Sitawa: Exiting solitary confinement – and the games CDCr plays

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa
Dec 29, 2016 in: SF Bayview

It is very important that you all clearly understand the depth of human torture to which I was subjected for 30-plus years by CDCr and CCPOA.* The torture was directed at me and similarly situated women and men prisoners held in Cali­fornia’s solitary confinement locations throughout CDCr, with the approval and sanc­tioning of California governors, CDCr secretaries and directors, attorneys general, along with the California Legislature for the past 40 years.

They have al­lowed for their own citizens – prisoners – to suffer horrible crimes with their systematic process of physically and mentally killing prisoners for de­cades, with no regard for human life.

I was placed in solitary confinement – the SHU – on May 15, 1985, on trumped-up, illegal and fabricated state documents by two leading CDCr lieutenants, Criminal Activity Coordinator (CAC) Lt. L.O. Thomas and Lt. Suzan Hubbard of North Block Housing (NBH) at San Quentin State Prison. Yes, these two leading lieutenants removed me from San Quentin general population, not for alleged criminal acts or rule violations, but for the politics of the revolutionary New Afrikan political organization and the beliefs and cultural views of the New Afrikan revolutionary leftist organization titled the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF).

I was targeted by CDCr prison officials at San Quentin during 1983 on up until I was removed from the gener­al population (GP) and housed in San Quentin’s Control Units within their solitary confinement housing building, North Housing Unit (NHU). The sole reason for my housing there was that I was educating all New Afrikan prisoners on San Quentin’s GP about our rich New Afrikan history behind California prison walls and across the United States.

I was teaching them that we as a people shall not be forced to deny ourselves the rights in the U.S. Constitution and the California Constitution. Yes, I person­ally believe that every New Afrikan woman and man has the right to protest any CDCr Jim Crow or Black Code-type rules or laws which violate our human rights as a person or prisoner.

And so I was educating my people to our civil rights and human rights in the California prison system during the 1980s while I was within the GP. I continued to educate my people, the New Afrikan nation, when I was placed in solitary confinement from 1983 to Oct. 11, 2015. It was a tragedy for three decades – yes, 30-plus years I was forced to suffer all forms of torture and witness killings of human life at the hands of CDCr officials and staff for decades, aided and abetted by governors, stakeholders, the Legislature, CDCr directors and secretaries etc.

The New Afrikan Prisoner Government (NAPG) has suffered and endured the violent attacks upon our prisoner community for decades on all levels and functions at the hands of CDCr employees. We have a U.S. constitutional right to resist any form of tor­ture, repression and violations of both our human and civil rights.

I was placed in the SHU, not for alleged criminal acts or rule violations, but for the politics of the revolutionary New Afrikan political organization and the beliefs and cultural views of the New Afrikan revolutionary leftist organization titled the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF).

I shall not be found among the broken men and women! I shall live and die a warrior for our New Afrikan Nation and humanity!

After being transferred from CDCr’s solitary confinement at the Pelican Bay SHU to its Tehachipi SHU during the period of July 10-17, 2014, including a layover in the hellish Ad Seg (Administrative Segregation) unit at Deuel Vocational Institution (DVI), it would not take long before the CDCr officials at CCI (Tehachapi) would show their collective scheme to have me assassinated as the New Afrikan principal negotiator plaintiff in the Ashker v. Brown class action lawsuit.

During our peaceful protest by the solitary confinement prisoner class (SCPC) against Steps 3 and 4 of the CDCr-CCI Step Down Program (SDP), we collectively stopped participating in the dysfunctional SDP at CCI-Tehachipi Prison on May 11, 2015. This was because the SDP has been violating our SCPC liberty interest arising from the Due Process Clause itself, and CDCr had to stop its SDP from imposing stigmatizing classifications and concomitant behavior modification. I realize now that the SDP between 2012 and 2015 violated our constitutional rights, and it still does.

In an obviously sinister campaign to undermine the collective solidarity of our historic Agreement to End Hostilities, these officials tried to manipulate the other racial groups supporting the AEH to turn against me.

First, SHU Counselor Vanessa Ybarra went to one of our 16 Prisoner Human Rights Movement representatives, Gabriel Huerta, and tried to get him and other reps to turn against me, asking Huerta, “Why do you all let that Black inmate speak for you all during this boycott of the Step Down Program? My supervisors want to know.” Correctional Counselor II B. Snider, Capt. P. Matzen, Associate Warden J. Gutierrez, Chief Deputy Warden W. Sullivan, Chief Deputy Warden Grove and Warden Kim Holland are the supervisors she was referring to.

