Mentally Ill Inmates At Michigan Women’s Prison Report They Were Hog Tied Naked, Deprived Of Water

This shocking situation has been going on for a while now. When is MI DOC going to act and take its responsibility on the treatment of people inside its prisons, male and female, especially those who need care and not even more punishment?
From ThinkProgress, Sept 8, 2014
By: Nicole Flatow
Mentally ill at Michigan’s only women’s prison are deprived of food and water for days, and even “hog tied” naked as punishment, according to the accounts of several witnesses compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.
Witness reports include particular abuse against mentally ill inmates who are placed in solitary confinement. Inmates reported that the water had been shut off in confinement units, while guards rejected inmates’ water requests for days. At least one inmate who reported this treatment was taken to the hospital last month after she was found non-responsive in her cell.
In another instance, an inmate who was “crying naked on the floor and unable to move-because her feet were cuffed to her hands behind her back” was told that “her fellow prisoner would have to stay like that for two hours or more because she had not learned how to ‘behave’,” according to a letter from the ACLU of Michigan to the Department of Corrections, two University of Michigan law professors, and several other advocacy organizations. “The guard was referring to a young woman with serious mental illness who is unable to control her behavior unless her mental illness is properly treated.”

“According to reports we have received from multiple individuals who have witnessed these events first-hand, mentally ill inmates at Huron Valley are being treated so inhumanely that we believe many corrections experts would characterize their experience as a form of torture,” the letter states. “Witnesses have reported seeing mentally ill prisoners denied water and food, ‘hog tied’ naked for many hours, left to stand, sit, or lie naked in their own feces and urine, denied showers for days, and tasered.”
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Illinois prisoners in Menard High Security Unit plan to begin hunger strike Jan. 15

Reblogged from: SF Bay View
by Staughton Lynd 
Jan. 14, 2014

The following information is based on numerous letters from prisoners in the High Security Unit at Menard Correctional Center in Illinois written in December 2013. These prisoners expect to go on hunger strike on Jan. 15, 2014, due to their placement and retention in severe isolation, under inhumane living conditions, without notice, reasons or hearing. This will be a peaceful protest.
Retaliation can be expected. These men ask for our support and action. And they ask us to spread the word.

The IDOC website says, “Menard Correctional Center was established on the banks of the Mississippi River in 1878. … Menard is the state’s largest maximum security adult male facility.”

After the Tamms Correctional Center was closed in January 2013, several High Security Units have been opened in other prisons throughout Illinois.

The High Security Unit at Menard Correctional Center is one of several such units housing prisoners in administrative detention who were in Tamms or who have filed grievances or complaints and others who would not have met the criteria for transfer to Tamms.

The men were transferred to Menard and continue to be kept in the High Security Unit without any notice, reasons or hearing. Prisoners who were transferred without so much as a ticket are being forced to complete a nine month three phase program – originally Tamms’ stepdown program – to earn back privileges they did nothing to lose.
The Illinois Department of Corrections has been unable to locate any records responsive to a Freedom of Information Act request for any administrative directives that deal with the “phase program.” The Menard rule book says that administrative detention is a non-disciplinary form of segregation from the general population that is reviewed every 90 days by the warden. However, the phase program is nine months. Therefore, no one is being considered for release until at least nine months after entering the system.
The 90-day review is supposed to be a review where release is considered. Instead, it is only a hearing where the prisoner is not present, and its only purpose is to determine if he should move from one phase to the next. To date, nobody has been released after the nine months. No notices are being given after any of these alleged hearings, and no basis for decision of continued placement is given either.

These prisoners expect to go on hunger strike on Jan. 15, 2014, due to their placement and retention in severe isolation, under inhumane living conditions, without notice, reasons or hearing. This will be a peaceful protest.

