Gentrification report proposes bold solutions to stop displacement in OaklandApril 20, 2014
Last week Causa Justa::Just Cause (CJJC) released a report titled Development Without Displacement: Resisting Gentrification in the Bay Area. The 112-page document, prepared in collaboration with the Alameda County Public Health Department, goes beyond describing the public health implications of gentrification to proposing steps that cities like Oakland can take to stop displacement of historic residents.

Six key principles create a framework for the report’s policy recommendations:
Baseline protections for vulnerable residents
Production and preservation of affordable housing
Stabilization of existing communities
Non-market based approaches to housing and community development
Displacement prevention as a regional priority
Planning as a participatory process

“Because gentrification is an issue that crosses various different kinds of aspects, you actually do need a variety of policy strategies,” said Maria Zamudio, San Francisco Housing Rights Organizer with CJJC.  “There is no silver bullet to take on the housing crisis.”
The report classifies neighborhoods by their place on a spectrum of gentrification. “Gentrification in different neighborhoods is in different stages, so the need for policy interventions is different,” she said.
The report lays out proposed policies, including just cause eviction ordinances, proactive code enforcement to make sure current affordable housing stock is maintained, inclusive zoning that mandates affordable housing be part of development projects, and community trainings to encourage resident participation in planning processes. A proposed community health impact analysis of new projects would be designed to help cities like Oakland welcome much-needed development while mitigating displacement.
The report advocates against the market-driven planning process that is the norm in cities throughout the Bay Area. Instead, it suggests, cities should invest in affordable housing through Community Land Trusts and Limited Equity Housing Co-Ops and levy taxes aimed at making real estate speculation less attractive to investors.“Right of first refusal” and “reparation and return” policies would allow residents displaced by habitability issues or urban renewal the opportunity to return to their former homes. A “No Net Loss” policy would “require all affordable units lost through renovation, conversion, or demolition be replaced within the same neighborhood if possible and within the same city at a minimum.” Public data on civic investment and demographic changes by neighborhood would highlight areas of  neglect and displacement where resources are most needed.
“Policy fights need to be organizing opportunities,” said Zamudio, highlighting another recommendation:  to bring affected communities into the process of preventing their own displacement. “Our policies are never going to be visionary enough to take on the problem,” she said, without input from “the most impacted residents of neighborhoods” experiencing gentrification.
Some of the proposals in the report are already being implemented in other cities. San Francisco is listed as a model for a number of the proposals. Yet displacement is, if anything, a bigger problem in that city than in Oakland. “We’re seeing a compounding of impacts,” said Zamudio. “Planning by the city has been in line with changes that the speculative market wants.” She noted that demographic shifts, as working class residents are pushed out, compound the problem by raising the median income and, with it, the threshold for affordable housing. “The income of the city is unbalanced,” she said, which leads to increasing challenges in finding housing affordable to working class residents.
Full article

Gentrification report proposes bold solutions to stop displacement in Oakland
April 20, 2014

Last week Causa Justa::Just Cause (CJJC) released a report titled Development Without Displacement: Resisting Gentrification in the Bay Area. The 112-page document, prepared in collaboration with the Alameda County Public Health Department, goes beyond describing the public health implications of gentrification to proposing steps that cities like Oakland can take to stop displacement of historic residents.

Six key principles create a framework for the report’s policy recommendations:

  1. Baseline protections for vulnerable residents
  2. Production and preservation of affordable housing
  3. Stabilization of existing communities
  4. Non-market based approaches to housing and community development
  5. Displacement prevention as a regional priority
  6. Planning as a participatory process

“Because gentrification is an issue that crosses various different kinds of aspects, you actually do need a variety of policy strategies,” said Maria Zamudio, San Francisco Housing Rights Organizer with CJJC.  “There is no silver bullet to take on the housing crisis.”

The report classifies neighborhoods by their place on a spectrum of gentrification. “Gentrification in different neighborhoods is in different stages, so the need for policy interventions is different,” she said.

The report lays out proposed policies, including just cause eviction ordinances, proactive code enforcement to make sure current affordable housing stock is maintained, inclusive zoning that mandates affordable housing be part of development projects, and community trainings to encourage resident participation in planning processes. A proposed community health impact analysis of new projects would be designed to help cities like Oakland welcome much-needed development while mitigating displacement.

The report advocates against the market-driven planning process that is the norm in cities throughout the Bay Area. Instead, it suggests, cities should invest in affordable housing through Community Land Trusts and Limited Equity Housing Co-Ops and levy taxes aimed at making real estate speculation less attractive to investors.“Right of first refusal” and “reparation and return” policies would allow residents displaced by habitability issues or urban renewal the opportunity to return to their former homes. A “No Net Loss” policy would “require all affordable units lost through renovation, conversion, or demolition be replaced within the same neighborhood if possible and within the same city at a minimum.” Public data on civic investment and demographic changes by neighborhood would highlight areas of  neglect and displacement where resources are most needed.

“Policy fights need to be organizing opportunities,” said Zamudio, highlighting another recommendation:  to bring affected communities into the process of preventing their own displacement. “Our policies are never going to be visionary enough to take on the problem,” she said, without input from “the most impacted residents of neighborhoods” experiencing gentrification.

Some of the proposals in the report are already being implemented in other cities. San Francisco is listed as a model for a number of the proposals. Yet displacement is, if anything, a bigger problem in that city than in Oakland. “We’re seeing a compounding of impacts,” said Zamudio. “Planning by the city has been in line with changes that the speculative market wants.” She noted that demographic shifts, as working class residents are pushed out, compound the problem by raising the median income and, with it, the threshold for affordable housing. “The income of the city is unbalanced,” she said, which leads to increasing challenges in finding housing affordable to working class residents.

Full article

Largest anti-fracking rally in California history draws thousands
March 17, 2014

They came in their thousands from across the Golden State. On Saturday, the largest anti-fracking rally and protest in California’s history took place in the state capital of Sacramento.

The message to California Gov. Jerry Brown was simple: act now to ban fracking.

The rally, which was organized by Californians Against Fracking and some 80 environmental and health organizations, such as Oil Change International (OCI) and 350.org.

Protestors were young and old, united in their opposition to fracking. One group of grandmothers sang: “We don’t want your fracking turning all our water brown, Take your freakin’ frackin’ drills or we will shut you down! Hydro-FRAC-turing just sucks.”

“Governor Brown has positioned himself as a climate champion, and we want to make it clear that as he decides whether to green light a massive expansion of fracking in California, his legacy is on the line,” said rally organizer Zack Malitz

David Turnbull, campaigns director at OCI warned Gov. Brown he would be “foolish to ignore,” the growing movement against fracking in the State. “The Governor can choose to stand with these concerned Californians and stop fracking in our state, or he can continue to stand with Big Oil,” Turnbull said.

Two days previously environmental groups had released a report warning that oil companies areincreasing California’s earthquake risk by fracking, which is especially pertinent given the active fault lines of California.

The report concluded that a boom in fracking in California would worsen the danger of earthquakes, by greatly increasing oil wastewater production and underground injection. Extracting the Monterey Shale’s oil in the state could produce almost 9 trillion gallons of contaminated wastewater, the report estimates. That could expose California to a surge in damaging earthquakes like those seen in other states. (Last week I blogged about how one frack well in Ohio has been suspended due to small quakes.)