However, things did not go as planned because Brother Gabriel saw right through what this counselor and her supervisors were trying to do in creating a hostile, antagonistic atmosphere and consensus against me by my peers. First, Gabriel asked the counselor, “Who are you talking about?” Then the counselor replied, “Dewberry.” Dewberry is my given last name.

And Gabriel told that counselor, “Dewberry is one of the four principal negotiators who represent the Prisoner Human Rights Movement’s prisoner SHU class. And he is one of the main plaintiffs in the Ashker v. Brown class action lawsuit against CDCr, and he has been speaking on behalf of prisoners from 2010 to right now and he speaks for our best interests as our prin­cipal prisoner negotiator!” The counselor turned around and walked out of the sallyport area.

In an obviously sinister campaign to undermine the collective solidarity of our historic Agreement to End Hostilities, these officials tried to manipulate the other racial groups supporting the AEH to turn against me.

Next, the second attempt was by another SHU counselor from 4B building named Vaca, who approached the PHRM representative and other prisoners, then said, “You prisoners should go back to participating in the Step Down Program or all of you who are boycotting the SDP will not be released to the general population this year (2015) or next year (2016), all because you are listening to that Black prisoner.”

When Gabriel Huerta asked Vaca, “What Black prisoner are you referring to?” the counselor responded, “I’m talking about Dewberry. By the way, Huerta, since when do you Mexicans follow what this Black prisoner says?” The Rep refused to play into that old CDCr manipulation game and terminated the conversation by telling the counselor, “You can take me back to my cell,” and left.

So neither of the attempts worked, because Brother Gabriel recognized what time it was. He summed it up in these words: “CDCr had been manipulating and playing us against each other in the past. They can’t do that any longer.”

This life-threatening CDCr campaign leading up to my release out of SHU in October 2015 would be followed by the unprofessional, illegal attitudes and actions by CDCr employees awaiting me as I entered the general population. It was necessary to understand their motives in their dealings with and around me.

Upon my preparing to allegedly be released to general population, I was notified on Aug. 11, 2015, that I would be attending my first Institutional Classification Committee (ICC) hearing in over 30 years which had any meaning. Let’s put this “ICC” into perspective as to why these ICC hearings now have merit for the solitary confinement prisoner class (SCPC).

We the SCPC had to take our struggle to the streets of this world by participating in three non-violent peaceful protests. In the first, commencing July 1, 2011, a total of 6,600 woman and men participated. And when CDCr failed to honor the agreements made to end it, we the SCPC were compelled to enter our second non-violent peaceful protest on Sept. 26, 2011, in which a total of 12,600 men and women participated across this state.

CDCr begged for us to discontinue our protest and allow for them to make the necessary interdepartmental major changes which would release the longest held SCPC first. The four principal negotiators – Brutha Sitawa, Arturo Castellanos, Todd Ashker and George Franco – along with our 16 Pri­soner Human Rights Movement (PHRM) representatives decided to suspend our protest in mid-October 2011 and allow for CDCr to show their good faith efforts to reform their illegal solitary confinement policies, laws and rules and place all 10,000 SCPC women and men onto a fully functional general population by Feb. 1, 2013.

We vowed to resume our protest to death or until CDCr negotiates with us in a real way. Yes, on Feb. 1, 2013, the four principal negotiators announced to our tormentors – CDCr, the governor, the Legislature, the attorney general and stakeholders – that we would resume our protest on July 8, 2013, being that CDCr wants to wage their war of attrition against me and similarly situated SCPC.

We the SCPC had to take our struggle to the streets of this world by participating in three non-violent peaceful protests.

On July 8, 2013, we entered into the largest hunger strike in prison history. Some 30,000 prisoners participated and our just cause forced Gov. Brown, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, all CDCr secretar­ies between 2010 and 2016 and their stakeholders, who all had the current data, to recognize the torturous conditions we SCPC had to endure for decades. I was one of thousands held at Pelican Bay, and I don’t want another woman, man or child to be forced to suffer what I went through. We SCPC observed and suffered the cruel and devasta­ting harm caused by CDCr.

