Voices from the Inside Out
Sham response to prison hunger strike
Pelican Bay, Calif., April 2, 2012
After we read the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) "Prevention, Identification and Management Strategy," we had a tier discussion of it. To a man, we believe that document is nothing more than a public relations stunt by CDCR to regain public support.
This is clear, particularly as it did not meet the five core demands set forth by the Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers. It leaves in place the very practices that generated the hunger strike.
In the preface CDCR claims the public safety realignment is their opportunity to modify aspects of its gang management policies consistent with successful models used in other correctional agencies. We have learned via our experiences that CDCR's rhetoric is not its practice.
The preface also states CDCR's current policy for identifying prison-based gang members and associates and isolating them from the general population will be replaced with a more effective model that identifies, targets and manages "security threat groups" (STG). It utilizes a behavior-based step-down program (SDP).
The catch is, "This program will afford the offender the opportunity to work their way from a restricted program back to a general population setting by demonstrating a willingness and commitment to discontinue gang activity while in CDCR facility." To us this means a perpetuation of the debriefing policy that CDCR said it would reform.
What is the need for a continuance of the debriefing policy if the SDP affords us a transition to the general population? Is the SDP a genuine process? We think not. We base this conclusion on the details in the body of the document.
First it is necessary to examine what is required just to get to SDP. There is an insurmountable hurdle: a prisoner's participation in the SDP is totally voluntary, but a prisoner wishing to participate must sign a contract.
GANG LABEL PERMANENT
We suspect the terms are what CDCR previously had in operation: that a prisoner admits to being a gang member. Prisoners universally condemned this practice, which amounted to locking a chain around your own neck. Such a provision would curtail prisoners' participation in the SDP.
It is the same process that has kept people in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) for the past 20 years or more. CDCR claims that advancement through the SDP will be determined by how far the prisoner has distanced himself from the gang. It means being discipline-free, yet the guards issue disciplinary write-ups for many non-gang activities, against which prisoners cannot defend themselves.
We in the SHU are not afforded any rights to contest the "information" used against us in the current policy's "active/inactive review." CDCR claims full disclosure of the information would jeopardize prisons' security. Since we cannot see the "information," we cannot know if this is new information, or recycled old "information," much of it proved to be untrue.
The active/inactive review process is supposed to be based on your criminal activity furthering the goals of a gang. Instead CDCR has opted to use mere validation as the determinant. We would not be in the SHU in the first place if we had not been "validated" previously. Every six years we are "re-validated" based on the same "information." Just being re-validated, CDCR claims, constitutes gang activity, enough to retain us in the SHU, because we have shown an unwillingness to distance ourselves from gang activity.
In short, the prisoner has not demonstrated the willingness to debrief. This is in spite of the fact that the majority of us have over 15 years of clean time.
In addition, the document details a more enhanced role for the Institutional Gang Investigator (IGI), giving it even more control. IGI determines if participants in life-skills programs, where one is expected to write a journal, are being forthright enough. IGI is the very entity which ensures we prisoners stay in the SHU. Now we are to be further subjected to their influence, in effect telling us we ain't got nothing coming unless we debrief.
There is much more in the document that we find totally reprehensible and reject outright. But we leave its thorough rebuke to the representatives of the Pelican Hunger Strike Human Rights Initiative.
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