U.N.I.O.N. (United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect)
Contact Rev. B. Cayenne Bird,
 rightor1@yahoo.com 916-924-3053
Thursday, August 24, 2006
For Immediate Release:
Sacramento, CA - At dawn on Sunday, August 27, 2006, in Soledad, California, at the entrance to adjoining California prison facilities, a protest will begin against unreasonable visiting policies and visitor abuses statewide. Family members of inmates from as far away as San Diego will gather in solidarity with signs, banners, and documented accounts of the suffering that inmates, inmates' families, and sadly their children have endured as a result of unfair California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's visitor regulations, which are often rigidly enforced by apparently callous Corrections' Visiting personnel. Families are often turned away for seemingly minor, unimportant details, after having driven hundreds of miles for a long-awaited visit with their imprisoned loved one. Many of Sunday morning's protestors are members of the U.N.I.O.N., a volunteer organization advocating reform in the California Criminal Justice System, from arrest through parole.
The U.N.I.O.N.'s statewide communication network has been active on all fronts of criminal justice, prison, and  sentencing  reform for over eight years.  Its mission statement contains the words: "We prefer to attack crime through a strong economy for everyone, prevention through education, free after-school activities, adult supervision of youth, support of teen-age mothers, rehabilitation of incarcerated criminals, medical care for the mentally ill, restorative justice and other programs clearly proven to be more of a solution to crime than prisons. We believe this can be done through the political processes established in our democracy: by the power of the vote, by letter-writing to newspapers, and by demonstrating in mass."
As the protestors gather in front of the combined Salinas Valley State Prison and the California Treatment Facility location on Highway 101, they will be greeted by perhaps 200 people already waiting in line for the 7 a.m. opening of the prison gates. It is common for inmate visitors to arrive and sit in darkness for hours before the gates open in order to ensure that they will be among those allowed in for the day. It may still take hours after the gates open before they are allowed to visit until the 3 p.m. closing.
A number of the most pressing issues that the U.N.I.O.N. will be focusing on during the protest include:
  • Visitors of inmates who are too ill to come to the visiting room or to a visiting window are not allowed to see the inmate at all. No provision is made for a hospital or sick room visit. To add insult to injury, families are given little or no information about the condition of the inmate. Cases like this can go on for months with families remaining ignorant about the health status of their loved one. Prisoners often die alone and in pain, with no phone calls allowed
        Visitors wearing colors remotely resembling a gang colors can be denied access; visitors wearing a hat will be denied access; visitors wearing denim or plain white, green, blue, brown or a sleeveless blouse will be denied access. The list goes on. It is difficult to know what is acceptable, and enforcement is arbitrary and inconsistent. An example of CDCR personnel mishandling dress code regulations: an elderly female visitor wearing a three-piece suit, with a tank top underneath her jacket, was denied visitation. When she questioned the policy, she was accused of "disrupting the visiting room" and was banned from visiting her loved one for months. She felt degraded, as if she were being judged as some kind of "hussy."
        Children visiting the prisoners are questioned by guards wearing weapons, asked their  names and other questions, even toddlers.  Half the time the babies have no idea what is being asked and are fearful of people with weapons and an attitude of authority.  This interrogation slows down the line.  Babies in carriers wearing blue jeans are turned away at Salinas Valley.
        Many families have reported constant abuse by the visiting Sgt. Nuckles at Salinas Valley including full body searches, as if the family members are criminals, The prison guards are never checked for contraband in spite of numerous convictions over the years.  Complaints with the Office of Internal Affairs are being filed against Sgt. Nuckles and the UNION Director  has asked that she be fired immediately.
      .     When something does go wrong, there is no to appeal to that is really  
            going  to help the families.  The 602 process and 115 processes are
            completely corrupt and the wardens always back up the prison guards.
            There is no place to go for help with visiting injustices so the guards are
            getting away with retaliation with no consequences.  At Salinas Valley,
            known as the infamous Green Wall, one guard can lie and all the others
            stick together on it, which is exactly what is happening to the prisoners. 
            This is tearing families apart and putting children, mothers and grandmother
            under tremendous stress not to mention the prisoners who rely on their
            families to give them a reason to live.  To appeal to the Warden and CDC
           director to right any wrong, particularly around visiting, is a cruel joke.

These and other regulations are seen as arbitrary and unreasonable by the majority of visitors, but what a lot of the anger is about centers around what is perceived as the core prison culture -- a punitive system infused with a guilt-by-association mentality. Corrections guards are trained to keep control by threatening and inflicting punishment. Too often innocent family members are punished, demeaned, and intimidated. U.N.I.O.N. families believe that family contact is a vital part of inmate rehabilitation. They want (and deserve) to interact with Visiting personnel who will treat them with respect and give them reasonable flexibility on visiting regulations. They also want to see visiting regulation changes that reflect a sensible, not a paranoid and punitive, approach to protecting the public safety.
A last-minute addition to the protest: U.N.I.O.N. Director, Rev. B. Cayenne Bird, has been asked by the families of three of the recent suspicious deaths at California prisons -- Mule Creek, CSATF, and Pleasant Valley --  if they can join in the protest. These three grieving families will stand on August 27 with U.N.I.O.N. members' support to courageously open up their lives to the media about the crises that have shaken their lives beyond imagination. Their stories are shocking, rife with accusations of refusal to give critical health status information to families, preventable deaths, and highly suspicious hangings.
For more information, visit the U.N.I.O.N. website at http://www.1union1.com/index.html or contact U.N.I.O.N. Director, Rev. B. Cayenne Bird, at rightor1@yahoo.com.
Related sections  of the California Penal Code  5068, a vague code which is constantly disregarded and severs too many family ties as prisoners are placed hundreds of miles from home on a  routine basis.  The prisoners are placed far away from their home courts with legal cases pending which makes  the necessary communication with lawyers and family members too difficult.
Title 15 Section 3127.2 guarantees at least 12 full hours of visiting per week which isn't happening at most prisons due to hours of waiting in line and rigorous and often abuses "processing" 
United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect
P.O. Box 340371
Sacramento, Ca. 95834
"Standing up for Human Rights and Justice in California since 1998"

"Ignorance and apathy of the people rule governments.
Knowledge is power. Knowledge comes from reading newspapers,
not from getting your news from television alone"
Rev. B. Cayenne Bird