On Aug. 11, 2015, I was approached by Building 8 Correctional Counselor I Vaca at approximately 8:25 a.m. at my cell door for the sole purpose of preparing my central files for possible release to a general population. Vaca informed me that I am the first solitary confinement prisoner class member whose case files he is currently reviewing and that I am scheduled to appear before a full ICC on Aug. 19, 2015.

Now, within a two-hour time period, this same counselor, Vaca, appeared at my cell door with a sinister smirk on his face suggesting that I could now appear before this ICC hearing “tomorrow,” Aug. 12, 2015.

Counselor Vaca was too enthusiastic for me to attend the earlier hearing, so I told Vaca, “I’ll stick to the original schedule date of Aug. 19, 2015,” instead of his suggested new schedule. This counselor was upset at me for sticking with the original ICC hearing date, which was very strange to me and it warranted me to reflect upon his previous misconduct of trying to manipulate and influence other California racial groups – Southern Mexican, White and Northern Mexican – to breach our Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH).

I was one of thousands held at Pelican Bay, and I don’t want another woman, man or child to be forced to suffer what I went through. We SCPC observed and suffered the cruel and devasta­ting harm caused by CDCr.

Vaca had personally tried to have a leading prisoner of each racial group to silence – assassinate – my voice of prisoner activism directed at CDCr and CCI (Teha­chapi) officials. These veteran prisoners did not fall for Vaca’s tactics of divide and conquer; they stayed true to our Agreement to End Hostilities.

Now, on Aug. 12, 2015, Hugo Pinell was set up by CDCr officials at New Folsom Prison and killed [by white prisoners]. CDCr delayed my scheduled hearing for over a month and during said time period, three special agents came to interview me about the murder of Mr. Pinell. These three special agents pulled me out of my Tehachapi Prison cage for an interview on Aug. 14, 2016, two days after the murder of Mr. Pinell.

These agents were dispatched by CDCr Secretary Jeffrey Beard and then Undersecretary Scott Kernan [now Secretary Kernan] to come and interview me and two other New Afrikan prisoners and others. The concern that was expressed to me was, how do I feel about the death of Mr. Pinell and would there be an all-out war between the two racial groups?

These are my thoughts in relation to Mr. Pinell’s assassination and my release to a general population: I had expressed to these three special agents, first and foremost, “Why did you all travel from another part of California to speak with me about a death that I have no facts on other than listening to the radio?” I told said agents, “I shall be engaging myself in pushing the Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH). Mr. Pinell would not want for us to enter into a war conflict, especially after we signed the AEH back on Aug. 12, 2012.

“And we, the PHRM, must see that our historical document, the Agreement to End Hostilities, remains firm to our cause and objectives, which are to radically change CDCr’s behavior directed at the Solitary Confinement Prisoner Class, and those of us who have been released to the general population are responsible for enforcing our AEH here behind the walls of California prisons and jails and to curb all community violence across this state outside of prison.

“You agents wasted a trip to come and speak with me. So, when you go back to report on my pro-AEH comments concerning Mr. Pinell’s murder, let your superiors – that is, Gov. Brown, CDCr Secretary Beard, Undersecretary Kernan and the chief of the Office of Correctional Safety (OCS) – know I shall request that you, CDCr, allow for us to be re­leased to the general population forthwith. For we have been held illegally for the past one to 40 years.”

These three special agents never did answer my question as to why did they travel from the state capital to the mountain of Tehachapi Prison to speak with me prior to my being released to the general population. It became a concern to me, be­cause I know that CDCr did not condone our AEH historical collective solidarity document and its objectives. This raised some serious questions in my mind as to why these government officials would direct these agents to interview me. A question they refused to answer.

As you all can imagine, I was suspicious at best about whether I could expect any good faith from CDCr supervisors, officials or staffers upon my release from Tehachapi Prison solitary confinement housing, head­ing toward Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP).

On Oct. 13, 2015, I arrived at SVSP receiving and release (R&R), and upon my exiting the CDCr transportation bus and entering the R&R, I was met by three Institution Gang Investigators (IGI), the welcoming crew awaiting me. I was then es­corted into a property storage room where it was only the four of us.

Now, these three IGI officers wanted to know my state of mind as it related to the assassi­nation of Mr. Hugo “Yogi” Pinell. I simply informed them that I will be pushing the AEH when I’m allowed to be released to the yard with all racial groups and especially with all of my New Afrikan Prisoner Government (NAPG) and ex­plain to all people the importance of the AEH and that I personally signed off on that historical document. Yes, the IGI made their usual threats.