Prisoners have been filing grievances asking for uniform written policies that provide for constitutionally adequate notice of why an inmate is being placed in administrative detention and periodic review in the form of informal hearings that allow the prisoner to refute the alleged reasons for placement and retention in administrative detention.
Prisoners say that their conditions of confinement are deplorable. According to prisoners, conditions in the High Security Unit include
  • severe isolation without any mental health evaluation or treatment;
  • uncleanliness, rodent infestation and lack of any cleaning supplies to clean cells – no disinfectants, no toilet brushes;
  • no written policies requiring the daily sweeping and mopping of the wings;
  • lack of heat in the cells and only one small, thin blanket;
  • showers are moldy and often cold;
  • no hot water in the cells to wash up or clean eating utensils;
  • unauthorized deviation from the statewide menu, low calorie intake has prisoners losing weight;
  • not issued individual coats, have to share smelly coats with numerous men;
  • access to their legal materials limited to approximately once a month, delays in receiving legal mail;
  • no educational opportunities even though non-disciplinary prisoners should have the same access to education as the general population.
Many prisoners in the Menard High Security Unit are planning to turn in emergency grievances as well as begin a hunger strike on the morning of Jan. 15, 2014. They expect retaliation, possibly including beatings of inmates who are regarded as troublemakers.

Retaliation can be expected. These men ask for our support and action. And they ask us to spread the word.

How you can help

Prisoners in the High Security Unit at Menard Correctional Center ask you to make phone calls to the warden, the director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, and the governor on Jan. 15, 16 and 17, 2014, to check on their conditions, demands, and welfare. Please call:
Staughton Lynd, attorney, professor, historian, author, playwright, and civil rights and peace activist, can be reached at salynd@aol.com.

Gabe Newland: Reduce the use of solitary confinement in Michigan prisons

From guest writer Gabe Newland in the Detroit Free Press, Feb. 1st 2013:

Gov. Rick Snyder can save lives and money by adopting Mississippi’s recent prison reforms.

Remember solitary confinement — that expensive thing the Michigan Department of Corrections does with your tax dollars? They lock almost 1,000 prisoners — hundreds of them mentally ill — inside isolated segregation cells. For days and months and years, prisoners spend 23 hours per day in these cramped cubes. Alone. Where silence screams and thoughts become voices.

Sometimes people die. Timothy Souders, a mentally ill prisoner serving one to four years, spent the last four days of his life strapped to a steel bed until he died of thirst. He was naked, soaked in his own urine.

Gov. Snyder can fix this.

Only six years ago, Mississippi held almost 1,300 prisoners in long-term segregation. Cells were like ovens, and psychotic prisoners screamed through the night. Violence spread. In response, Mississippi tried something different: It reduced its solitary population by 85%. Violence plummeted, behavior improved, and Mississippi saved more than $5 million per year.

How did Mississippi do it? Two key components:

• First, the state overhauled its classification system, which determines where prisoners go — minimum, medium or maximum security. Instead of isolating the worst of the worst, they’d been isolating prisoners they were mad at. And that’s expensive.

A good classification system rewards good behavior; you might move from maximum to medium security. In Mississippi, they knew how to punish but forgot to reward. And they’ve now learned an important lesson: One-way ratchets only ratchet up costs. More solitary, more money.

• Second, Mississippi began diverting mentally ill prisoners out of solitary and into mental health units. Prisoners who needed treatment got it, not punishment. And that’s smart. Isolated prisoners are more likely to hurt themselves, and they’re more likely to hurt others when released. Anti-social isolation produces anti-social behavior.

In the end, Mississippi successfully reduced the number of prisoners in isolation to about 300. That saved money, jobs and lives.

Read the rest here: http://www.freep.com/article/20130201/OPINION05/302010046/Gabe-Newland-Reduce-the-use-of-solitary-confinement-in-Michigan-prisons

Political prisoner Khalfani Malik Khaldun puts the Indiana prison system on trial

December 29, 2012

Since Dec. 13, 1994, Indiana political prisoner Khalfani Malik Khaldun (aka Leonard McQuay) has been held in control units, i.e. administrative segregation or isolation. It began when police and prison investigators manufactured a murder charge against him after a guard was stabbed and killed. Brother Khalfani is a Muslim and New Afrikan revolutionary educator who professes a strong sense of radical politics and culture.

Interview by the Campaign to Free Khalfani Malik Khaldun
Khalfani Malik Khaldun 042711
Campaign: How long have you been in Indiana’s prison plantation?
Khalfani Malik Khaldun: I entered the Indiana Department of Corrections in 1987, when I was a senior in high school.

Campaign: How old are you?
KMK: I was born Nov. 30, 1969. That makes me 43 years old.

Campaign: Explain to us what your life is like on the inside?
KMK: The best way to describe it is I am in prison sanctioned to indefinite solitary confinement engaged in multiple fights. One fight to regain my freedom, one fight to maintain my physical health, one fight to be released into the general population, and the last fight is to maintain my sanity – an all-day job.