“This isn’t rocket science,” said one of the report’s authors, Jhon Arbelaez from EarthWorks. “We’ve known for decades that wastewater injection increases earthquake risk. Since Gov. Brown resolutely refuses to learn from other communities’ experience with fracking across the country, our only option to protect California families is to prevent fracking altogether.”

And that certainly was the message at Saturday’s rally.

“People need to know what fracking looks like,” said Rodrigo Romo, one activist from the heavily fracked region of Shafter, CA. “In the Central Valley there is no buffer between fracking sites and our community; there are wells next-door to schools and agricultural land. It is time for our decision makers to listen to us and stop fracking.”

Source
PhotosCorrine Koster and Rae Breaux

California actions planned for Homeless Bill of RightsJanuary 15, 2014
Homeless advocates are planning actions across California to promote a bill of rights for the un-housed this coming Friday and weekend. Activists from at least 10 cities will be participating through community forums, speak-outs and marches.
In Los Angeles, advocates are planning a “sleep-out” in Venice, where participants will pitch tents and sleep overnight in a public space.
Organizers and participants are demanding California adopt a Homeless Bill of Rights and end, what they call, the criminalization of the poor and homeless by canceling ordinances and policing strategies that target them.
In Los Angeles alone, several city ordinances, sometimes called “Quality of Life” laws, have been written specifically targeting the poor, such as dictating when people can sleep, sit or lie down on sidewalks, as well as restricting overnight parking to rid neighborhoods of anyone who lives in their cars. Food lines are also under threat, as business interests are seeking to end public feeding, saying it is a hazard to public health and safety.
Organizers for the Western Regional Advocacy Project, or WRAP, which is spearheading the campaign, likens these laws to previous discriminatory practices, such as the ugly laws of the 1870s, the anti-Oakie laws of the 1930s, the sunset laws of the 1950s and Jim Crow.
“These so-called ‘Quality of Life’ laws are to disappear homeless people, to keep homeless people out of public spaces. It’s basically criminalizing their existence,” said Bilal Ali, a statewide organizer for WRAP.
The Homeless Bill of Rights is currently being reviewed by WRAP’s legislative committee for slight revisions, said Ali. State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) had introduced a version of the Homeless Bill of Rights to the Assembly in 2012. It was thought he would sponsor the bill this year, but as of now organizers are not sure how much support, if any, they will be able to expect from Ammiano.
The Homeless Bill of Rights is based on six principles, which, if passed, will protect the right to:
Move freely, rest, sleep, pray and be protected in public spaces without discrimination.
Occupy a legally parked vehicle.
Serve food to the homeless and eat in public.
Legal counsel if being prosecuted for infractions.
Twenty-four-hour access to existing hygiene facilities.
Be considered for necessity defense by judges when hearing homeless related cases.
The Green Party’s gubernatorial candidate, Luis Rodriguez, said last month that he supports the Homeless Bill of Rights. He said LA’s solution to homelessness has been to drive them away to areas outside the city.
“We have the largest homeless population in the country,” he said of California. “It is ridiculous in a state so rich and powerful that instead of providing people decent homes we’re just pushing them out.”
Part of the strategy of advocates is to tie in Marin Luther King Jr. Day, which falls on the Monday following the weekend’s actions. Advocates hope to use King’s position on economic justice to assist in their messaging.
Although government-corporate parades that honor King every year focus on his anti-segregation campaign, King’s plans for revolutionizing America were much broader. In 1968, he initiated a Poor People’s campaign, which linked capitalism’s inability to provide economic security for all Americans, as well as the country’s militarism, to race and poverty within its borders.
King’s stance on poverty, however, was about as popular today as it was in 1968, said Kwazi Nkrumah, a coordinator and co-chair for the Martin Luther King Coalition in Los Angeles. Many, he said, abandoned King for his support of the poor and speaking out against the war on Vietnam.
“It’s an important message for people to get, because they are not getting that message,” he said “It is important people recognize and acknowledge that King’s own orientation, while it was certainly very significant in terms of addressing the race issues in America, wasn’t solely about race. It was about race and economics and many other things.”
The actions in Venice will begin at 11 a.m. on Jan. 18 and will end by 11 a.m. the following day. Participants will be meeting at the Ocean Front Walk and Rose Avenue. Food lines are scheduled to provide breakfast and dinner. At 2:00 p.m., activists will be holding a parade on Ocean Front Walk. The sleep-out will begin around five or six p.m. at Windward circle at Windward Avenue and Main Street.
SourcePhoto

California actions planned for Homeless Bill of Rights
January 15, 2014

Homeless advocates are planning actions across California to promote a bill of rights for the un-housed this coming Friday and weekend. Activists from at least 10 cities will be participating through community forums, speak-outs and marches.

In Los Angeles, advocates are planning a “sleep-out” in Venice, where participants will pitch tents and sleep overnight in a public space.

Organizers and participants are demanding California adopt a Homeless Bill of Rights and end, what they call, the criminalization of the poor and homeless by canceling ordinances and policing strategies that target them.

In Los Angeles alone, several city ordinances, sometimes called “Quality of Life” laws, have been written specifically targeting the poor, such as dictating when people can sleep, sit or lie down on sidewalks, as well as restricting overnight parking to rid neighborhoods of anyone who lives in their cars. Food lines are also under threat, as business interests are seeking to end public feeding, saying it is a hazard to public health and safety.

Organizers for the Western Regional Advocacy Project, or WRAP, which is spearheading the campaign, likens these laws to previous discriminatory practices, such as the ugly laws of the 1870s, the anti-Oakie laws of the 1930s, the sunset laws of the 1950s and Jim Crow.

“These so-called ‘Quality of Life’ laws are to disappear homeless people, to keep homeless people out of public spaces. It’s basically criminalizing their existence,” said Bilal Ali, a statewide organizer for WRAP.

The Homeless Bill of Rights is currently being reviewed by WRAP’s legislative committee for slight revisions, said Ali. State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) had introduced a version of the Homeless Bill of Rights to the Assembly in 2012. It was thought he would sponsor the bill this year, but as of now organizers are not sure how much support, if any, they will be able to expect from Ammiano.

The Homeless Bill of Rights is based on six principles, which, if passed, will protect the right to:

  • Move freely, rest, sleep, pray and be protected in public spaces without discrimination.
  • Occupy a legally parked vehicle.
  • Serve food to the homeless and eat in public.
  • Legal counsel if being prosecuted for infractions.
  • Twenty-four-hour access to existing hygiene facilities.
  • Be considered for necessity defense by judges when hearing homeless related cases.

The Green Party’s gubernatorial candidate, Luis Rodriguez, said last month that he supports the Homeless Bill of Rights. He said LA’s solution to homelessness has been to drive them away to areas outside the city.

“We have the largest homeless population in the country,” he said of California. “It is ridiculous in a state so rich and powerful that instead of providing people decent homes we’re just pushing them out.”

Part of the strategy of advocates is to tie in Marin Luther King Jr. Day, which falls on the Monday following the weekend’s actions. Advocates hope to use King’s position on economic justice to assist in their messaging.

Although government-corporate parades that honor King every year focus on his anti-segregation campaign, King’s plans for revolutionizing America were much broader. In 1968, he initiated a Poor People’s campaign, which linked capitalism’s inability to provide economic security for all Americans, as well as the country’s militarism, to race and poverty within its borders.