Now, within the next 10 days, I was allowed to attend the exercising yard, where all of the Afrikan tribes embraced me as their own Big Brutha! As in all situations, I went into my political prisoner activism mode in changing this modified general population prison into an actual functional general population.

There is minimal change. The CCPOA (prison guards) have been doing everything in their power to stop, delay or hinder and obstruct prisoners from being afforded work assignments and real educational opportunity. We are denied full exercising yard hours, vocational trades, the same dayroom time as other 180-design prisoners.

Correctional officers and sergeants continue verbal harassment with their Green Wall attitudes. It is clear that the above-mentioned CDCr employees have an ingrained dislike for all prisoners who are being released from California solitary confinement (SHU) chambers to CDCr modified general populations.

There is minimal change. The CCPOA (prison guards) have been doing everything in their power to stop, delay or hinder and obstruct prisoners from being afforded work assignments and real educational opportunity.

Now, just consider having to be faced with the above matters being denied to me and similarly situated prisoners, while preparing to have my first contact visit with my family in 30 years. Yes, I was compelled to close the lid on the jar and withhold all of this corruption and wrongdoing from my family.

Upon my first visit to see my Queen, my sister, Marie A. Levin, and her husband, Randy Levin, my sister Marie left home in such a rush to come see me that she left her California ID at home, and I was unable to see her that Saturday, but I did have the opportunity to have a conversation with my brother-in-law. It was a great time for the two of us. Now, the following day, Sunday, I was able to see Marie and Randy together, without that thick shield of plexiglas between us.

Photo of Sitawa and his sister Marie during their first contact visit since 31+ years

Sitawa and his sister Marie during their first contact visit since 31+ years (Nov 2nd, 2015)

Now, for the first time in my imprisonment, I was somewhat shaken to the inner core of this New Afrikan revolutionary nationalist man by a simple hug from my young­er sister, Queen Marie, during our October 2015 visit. A hug should be a natural form of affection between a brother and sister. However, while my sister was squeezing me so tightly, all I could think about during those moments was of the family members who died, and I will never be able to hug or speak with them again.

They include 1) Stella, my cousin, who died in 1989; 2) Leon, my big brother, who died in 1991; 3) Steven, my nephew, 1994; 4) Morris, my uncle, 1994; 5) Tanner Birk, my uncle, 1995; 6) Tutter, my aunt, 1995; 7) Lonnie, my uncle, 1995; 8) Hillard Jr., my uncle, 1997; 9) Ardis, my cousin, 1997; 10) Ardis Sr., my uncle, 2002; 11) Bobbie Dean, my cousin, 2004; 12) Clifton, my uncle, 2009; 13) James “Ba-ba,” my cousin, 2009; 14) Carol, my big sister, 2010; 15) Nathan, my cousin, 2010; and 16) Queen Mama, lost April 28, 2014.

Each one of them was denied the right and opportunity to physically touch me for over 30 years illegally, due to my political and cultural beliefs – three decades for a “thought crime,” which did not exist. Yet, my family members who have died never having had the opportunity to sit and touch me for decades, because CDC and CDCr chose to make attempts at destroying me physically and psychologically for no other purpose than to break my mind and spirit and those of similarly situated prisoners held within CDCr’s solitary confinement – Ad Seg, SHU etc.!

This is just a window into what we prisoners had to suffer for decades by order of our tormentors – CDCr – and it continues to this day within the realm of CDCr modified general population. Our struggle for justice, equality and human rights continues.

We need the support of all people in California and the world to stop the in­justice we suffer at the hands of CDCr officials and especially by the CCPOA and their ilk.

I would be extremely irresponsible if I didn’t seek the support of my New Afrikan people – for example, Marie “FREE” Wright, Erykah Badu, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, Kerry Washington, Taraji P. Hansen, John Legend, Beyonce Knowles Carter, Dominique DiPrima, Shauntae “DaBrat” Harris, Azadeh Zohrabi, Common, Gabrielle Union, Chrissy Teigen, Alicia Keyes, Lupita Nyong’o, Sanaa Hamri, Kellita Smith, Snoop Dogg, Serena Williams, Jamie Foxx, Janelle Nonee’, Sanaa Lathan, Dana “Queen Latifa” Owens, Keisha Cole, Danny Glover, Yolanda “YoYo” Whitaker, Maya Harrison, Whoopi Goldberg, Harry Belafonte, Tatyana Ali, Tyress Gibson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Oprah Winfrey, Angela Bassett, Bryan “Baby” Williams, Shaun “Jay Z” Carter, and all sista and brutha entertainers across Oakland, the Bay Area and the country.