Campaign: How has your activism made you a target for harassment or repression?
KMK: Being identified as a prison leader, political agitator, activist or revolutionary, we get automatically singled out as threats to others and threats to the safety and security of the prison plantations. Having been restricted from general population for so long, my influence has been reduced to small units. The idea behind all this is to destroy our ties and relationships with comrades and new youth coming in.

Campaign: Share your position on the political nature of your murder charge involving that prison guard, Phillip Curry.
KMK: On Dec. 13, 1994, the night this guard was killed at the Indiana State Prison, he was killed on the tier above where I lived. D-cell-house was where the prisoncrats housed the worst of the worst – their term, not mine. I was at that time agitating, educating and organizing the radical elements who would listen.
So when this happened, having been a thorn in the prisoncrats’ side already, they made me the responsible party that night; they were mad and wanted someone to pay. In 2001, they made me pay by finding me guilty and giving me a fresh 60-year hit.

One of the jurors who found me guilty, Juror No. 12, came forward after my trial; she regretted her actions and went to the judge. Instead of calling for a new trial and reversal of the charge, the judge told her to go home; the judge has since retired. They manufactured evidence to obtain their conviction against me.
I am in prison sanctioned to indefinite solitary confinement engaged in multiple fights. One fight to regain my freedom, one fight to maintain my physical health, one fight to be released into the general population, and the last fight is to maintain my sanity – an all-day job.

Campaign: Explain the corruption that exists inside Indiana’s criminal justice system.
KMK: Like any system of corrupt politicians and abuses of power, whoever can afford to pay a greedy lawyer to represent them here may stay out of prison. These lawyers have judges and prosecutors who will give one a pass as long as they receive a nice payoff.

Poor people get sent to prison to fulfill the schemes of the prisoncrats and political regime here; more bodies mean more money. As they say, power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Indiana legislators have slashed prison funding for educating prisoners and providing meaningful rehabilitative programs, so that money would be solely for building new prisons. So they are perpetuating a system that leads to more recidivism. Not having a viable re-entry program for prisoners prior to their release ensures a return to prison: capitalism at its best and the human exploitation of prisoners.

Campaign: Why are they continuing to house you in solitary confinement after nearly two decades?
KMK: The executive body of the Indiana Department of Corrections launched its political war against me in 1994, the night they lost one of their own. Being the only person accused, then later charged and convicted for this murder, to them Khalfani Malik Khaldun is Indiana’s public enemy number one; so they have condemned me to a prison existence in solitary confinement.

This goes beyond my sentence of 60 years. The courts did not say serve out this term in administrative segregation. The Indiana Department of Corrections wants payback, so in retaliation they want me suffering to the point of psychological incapacitation. They want me an old grey-hair grey-beard and no longer imposing a potential threat.

I am currently “conduct clear” for eight years, and I have completed the following programs: Substance Abuse; Stress Management; Anger Management; Commitment to Change; Prison-Life Skills; Parenting; Cage Your Rage; Rage, Recidivism and Recovery; Prison-Life Skills No. 2; Houses of Healing; Bridging the Gap; and Inside-Outside Dads.

I have been eligible for release to general population for years now. Their justification for not releasing me is they say I killed their officer, and nobody is comfortable with signing off on my release from solitary confinement.

Campaign: Why is it so important to build a networking support base on the outside of prison?
KMK: For the revolutionary, political prisoner, jailhouse lawyer, prison activist, outside resources and support is crucial. The prisoncrats isolate us to control our movements and neutralize our influence on other convicts.

Having a network of loyal people who have your best interests in mind helps to keep the public informed. These supporters can be family members, friends or anyone doing prisoner support work. They can help us expose whatever ill treatment we go through. When the prisoncrats know you have people who genuinely love and care about you, they’re less likely to openly mess you around.

Campaign: Explain how the Indiana Department of Corrections utilizes control units and why?
KMK: In the early 1980s, Indiana experienced several prison riots as a result of racism and brutality by guards on militant aspiring revolutionaries and lumpen proletariat prisoners, forcing prisoners to take a stand to defend themselves. Indiana prisoncrats learned some lessons from these insurrections – and one lesson was that there was a threat to the Indiana Department of Corrections posed by politically-unified convicts.

Indiana prisoncrats lobbied for funds to build two solitary confinement units here in response to the rebellion of militancy from convicts willing to sacrifice for change. 