King’s stance on poverty, however, was about as popular today as it was in 1968, said Kwazi Nkrumah, a coordinator and co-chair for the Martin Luther King Coalition in Los Angeles. Many, he said, abandoned King for his support of the poor and speaking out against the war on Vietnam.

“It’s an important message for people to get, because they are not getting that message,” he said “It is important people recognize and acknowledge that King’s own orientation, while it was certainly very significant in terms of addressing the race issues in America, wasn’t solely about race. It was about race and economics and many other things.”

The actions in Venice will begin at 11 a.m. on Jan. 18 and will end by 11 a.m. the following day. Participants will be meeting at the Ocean Front Walk and Rose Avenue. Food lines are scheduled to provide breakfast and dinner. At 2:00 p.m., activists will be holding a parade on Ocean Front Walk. The sleep-out will begin around five or six p.m. at Windward circle at Windward Avenue and Main Street.

Source
Photo

In major legal victory, sex workers in California gain access to victim compensation rights

December 15, 2013

California officials voted Thursday to overturn a discriminatory rule that prevented sex workers who are physically or sexually assaulted from receiving money from a special victim compensation fund intended to help the victims of violent crimes. The change in policy means that sex workers will now be eligible for state assistance to pay for medical and related expenses they incur as a result of the assault.

Members of the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board said they were compelled to change the “repugnant” rule after hearing the testimony of sex workers who have been assaulted and left without recourse or support following the crime, simply because of their job. Prior to the change, sex workers who were raped while working were not eligible for compensation because sex work is illegal in California, but the new policy recognizes that “rape is rape, period,” according to board chairwoman Marybel Batjer.

“Victims of this violent crime deserve compensation, regardless of circumstance,” she added.

As the Press Democrat reports, Carol Leigh, a representative of the Bay Area Sex Workers Advocacy Network, was among the women who testified before the board. Leigh said she was raped by two men who entered the massage parlor where she worked. “[The men] took a knife to my throat and demanded sex and money,” she testified. “I realized that, as a sex worker, I was a sitting duck, that the system, basically, was set up so that I felt that I couldn’t go to the police. … The rapists know, and they see us as targets.”

“I think we sent a big message today from this board for the state of California, that we are now going to mirror some of our other states that feel the same way. It’s a national issue,” Michael Ramos, district attorney in San Bernardino County, said following the vote.

“It really opens the way for women who have suffered a very violent and traumatic act to get recognition from the state that something terrible happened and that you can get compensated for it,” Rachel West, of the U.S. PROStitutes Collective, said of the change.

But the fight for sex workers’ rights in California and elsewhere continues, said Maxine Doogan, an organizer for the Erotic Service Providers Union. “We would like the state of California to adopt the Obama administration policy on prostitution, which is that prostitution should not be discriminated against in seeking public services.”

Source

#Not1more strikes again: California youth protest for-profit immigration detention centerNovember 25, 2013
Three young adults chained their necks with bicycle locks to the front gates of the newly reopened Adelanto Detention Center, a for-profit immigrant prison in California.
Since its reopening in 2011, Adelanto has become the largest immigrant detention center in California. It’s privately owned and run by GEO Group Inc., a for-profit prison corporation. Adelanto is already known for its “segregation cells,” a form of solitary confinement. The privately-owned prison has 1,200 beds to hold migrants who are either waiting for a ruling on their immigration cases or to be deported from the country.
The three young women are part of the Empire Inland-Immigrant Youth Coalition. The action was organized to support three family members currently detained inside the prison, with the broader demand to end inhumane incarceration and release everyone detained in time for the holiday season.
“We need a moratorium on deportations, deferred action for all, and the end of inhumane treatment,” said Luis Serrano of the Coalition.
Today’s action is part of the broader national #Not1more campaign intended to pressure President Obama to take administrative relief and halt deportations. Since he has taken office in 2008, nearly two million people have been deported, more than during any other time in U.S. history. The #Not1more campaign is behind the escalating national movement to use direct action to stop deportations, which include shutdowns of ICE detention centers across the country.
Source

#Not1more strikes again: California youth protest for-profit immigration detention center
November 25, 2013

Three young adults chained their necks with bicycle locks to the front gates of the newly reopened Adelanto Detention Center, a for-profit immigrant prison in California.

Since its reopening in 2011, Adelanto has become the largest immigrant detention center in California. It’s privately owned and run by GEO Group Inc., a for-profit prison corporation. Adelanto is already known for its “segregation cells,” a form of solitary confinement. The privately-owned prison has 1,200 beds to hold migrants who are either waiting for a ruling on their immigration cases or to be deported from the country.

The three young women are part of the Empire Inland-Immigrant Youth Coalition. The action was organized to support three family members currently detained inside the prison, with the broader demand to end inhumane incarceration and release everyone detained in time for the holiday season.

“We need a moratorium on deportations, deferred action for all, and the end of inhumane treatment,” said Luis Serrano of the Coalition.

Today’s action is part of the broader national #Not1more campaign intended to pressure President Obama to take administrative relief and halt deportations. Since he has taken office in 2008, nearly two million people have been deported, more than during any other time in U.S. history. The #Not1more campaign is behind the escalating national movement to use direct action to stop deportations, which include shutdowns of ICE detention centers across the country.

Source

Three students charged with hate crimes at California collegeNovember 23, 2013
Three university students in California accused of taunting their black roommate with racial slurs and references to slavery, once trying to clamp a bicycle lock on his neck, have been charged with hate crimes in an incident that has roiled the campus.
The three freshmen have also been suspended from their school, San Jose State University, in Northern California, east of the tech hub of Silicon Valley, where student protests erupted this week after the accusations came to light.
A fourth student was suspended Friday in connection with the incidents.
"I applaud the campus for its ongoing efforts to begin the healing process that is necessary," SJSU Chancellor Timothy White said in a statement Friday. "(University) President Qayoumi has already reached out to African-American leaders in the Bay Area for their counsel and assistance.
Logan Beaschler and Collin Warren, both 18, and 19-year-old Joseph Bomgardner, have been charged with misdemeanor hate crime and battery, Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Erin West said.
The three men, who lived with the 17-year-old victim in a four-bedroom dormitory suite they shared with four other students, allegedly began harassing their black roommate starting at the beginning of the school year in August.  
At first, the suspects nicknamed the victim “Three-fifths” and “Fraction,” referring to the way the U.S. government once counted a slave as three-fifths of a free person, police said.
According to a police report, they outfitted their suite with a Confederate flag, barricaded the victim in his room, and placed a U-shaped bicycle lock around his neck and claiming they lost the key.
The victim hasn’t been named at his parents’ request.
Beaschler has surrendered to authorities and Warren and Bomgardner were expected to do so this week, West said. Each could face a year in jail if convicted at trial.
"When I look at all of this together, there’s really no other conclusion but that it was motivated by hate," she said. "Its hard to imagine in 2013 that a young black man could go to college and be subjected to this kind of torment."
West said the alleged victim’s parents became aware of the situation when they dropped him off at school after a weekend at home and saw the Confederate flag, along with a racial slur written on a white board.
The parents called San Jose State housing administrators, who contacted university police.
"I think the truth of it is, he was scared," West said of the alleged victim. "He was scared for his physical safety. He would lock his door at night and every time he came back into that suite he didn’t know what (to expect)."
She said that, in interviews with police, the three men had described the incidents as pranks.
"Let me be clear: I am outraged and saddened by these allegations. They are utterly inconsistent with our long cherished history of tolerance, respect for diversity and personal civility," University President Mohammad Qayoumi said in a statement issued on Thursday as students held a protest march and rally on campus grounds.
Qayoumi also announced that after meeting Friday morning with the Rev. Jethroe Moore, president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chapter of the NAACP, he is taking a number of steps in response to the allegations, including: hosting a campus forum in December to discuss racial intolerance at SJSU; offering a lecture series next spring on diversity and tolerance; and a review of the university’s practices related to students’ well-being.
Qayoumi and Moore will hold a press conference on the campus at noon Monday to discuss the pending criminal charges.
"We are deeply disturbed by the horrific behaviors that have taken place against our son," the family of the alleged victim, who is now 18, wrote in a statement released to the San Jose Mercury News. “Our immediate focus is his protection.”
Source

Three students charged with hate crimes at California college
November 23, 2013

Three university students in California accused of taunting their black roommate with racial slurs and references to slavery, once trying to clamp a bicycle lock on his neck, have been charged with hate crimes in an incident that has roiled the campus.