Yes, our New Afrikan Lives Matter here behind the enemy lines of California’s unjust prison system. On behalf of our New Afrikan prisoner community, I pray that you will show your support for our freedom campaigns and whatever you all can donate shall be greatly appreciated. Please send your donations to FREEDOM OUTREACH, P.O. Box 7359, Oakland, CA 94601-3023 or contact Maria Levin at levin1marie@gmail.com.

Send our brother some love and light: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, s/n R.N. Dewberry, C-35671, Salinas Valley State Prison C1-118, P.O. Box 1050, Soledad, CA 93960-1050, www.Sitawa.org.

*CDCr stands for the California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation – the last word uncapitalized by many prisoners to signify how little rehab exists. CCPOA – California Correctional Peace Officers Association – is the guards’ union, which exerts great influence within CDCr and on state policy and legislation.

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Injustice Runs Deep

In: SF Bay View, September 27, 2013

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

I am a 55-year-old New Afrikan man. I came to prison in 1980 for a first degree murder that I did not commit. The prosecutor, judge, victim’s family and my family know that I did not commit this murder. How is it that I can say it as a matter of fact? Because the actual killer confessed to the murder during the trial, did the time for the murder and he has since been released in 1986.

Sitawa2pics

Two photos of Sitawa show him in 1988 and 2012. – Photo: Adithya Sambamurthy, CIR

But because I wouldn’t give up information on an alleged drug dealer that the Oakland police wanted to take down, I was also charged for this crime and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law although everyone involved knew I was innocent. This is Amerika’s justice.

I was then sent off to one of the many CDCR prisons. I ended up, 22 years of age, young and very innocent and never been into any trouble with the law or involved with any criminal activity prior to being sent to one of the most violent prisons in the U.S., and there I was forced to make my own way.

Prison guards do not save or protect prisoners despite all the hype around the safety and security of the institution, nor do the police protect the average Amerikan or New Afrikan in the free world. People are literally on their own where there exist all kinds of predators. We all are prey and predators. I was a young man who was looked upon as prey and, in order for me to survive in an environment where my life was in constant danger, I had to learn the ways of a predator and it is this understanding that allowed me to survive.

But being that I came from a home where my mother was a follower of Martin Luther King Jr. and John Kennedy and my father was a follower of Marcus Garvey, violence was not and has never been a part of my household or something that I chose to indulge myself in. I know how to defend myself where there lurks danger, but preying on prisoners was something I personally despised, so I became someone who could help prisoners improve their lives!

I have never had a violent history nor do I aspire to have a violent future.

Since I had some schooling and my mother was a school teacher, I became a teacher, but behind these prison walls. I started educating some of the many prisoners who were given outrageous times by racist judicial proceedings for petty drug charges, three strikes laws – gang members who could not read or write nor understand some of the simplest curriculums.

My civilization was realized through my education, and I don’t care what anyone says; I’ve seen many, if not countless, prisoners change their lives and I have been privileged to have a hand in some of those changes. I have never been in no gang and never had the desire to be in any gang, but I understand their situation: Many of these individuals were born into these gang cultures in some of the harshest conditions. Just like when I lost my freedom, snatched off the streets and placed in the deadliest prison for a crime – murder – I did not commit.

But prison officials did not like the fact that I was contributing to the growth and development – education – of many prisoners and I am talking across the board: Whites, New Afrikans, Mexicans, Latinos, Asians etc. I have never had a violent history nor do I aspire to have a violent future.

I was locked up in solitary confinement because of my ability to educate prisoners successfully. Yes, I have been held in solitary confinement for the last 29 years because I am an “educated nigger” in the eyes of my captors.

My captors use gang labeling as a justification for subjecting prisoners in solitary confinement to cruel and unusual punishment – torture. For the 14,000 prisoners in solitary confinement, CDCR gets $70,000 a head annually to hold prisoners inside administration segregation units and security housing units and only $50,000 for holding prisoners on general population (GP). This is a waste because each and every one of us can program on general population. Yet we are deemed unable to program because CDCR officials do not want to lose any money they get for holding prisoners in solitary confinement.