In 1991, the Indiana Supermax was built, a control unit meant to be a tool of social control of the state’s most violent prisoners.

In 1993, the prisoncrats built the Secured Housing Unit (SHU), a unit styled after the SHU at Pelican Bay State Prison.

Both units were meant to cut the prisoners off from normal prison relations, while helping to keep the prisoners in the general population sort of in check. No one wants to spend unlimited years in Administrative Segregation, or solitary confinement.

The fear of being held in these units creates snitches who will tell prisoncrats whatever to stay in population. You may read about these units by going to the Human Rights Watch report, “Cold Storage: Super-Maximum Security Confinement inIndiana.” Amnesty International just released a 68-page report called “The Edgeof Endurance,” exposing solitary confinement in California.

Campaign: How important is it to stay in touch with your loved ones?
KMK: Doing time is like having cannibals eat away at your flesh day by day. Family love and their help to assist us in maintaining are paramount. I am a conscious, self-educated New Afrikan (Black) man who loves myself and those who love me. That connection helps to keep me determined, motivated and hopeful in times of sadness and loss of loved ones.

Since 1997, I have lost my mother, two brothers, an uncle and two cousins. I am fighting for my life, unable to cry, mourn or be a comfort to my family. Since 1994, my loved ones have been harassed, intimidated, threatened and discouraged by prisoncrats to not visit or write me at times. I have not had a contact visit since 2000. We continue to persevere through it all – because it is necessary.

Campaign: How do you work to maintain your health both mentally and physically?
KMK: For years I have maintained a consistent physical exercise routine and a healthy study habit of reading quality books and magazines. I don’t eat pork, and that’s been since 1987. I stopped eating red meat for 15 years; I recently started back eating it. Exercise and study has kept me active and healthy for many years.
One realistic fact that I want to share is no one leaves these experiences the same as they were when they came in. I am scarred by anxiety, depression, paranoia and hypertension as a result of being in long term isolation so many years.

I have made a conscious effort to humble myself and be less reactionary in emotional situations. This way these prisoncrats won’t have any ammunition to use to justify keeping me in solitary confinement. As long as I am living, I’m going to keep on fighting.

Campaign: How long did they keep you on the SCU – Special Confinement Unit?
KMK: Prisoncrats sent me to the SCU unit way in January 2003, and I spent 10 years in that windowless torture chamber. For the most part, that is one of Indiana’s most racist prisons, and the staff are 98 percent all-white with this philosophy of Southern racism.

That was the worst 10 years of my 26 years in prison. Altogether now I have 18 years straight in units of solitary confinement. They have tried to break my will to be defiant and destroy my mental faculties. Allah has guided me out of each storm. Allah-u-Akbar.

Campaign: What do you think prompted the prisoncrats to finally transfer you out on April 18, 2012?
KMK: A variety of reasons, but one in particular is my constant pursuits in civil court. On April 4, 2012, I filed with the court a motion for an immediate permanent injunctive relief judgment and a memorandum of law requesting the court to order the Indiana Department of Corrections to release me to general population. These prisoncrats moved me 14 days later to Pendleton Correctional Facility.

This in my opinion was done to get me out of their custody so I wouldn’t be a problem any longer. I had been challenging my department-wide solitary confinement status for years. The classification supervisor and superintendent also refused to release me in 2010, when I had completed a program serving as re-entry back to population. That ACT Program is an incentive for release. They released my entire class but not me.
Photo: Indiana’s Pendleton Correctional Facility was built in 1923.

Campaign: What are the conditions like at Pendleton Correctional Facility?
KMK: The transfer on April 18, 2012, out of the SCU to Pendleton did not land me in general population. Right now the general population is run like a concentration camp with fences and cameras everywhere; the whole prison is “controlled movement.”

The prisoncrats placed me on DWAS, Department-Wide Administrative Segregation. Inside G-cell-house, where all the potential threats and alleged troublemakers are housed, D-block is where all disciplinary segregation prisoners are housed. Also, C-block, where I am held, houses prisoners on Facility Administrative Segregation and prisoners on DWAS, Department-Wide Administrative Segregation, the status I am on.

DWAS are all single-man cells, with recreation one hour a day and 23 hours locked in a cell. We get recreation on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays, showering only on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. The only interaction we get is during recreation outside when we’re in the dog-run individual cages.