The three freshmen have also been suspended from their school, San Jose State University, in Northern California, east of the tech hub of Silicon Valley, where student protests erupted this week after the accusations came to light.

A fourth student was suspended Friday in connection with the incidents.

"I applaud the campus for its ongoing efforts to begin the healing process that is necessary," SJSU Chancellor Timothy White said in a statement Friday. "(University) President Qayoumi has already reached out to African-American leaders in the Bay Area for their counsel and assistance.

Logan Beaschler and Collin Warren, both 18, and 19-year-old Joseph Bomgardner, have been charged with misdemeanor hate crime and battery, Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Erin West said.

The three men, who lived with the 17-year-old victim in a four-bedroom dormitory suite they shared with four other students, allegedly began harassing their black roommate starting at the beginning of the school year in August.  

At first, the suspects nicknamed the victim “Three-fifths” and “Fraction,” referring to the way the U.S. government once counted a slave as three-fifths of a free person, police said.

According to a police report, they outfitted their suite with a Confederate flag, barricaded the victim in his room, and placed a U-shaped bicycle lock around his neck and claiming they lost the key.

The victim hasn’t been named at his parents’ request.

Beaschler has surrendered to authorities and Warren and Bomgardner were expected to do so this week, West said. Each could face a year in jail if convicted at trial.

"When I look at all of this together, there’s really no other conclusion but that it was motivated by hate," she said. "Its hard to imagine in 2013 that a young black man could go to college and be subjected to this kind of torment."

West said the alleged victim’s parents became aware of the situation when they dropped him off at school after a weekend at home and saw the Confederate flag, along with a racial slur written on a white board.

The parents called San Jose State housing administrators, who contacted university police.

"I think the truth of it is, he was scared," West said of the alleged victim. "He was scared for his physical safety. He would lock his door at night and every time he came back into that suite he didn’t know what (to expect)."

She said that, in interviews with police, the three men had described the incidents as pranks.

"Let me be clear: I am outraged and saddened by these allegations. They are utterly inconsistent with our long cherished history of tolerance, respect for diversity and personal civility," University President Mohammad Qayoumi said in a statement issued on Thursday as students held a protest march and rally on campus grounds.

Qayoumi also announced that after meeting Friday morning with the Rev. Jethroe Moore, president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chapter of the NAACP, he is taking a number of steps in response to the allegations, including: hosting a campus forum in December to discuss racial intolerance at SJSU; offering a lecture series next spring on diversity and tolerance; and a review of the university’s practices related to students’ well-being.

Qayoumi and Moore will hold a press conference on the campus at noon Monday to discuss the pending criminal charges.

"We are deeply disturbed by the horrific behaviors that have taken place against our son," the family of the alleged victim, who is now 18, wrote in a statement released to the San Jose Mercury News. “Our immediate focus is his protection.”

Source

Community recounts fatal police shooting of Santa Rosa teen Andy Lopez
October 29, 2013

We’re learning more in the ongoing investigation of a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed a 13-year old who was carrying a replica assault rifle.

The collection of candles and balloons honoring Andy Lopez continues to grow and people continue to show up to pay their respects. Maria Marquez and Juana Rojas have attended the memorial every day since the shooting because they want to tell the boy’s parents what they saw when he was killed.

"Y nosotros nos venimos detras de la patrulla hasta aqui, el estop," Rojas said.

She says they were right behind the patrol car at a stop sign. Rojas saw the deputies turn on their police lights, then drive over to where the teenager was standing in an open lot.

Rojas and Marquez say they heard the deputies yell in english “drop the gun.”

"Abrieron la puerta de cada lado y sacaron la pistola y tas, tas," Rojas said.

She says almost immediately, both deputies then opened their doors and shots were fired.

Rojas and Marquez say deputies only yelled once before opening fire.

"Imediatamente le dispararon, no le dieron oportunidad de nada," Marquez said.

She says they fired immediately and didn’t give him a chance to do anything.

Early on in this investigation, police compared how similar Lopez’s replica assault rifle looks to a real weapon.

They’ve also explained that the veteran deputy who opened fire believed Lopez was about to point the replica assault rifle at him.

But the description of events these women give is different than what investigators have described.

"Both deputies exited their vehicles, but maintained cover behind their opened doors. One of the deputies shouted at the subject to put the gun down," Santa Rosa Police Department spokesperson Paul Henry said.

These women say the deputies shouted first, then got out of their car and fired.

Another witness we talked to earlier this week describes the same.

"He pulled over to the kid walking side, and he just opened the door and shouted," Ismael Mondragon said.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office announced the FBI will conduct an independent investigation into the shooting death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez.

The sheriff’s office released a statement saying, “The Sheriff will cooperate fully with the FBI and welcomes their participation. The Sheriff also wants to express his thankfulness to the community for how peaceful and respectful the memorials and protests have been in the aftermath of this incident. The Sheriff continues to express his sympathy to the Lopez family and the community.”

On Friday hundreds of students marched to protest the shooting death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez.

Hundreds also attended a vigil Thursday night for the young teen for a second night in a row.

In recent memory no one can remember this much outrage in Santa Rosa. Children and teens participated in a march that ended at the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department on Friday.

A memorial service will be held for Lopez at the Resurrection Church in Windsor on Sunday.

Source
Photos

Rest in power. Justice for Andy & all other victims of police brutality & murder.

