In September of 2011 RHHR got a letter from longtime follower Mutawally, a prisoner in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) of Pelican Bay State Penitentiary where a hunger strike, protesting horrible conditions, is still on-going. Mutawally writes: “The prisoners of Pelican Bay State Prison have called for a second wave of our indefinite hunger-strike to protest the long-term isolation in the S.H.U. and the human rights violations as well as the prison/state sanctioned torture to extract information from or cause mental illness to these prisoners held inside its security housing units.”
Mutawally continues, “I have been inside the notorious S.H.U. for the past 20 years, serving an indeterminate sentence based on illegal allegations of the CDCR gang affiliation placement. I have, over the past 20 years, experienced and witnessed the CDCR psychological terror techniques. ‘Mentacide’ and torture may be defined as scientific methods that are systematically being utilized by the CDCR and its law enforcement liaisons (ie Special Service Unit and Institution Gang Investigation) to wage indiscriminate psychological warfare and murder upon the minds and bodies of a class of prisoners to break their will to resist. For the past 20 years and counting, a certain class of prisoners housed at Pelican Bay SHU and Corcoran Super Maximum Security, have been subjective targets of human experimentations, manipulation, psychological warfare, sensory deprivation, cultural deprivation, illegal behavior modifications, and long term effects from solitary confinement as well as small group confinement in D1-D4 “Short Corridor.” The short corridor is the super max of the SHU where CDCR house the indeterminate prisoners until they “debrief, parole, come into mental illness, or die.”
These prisoners have been confined together in pods (sections) of very small groups for many years. Each pod has 2 short tiers with 4 cells on each tier. The cells are approximately 6 by 10 feet containing 2 concrete slabs to sleep on and a built-in toilet and sink. The front door is made of heavy gauge perforated metal which significantly blocks light and vision. Its interior is designed to reduce visual stimulation. Each cell is dull white and windowless.
The pod exercise yard is a small pen with a cement floor and walls 20 feet high and precludes the sun and any view of the outside world! The intermediate prisoners are inside our cells for 22 ½ hours a day, only released to said yard for fresh air and a 20 foot walk for approximately 1 ½ hours. There are 10 individuals inside my pod who have been within the 8-cells for over 20 years!
Being confined together in a small area 24 hours a day has dramatically increased levels of hostility, interpersonal conflicts, and paranoia upon some of us. Dr. Stuart Grassian, a board certified psychiatrist who had once compiled clinical data as an expert in the Madrid v. Gomez a class action suit concerning conditions at Pelican Bay SHU, stated “individuals exposed to such conditions also tend to become irrationally territorial, staking out areas of exclusive or special pod use and acting with hostility to trespasses by others.” Being confined in long term SHU has caused many of us to experience severe difficulties in thinking, concentration, and memory loss. For example, myself and others have reported among ourselves that long term confinement in SHU has made it difficult to perform tasks requiring some mental effort, such as reading or writing! Only for the early part of the morning, about 3 hours, is the mind alert! After, the mind seems to slow down, so much “in a fog” that we become entirely unable to maintain any meaningful mental effort.
In spite of the class action suit brought by prisoners at Pelican Bay SHU, Madrid v. Gomez which in part ruled that the prison had been in violation of the United States Constitution under the 8th Amendment (cruel & unusual punishment) and 14th Amendment, the prison continues a deliberate failure to provide and safeguard minimum medical and health care to its prisoners. The medical staff inside the SHU allows the prison guards to insinuate themselves in decision making of prisoner’s diagnosis and the circumvention of medical treatment, thus, intentionally subjecting its patients to unwarranted torture. My arrival in the SHU 20 years ago, I was in great health without any serious medical problems. Long term solitary confinement has threatened my health and life and I am now suffering from 1)high blood pressure 2)hearing impairment 3)vision loss 4)leg/knee surgery 5)deteriorating disk in lower back 6)depigmentation/natural sun-vitamin deficiency and 7)chronic asthmatic. Being that I am a chronic asthmatic that is housed inside D1-D Pod, a contaminated section of the security unit, I am being subjected to deliberate indifference to my serious medical needs, as a result of the lack of medical care provided and the unsanitary and inhumane living conditions. The small group living environment exposes chronic asthmatic patients to known substances that provokes and triggers severe asthmatic attacks, headaches, insomnia, shortness of breath, exhaustion, allergies, fevers, vomiting, and vision impairment. I pray that this document brings some light the deprivation of our situation in Pelican Bay State Prison (S.H.U.) and other similar prisons around the world.”–Mutawally Cooperwood #C46411, Pelican Bay State Prison S.H.U.
Join the Hip-Hop on Lock-Down Correspondence Connection and write to an inmate in Pelican Bay: Contact RHHR at (209) 874-6512 or firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 3027 Modesto, CA 95353
Make Some Noise: International solidarity for Pelican Bay Hunger Strike! (from http://sfbayview.com) –Prisoners across the U.S. are showing their solidarity with the Pelican Bay SHU prisoners by joining the hunger strike for varying lengths of time – including prisoners in Corcoran, Folsom, CCI Tehachapi, Calipatria and Centinela State Prisons in California and Ohio State Penitentiary – or by bravely writing statements and letters or calling people outside to relay messages to the Pelican Bay hunger strikes. Prisoners at Collins Bay Federal Penitentiary in Kingston, Ontario, who have been on work strike since June 28 showed their solidarity with Pelican Bay prisoners on hunger strike when, on July 4, this banner was dropped off a building overlooking City Hall in downtown Kingston. Supporters in Ontario are linking the struggles at Collins Bay to prisoners’ struggles at Pelican Bay.
Families and loved ones of prisoners have been organizing outside of Pelican Bay, sharing information with each other before visiting with their loved ones inside. Danza Mexica Cuauhtemoc dancers from Los Angeles are up in Crescent City in front of the prison to support the hunger strikers with ceremony. Outside Corcoran State Prison, where prisoners have joined the Pelican Bay hunger strike in solidarity, families and community members have been rallying to show their support, as well as sharing information before visiting their loved ones. In Seattle, Washington, a group of people equipped with a mobile sound system met in front of the King County Juvenile Detention Center in the Central District of Seattle. The Deaths in Custody Watch Committee in Western Australia also supports the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike, dedicating an action in Perth on July 3 for NAIDOC Week, a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander survival. Make sure to check out the actions page for upcoming rallies and events to show your support, help circulate the online petition, and call the CDCR and California elected officials and urge them to honor the prisoners’ demands!