Class Action Settlement on Indefinite Solitary Confinement

The Settlement Agreement on the Class Action Lawsuit of Ashker v. Brown concerning indefinite solitary confinement, and being sent to solitary on the basis of status, not behavior, was published on Sept. 1st, 2015.

Statement of plaintiffs on settlement of Ashker v. Governor of California

Summary of Settlement Agreement

Settlement Agreement text

Here is a video in which Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, who was one of the plaintiffs, is being interviewed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) about his confinement in Pelican Bay State Prison SHU since decades.

Here is a transcript of the parts of this interview shown.

CCI Step Down Program is Bogus: we shall stop participating Monday, May 11, 2015

CCI Step Down Program is Bogus

May 7, 2015 [received June 18th]

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

I have taken the position to shut down this fake SDP crap. So, all of Step 4, who have the most to lose, meaning, some of them are a couple of weeks away from completing their Step 4, and for some they are one, two, three, four months away from being on a mainline and for some of them it’s been 13, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, and 39 years since they last been in general population, and for Step 3 it ranges from 4 to 31 years.

We all agree that these latest types of 115s/RVR’s is just another way to keep us held in SHU or a means of bringing us back, once we make it out to the GP mainline and we’d rather take our stance now!!  So, you can start spreading this good news to Corcoran, New Folsom and Pelican Bay by radio, news articles and when family members travel to PBSP and the other two SHUs.

We shall stop participating Monday, May 11, 2015, indefinitely. We won’t be attending any CC hearings, directly dealing with Steps 3 and 4, nor shall we go to those group meetings, or do any more of those journals. Now, there are two groups for each Step 3 and 4, and that’s a total of 40 prisoners who would have been attending those group meetings weekly. This SDP cannot function without prisoners participating.

I need for you to share that Steps 3 and 4 prisoners will not continue to participate in the SDP that is corrupt and discriminatory against all SDP prisoners, and has been trying to provoke all of us to rebel, get angry and act out.

Our problems come from the Warden, Kim Holland; Chief Deputy Warden, J. Gutierrez; Chief Deputy Warden W. Sullivan; Capt. P. Metzers; IGI Lt. J. Tyree; R. Diaz; Deputy Director of Division of Adult Institutions, Sacramento office, M. Tann; former SDP Facilitator, B. Snider; CC-II at CCI, Ybarra; and all of these Tehachapi officials and the one Sacramento official who have knowledge that we as SHU/SDP prisoners have been denied our fundamental SHU rights; and as of two weeks ago we are being denied the use of a razor, or should I say, we have a choice to take a five (5) minute shower or take a (5) minute shave, but not both.

Now, 90% of all SDP privileges have been denied us from Jan. 2014 to May 2015. This is a failed program and all of the Heads of CDCr know what is going on here at Tehachapi, CCI.

Prisoner Human Rights Movement: Agreement to End Hostilities has changed the face of race relations without any help from CDCr

Published in the SF Bay View, January 28, 2015

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

It is incumbent upon all men prisoners across the state of California and globally to embrace the struggle of women prisoners as a whole. We, the four principle negotiators of our Prisoner Human Rights Movement – George Franco, Arturo Castellanos, Todd Ashker and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry) – recognize the women prisoner struggles and the PHRM supports them. These other prisoner activists do as well: D. Troxell, L. Powell, A. Guillen, G. Huerta, P. Redd, R. Yandell, J.M. Perez, J. Baridi Williamson, A. Sandoval, P. Fortman, Y. Iyapo-I (Alexander), A. Yrigollen, F. Bermudez, F. Clement and R. Chavo Perez.

These representatives, whom CDCr leading officials recognize as prisoner activists, are changing the face of race relationships within CDCr first, without any assistance from CDCr. Isn’t that amazing! The above named prisoner activists, along with the thousands of other prisoner activists throughout the California prison system, have changed the way prisoners should be treated as human beings.

I encourage all men and women prisoners to continue to press onward with our Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH) through all corridors of state and county facilities.

Prisoners’ era of retrospective study and constructive struggle

We are beacons of collective building while clearly understanding that we the beacons must take a protracted internal and external retrospective of our present day prisons’ concrete conditions to forge our PHRM onward into the next stage of development, thereby exposing CDCr’s racial discrimination and racist animus tactics against our prisoner class. This is why our lives must be embedded in determined human rights laws, based on our constructive development of our scientific methods and laws. Therefore, through our concrete conditions in each prison, our struggle shall be constructed through our Prisoner Human Rights Movement representatives and negotiators.

