Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC) began March 23, 2015. Actions were held in California from San Diego to Arcata (Arcata/Eureka, LA, Oakland, San Diego, San Jose, Santa Cruz) and in Philadelphia, PA. Locations grew in later months. Below is a report from just one locality, Santa Cruz, which took a creative approach.
Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC)
March 23, 2015, Santa Cruz, CA, to continue on the 23rd of each month
By Willow Katz
About 45 people attended the first day of Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC), on March 23, 2015, at the Lighthouse on West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, CA. We went there to see the ocean for so many SHU and solitary prisoners who talk about their dream to see the ocean again, including Luis Esquivel.
The Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC) are being held in response to a call by CA prisoners. Proposals for action from Pelican Bay State Prison Hunger Strikers in November, 2013, included “…designating a certain date each month as Prisoner Rights Day…our supporters would gather in locations throughout California to expose [CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] CDCR’s actions and rally support efforts to secure our rights. We can see this action growing from month to month as more people inside and out become aware of it and join our struggle.” Actions were held today in California (Arcata, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, San Jose, and Santa Cruz) and Philadelphia. We expect more actions statewide, nationally, and internationally.
We had an altar with a photo of Robert “Robio” C. Fuentes, Sr. (November 23, 1958 – September 19, 2014) at age 21. Robio was in Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) Security Housing Unit (SHU) for 20 years. People used blue tape to mark off an 8 x 10 foot space, the size of Robert’s SHU cell. We had banners that said “End Solitary Confinement” and “Solidarity with the Prisoners. SHU=State-Sanctioned Torture!”
A literature table included the “Agreement to End Hostilities;” Youth Justice Coalition’s “Statement to the Streets and All Youth Lock-ups;” Short Corridor Collective’s “Proposals for action,” “Prisoners’ Agreement to End Hostilities as the basis for the abolition of ‘legal’ slavery,” December 25, 2014; and a “Petition for Strategic Release for Abdul Olugbala Shakur,” one of the authors of “Agreement to End Hostilities.” Food Not Bombs served hot food and displayed a SHU meal on a small paper food tray, with soggy bread, partially frozen breaded fish, and "dirty salad" made of iceberg lettuce past its prime. People chanted “Agree to end hostilities, in prisons and communities,” “Unity inside, Unity outside,” and “Strike of 30,000 strong, Long-term isolation’s wrong.”
Willow Katz, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, spoke on the CA Prisoners’ Human Rights Movement, the 2011 hunger strikes, and the “Agreement to End Hostilities” across race and geographic lines, which helped the third Hunger Strike, in 2013, start with over 30,000 prisoners, the largest hunger strike in world history. It lasted 60 days. She spoke about the “Proposals for action” and the response outside the walls, Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC), beginning March 23, 2015, and continuing on the 23rd of each month; solitary confinement conditions, statistics, and who’s put in; the Dallas 6 facing riot charges for peacefully protesting torture in solitary confinement at SCI-Dallas, PA; and Luis Esquivel, PBSP SHU for 16 years, plaintiff in Ashker v. Brown, who spoke with Juan Mendez, UN Rapporteur on Torture, when he visited PBSP as an expert witness for the federal lawsuit on behalf of 240 prisoners held in PBSP SHU over ten years. The suit is expected to go to trial in December 2015 in Oakland, and supporters will be encouraged to fill the courtroom each day.
Luis’ sister, Martha Esquivel of CA Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) in San Diego, sent the information on Luis (whom she calls a Warrior of Life) and stories about the torture the family has gone through, with heartbreaking visits through a window, and denials of phone calls when family members were dying and even after the death of their brother, because he had died in Mexico. Four years after the death of their mother, Luis told Martha “what the so-called counselor told him just minutes after I told my brother that my mom passed away. He said to him ‘your father is going to need you, your family is going to need you closer, why don't you take advantage of debriefing?’ This is how CDCr gives rehabilitation, this is how they help?” Luis never debriefed.
Cynthia Fuentes of California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) talked about her brother, Robert “Robio” C. Fuentes, Sr., who was in PBSP SHU 20 years. He was a Hunger Striker, poet, and jailhouse lawyer, who also never debriefed. Cindy read his poem “In This Place,” published in Extracts from Pelican Bay. The editor, Marilla Arguelles, wrote that a BBC program in a series "Short Poems in English" included this poem, and “I do hope that he then, and you now, could find comfort in knowing that he was not only published, but broadcast, internationally.” “In This Place” describes the “cement and steel tomb for the living” in the SHU “Within the dark bowels of this prison” at Pelican Bay. It won America's Best Poetry 1996. Robert died due to medical negligence by CDCR, so common for prisoners. His name is now on the Plata federal class action civil rights lawsuit against CDCR’s criminally inadequate medical services.
In This Place
the dark bowels
of this prison, the walls rise
twenty feet, blocking out the sun.
Creating a cement and steel tomb for the living,
whose life of hell is never done. No quiet or solitude,
yet always alone, trying to keep sanity in place -- a hard
task for any person who has to wear a mask to cover
all emotion. Within the dark bowels of this prison,
the animal instinct needed to survive exists
in each prisoner's heart and mind,
as he continues his lone fight
to stay alive.
Merle Lustig of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights explained the torture of solitary confinement of juveniles whose brains are still developing, the 2011 UN call to prohibit solitary confinement of juveniles, abuses in CA youth prisons, the Behavior Treatment Program which typically held youth for 60 days, and mental health and suicide risks. She discussed Senator Leno’s Senate Bill 124 that defines solitary confinement as the placement of a person in a room or cell alone, limits its use, and requires documentation. SB 124 is co-sponsored by Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, the California Public Defenders Association, Youth Justice Coalition, and Children’s Defense Fund-CA.
Robert “Robio” C. Fuentes, Sr., Presente!
Frank Alvarado, Jr., killed by Salinas police on July 10, 2014, Presente!
Angel Ruiz, killed by Salinas police, March 20, 2015, Presente!
All killed and tortured by state-sanctioned violence, Presente!
End Solitary Confinement! Stop the Torture!
For more information go to https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/
Willow Katz works with Global Women's Strike Network, Haiti Action Committee, and Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition. Willow can be reached at Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Outreach.