By Deborah Dupré
Just east of Sacramento, California state government has been secretly conducting something nobody with American values and principles based on their Constitution would knowingly allow. For years, this practice has continued on people not found guilty of any crime. Tortured in antiquated dungeon-like squalor, forced into the cold without clothes, to awaken every 30 minutes nightly, and to eat out of used trash bags, residents have now elected to die from hunger rather than attempt to endure life there any longer. They need the reader to know what is hidden there and remove it. Most major newspapers are remaining silent about atrocities at notorious Old Folsom State Prison (FSP), better termed Folsom Concentration Camp, a final solution to the United States preschool to prison pipeline.
“Criminalization of the working class is not what readers and viewers are suppose[d] to be exposed.” (Liberation News) One exception to media censorship on Folsom Prison is Tels Sur, that states Folsom Prison “is infamous for its overcrowded, squalid conditions and inadequate medical care facilities.” Dozens of people held and abused there in solitary confinement have not even been found guilty of any crime.
According to post 9/11 legislation throughout the US, anyone anywhere can be arrested without any charge and imprisoned without trial. What is happening at Folsom today could be applied to a loved one or even the reader, innocent or not, black or white, Christian or Muslim in any state or federal prison. Eighth Amendment rights of the US Constitution and international laws regarding the Convention Against Torture are being violated in ways people would be outraged if domestic animals were experiencing.
On May 25, Folsom prisoners adopted the desperate hunger strike tactic, risking long-term health consequences if not their lives, in response to Folsom prison authorities’ unwillingness to adopt basic humane reforms recommended by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation after state Proposition 57, was approved by nearly 65 percent of California voters last year. It addressed the state’s mass incarceration crisis by allowing inmates to be in lower security level facilities and creating new rehabilitation and parole opportunities for inmates.
Folsom’s authorities and majority-white staff continue clinging to inhumane administrative methods and reacted with deliberate indifference to hardships of inmates, mostly Black and brown.
“The reality of the system of mass incarceration that we live in is that prisons act as modern day concentration camps that collect members of the working class, who have been deemed ‘excess’ and then criminalized by ‘law and order,’ ‘lock’em up and throw away the key’ policies,” Liberation News reported last week. “In the midst of this oppression, we must resist and organize so that we can fight back. Prisoners are a crucial part of this fight and we can never forget the members of our class that are locked up. The struggle will continue until the criminalization of the working class ends and the real criminals, the 1 percent, face true justice.”
At Old Folsom Prison, (FSP), most people are CSP-Sacramento, High Desert and SATF inmates — all awaiting court proceedings and/or district attorney referrals. All 115 disciplinary reports against them cannot and have not been heard to receive findings of “guilty” for any disciplinary action – yet they are illegally and inhumanely held and treated as POWs, prisoners of war on US soil.
“This is important to note, because ICC (Institutional Classification Committee) still imposes a “Projected MERD” (Minimum Eligible Release Date) based on the initial 115 report, as if found guilty for the offense, violating due process of hearing and evidence,” explains Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity in a statement. “With the projected MERD imposed, prisoners still cannot be deemed “SHU” term or be transferred to “SHU housing” because the 115 report is pending district attorney rejection or conclusion of court proceedings.
This forces prisoners to remain housed in ASU for long term confinement in forced single cell day after day, week after week, for a year to 14 months. Prisoners have communicated with multiple people outside the prison system. They received no response nor help. “They even reached out to the public information officer at the prison, but no action was taken and it is highly unlikely that any prison official will take action in the future,” says Liberation News.
Folsom prisoners issued a list of demands in line with fair and dignified treatment of a human being, according to international law:
1. PROVIDE ADEQUATE ACCESS TO COURTS AND LEGAL ASSISTANCE
Denial of adequate access to courts and legal assistance: The “law cage” is inadequate for prisoners who are illiterate, non-English speaking and/or undereducated. Many of the men here are facing serious charges [bogus or not] that carry life sentences and even the most educated could not mount a proper defense or do legal research on their own. Access to properly trained legal assistance that a law library provides is in line with Lewis v. Casey et al (1996) No. 94-1511. Currently, no access to legal forms, copies or printing exist. It has been long established the “paging” system is [a] violation.
2. PROVIDE MEANINGFUL EDUCATION, SELF-HELP COURSES AND REHABILITATIVE PROGRAMS
Denial and/or lack of meaningful education, self-help courses and rehabilitative programs: Wright v. Rushen, 642 F2d 1129 (9th Cir. 1981), held FSP shall provide its ASU [Administrative Segregation Unit - solitary confinement - better known as "the hole"] prisoners with education and rehabilitative programs. ASU prisoners are not afforded GED programs, and the high school diploma program is split between the entire facility and ranch plus ASU. Therefore, we are placed in a hard spot; ASU prisoners are neither first nor second priority, leaving no educational opportunities.
The college program is nonexistent at best, to add to the problem, those previously enrolled are forced to drop classes due to no TVs for video assignments, preventing them from acquiring degrees. FSP provides absolutely no self-help courses or counseling in anger management, behavior management etc. FSP provides absolutely no substance abuse counseling or programs, such as N.S. or A.A.