The PHRM has realized that CDCr has been setting up prisoners and creating racial tension among all racial groups, from various geographical locations up and down the state of California. It has become abundantly clear to the PHRM that Gov. Jerry Brown is an outspoken racist and overseer who has clearly shown that his discriminatory practices are directed at minorities and people of color: New Afrikan (Afrikan Amerikan), Mexicans (Latinos) and White working poor, who have all been suffering blatant discrimination in county jails and state prisons.

Gov. Brown went out and hired the most blatant racist prison superintendent in the U.S. as his secretary of corrections. Yes, CDCr Secretary Jeffrey Beard is continuing to torture, isolate, maim, racially assault, and racially, religiously and culturally discriminate against prisoners.

Gov. Brown and Secretary Beard are continuing their practices of long term solitary confinement. Now, it is a known fact that Gov. Brown and his personally appointed CDCr Secretary J. Beard do not want to STOP racial tension within the CDCr or the state of California as a whole, because if they did, the historical document, the Agreement to End Hostilities, would have been distributed by the CDCr to all women and men state prisoners, county jail prisoners, youth authority prisoners, juveniles, probationers and parolees throughout this state.

Since Oct. 10, 2012, when the Agreement to End Hostilities took effect, to the present day, California women and men prisoners’ racial and cultural hostilities have decreased, without any assistance from Gov. Brown or his subordinate, Secretary of CDCr Jeffrey Beard. It is important that all citizens here in California and throughout the United States realize that Gov. Brown and Secretary Beard do not care about reducing the violence among prisoners, nor do they care about the safety and security of Californians who are not incarcerated.

Our civil rights are violated daily. We citizens realize that the safety and security of California prisoners and our neighborhoods throughout California will only come from the people, not from corrupt law enforcement agencies! Because we know that the majority of California law enforcement policies have been brutal to our inner city citizens – killing and maiming our family members – and that the brutality has been sanctioned by Gov. Brown and carried out by CDCr Secretary Beard et al behind California prison walls against all prisoners and especially Level 3 and 4 prisoners.

CEASE the human torture! CEASE the racial profiling, Gov. Brown and Secretary Beard!

I want everyone to know that I agree with my co-principle negotiators’ articles in the October 2014 SF Bay View newspaper:

1) “California prisoner representatives: All people have the right to humane treatment with dignity” on page 5 and

2) “Unresolved hunger strike issues” on page 16. I want to encourage everyone to subscribe to this newspaper. It is the voice of all people!

To all U.S. citizens and the world community, support our Prisoner Human Rights Movement!

We are fighting for human justice. We are upholding the U.S. Constitution and California Constitution and the liberties therein, while establishing the freedoms that our ancestors struggled for over the past hundred years in California.

Determined to preserve our human lives and those of all prisoners within the state of California, we, the Prisoner Human Rights Movement, call on all citizens to get involved with social change now. In the course of our work, PHRM realizes that it is natural that we should meet opposition from CDCr, because of their ignorance and lack of knowledge manifested whenever CDCr ruthlessly deceives and deprives prisoners of our human rights and civil rights daily.

With the dawn of this new prison era, the Prisoners’ Era of Retrospect and Construct, know what its essentials are; know its principles and strive to attain our goals and objectives in the truest sense of our Agreement to End Hostilities. We know what forced solitude causes: psychological and physical warfare, for prisoners and their outside family members as well.

Politically speaking, the world has changed and so have prisoners. Human progress means change, and today we need to prepare for a higher life, for tomorrow’s liberty – educationally, socially and politically.

No one wants to be tortured, dehumanized, racially profiled, religiously profiled and viciously targeted by acts of sensory deprivation by Gov. Jerry Brown’s state government and his California prison officials to implement the New Jim Crow, i.e., the Security Threat Group/Step Down Program (STG/SDP), which is actually criminal acts of torture by way of low intensity warfare. This is an act against all California citizens and humanity itself.