Campaign: Since your arrival at Pendleton, have any officials discussed with you your possible release from that status?
KMK: The prisoncrats are seriously playing games. Superintendent Keith Butts, who recently retired, sent me a letter claiming he would set up a plan to consider my release from DWAS status, but it was all a smokescreen to get me to ease up on my demands to be treated like the rest of these prisoners who are being released. They are picking and choosing and playing prison politics with our lives.

The current regime in the commissioner’s office at the Indiana Department of Corrections are not willing to give me a chance to prove them wrong. That is, if they released me and I transitioned without incident, they will not be able to say “That’s the bad guy” no more. There is no legitimate justification for my still being held captive in these units.

Campaign: How can people outside that are interested in helping you join the campaign to help free you? How can you benefit from their support?
KMK: Having been in prison since 1987, I have had the misfortune to lose family, friends; and my ties to relationships I’ve had with my female companions I have had to rebuild, which hasn’t been easy, then establish an extended family.

Right now, I need someone who is computer-savvy who can network with organizations to encourage them to take on my case. I need a website on Facebook that solely covers my entire case, and we need a law firm that assists political prisoners that is activist-conscious. We also need someone qualified and good with fundraising.

My success with Indiana lawyers haven’t been great. They seem to be afraid to go up against the Indiana Department of Corrections and the lawyers from the Indiana Attorney General’s Office. We must find a lawyer out of state who can practice in the state of Indiana.

Those wanting to join this campaign to assist me in my freedom, please write me directly and we’ll go from there; honestly, we need all the willing working bodies we can get on this campaign.

Right now, I need someone who is computer-savvy who can network with organizations to encourage them to take on my case. I need a website on Facebook that solely covers my entire case, and we need a law firm that assists political prisoners that is activist-conscious. We also need someone qualified and good with fundraising.

Campaign: How is your civil and criminal fight coming along in the politics of the Indiana Court System?
KMK: On Jan. 11, 2013, I have a hearing on my civil law suit challenging my continued confinement by the Indiana Department of Corrections. I filed several motions pro se that will be covering primarily my request for the court to order my release to general population.

My criminal murder case is currently at a standstill, and my initial post-conviction appeal was denied, because the Public Defender’s Office gave me an attorney who felt I was guilty and I should do my time. He messed my case up.

I am preparing a successive post-conviction relief petition. My rights are being violated civilly and criminally, and I will never relent nor lose my self-determination to fight.

Campaign: Any final words you want to share with the public and the revolutionary community?
KMK: I can honestly say that Indiana as far as prisoners abandoning their criminal mentalities and transforming to political consciousness goes, our “think tanks,” we’re very aggressive in producing politically-active prisoners, but we seem to have lost our momentum somewhere.

Prisoners are still studying and having individual dialogues, and I think prisoners, in an attempt to avoid being captured and held for 10-20 years in solitary confinement, are becoming less vocal and active. My having been held for the past 18 years is their prime example of where they don’t want to be.

To me, life is not easy, never has been, and to struggle means to reject being the victim. One who struggles is a rejuvenated fighter life-long. We are organized, prepared and multi-talented. To struggle is to understand complexity and to pick one’s own battles. There cannot be fruitful progress without a real struggle. I am not broken by my adversity, but I am experiencing psychological fatigue. A luta continua.

Send our brother some love and light: Khalfani Malik Khaldun (Leonard McQuay), 874304, Pendleton Correctional Facility, GCH 17/2C, 4490 W. Reformatory Road, Pendleton, IN 46064.

Chicago Police Torture Victim Grayland Johnson found dead inside his Stateville prison cell this morning in Joliet, Illinois

From Facebook Notes, written by Mark Clements, Dec 5th 2012:

This morning Tuesday, December 4, 20112 at approximately eight o’clock Grayland Johnson, a Chicago Police Torture Victim was found dead inside his prison cell. The Campaign to End Torture (“CET”)  was immediately notified and made attempts to confirm the death through the Illinois Department Corrections, however Prison officials would not either confirm nor deny the death. Johnson family was notified through the (“CET”) and at this hour the family is yet to be notified by IDOC officials. Johnson served over sixteen years in prison for a murder which evidence seem to suggest that he was innocent of the crime. What was more clear is that Johnson was taken to area three violent crime unit, beat and tortured by detectives working under the command of Jon Burge.

