down all Control Units' petition (see text below)

[ ] We/I can pledge $______ to help fund the conference (checks can be made out to MIM Distributors)

[ ] We/I plan to attend, please keep us updated by:

[ ] We are interested in organizing group transportation from our city/area.

[ ] We/I can contribute $______ to cover the cost of the conference.

[ ] We/I would like fliers and outreach materials to help raise awareness around Unlock the Box.

[ ] We/I can provide housing in or near San Francisco for other participants.

[ ] We/I can bring food donations to the conference.

[ ] We would like a literature/outreach table for our organization at the conference. (Tables will be reserved for those who respond earliest.

Relevant vendors are also welcome, but will be expected to contribute a portion of their proceeds to the cost of the conference.)

[ ] We would like a representative from the United Front to attend a meeting or event in our area to promote the conference

If you think you can help out in any other way, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

United Front Mission Statement

The United Front to Abolish the SHU is dedicated to shutting down Security Housing Units (SHUs) in California prisons. The SHU is one type of control unit, which are solitary or small group confinement cells. Their inhuman conditions in control units, including total sensory deprivation, amount to torture. The United Front to Abolish the SHU demands that all control units be abolished across the country.

Member Organizations/Contact Info:

Barrio Defense Committee
PO Box 1523
San Jose, CA 95109
tel: (408) 885-9785

San Jose, CA (Donna)
tel: (408) 293-4774

Chicano Mexicano Prison Project
PO Box 620095
San Diego, CA 92113

California Prison Focus (CPF)
2940 16th St. Suite B5
San Francisco, CA 94103
tel: (415) 252-9211

Chico, CA
Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM)
Bay Area: PO Box 40799
San Francisco, CA 94140
tel: (415) 267-4879

Los Angeles/National:
PO Box 29670
Los Angeles, CA 90029-0670

Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist League

African People's Solidarity Committee

Santa Cruz, CA

Shut down all Control Units

Control Unit prisons confine people to small cells in isolation for long periods of time. These prisons were first officially used in Alcatraz and then in 1972 in Marion, Illinois to house prisoners who were "institutional problems" or "too dangerous." Since then the idea has spread, and control units have become a common tool of repression throughout the Amerikan prison system.

These control units are used for the political and social control of prisoners already locked in secure institutions. They target Black, Latino and indigenous people who are a disproportionate part of control unit populations (relative to their already disproportionate representation in prisons in general). Control units go beyond the usual constraints of maximum security prisons. Better defined as a prison within a prison, control units are used to defeat prisoners' revolutionary attitudes, organization, militancy, legal and administrative challenges, and anything else the prison administrators deem objectionable. While conditions vary from prison to prison, the goal of these units is always to achieve the spiritual, psychological and physical breakdown of the prisoner.

Control units have various names such as Adjustment Center, Security Housing Unit (SHU), Maximum Control Complex (MCC), administrative maximum(ad-max), Intensive Management Unit (IMU) and administrative segregation (ad-seg). Prisoners spend years of isolation in tiny cells, usually 6 by 8 feet for 22 - 23.5 hours a day. In some cases the long term isolation is complete, in others it is small group isolation; both conditions are tremendously damaging to humans. The short time that they do spend outside their cell is within a cement or chain link "dog pen" that lacks any kind of equipment and proper space for physical exercise. Participation in programs including religious services, educational programs, work and job training, congregate dining and exercise are all prohibited. Medical care is also greatly limited.

Control units may vary from prison to prison but they can be generally characterized as: Permanently designated prisons or cells in prisons that lock prisoners up in solitary or small group confinement for 22 or more hours a day with no congregate dining, exercise or other services, and virtually no programs for prisoners. Prisoners are placed in control units for extended periods of time.

Prisoners are usually placed in control units as an administrative measure, with no clear rules governing the moves. This makes it virtually impossible for prisoners to challenge their placement.