People like Debra J. Saunders of San Francisco Chronicle speak from a position of ignorance or she’s a conspirator toward exploiting taxpayers out of their tax dollars. She generally casts her criticism based on information she has not investigated. So when she made a statement without taking the time to get the inside story of the individuals she spoke to, it’s obvious that she practices junk journalism, where people attempt to pop-off at the mouth to make a name for themselves off the backs of others’ pain and suffering regardless of their innocence.

She can care less that I am the one who has been subjected to many injustices by the state and continue to suffer at the hand of the state. Ms. Saunders believes that it is justifiable for me to be held in solitary confinement for the politics I chose to believe in, although I have not committed not one violent act or criminal act nor have I been associated with any rules violation reports (RVRs).

I was locked up in solitary confinement because of my ability to educate prisoners successfully.

I have been held in solitary confinement for 29 years, and if you think this is right, then the problem is people like yourself, which is what’s wrong with this country. It is the same mentality of the torturers: Gov. E.G. Brown, Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard and state Attorney General Kamala Harris. Ms. Saunders takes prisoners’ post-convictions that occurred over 20 years ago and re-prosecutes prisoners who are serving time for their alleged crimes.

To use their post-convictions to justify why they should be subjected to torture goes against everything this country supposedly stands for. This is still a nation of laws, isn’t it? Or do our captors get to arbitrarily persecute us however they see fit, whenever they want to?

Ms. Saunders, none of us were sentenced to torture. While I know you believe all the people in prison are criminals as long as they have been convicted, you do not know what are the circumstances that led to the alleged incidents in respect to the four [main hunger strike] representatives. You are speaking from a position of ignorance because you know no one and have no desire to meet any of us, especially since your interests stem from pure greed for prestige.

I know all these men and all of them have become my personal friends – men who, for over 30 years, were seen as my adversaries. This in itself is change. I’ve spent the last 13 years with these men and some longer, and I see their humanity every day. We’ve talked endlessly about many subjects that pertain to our livelihood and how we can, as men, improve on our lives and the lives of our fellow human beings – prisoners.

None of us were sentenced to torture.

Ms. Saunders, you know the system once said I was only three fifths of a human being and it was not true. They will not always tell you the truth. There were no weapons of mass destruction. The bill giving the media access to prisons and prisoners was vetoed by Gov. Brown so they can continue to control the narrative, always.

We are also clear here: CDCR officials cannot protect no one nor do they desire to. CDCR has for the last 40 years murdered, beaten and tortured prisoners while given immunity. Gov. Brown is continuing CDCR’s legacy. He clearly knows what is going on and what’s been going on and has no desire to end it.

Torture. Prisoners are the victims of state-sanctioned torture and any Amerikan or New Afrikan citizen who wants the facts to when, where and how CDCR has deliberately murdered prisoners, beaten prisoners and tortured prisoners in solitary confinement, I will personally give you a breakdown of these atrocities, historical and current.

This current strike is not about our captors; it is about prisoners and the civil and human rights afforded to us by the Constitution of the “USA.” The blatant violations of the Constitution when it comes to prisoners’ First, Eighth and 14th Amendment rights are a direct result of a society that has gone lawless and government’s abusing the powers they have been entrusted to use in the name of the people.

We prisoners fight for our justice because no one else will fight our cause.

Resist, resist and liberate

I hear demagogues go on their vicious attacks about how violent prisoners held in solitary confinement are, yet we are actually the role model prisoners, if there is such a title. Many of us have sat in these tombstones back here under concerted torture while correctional officers have violated and disrespected us routinely, subjecting us to physical and psychological torment each day we have been back here.

Photo: Occupy San Quentin Marie Levin, Sitawa’s sister, speaking 022012-4 by Bill Hackwell, web

Sitawa’s sister, Marie Levin, speaking here at Occupy San Quentin, a large rally outside the San Quentin gates on Feb. 20, 2012, has become a leading spokesperson in the struggle for justice for her brother and everyone in solitary confinement. – Photo: Bill Hackwell

We have collectively opted to refrain from any violence – even though CDCR has been very violent toward us! Especially when they took a mentally ill New Afrikan prisoner and forced him into boiling hot water, then laughed about it, saying, “He’ll be a white boy now,” as his skin fell from his flesh. [See the AP story dated Sept. 18, 1993, on the trial that first revealed the torture of Vaughn Dortch.]