Our PHRM was threatened by CDCr officials and employees as we championed the cause of the Agreement to End Hostilities, and we thank God that our prisoner class did not fall prey to CDCr’s threats to destroy our AEH across this state. Prisoners hold their destiny in the palm of their hands and we shall not allow any prison correctional officers, sergeants, lieutenants, captains, associate wardens, chief deputy wardens, wardens, the director of adult institutions, the undersecretary or the secretary or even Gov. Brown to destroy our faith in humanity. The Prisoner Human Rights Movement shall stand as ONE clenched fist in solidarity against CDCr oppression.

I want to make it clear that Gov. Brown and Secretary Beard operate with the mentality of Donald Tokowitz Sterling, the former Los Angeles Clipper’s owner. Just review their policies, rules, laws and practices directed at all prisoners and their family members, relatives, friends and all citizens within this state.

We shall not allow even Gov. Brown to destroy our faith in humanity. The Prisoner Human Rights Movement shall stand as ONE clenched fist in solidarity against CDCr oppression.

Stand up against injustice. Stand up against racism. Stand up against sensory deprivation.

People, get involved in struggle!

Revolutionary love and respect!

Brutha Sitawa

Send our brother some love and light: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, s/n R.N. Dewberry, C-35671, 4B-7C-209, P.O. Box 1906, Tehachapi CA 93581.

California’s savage system of confinement: An end to solitary is long overdue

Published in the SF Bay View, December 9, 2014

by Marie Levin

Marie Levin holding one of the few pictures of her brother Sitawa

Marie Levin holding one of the few pictures of her brother Sitawa – by Malaika

Less than two weeks ago the United Nations Committee against Torture issued a report strongly criticizing the U.S. record on a number of issues, among them the extensive use of solitary confinement. While the U.S. uses long-term solitary more than any other country in the world, California uses it more than any other state. It’s one of the few places in the world where someone can be held indefinitely in solitary. This practice is designed to break the human spirit and is condemned as a form of torture under international law.

Despite these repeated condemnations by the U.N., the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is harshening rather than easing its policies, currently with three new sets of regulations. The administration’s iron-fisted strategy is emerging: Project the appearance of a reforming system while extending its reach, and restrict the ability of prisoners and their loved ones to organize for their rights.

While the U.S. uses long-term solitary more than any other country in the world, California uses it more than any other state. It’s one of the few places in the world where someone can be held indefinitely in solitary. This practice is designed to break the human spirit and is condemned as a form of torture under international law.

First, the CDCR has instituted a “Step Down Program” ostensibly to create a pathway out of indefinite solitary. However, the program actually widens the net of who can be considered a threat and therefore eligible for placement in solitary. Recently adopted regulations replace the old language of “gang” with “Security Threat Group” (STG) and the previous list of a dozen identified gangs is now replaced with a dizzying list of over 1,500 STGs.

Under these new regulations, even family members and others outside the prisons can be designated as part of an STG. Given the fact that indefinite solitary is used disproportionately against people of color – in Pelican Bay, 85 percent of those in isolation are Latino – the language used to justify placement in solitary eerily mirrors the rhetoric of the federal government and its permanent state of war against its declared enemies, all of whom are people of color.

The CDCR promulgated a second set of rule changes last summer with sweeping new “obscenity” regulations governing mail going both in and out of prisons. The original proposal was to explicitly ban any “publications that indicate an association with groups that are oppositional to authority and society,” yet after coming under heavy criticism, CDCR decided to mask its Orwellian motives by hiding behind the above mentioned language of STGs. This ominous language violates First Amendment rights and reveals a broader agenda: to censor writings that educate the public about what is actually occurring inside the prisons, and to stifle the intellectual and political education and organizing of prisoners themselves.

A third element of CDCR’s strategy of containment is the implementation of highly intimidating visiting procedures designed to keep family members away from their loved ones. Draconian new visiting regulations authorize the use of dogs and electronic drug detectors to indiscriminately search visitors for contraband, even though both methods are notoriously unreliable. These procedures effectively criminalize family members and deter them from visiting, especially in a period of a growing family-led movement against solitary.

The three new policies are also intended to extend CDCR’s reach beyond the prison walls. As an organizer and family member of a prisoner, I’m censored when sending letters to my brother, Sitawa N. Jamaa, subjected to gratuitous and intimidating searches during visits, and susceptible to being labeled an STG associate. These are all ways that CDCR is trying to keep me from knowing how my brother and others are doing, and to repress my organizing.