Control units are designed to administer the very most in sensory deprivation and dehumanization of inmates. The United Nations has put forward clear documents outlining acceptable treatment of prisoners.

These documents reaffirm that prisoners retain fundamental human rights. The Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners (1990) states: "Except for those limitations that are demonstrably necessitated by the fact of incarceration, all prisoners shall retain the human rights and fundamental freedoms set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and, where the State concerned is a party, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Optional Protocol thereto, as well as such other rights as are set out in other United Nations covenants."

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has further stressed the obligation of the state to treat prisoners with dignity and allowing them all rights set forward in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (which the United $tates signed in 1977).

Control units are physical and mental torture and they very clearly violate the humyn rights of prisoners. They systematically target prisoners who are challenging the legal system and other manifestations of state authority. We, the signatories of this statement, condemn these units and demand that the United $tates abide by the UN principles it claims to uphold. We call for the elimination of all control units in prisons in the United $tates.

By Extent posted 8 April 05


Deaths in isolation as prison segregation increases
The use of segregation of prisoners as punishment has been increasing recently in Australia, the US, and the UK. Segregation can be used for protection or punishment, but in both cases it results in extreme psychological stress. An indication that segregation is being over-used is the appearance of deaths in custody from suicide of those placed in segregation.

Australian Prisoners in Detention Centres

Detention Centres, Solitary Confinement
On Friday night the NSW Council for Civil Liberties awarded Sydney solicitor John Marsden honorary life membership. Julian Burnside was invited to make the speech in Marsden's honour. In the course of his speech, Burnside referred to the unregulated use of solitary confinement in Australia's immigration detention centres, criticising it as inhumane and also as unlawful.

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.

Australian Mentally Ill Prisoners in Solitary Confinement

Mental Health Tribunal recommendations on forensic inmates
Below is the answer we have received from the Minister for Health regarding prisoners recommended for parole or release by the Mental Health Tribunal FYI.

Isolation, psychiatric treatment and prisoner' control
The 2003 NSW Corrections Health Service (now Justice Health) Report on Mental Illness Among NSW Prisoners states that the 12 month prevalence of any psychiatric disorder in prison is 74%, compared to 22% in the general community, and while this includes substance disorder the high rate cannot be attributed to that alone.

Australian Prisoners in Solitary Confinement:

The prison system requires assiduous oversight
As NSW Attorney General Bob Debus noted in 1996: "The kinds of complaints which occur in the system may seem trivial to outsiders but in the superheated world of the prison, such issues can produce explosive results."

Crime and Punishment
Mark Findlay argues that the present psychological approach to prison programs is increasing the likelihood of re-offending and the threat to community safety.

Goulburn Jail breaches UN standards
NSW: Greens MP Lee Rhiannon has called on Justice Minister John Hatzistergos to bring Goulburn Jail's Maximum Security Wing into line with United Nations standards, after a prison inmate's covert survey of his fellow inmates revealed problems with rehabilitation programs and basic amenities.

Where the Norm is Not the Norm: HARM-U
In the absence of public policy, this paper is an attempt to shine a light through the rhetoric and test for coherency in the policy and function of NSW’s only supermax prison, the High Risk Management Unit. Its present use will be compared with the ‘vision’ flogged by the Premier and the Department of Corrective Services (the Department) at its inception in 2001.

Justice Denied In NSW Corrective Services
There used to be a (VJ) or Visiting Justice who would go into the prison and judge any claim or accusation that was made by any prisoner or prison guard. If it were found that a prisoner had offended then punishment was metered out.

Prisoner Abuse Not Just in Iraq
The shocking revelations of abuse of prisoners by US prison guards in Iraq have been denounced by politicians around the world, including our own Prime Minister.

NSW Prisoners' linked to Osama Bin Laden: Ten News
NSW prisoners held in a "box within a box" with "no fresh air or sunlight" at the countries terrorist jail (HRMU) or High Risk Management Unit at Goulburn Correctional Centre, (a super-max prison in NSW), are said to have followed Osama Bin Laden from their isolated cells.

