House of no justice

From the September-October 2014 issue of News & Letters

Represa, Calif.—I’m writing this letter in response to the article “Prisons: Gang Ties Alleged in Hunger Strike” (San Francisco Chronicle, July 14, 2011). I am an inmate at New Folsom State Prison and was personally involved in the statewide hunger strike that started on July 1 in protest of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitiation’s (CDCR) practices of cruel and unusual punishment. The allegations made by CDCR spokesman Terry Thornton, that this hunger strike is gang-related and was synchronized through organized criminal networks, are absurd. We learned of the hunger strike through California Prison Focus newsletter, not some criminal network.

Clearly the CDC (not Rehabilitation) is using the media to spread propaganda to diminish the severity of our issues and discredit this hunger strike by claiming inmates were ordered by a gang to starve themselves. More than 150 inmates of all races and ethnicities here participated as an act of solidarity and advocacy for our own class interest.

Many of us are destined to the same fate as those already indeterminately placed in a Security Housing Unit (SHU). We are deprived of any and all rehabilitation and subject to severe isolation and sensory deprivation. Within the prison there are daily acts of violence. I have been in CDCR for six years and have never been in any verbal or physical altercation with another inmate and/or correctional officer. Nor have I ever been cited for any gang-related conduct or activity, but yet I have been labeled by prison administrators as a prison gang member and deemed a threat to the safety and security of CDCR.

Does this make any sense? Where is the justice in this? It’s costing taxpayers roughly $70,000 a year (not including healthcare cost) to keep me in a SHU. The next 15-plus years of my sentence will be spent in complete isolation, even from other inmates, never being able to call or hug my grandmother, who has ovarian cancer, attend religious services or even rehabilitation programs. I’ve been sentenced to a house of justice but yet there is no justice for me!

This is why I, as well as many other inmates, participated in this hunger strike and support the Five Core Demands: 1. Individual accountability; 2. Abolish the debriefing policy and active/inactive gang status criteria; 3. Comply with U.S. Commission 2006 recommendations regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement; 4. Provide adequate food; and 5. Expand and provide constructive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU status inmates.

Your readers have a right to read the truth and facts, not propaganda from prison officials.

—M.B.

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