US judge approved force-feeding California inmates who have been on hunger strike since July 8August 19, 2013
A federal judge approved a request from California and federal officials on Monday to force-feed inmates if necessary as a statewide prison hunger strike entered its seventh week.
Officials say they fear for the welfare of nearly 70 inmates who have refused all prison-issued meals since the strike began July 8 over the holding of gang leaders and other violent inmates in solitary confinement that can last for decades.
They are among nearly 130 inmates in six prisons who were refusing meals. When the strike began it included nearly 30,000 of the 133,000 inmates in California prisons.
Prison policy is to let inmates starve to death if they have signed legally binding do-not-resuscitate (DNR) requests. But state corrections officials and a federal receiver who controls inmate medical care received blanket authority from U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco to feed inmates who may be in failing health. The order includes those who recently signed requests that they not be revived.
Henderson oversees the ongoing lawsuit over inmates’ medical care. The filing Monday came as prison officials and inmates’ attorneys argued over whether strikers should be allowed to voluntarily begin a liquid diet.
"Patients have a right to refuse medical treatment. They also have a right to refuse food," said Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for the receiver’s office.
However, “If an inmate gets to the point where he can’t tell us what his wishes are, for instance if he’s found unresponsive in his cell, and we don’t have a DNR, we’re going to get nourishment into him. That’s what doctors do. They’re going to follow their medical ethics,” Hayhoe said. “We’d take any and all measures to sustain their life.”
The process, which prison officials call “refeeding,” could include starting intravenous fluids or snaking feeding tubes through inmates’ noses and into their stomachs.
Prison officials already can seek a court order forcing an individual inmate to take food, though they have not done so. Now they and the receiver’s office are jointly asking for blanket permission to take that step without seeking orders on a case-by-case basis.
The federal and state officials were joined in the request by the Prison Law Office, a Berkeley-based nonprofit that represents inmates’ welfare in ongoing lawsuits that led to a federal takeover of the prison health care system and a requirement that the state sharply reduce its inmate population to improve conditions.
They want Henderson to let the chief medical executive at each prison act if a hunger striker is at risk of “near-term death or great bodily injury” or is no longer deemed competent to give consent or make medical decisions.
Moreover, do-not-resuscitate directives would not be honored if the medical executive reasonably believes the inmate was coerced into signing the request or if an attorney representing the inmate revokes the request.
Do-not-resuscitate orders signed by a hunger striker at or near the beginning of the strike or during the hunger strike would automatically be deemed invalid.
"Force-feeding violates international law to the extent that it involves somebody who doesn’t give their consent," said Jules Lobel, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who represents 10 inmates suing to end prolonged solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison.
Lobel said prison officials should look for alternatives, including providing the inmates with a liquid diet of fruit and vegetable drinks as they have requested, or negotiating with inmates over their demands.
However, Lobel said he will not seek to overturn Henderson’s order.
Prison officials said Monday that inmates are free to consume a liquid diet, but will be counted as having ended their hunger strike if they consume anything more than water, vitamins and electrolytes.
The most high-profile case of force-feeding prisoners has been the involuntary feeding of several dozen terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay through nasal tubes.
Other federal judges have turned down bids by the Guantanamo Bay inmates to stop the force-feeding. U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer said in a ruling last month that numerous courts said it is the government’s duty to prevent suicide and to provide life-saving nutritional and medical care to people in custody.
California incarcerates about 3,600 inmates in what are known as Security Housing Units, some because of crimes they committed in prison and others for indefinite terms if they are validated as leaders of prison gangs.
Four prisons have the units: Pelican Bay in Crescent City, Corcoran, California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi and California State Prison-Sacramento.
The highest-ranking gang leaders are held in what is known as the “short corridor” at Pelican Bay. Four leaders of rival white supremacist, black and enemy Latino gangs have formed an alliance to promote the hunger strike in a bid to force an end to the isolation units.
Source

US judge approved force-feeding California inmates who have been on hunger strike since July 8
August 19, 2013

A federal judge approved a request from California and federal officials on Monday to force-feed inmates if necessary as a statewide prison hunger strike entered its seventh week.

Officials say they fear for the welfare of nearly 70 inmates who have refused all prison-issued meals since the strike began July 8 over the holding of gang leaders and other violent inmates in solitary confinement that can last for decades.

They are among nearly 130 inmates in six prisons who were refusing meals. When the strike began it included nearly 30,000 of the 133,000 inmates in California prisons.

Prison policy is to let inmates starve to death if they have signed legally binding do-not-resuscitate (DNR) requests. But state corrections officials and a federal receiver who controls inmate medical care received blanket authority from U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco to feed inmates who may be in failing health. The order includes those who recently signed requests that they not be revived.

Henderson oversees the ongoing lawsuit over inmates’ medical care. The filing Monday came as prison officials and inmates’ attorneys argued over whether strikers should be allowed to voluntarily begin a liquid diet.

"Patients have a right to refuse medical treatment. They also have a right to refuse food," said Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for the receiver’s office.

However, “If an inmate gets to the point where he can’t tell us what his wishes are, for instance if he’s found unresponsive in his cell, and we don’t have a DNR, we’re going to get nourishment into him. That’s what doctors do. They’re going to follow their medical ethics,” Hayhoe said. “We’d take any and all measures to sustain their life.”

The process, which prison officials call “refeeding,” could include starting intravenous fluids or snaking feeding tubes through inmates’ noses and into their stomachs.

Prison officials already can seek a court order forcing an individual inmate to take food, though they have not done so. Now they and the receiver’s office are jointly asking for blanket permission to take that step without seeking orders on a case-by-case basis.

The federal and state officials were joined in the request by the Prison Law Office, a Berkeley-based nonprofit that represents inmates’ welfare in ongoing lawsuits that led to a federal takeover of the prison health care system and a requirement that the state sharply reduce its inmate population to improve conditions.

They want Henderson to let the chief medical executive at each prison act if a hunger striker is at risk of “near-term death or great bodily injury” or is no longer deemed competent to give consent or make medical decisions.

Moreover, do-not-resuscitate directives would not be honored if the medical executive reasonably believes the inmate was coerced into signing the request or if an attorney representing the inmate revokes the request.

Do-not-resuscitate orders signed by a hunger striker at or near the beginning of the strike or during the hunger strike would automatically be deemed invalid.

"Force-feeding violates international law to the extent that it involves somebody who doesn’t give their consent," said Jules Lobel, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who represents 10 inmates suing to end prolonged solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison.

Lobel said prison officials should look for alternatives, including providing the inmates with a liquid diet of fruit and vegetable drinks as they have requested, or negotiating with inmates over their demands.

However, Lobel said he will not seek to overturn Henderson’s order.

Prison officials said Monday that inmates are free to consume a liquid diet, but will be counted as having ended their hunger strike if they consume anything more than water, vitamins and electrolytes.

The most high-profile case of force-feeding prisoners has been the involuntary feeding of several dozen terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay through nasal tubes.

Other federal judges have turned down bids by the Guantanamo Bay inmates to stop the force-feeding. U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer said in a ruling last month that numerous courts said it is the government’s duty to prevent suicide and to provide life-saving nutritional and medical care to people in custody.

California incarcerates about 3,600 inmates in what are known as Security Housing Units, some because of crimes they committed in prison and others for indefinite terms if they are validated as leaders of prison gangs.

Four prisons have the units: Pelican Bay in Crescent City, Corcoran, California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi and California State Prison-Sacramento.

The highest-ranking gang leaders are held in what is known as the “short corridor” at Pelican Bay. Four leaders of rival white supremacist, black and enemy Latino gangs have formed an alliance to promote the hunger strike in a bid to force an end to the isolation units.

Source

Indefinite solitary confinement violates human rights by Dr. Angela Davis
August 13, 2013

California prisoners are now in their 33rd day of a hunger strike; what they are risking their health and possibly their lives for is basic: an end to indefinite solitary confinement, a practice that most countries recognize as a violation of basic human rights.

Yet both Gov. Jerry Brown and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Jeffrey Beard are intransigent in their refusal to engage in honest negotiations with the prisoners.

Theirs is a system deep in crisis, mired in decades of lawsuits challenging numerous violations of the legal rights of prisoners that have yielded relatively little in terms of fundamental change. Headlines from the last month alone reveal the inability of current leadership to respect the most basic rights of California prisoners:

On Aug. 2, in spite of assertions by Brown that prison conditions have improved, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to delay a court order for California to release nearly 10,000 prisoners by year’s end to improve conditions in state prisons.