Johnson has claimed that while in police custody his head was stuck inside a toilet bowl, he was hung outside the window by police and physically beaten throughout his body. Because Johnson was a big ranking gang leader in south Chicago he has been viewed as guilty. Johnson often called me at the offices of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty to complain of never being notified about court status and court proceedings by his attorney. With the death of Johnson it takes with him a great mobilization that he and other inmates started, the “DEATH ROW TEN” inmates that had been tortured under the command of Burge. Cards to the Family can be sent to: Mark Clements, Att: Grayland Johnson, Suite #105, 1325 S. Wabash Ave., in Chicago, Illinois 60605.

At this 9:40PM hour the family of Johnson still are yet to be notified of the death by Stateville Correctional Center prison officials. When inmates die for whatever reason, it appears to be unethical how prison officials can delay notification of a death to immediate family. Please think of Mr. Johnson and his family in your prayers.

My Kind of Town

My Kind of Town: A Play About the Chicago Torture Scandal

A Free Reading Presented by the Center on Wrongful Convictions
Music/Arts – Performance
Date: Monday, March 8, 2010
Time: 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Location: Northwestern School of Law, Thorne Auditorium , Chicago, IL
375 East Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL

The Center on Wrongful Convictions invites you to attend a free reading of My Kind of Town, a new play about the Chicago police torture scandal by John Conroy. The play tells the story of the victims, the police officers, the prosecutors, and the families whose lives were poisoned by the scandal.

Any questions please contact Dolores Kennedy: d-kennedy at law.northwestern.edu

Perpetrators and enablers of torture in the U.S.

This article is from the SF Bay View
Posted By blockreportradio On November 1, 2009

by Corey Weinstein, M.D., C.C.H.P

Photo:

Anthony Hall, 18, spends 23 hours per day in this cell in the supermax prison in Boscobel, Wisc. Judging from letters to the Bay View from prisons throughout the country, Boscobel seems to be one of the worst for Black prisoners. Prison officials there have often refused to deliver the Bay View to subscribers on the excuse that it would “incite a riot.” –
Photo: Andy Manis, AP

During the past 25 years I’ve spent a lot of time with survivors of torture, men and women enduring long term solitary confinement in California’s prisons. They are the most urgent victims of U.S. mass incarceration with its overcrowded facilities and policy of incapacitation, not rehabilitation.

Those thousands held in solitary for years on end report the expected classic symptoms of psychic disturbance, mental deterioration and social disruption. As described by various penal psychiatric experts, the symptoms of this syndrome include massive free-floating anxiety, hyperresponsiveness to external stimuli, perceptual distortions and hallucinations, a feeling of unreality, difficulty with concentration and memory, acute confusional states, the emergence of primitive aggressive fantasies, persecutory ideation, motor excitement and violent destructive or self-mutilatory outbursts.

The degrading conditions produce behaviors ranging from fights among prisoners to assaults on staff, assaults by staff, excrement throwing, self mutilation and contract killings. Isolation tears apart family and friendship ties, creating social dislocation.

In California there are about 4,000 men and women held in the state’s supermax facilities, called Security Housing Units, including 600 serving SHU terms in Administrative Segregation. That is 2.5 percent of the total population of 160,000.

The regime in SHU is a 23.5 hour per day lockdown in the 8’ x 10’ cell with no communal activities aside from small group exercise yards for some. There is no work, no school, no communal worship and meals are eaten in cell.

TVs and radios must be purchased, so the poor have none. Visits are noncontact, behind glass and limited to one or two hours on each weekend visit day. Each prisoner must submit to being handcuffed behind the back in order to exit the cell. Leg iron hobble chains are commonly used.
More than 50 percent of the men in SHU are assigned indeterminate terms there because of alleged gang membership or activity. The only program that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCr) offers to them is to debrief.

The single way offered to earn their way out of SHU is to tell departmental gang investigators everything they know about gang membership and activities, including describing crimes they have committed. The department calls it debriefing. The prisoners call it “snitch, parole or die.” The only ways out are to snitch, finish the prison term or die. The protection against self incrimination is collapsed in the service of anti-gang investigation.

CDCr asserts that the lockdown and snitch policy are required for the safety and security of the institution. Having legitimate penalogical purpose, the SHU program is deemed worth any harm done to the prisoners.

California prisons continue to have a high rate of assaultive incidents among prisoners and from prisoners to staff. There is no proof or even any study that demonstrates that these measures are effective anti-gang measures. They appear to be no more useful than previous brutalities like that unleashed at Corcoran prison more than a decade ago.