3. ALLOW POSSESSION OF TELEVISIONS
Denial of TVs: FSP has flat out lied [about] provid[ing] necessary electrical outlets to allow the possession of a TV. Instead of fixing this issue years ago, FSP continues to cover up the fact the funds allocated (Inmate Welfare Funds) are spent leisurely on non-inmate stuff. Per Title 15, §3190(3), ASU prisoners are allowed the choice of a TV or radio. [Author emphasis]
Prisoners are forced to choose a radio due to FSP’s unwillingness to provide outlets. With no programs, education or meaningful time out of cell, sensory deprivation, sitting idle, causes prisoners to lose their minds, forcing prisoners to harm themselves… to get mental health care, which provides TVs per Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. ____(1994) “[O]ne does not have to await the consummation of threatened injury to obtain preventive relief.” [Author emphasis]
FSP’s attitude of “make us,” “we’re exempt,” is in violation and promotes prisoners to harm themselves to get a TV. Examine FSP record of prisoners needing mental health care while housed in ASU.
4. PROVIDE EXERCISE EQUIPMENT, INCLUDING PULL-UP BARS, FOR MEANINGFUL EXERCISE IN YARD
Denial of exercise equipment, including pull-up bars: CDCR began installing pull-up bars in all SHUs and ASUs throughout CDC prisons. FSP is one of the last if not the last ASU to install pull-up bars.
This was done so men can receive meaningful exercise in the small dog kennel type cages used as yards. With no ability to run around and exercise our legs, prisoners are left to sit idle for hours. CDCR agreed the pull-up bars were meaningful equipment. The permanent injunction in Toussaint v. McCarthy, 597 F. Supp. 1388 9N.D. Cal 1984) covers FSP, saying ASU prisoners shall be provided meaningful exercise. FSP has the necessary vocational jobs and classes to install the bars and build the equipment at minimum to no cost.
5. END CRUELTY, NOISE AND SLEEP DEPRIVATION OF WELFARE CHECKS
Sleep deprivation [torture] from welfare checks: Correctional officers (COs) on first watch create excessive noise with keys while walking every half hour; mixed with uncourteous loud metal on metal contact, it creates unnecessary cruelty and punishment. A CO’s equipment and keys can be properly secured on their person to prevent the excessive noise, yet when asked for courtesy, the noise is made extreme as a retaliation, thus waking prisoners every half hour the entire night.
6. KEEP ORIGINAL PROPER PACKAGING FOR COMMISSARY AND CANTEEN
Commissary and canteen: All items are repackaged into TRASH BAGS! This is forcing prisoners to use toothpaste out of trash bags. Deodorant that is gel is repackaged to trash bags, which causes the deodorant to evaporate and lose its purpose to keep the funk away. Coffee jars are repackaged to trash bags which causes coffee to go stale and harden. This is an irrational practice with no real security or safety reason, as proven by the fact that all packaging in canteen and quarterly packages is allowed within the SHU.
7. GIVE NON-DISCIPLINARY STATUS TO QUALIFYING PRISONERS
Denial of NDS (Non Disciplinary Status) to qualifying prisoners: Title 15 Article 7 Segregation Housing §3335 (A)(1) outlines and stipulates criteria for NDS. FSP’s warden is denying this status based on an underground memo of criteria not approved by the APA. FSP’s warden is attempting to extort information out of prisoners in order to receive NDS after being placed in ASU for “non-disciplinary” reasons.
FSP’s warden is attempting to force prisoners to cooperate with institutional investigations, violating a prisoner’s right to invoke the Fifth Amendment.
8. PROVIDE ADEQUATE AND APPROPRIATE CLOTHING AND SHOES
Denial of personal clothing and shoes: Prisoners are forced to walk around in their boxer underwear and state-issued T-shirt, which are normally extremely used and too large or too small. Prisoners are moved around the prison like this and remain all day like this.
Prisoners are provided one jumpsuit that is always over-sized, with no ability to wash or exchange it. In the cold winter months, prisoners are denied warm clothing or beanies to prevent sickness while out on yard.
During the summer, the warmer months, prisoners are denied appropriate clothing to cover up and still maintain coolness. It is a decency factor of allowing prisoners clothing and properly fitted shoes to remain dignified and in touch with the civilized world. There is no reasonable security issue or factors to deny a person decency.
9. PROVIDE FOOD BOWL AND CUP
Denial of a food bowl or cup: FSP is forcing its ASU prisoners to eat out of recycled (“washed”) trash bags, old zip lock bags and milk cartons and to drink from a 3 ounce “rubbery” reused cup. See Estelle v. Gamble, 424 U.S. 97 (1976). This treatment is unnecessary cruelty and punishment and violates prisoners’ Eighth Amendment rights. The amendment embodies “broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity and decency.”
“If you see something, say something,” the US government tells Americans, some of whom are doing just that regarding Folsom Prison. A Call In Campaign is in progress. Contact the following officials to demand the law including human dignity and decency be upheld at Folsom:
- Chief Deputy Inspector General – Roy Wesley – (916) 255-1102
- Ombudsman Sara L. Smith (the person who is supposed to check on welfare, investigate complaints, etc.) – (916) 324-5458 // [email protected]
- Secretary Scott Kernan – [email protected]
- Undersecretary Ralph M. Diaz – [email protected]
- Governor Jerry Brown – (916) 445-2481
- Chief Office of the Ombudsman – Sara Malone – [email protected]
- Public Information Office of Folsom – Jack Huey – (916) 985-2561 // [email protected]
- Folsom Warden – Ron Rackley – [email protected]
In addition, call the prison itself: (916) 985-2561.
If sent to a secretary or voicemail, leave a message for the official you are trying to contact.
A guide to making prison human rights advocacy calls is here.
SOURCES: Liberation News, Tel Sur, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity,
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