People locked up in California have a decades-long history of fighting for the rights and dignity of prisoners, affirming their humanity in the face of inhumane conditions and demanding change. The U.N. report calls on this government to “ban prison regimes of solitary confinement such as those in super-maximum security detention facilities.” It’s time for California to listen.

Taken individually, these regulations may seem to address unrelated issues. But given they are all coming down simultaneously – just a year after the last of a series of historic hunger strikes by people in California prisons has given rise to the highest level of self-organization and empowerment among imprisoned people since the 1970s – these regulations are nothing less than a systematic attempt to silence and retaliate against prisoners’ growing resistance.

Over 30,000 prisoners participated in 2013’s strike, some for 60 days, risking their health and lives for an end to indefinite solitary. Prisoners’ family members and loved ones also took up leadership roles in political organizing in unprecedented ways. The movement to abolish solitary continues to gain momentum around the country.

The hunger strikes were a significant part of an ongoing national sea change regarding the use of solitary, as states are waking up to its dangers. Illinois, Maine and Mississippi have closed or drastically downsized their solitary units without any loss of institutional safety. New York and Arizona were recently forced to reduce their use of isolation, with Colorado and New Jersey following suit.

Yet California steadfastly remains an outlier seemingly impervious to change, led by an administration that relies on tired rhetoric about “the worst of the worst” to justify torture. People locked up in California have a decades-long history of fighting for the rights and dignity of prisoners, affirming their humanity in the face of inhumane conditions and demanding change. The U.N. report calls on this government to “ban prison regimes of solitary confinement such as those in super-maximum security detention facilities.” It’s time for California to listen.

Marie Levin is the sister of Sitawa N. Jamaa, a prisoner in solitary confinement at Tehachapi. She is a member of California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) and Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS). Mohamed Shehk, the media and communications director for Critical Resistance, also contributed to this piece and can be reached at mohamed@criticalresistance.org. This story previously appeared on Counterpunch.

Brother Sitawa’s horrible journey through CDCR corruption, torture and inhumane treatment

Published in the SF Bay View, March 11, 2012

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, s/n R.N. Dewberry

My name is Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, s/n R.N. Dewberry. I am one of the four principle negotiators of the Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) hunger strike, now titled: Pelican Bay Human Rights Movement (PBHRM).

As you know by now, the hunger strike has been given a grace period, because CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate and Undersecretary Scott Kernan asked that we call off the hunger strike until they’re able to meet our five core demands. This the four principle negotiators thought hard and long on during a three-and-a-half-hour negotiation face to face with Undersecretary Scott Kernan, who made it clear from the beginning he speaks for CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate. Only then did we agree to give the CDCR heads the time they requested: two to three weeks starting from July 20, 2011.

Although we have read many unfortunate lies by the CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate that we, the negotiators, called off the hunger strike for a beanie cap, proctor and calendars, not only does the CDCR secretary think the hunger strike supporters are stupid to believe that we would literally starve ourselves for beanie caps, proctors, handballs and calendars etc., it’s only an attempt to demoralize our support base, i.e. prisoners throughout the United States and people of all walks of life throughout the world.

Here’s my personal horror story: I was locked up in 1985, when two confidential informants (i.e., prison snitches) reported information to two correctional lieutenants named Lt. L.D. Thomas and Lt. S.L. Hubbard at San Quentin State Prison.

It’s important to know that I have been held in solitary confinement since 1985. I’ve been here in PBSP solitary confinement since 1990 and I’ve suffered every torturous physical and psychological attack known to man here. Yet my only crime is that in 1985 two prison informers allegedly reported that I was involved in prison gang activities – only to find out there never were any prison informers (i.e., snitches). Instead the two “veteran” lieutenants, L.D. Thomas and S.L. Hubbard, were the “two prisoner informers.” Yes, they lied in order to lock me up because it was them who authored all the information provided.

Therefore I have been held in solitary confinement illegally because of two heartless racist officials who lied in order to lock me up in solitary confinement as a prison gang member, when they both knew I was not a prison gang member. I was told off the record that I am in solitary confinement for my political beliefs. And due to those beliefs, I will die in solitary confinement unless I “debrief.”