Conditions in the HRMU
Justice Action is trying to obtain documents on behalf of prisoners held in the Goulburn High Risk Management Unit (HRMU) from the Federal Attorney General's Department, Corrective Services Minister's Conference regarding the process described below, in which the Standard Guidelines for Corrections in Australia were adopted. This documentation will help explain the justification for the conditions in the HRMU.

We the prisoners at the High Risk Management Unit at Goulburn Correctional Centre would like to ask you for help in receiving equal treatment and opportunities as other prisoners throughout the system. As we are told that we are not in a segregation unit but we are treated as though we are in one.

On the treatment of prisoners at the NSW HRMU
Prisoners sister's letter from her brother: Following our phone conversation some weeks ago I would like to set out a few points on the treatment of prisoners in the High Risk Management Unit at Goulburn (Super Max) (Guantanamo Bay).

Escape proof but not so the prisoners mind
Fewer prisoners escape from prison these days because they're "cemented in" by materials that do not break and by legislation that can keep prisoners in jail until they die.

Watchdogs slaughtered in NSW
On Tuesday the Carr Government reduced transparency and accountability yet again and New South Wales is in danger of becoming entrenched with cronyism and intimidations with the Carr Labor Government that continues to slaughter the watchdogs.

High Risk Management Unit (HRMU) INSPECTION
The Special Care Unit (SCU) at Long Bay Correctional Centre was inspired by Barlinnie. The SCU was opened in 1981 to replace the Observation Unit, which was strongly criticised by the Nagle Report. The SCU was closed in 1997 because of lack of record-keeping which could give a measure of effectiveness.

Carr's Castle the real story H.R.M.U.The High Risk Management Unit Goulburn Correctional Centre. A prisoner writes, " I was unsuccessful in my letters to Dr Matthews CEO of the Corrections Health Service on my problem regarding air - claustrophobic effect the cells have on me. Just recently the management decided my injuries are not seriously affecting me so no further discussions are necessary.

International Prisoners in Solitary Confinement:

UK solitary confinement
UK: Segregation units are prisons within prisons - the places where the most unchecked brutality is meted out to prisoners. In recent years conditions in high security segregation units have deteriorated, and the use of long-term segregation as a control mechanism has increased.

Put in the way of self-harm in a place intended to protect others
UK: Sarah Campbell, 18, spent the last hours of her life in the segregation unit of Styal prison, Cheshire. "The seg", as those places are referred to, used to be known as "the block", short for punishment block. [ Seg is a bullshit word for Punishment, Solitary Confinement, Torture, Mental Illness, Self-Harm, Human Rights Abuse and that is State Terror.]

Unlocking the System
Four young people died in California's youth prisons last year, including Durrell Feaster, 18, and Deon Whitfield, 17, both of whom committed suicide by hanging themselves with bedsheets. In April of 2004, the release of a "Rodney-King-style" security video that showed prison staff restraining and viciously beating youth - punching one 28 times in the face - and later spraying them with chemicals, made national news. Since then, young men and women have also filed suit for sexual assault by prison staff.

A Death in the Box
By the time Jessica Lee Roger was discovered on the floor of her prison cell on Aug. 17, 2002, it was too late. In the 24 minutes since guards had last checked her, she had tied a bed sheet around her neck and, after many attempts over three years in prison, finally strangled herself.

SACRAMENTO: Prisons to reform solitary confinement rules
The settlement will 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.

Abu Ghraib, USA
When I first saw the photo, taken at the Abu Ghraib prison, of a hooded and robed figure strung with electrical wiring, I thought of the Sacramento, California, city jail.

On Solitary Confinement
There has been much written about solitary confinement by some of the world's leading psychiatrists, but very little written by victims of solitary themselves. I believe that the 32 years I have spent in solitary qualifies me for the task.

Maoist Internationalist Movement
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.

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."

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