The three-judge panel overseeing the state’s prisons ruled that California must cut its prison population to deal with unconstitutional prison conditions such as substandard medical and mental health care caused by overcrowding. The CDCR is appealing this decision yet again.

On July 29, medical experts filed a report to a federal court monitor documenting substandard health care at Corcoran State Prison that represented “an ongoing serious risk of harm to patients” that results in preventable deaths. There was no comment from the Governor’s Office.

On July 7, the Center for Investigative Reporting broke a story about the fact that 148 women in state prisons received tubal ligations without required state approvals from 2006 to 2010. Former prisoners say doctors pressured women into being sterilized and targeted those whom prison officials deemed likely to commit crimes in the future. Brown offered no comment.

On July 1, California corrections officials reluctantly agreed to move up to 2,600 prisoners at risk of contracting valley fever out of Pleasant Valley and Avenal state prisons after being ordered to do so by U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson.

The judge was critical of the department’s handling of valley fever outbreaks within its prisons, saying the death of 36 prisoners over the last six years “clearly demonstrated (the state’s) unwillingness to respond adequately to the health care needs of California’s inmate population.”

Again, no comment from the governor or the CDCR.

Instead of closing the prisons because of high health risks, Asian prisoners are being transferred to those prisons because of statistically lower “risks.”

Those with the power to make changes have dug in their heels, insisting that there is no crisis.

It comes as no surprise that we are asked to believe that the CDCR does not really hold prisoners in solitary confinement because they may have access to radios or televisions. We shouldn’t be surprised that the death of Billy Sell, a participant in the hunger strike for two weeks until the day before he died, is officially considered a death “unrelated to the hunger strike.”

We shouldn’t be shocked when Beard attempts to cover up the inhumanity of keeping prisoners in solitary for decades with no hope of release by calling the hunger strike “a gang power play.”

It’s important to remember that the United States stands alone in its extensive use of indefinite long-term solitary confinement; in Britain, solitary is banned for more than three weeks. In Pelican Bay, more than 500 people have been held in solitary for more than 10 years, and more than 78 have been held in solitary for more than 20 years.

There is a growing human rights movement across the country, led by prisoners and their families, that names this practice for what it is: torture. Some states like Illinois and Mississippi have closed or drastically downsized their solitary confinement units without any threat to institutional safety.

The California prisoners’ hunger strike is a courageous call for the California prison system to come out of the shadows and join a world in which the rights and dignity of every person is respected.

Source

Day 29 of the California prisoners hunger strike: In Pelican Bay and other prisons throughout California, approximately 30,000 inmates are nearing their second month of the largest prison hunger strike in US history. Committed to maintaining the strike indefinitely, they are demanding an end to a vast range of abuses, including solitary confinement, long-term isolation, denial of family contact, and absence of legal protections.
Palestinian hunger strikers have expressed their solidarity with inmates in California, urging them to stay strong in their commitment to ending their isolation and to remember that they are not alone. Internationally, as one, we stand — internationally, as one, we resist.
Art by Nidal El-Khairy

Day 29 of the California prisoners hunger strike: In Pelican Bay and other prisons throughout California, approximately 30,000 inmates are nearing their second month of the largest prison hunger strike in US history. Committed to maintaining the strike indefinitely, they are demanding an end to a vast range of abuses, including solitary confinement, long-term isolation, denial of family contact, and absence of legal protections.

Palestinian hunger strikers have expressed their solidarity with inmates in California, urging them to stay strong in their commitment to ending their isolation and to remember that they are not alone. Internationally, as one, we stand — internationally, as one, we resist.

Art by Nidal El-Khairy

California inmate dies in solitary confinement during hunger strikeJuly 28, 2013
A man being held in solitary confinement has died at one of the California state prisons where thousands of inmates are refusing food to protest the practice of indefinite solitary confinement. Prison officials are insisting Billy “Guero” Sell was not part of the hunger strike when he died. Advocates and inmates, however, say that he was not only participating but had requested medical treatment for several days before his death.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation maintain that Sell’s death is being investigated as a suicide, unrelated to the hunger strike. Inmates rejected this explanation, saying a suicide would be “completely out of character for him.” According to a letter from hunger strikers, several men said, “No one believes he killed himself.”
The hunger strike began with 30,000 individuals on July 8 and has dwindled to about 1,000 participants in 11 prisons. Prison infirmaries have been swamped with fasting inmates in critical condition.
Prison officials have undercounted hunger strikers by not including inmates who are still drinking electrolytes like Kool-Aid or tea. Additionally, leaders of the movement have been rounded up and put in more severe solitary confinement. Lawyers and relatives of the strikers say they have received multiple letters from different inmates reporting that prisons areblasting their cells with cold air in an attempt to weaken their resolve.
At Pelican Bay, California’s maximum security prison, many inmates are kept in solitary confinement for 10 to 28 years — even though the psychological trauma of being locked in a windowless room for 23 hours a day begins to kick in after just ten days.. Officials often justify this “living death,” by using race or political reading materials as evidence the confined inmate may have a “gang affiliation.” Mentally ill prisoners also make up a substantial proportion of solitary cells in several states. In their third hunger strike since 2011, inmates are calling for an end to solitary confinement, a more humane review process for inmate punishment, as well as access to health care and education.
Source

California inmate dies in solitary confinement during hunger strike
July 28, 2013

A man being held in solitary confinement has died at one of the California state prisons where thousands of inmates are refusing food to protest the practice of indefinite solitary confinement. Prison officials are insisting Billy “Guero” Sell was not part of the hunger strike when he died. Advocates and inmates, however, say that he was not only participating but had requested medical treatment for several days before his death.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation maintain that Sell’s death is being investigated as a suicide, unrelated to the hunger strike. Inmates rejected this explanation, saying a suicide would be “completely out of character for him.” According to a letter from hunger strikers, several men said, “No one believes he killed himself.”

The hunger strike began with 30,000 individuals on July 8 and has dwindled to about 1,000 participants in 11 prisons. Prison infirmaries have been swamped with fasting inmates in critical condition.

Prison officials have undercounted hunger strikers by not including inmates who are still drinking electrolytes like Kool-Aid or tea. Additionally, leaders of the movement have been rounded up and put in more severe solitary confinement. Lawyers and relatives of the strikers say they have received multiple letters from different inmates reporting that prisons areblasting their cells with cold air in an attempt to weaken their resolve.

At Pelican Bay, California’s maximum security prison, many inmates are kept in solitary confinement for 10 to 28 years — even though the psychological trauma of being locked in a windowless room for 23 hours a day begins to kick in after just ten days.. Officials often justify this “living death,” by using race or political reading materials as evidence the confined inmate may have a “gang affiliation.” Mentally ill prisoners also make up a substantial proportion of solitary cells in several states. In their third hunger strike since 2011, inmates are calling for an end to solitary confinement, a more humane review process for inmate punishment, as well as access to health care and education.