I witnessed this with my own eyes. This was an insidious, racist attack that was unprovoked by prisoners. So we have been very disciplined, and this is just one of many attacks prisoners have suffered.

The “gang shot-caller or leader” rhetoric is a farce. One thing CDCR does well is label its prisoners as gang members or associates. Of everyone in solitary, 85 percent have been given a gang title; of the 137,000 prisoners in California, 11,600 are labeled as gang members or associates.

CDCR throws gang titles around to dehumanize prisoners to the public; that is why they label everyone. You’ve got to seek the truth. There are 14,000 prisoners held in solitary confinement. There are 3,000 who prison officials say are gang leaders or generals.

They say everyone they hold in solitary confinement is the most violent of prisoners. We are the masterminds, they say, but they cannot show the public anything but rhetoric. No violence, no criminal gang acts committed by these gang leaders or generals who are supposed to control or “lead.”

The “gang shot-caller or leader” rhetoric is a farce.

They try to use hype and old alleged incidents in order to propagate to the public. With all the rhetoric, one would think they could show and tell, but it’s all hype. And we prisoners have to dispel these lies because it’s done to pull the wool over the public’s eyes in order to win their support.

I am one of the four representatives. When CDCR uses a violent act to denigrate my character, they generalize and go back 40 years, as did Secretary Beard. Why do you think he referred to the 1970s in order to speak to violence he alleges we are associated with? Because he has no evidence. I wasn’t even in prison in the 1970s, nor were any of the other four representatives.

Then he went to the streets when he tried to link us to violence, because he had no record of any violence inside prisons. So he associates us with whatever violence he can out there! Those allegations are placed on us, but we’re never charged or prosecuted. They just use it to propagate to the public that we’re the worst of the worst.

The public needs to know we are under more scrutiny than those held in Guantanamo Bay. Our isolation has been for up to 43 years for the longest held prisoners, for me 29 years and others 10, 20, 30 years straight for only being validated as a gang member or associate.

There is NO VIOLENCE! The CDCR lied when they said we are violent men. Our lockups are “administrative lockups,” not in response to violence. They can show NO Rules Violation Reports – disciplinary reports. We have not committed any offenses to be placed in solitary confinement.

Allegations are placed on us, but we’re never charged or prosecuted. They just use it to propagate to the public that we’re the worst of the worst.

The prison gang officers screen our incoming and outgoing mail. They do not allow us to have phone calls. We sit in our tombstone 23 hours a day, if not 24.

There is no way any of us could do what CDCR is charging that we did, if we even wanted to. Their lies are not about your safety and security. They are about your hard-earned tax dollars. They have prisoners they hold in solitary confinement that they know are going home sooner or later, but they won’t let them out on a prison yard because they’re “too dangerous,” according to them. But it’s cool to release them back into the public after they have been subjected to years of torture.

So much for the public safety. Wouldn’t it be safer to allow a prisoner to program in a social atmosphere inside the prison in order to get him or her out of that isolated anti-social state? Plus, if we are to be tormented each day of our lives, why won’t the state just murder us? Why hold us back here under these torturous conditions?

We’re not animals, although we’re treated like animals. We’re not savages, although we’re treated like savages. The issue is that we are a commodity – a surplus – and CDCR is profiting off our lives and using violence as a premise to justify it.

This is why Gov. Brown keeps the media out of the prisons. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG), Ombudsman and Internal Affairs will never investigate against their own interests. They get paid because of prisons and prisoners’ placement in them.

We had the OIG Chief Deputy Rusty Davis walk the tier talking about he’s here to check on the hunger strikers. When people made complaints, he disregarded them, nor did he take one note. He just wanted to look at us. He had no interest in our suffering, nor did he care to see any facts in relation to our situation.

We’re not animals, although we’re treated like animals. We’re not savages, although we’re treated like savages. The issue is that we are a commodity – a surplus – and CDCR is profiting off our lives and using violence as a premise to justify it.

He used this opportunity to reacquaint himself with his old prison official colleagues. There were countless complaints he could have looked into, but he refused to do his job. This is what’s wrong with this system: no checks and balances.

The CDCR is run where all personnel fail to uphold their responsibility, which is why the system is self-destructing from the inside out. We can only do what we’re doing to secure our lives from such torture. Peacefully resist … Resist …

In struggle,

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

Sitawa is one of the four main prisoner representatives who called for the peaceful protest that began in 2011 and resumed July 8, 2013, with 30,000 participants.