This is not a unique story. Many other prisoners are held in prison solitary confinement indefinitely for not one offense for 10 to 40 years. We have wasted away here in solitary confinement while our families suffer the same psychological torture, and many have already passed on. So those five core demands are not for beanie caps or jackets, which the PBSP officials cruelly kept from us deliberately while allowing us to go to the freezing concrete yard nine months out of the year for 21 years straight.

I have been held in solitary confinement illegally because of two heartless racist officials who lied in order to lock me up in solitary confinement as a prison gang member, when they both knew I was not a prison gang member. I was told off the record that I am in solitary confinement for my political beliefs. And due to those beliefs, I will die in solitary confinement unless I “debrief.”

The “proctor” does not serve 95 percent of us because it’s an educational service at prisoners’ expense. Therefore, many of us cannot afford it. And a calendar is a calendar? Don’t get it! So, CDCR Secretary Cate and his lying cronies – i.e., CDCR spokeswoman Terry Thorton, CDCR Undersecretary Scott Kernan and PBSP SHU Warden G.D. Lewis – know that our hunger strike is about human rights and the abuse and physical and psychological torture of prisoners being held in solitary confinement indefinitely – i.e., civil death.

So, if CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate, Undersecretary Scott Kernan and PBSP SHU Warden G.D. Lewis do not hold to our July 20, 2011, agreement and implement our five core demands as they agreed, then we will have no choice but to reenact our statewide peaceful hunger strike indefinitely, because despite all the divide and conquer attempts, we prisoners remain in solidarity across all racial groups. And we will seek no negotiations with any CDCR officials whatsoever. Our Pelican Bay Human Rights Movement is a struggle to be treated like decent human beings instead of like caged animals.

David-Walkers-Appeal-cover

Brother Sitawa has served 27 years in solitary confinement “due to my political beliefs in the teachings of David Walker, Martin Delany, Marcus Garvey.” Black abolitionist David Walker published his book, “Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World, a call for Black unity and self-help in the fight against oppression and injustice,” in 1829. “America,” he argued, “is more our country than it is the whites’ – we have enriched it with our blood and tears.” His goal was to see Black people defend and “govern ourselves.”

It should be clear that I have been made to suffer a grave injustice due to my political beliefs in the teachings of David Walker, Martin Delany, Marcus Garvey etc., whose beliefs and principles I have embraced and for years used to educate my New Afrikan brothers and sisters and fellow human beings behind these prison walls even after initially being placed in solitary confinement. I continue to educate and serve the interests of all prisoners across all color lines! It is these actions which led CDCR to further isolate me deeper into solitary confinement on an illegal placement into solitary confinement.

I insist that California Gov. Edmund G. Brown and President Barack Obama take a hard look at the inhumane treatment of California prisoners here in the United States of America being tortured in solitary confinement units because of their political beliefs, influence and being jailhouse lawyers etc. And even if someone is a prison gang member or gang member, it still does not give CDCR officials the right to torture them.

Therefore, I/we ask that an investigation be opened to look into the criminal and inhumane treatment that has been going on for 10 to 40 years against all prisoners, mostly of color. I have been disciplinary free for 16 years! And every CDCR rule violation report I received between 1985 and 1995 was due to CDCR officials trying to assassinate me on numerous occasions that were self-defense incidents.

It should be clear that I am willing to talk to any media as to our torture and illegal placement into solitary confinement. I am willing to talk at any legislative hearings in respect to our suffering. I am willing to let anyone investigate what I have spoken about in this informative letter to you all, especially the accusations that I made against the two lieutenants. It is the only way that you all will be able to see the truth and the criminal behavior by officials and gang investigators in order to keep us in solitary confinement.

On top of suffering one grave injustice where I have been conspired into the solitary confinement unit in which I’ve been for the last 26 years, I have also suffered another injustice where I have been held in prison for 31 years on a crime that I did not commit. Not only have my co-defendants been released – one 24 years ago and the other 25 years ago – but one also confessed to the crime during our trial. Ironically the only thing that these two injustices have in common is the witnesses used to persecute me where there was no evidence whatsoever. See Case No. C01-20091 civil suit U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

SB 687 was signed by Gov. Edmund G. Brown Aug. 3, 2011, into law. It provides that the corroboration of an in-custody informant shall not be provided by the testimony of another in-custody informant.


 

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, s/n R.N. Dewberry, C-35671
CCI SHU 4B-7C-209
P.O. Box 1906,
Tehachapi CA 93581
U.S.A.