Source

The horrible psychology of solitary confinementJuly 12, 2013
In the largest prison protest in California’s history, nearly 30,000 inmates have gone on hunger strike. Their main grievance: the state’s use of solitary confinement, in which prisoners are held for years or decades with almost no social contact and the barest of sensory stimuli.
The human brain is ill-adapted to such conditions, and activists and some psychologists equate it to torture. Solitary confinement isn’t merely uncomfortable, they say, but such an anathema to human needs that it often drives prisoners mad.
In isolation, people become anxious and angry, prone to hallucinations and wild mood swings, and unable to control their impulses. The problems are even worse in people predisposed to mental illness, and can wreak long-lasting changes in prisoners’ minds.
“What we’ve found is that a series of symptoms occur almost universally. They are so common that it’s something of a syndrome,” said psychiatrist Terry Kupers of the Wright Institute, a prominent critic of solitary confinement. “I’m afraid we’re talking about permanent damage.”

California holds some 4,500 inmates in solitary confinement, making it emblematic of the United States as a whole: More than 80,000 U.S. prisoners are housed this way, more than in any other democratic nation.
Even as those numbers have swelled, so have the ranks of critics. A series of scathing reports and documentaries — from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International — were released in 2012, and the U.S. Senate held its first-ever hearings on solitary confinement. In May of this year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office criticized the federal Bureau of Prisons for failing to consider what long-term solitary confinement did to prisoners.
What’s emerged from the reports and testimonies reads like a mix of medieval cruelty and sci-fi dystopia. For 23 hours or more per day, in what’s euphemistically called “administrative segregation” or “special housing,” prisoners are kept in bathroom-sized cells, under fluorescent lights that never shut off. Video surveillance is constant. Social contact is restricted to rare glimpses of other prisoners, encounters with guards, and brief video conferences with friends or family.

For stimulation, prisoners might have a few books; often they don’t have television, or even a radio. In 2011, another hunger strike among California’s prisoners secured such amenities as wool hats in cold weather and wall calendars. The enforced solitude can last for years, even decades.

These horrors are best understood by listening to people who’ve endured them. As one Florida teenager described in a report on solitary confinement in juvenile prisoners, “The only thing left to do is go crazy.” To some ears, though, stories will always be anecdotes, potentially misleading, possibly powerful, but not necessarily representative. That’s where science enters the picture.
“What we often hear from corrections officials is that inmates are feigning mental illness,” said Heather Rice, a prison policy expert at the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. “To actually hear the hard science is very powerful.”
Scientific studies of solitary confinement and its damages have actually come in waves, first emerging in the mid-19th century, when the practice fell from widespread favor in the United States and Europe. More study came in the 1950s, as a response to reports of prisoner isolation and brainwashing during the Korean War. The renewed popularity of solitary confinement in the United States, which dates to the prison overcrowding and rehabilitation program cuts of the 1980s, spurred the most recent research.
Consistent patterns emerge, centering around the aforementioned extreme anxiety, anger, hallucinations, mood swings and flatness, and loss of impulse control. In the absence of stimuli, prisoners may also become hypersensitive to any stimuli at all. Often they obsess uncontrollably, as if their minds didn’t belong to them, over tiny details or personal grievances. Panic attacks are routine, as is depression and loss of memory and cognitive function.
According to Kupers, who is serving as an expert witness in an ongoing lawsuit over California’s solitary confinement practices, prisoners in isolation account for just 5 percent of the total prison population, but nearly half of its suicides.
When prisoners leave solitary confinement and re-enter society — something that often happens with no transition period — their symptoms might abate, but they’re unable to adjust. “I’ve called this the decimation of life skills,” said Kupers. “It destroys one’s capacity to relate socially, to work, to play, to hold a job or enjoy life.”
Some disagreement does exist over the extent to which solitary confinement drives people mad who are not already predisposed to mental illness, said psychiatrist Jeffrey Metzner, who helped design what became a controversial study of solitary confinement in Colorado prisons.
In that study, led by the Colorado Department of Corrections, researchers reported that the mental conditions of many prisoners in solitary didn’t deteriorate. The methodology has been criticized as unreliable, confounded by prisoners hiding their feelings or happy just to be talking with anyone, even a researcher.
Metzner denies that charge, but says that even if healthy prisoners in solitary confinement make it through an unarguably grueling psychological ordeal, many — perhaps half of all prisoners — begin with mental disorders. “That’s bad in itself, because with adequate treatment, they could have gotten better,” Metzner said.
Full article

The horrible psychology of solitary confinement
July 12, 2013

In the largest prison protest in California’s history, nearly 30,000 inmates have gone on hunger strike. Their main grievance: the state’s use of solitary confinement, in which prisoners are held for years or decades with almost no social contact and the barest of sensory stimuli.

The human brain is ill-adapted to such conditions, and activists and some psychologists equate it to torture. Solitary confinement isn’t merely uncomfortable, they say, but such an anathema to human needs that it often drives prisoners mad.

In isolation, people become anxious and angry, prone to hallucinations and wild mood swings, and unable to control their impulses. The problems are even worse in people predisposed to mental illness, and can wreak long-lasting changes in prisoners’ minds.

“What we’ve found is that a series of symptoms occur almost universally. They are so common that it’s something of a syndrome,” said psychiatrist Terry Kupers of the Wright Institute, a prominent critic of solitary confinement. “I’m afraid we’re talking about permanent damage.”

California holds some 4,500 inmates in solitary confinement, making it emblematic of the United States as a whole: More than 80,000 U.S. prisoners are housed this way, more than in any other democratic nation.

Even as those numbers have swelled, so have the ranks of critics. A series of scathing reports and documentaries — from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International — were released in 2012, and the U.S. Senate held its first-ever hearings on solitary confinement. In May of this year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office criticized the federal Bureau of Prisons for failing to consider what long-term solitary confinement did to prisoners.

What’s emerged from the reports and testimonies reads like a mix of medieval cruelty and sci-fi dystopia. For 23 hours or more per day, in what’s euphemistically called “administrative segregation” or “special housing,” prisoners are kept in bathroom-sized cells, under fluorescent lights that never shut off. Video surveillance is constant. Social contact is restricted to rare glimpses of other prisoners, encounters with guards, and brief video conferences with friends or family.

For stimulation, prisoners might have a few books; often they don’t have television, or even a radio. In 2011, another hunger strike among California’s prisoners secured such amenities as wool hats in cold weather and wall calendars. The enforced solitude can last for years, even decades.

These horrors are best understood by listening to people who’ve endured them. As one Florida teenager described in a report on solitary confinement in juvenile prisoners, “The only thing left to do is go crazy.” To some ears, though, stories will always be anecdotes, potentially misleading, possibly powerful, but not necessarily representative. That’s where science enters the picture.

“What we often hear from corrections officials is that inmates are feigning mental illness,” said Heather Rice, a prison policy expert at the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. “To actually hear the hard science is very powerful.”

Scientific studies of solitary confinement and its damages have actually come in waves, first emerging in the mid-19th century, when the practice fell from widespread favor in the United States and Europe. More study came in the 1950s, as a response to reports of prisoner isolation and brainwashing during the Korean War. The renewed popularity of solitary confinement in the United States, which dates to the prison overcrowding and rehabilitation program cuts of the 1980s, spurred the most recent research.

Consistent patterns emerge, centering around the aforementioned extreme anxiety, anger, hallucinations, mood swings and flatness, and loss of impulse control. In the absence of stimuli, prisoners may also become hypersensitive to any stimuli at all. Often they obsess uncontrollably, as if their minds didn’t belong to them, over tiny details or personal grievances. Panic attacks are routine, as is depression and loss of memory and cognitive function.