Between 1988 and 1995, CDCr ran a program at the Corcoran SHU called the Integrated Yard Policy. Rival gang members were deliberately mixed together in small group exercise yards. The prisoners had to fight, and fight well or be punished by their own gangs.

When the fights occurred, guards were required to fire first anti-riot guns and then assault rifles at the combatants. Seven prisoners were killed and hundreds wounded. The program of beating prisoners down into the concrete with gunfire resulted in bigger, stronger gangs with new martyrs and heroes.
Mayhem and violence was added to the prison social system by departmental policy. No CDCr official has ever been held accountable or even assigned responsibility for what was know at Corcoran as the gladiator days. Line staff brought to trial by the U.S. Department of Justice avoided criminal convictions by proving that they were just following orders.

There are four prisons in California with SHUs: Corcoran, Pelican Bay and Tehachapi for men and Valley State Prison for Women. Only a few women have ever been given a SHU term for gang activity.

All those identified as gang members by the administrative kangaroo court serve SHU terms without end. The only way out is to debrief, to testify against oneself to prison rules violations and crimes.
Prisoners have found it very hard to attack the abuses in the SHU, even though the U.S. is under the jurisdiction of the U.N. Convention Against Torture (CAT). The U.S. states reservations to the treaty asserting that the U.S. Constitution and body of law are all that is required to satisfy the obligations of CAT.

But the 1995 Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) that prohibits a prisoner bringing action for mental or emotional injury without prior showing of physical injury is one law that violates CAT. The U.N. Committee on Torture expressed concern that by disallowing compensation for psychic abuse the PLRA is out of compliance with CAT.

Under CAT, torture includes “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted.” But the U.S. 1990 reservations to CAT were designed specifically to allow solitary confinement, as the reservations state that mental pain and suffering must be prolonged, be tied to infliction or threats of infliction of physical pain, the result of drugging or the result of death threats.

Despite SHU confinement without end to attempt to control gangs, prison gangs thrive in California’s prisons. The gang leadership predictably uses the snitch sessions to falsely target their rivals, or just recruit new members. Just as we have seen in U.S. anti-terror investigations, information derived from coercion is often unreliable.

Using indeterminate total lockdown to extract confessions is torture by international standards, as is the use of prolonged solitary confinement. U.S. prison officials order by rule the torture of prisoners. One in 31 adults in the U.S. is under the supervision of the criminal detention system – jail, prison, probation or parole – with 2.5 million behind bars.

Prisons dominate the lives of poor communities and communities of color and are ignored by affluent white America. One in 11 African-Americans and one in 27 Latino-Americans are under penal jurisdiction. Prisoners damaged by incarceration are returning to communities increasingly less able to absorb them.

The 2005 census found that severe poverty increased 26 percent more than the overall growth in poverty. In 2002, 43 percent of the nation’s poor were living in severe poverty, the highest rate since 1975.

Torture has always served more to beat down a population than to extract reliable information. The unstated goal is to incapacitate and marginalize the dangerous poor who are locked out of America’s opportunity and riches. The routine even banal nature of torture in U.S. prisons enables torture to be acceptable, and informs our failing strategies of dealing with any opposition by using brute force.

A more useful way to undermine and blunt prison gangs would be to provide programs and procedures that enliven the community of prisoners with rehabilitative activity making them too busy and too hopeful to become involved. Drug and mental health treatment and education and vocational training rather than enforced idleness and despair will help change the culture of the prison yard from a battleground to a place for personal and social renewal. To be successful at a renewal behind bars, a revitalization of our poor communities is desperately needed.

I’ll never forget my visit to several prisons in the United Kingdom a number of years ago. I toured one of their high security units housing eight of the 40 men out of 75,000 considered too dangerous or disruptive to be in any other facility. The men were out of their cells at exercise or at a computer or with a counselor or teacher.

The goal was to get them back on mainline through rehabilitation, not terror. With embarrassment, the host took us to the one cell holding the single individual who had to be continuously locked down and cuffed and hobbled before exit from his cell. I was equally embarrassed to tell our guide that this is how 2.5 percent of U.S. prisoners are routinely treated.

Corey Weinstein, MD, CCHP, is a physician, a Certified Correctional Health Professional and a renowned advocate for justice behind enemy lines. He can be reached at coreman @ igc.org.