According to Kupers, who is serving as an expert witness in an ongoing lawsuit over California’s solitary confinement practices, prisoners in isolation account for just 5 percent of the total prison population, but nearly half of its suicides.

When prisoners leave solitary confinement and re-enter society — something that often happens with no transition period — their symptoms might abate, but they’re unable to adjust. “I’ve called this the decimation of life skills,” said Kupers. “It destroys one’s capacity to relate socially, to work, to play, to hold a job or enjoy life.”

Some disagreement does exist over the extent to which solitary confinement drives people mad who are not already predisposed to mental illness, said psychiatrist Jeffrey Metzner, who helped design what became a controversial study of solitary confinement in Colorado prisons.

In that study, led by the Colorado Department of Corrections, researchers reported that the mental conditions of many prisoners in solitary didn’t deteriorate. The methodology has been criticized as unreliable, confounded by prisoners hiding their feelings or happy just to be talking with anyone, even a researcher.

Metzner denies that charge, but says that even if healthy prisoners in solitary confinement make it through an unarguably grueling psychological ordeal, many — perhaps half of all prisoners — begin with mental disorders. “That’s bad in itself, because with adequate treatment, they could have gotten better,” Metzner said.

Full article

The California Prison Strike: Day Four

posted by  on THU, JUL 11, 2013 at 10:26 AM

By California prison standards, a person isn’t legally considered on a “hunger strike” until he or she has refused nine consecutive meals. We should know soon how many of those 30,000 prisoners who refused meals on Monday—about five times the number of prisoners who participated in a 2011 strike—are still refusing meals as of today.

But last night the New York Times reported that almost everyone who started striking on Monday was still at it yesterday:

LOS ANGELES — Nearly 29,000 inmates in California state prisons refused meals for the third day Wednesday during a protest of prison conditions and rules. The protest extended to two-thirds of the 33 prisons across the state and all 4 private out-of-state facilities where California sends inmates, corrections officials said.

Thousands of prisoners also refused to attend their work assignments for a third day, and state officials were bracing for a long-term strike.

Prisoners have also reported that, unlike during the 2011 strike, they are "willing to die" because prison conditions are so wretched.

California corrections secretary Jeffrey Beard says the strike is counterproductive and that prison officials are already taking steps to meet prisoners’ demands, which were first negotiated and agreed to after the 2011 strike. Prison-rights activists say the CDCR has failed to follow through on its end of the bargain.

But the CDCR isn’t just slow to meet prisoners’ requests—it hasn’t been fast enough for the courts, who’ve demanded that the system reduce overcrowding. A 2011 US Supreme Court finding said the state of California’s prison system led to one “needless” death every eight days. As Justice Sotomayor asked in 2010:"When are you going to avoid the needless deaths that were reported in this record? When are you going to avoid or get around people sitting in their feces for days in a dazed state? When are you going to get to a point where you are going to deliver care that is going to be adequate?"

Not fast enough, apparently—besides the strike it’s also facing a court order to reduce overcrowding by the end of the year and release at least 10,000 prisoners.

To review the prisoners’ five demands as explained by prison-rights activist Ed Mead last weekend:

One, eliminate group punishments. That’s a no-brainer. If I do something wrong, don’t punish everyone on the tier.

Two, abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria. The courts have held there has to be some evidence validating a prisoner’s gang status. Black prisoners have been validated on the basis of having a copy of my newspaper in their cells that mentions George Jackson. That’s been considered evidence. Once you’re validated, the only way out is to parole, debrief, snitch, or die. Debriefing is telling the administration who all the other gang members are. And if you’re not a gang member you have to make up names—it’s a bounty system. Now the prisons have an STG (security threat group) status. If they decide you’re a security threat, they lock you up indefinitely, and that requires no proof whatsoever, and also includes people who were never gang members, people who could be politically active.

Three, comply with recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons circa 2006.

Four, provide adequate food. [This includes having prisoners who serve meals to those in solitary eat from separate pans to prevent food theft.]

Five, provide constructive programs and privileges for SHU [solitary confinement] prisoners including educational activities and recreation. SHU prisoners are supposed to get an hour a day of exercise in a wire dog kennel, but guards make excuses, like they’re too busy to let them out.

Sounds reasonable to me—they’re not even asking for minimum wage for their labor. Stay tuned.

Source

California prison officials say 30,000 inmates refuse mealsJuly 9, 2013
California officials Monday said 30,000 inmates refused meals at the start of what could be the largest prison protest in state history.

Inmates in two-thirds of the state’s 33 prisons, and at all four out-of-state private prisons, refused both breakfast and lunch on Monday, said corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton. In addition, 2,300 prisoners failed to go to work or attend their prison classes, either refusing or in some cases saying they were sick.
The corrections department will not acknowledge a hunger strike until inmates have missed nine consecutive meals. Even so, Thornton said, Monday’s numbers are far larger than those California saw two years earlier during a series of hunger strikes that drew international attention.
Despite the widespread work stoppages and meal refusals, Thornton said state prisons operated as usual through the day. “Everything has been running smoothly,” she said. “It was normal. There were no incidents.”
The protest, announced for months, is organized by a small group of inmates held in segregation at Pelican Bay State Prison near the Oregon border. Their list of demands, reiterated Monday, center on state policies that allow inmates to be held in isolation indefinitely, in some cases for decades, for ties to prison gangs.
Though prison officials contend those gang ties are validated, the state last year began releasing inmates from segregation who had no evidence of gang-related behavior. Nearly half of those reviewed have been returned to the general population.
The protest involves the same issues and many of the same inmates who led a series of protests in California prisons two years ago. At the height of those 2011 hunger strikes, more than 11,600 inmates at one point refused meals. The correction department’s official tally, which counts only those inmates on any given day who have skipped nine consecutive meals, never rose above 6,600.
Source

California prison officials say 30,000 inmates refuse meals
July 9, 2013

California officials Monday said 30,000 inmates refused meals at the start of what could be the largest prison protest in state history.

Inmates in two-thirds of the state’s 33 prisons, and at all four out-of-state private prisons, refused both breakfast and lunch on Monday, said corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton. In addition, 2,300 prisoners failed to go to work or attend their prison classes, either refusing or in some cases saying they were sick.

The corrections department will not acknowledge a hunger strike until inmates have missed nine consecutive meals. Even so, Thornton said, Monday’s numbers are far larger than those California saw two years earlier during a series of hunger strikes that drew international attention.

Despite the widespread work stoppages and meal refusals, Thornton said state prisons operated as usual through the day. “Everything has been running smoothly,” she said. “It was normal. There were no incidents.”

The protest, announced for months, is organized by a small group of inmates held in segregation at Pelican Bay State Prison near the Oregon border. Their list of demands, reiterated Monday, center on state policies that allow inmates to be held in isolation indefinitely, in some cases for decades, for ties to prison gangs.

Though prison officials contend those gang ties are validated, the state last year began releasing inmates from segregation who had no evidence of gang-related behavior. Nearly half of those reviewed have been returned to the general population.

The protest involves the same issues and many of the same inmates who led a series of protests in California prisons two years ago. At the height of those 2011 hunger strikes, more than 11,600 inmates at one point refused meals. The correction department’s official tally, which counts only those inmates on any given day who have skipped nine consecutive meals, never rose above 6,600.

Source