Lockdown at Salinas Valley Prison is Cruel but not Unusual

Friday, August 19, 2005News

B. Cayenne Bird is a 37-year veteran journalist who volunteers her time as founder and director of United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect UNION. The UNION is active in prison reform and criminal justice issues. She is a mother and grandmother and focuses on human rights and restorative justice. She is also the host of television series "Cayenne Common Sense" and publishes a daily online newsletter. She doesn't have a current photo 

By B. Cayenne Bird
August 18, 2005

Prisoners are always the pawns when politicians decide to play their re-election games. Fear tactics, lies and every lowdown manuveur is perpetuated upon a gullible public during the silly season or whenever a politician is in a pickle. The football to be kicked, punted and passed is always the prisoners. Most prisoners are simply the mentally ill and addicts who needed hospitals and healing instead of psychological and physical torment in a cage. But they have a weak voting group surrounding them so the politicians view them as fair game pieces for their public relations campaigns and budget power struggles

This time the games have gone too far. The public deserves to know that thousands of men imprisoned at Salinas Valley Prison are being tormented right now with a cruel lockdown that has gone on too long The end result can only be that existing mental illness is deepened after months of inhumane confinement. 

Two rookie guards were paired together, always a recipe for disaster, and both were stabbed with some homemade instrument. For this deed perpetuated by one inmate who snapped under the strain, thousands of other prisoners are now completely cut off from their wives, children and other family members Military studies have shown time and again that group punishment never works. It's a vacation for the lazy prison guards, so they do what they want when trying to make the point that they feel there isn't enough trained staff at that prison. If staff shortages exist, then non violent prisoners should be released immediately to free up bed space instead of abusing everyone to the point that they break down 

Prisoners are being denied medical care, phone calls, dental care, access to their lawyers and the legal library even with important cases in progress. Day room, classes, and cafeteria meals haven't happened for weeks. The predictable result is that many who have written to me are suicidal. 

Some recent figures released by the Attorney General's office on suicides in California's prisons are simply not believable and do not fit the pattern of suicides nationally. 

Isolation during lockdown, or in the cruel ad seg units, Security Housing Units where two men are celled together in the space of a small bathroom 23 or more hours per day is going to result in suicide and severe depression. Try locking yourself in your bathroom for a few months with another person who may be mentally ill and see how you feel 

CDC is creating mental illness and causing suicides by supporting too many lockdowns at prisons statewide. And the figures the Attorney General released to cover this up are far off the mark from what other statisticians claim. An example of a more accurate suicide rate can be found online at this link  

JAILS AND PRISONS - High suicide rates. 

Suicide is the most frequent cause of death in U.S. jails. A high rate of 90 to 230 per 100,000 population commit suicide in jail or prison. That is 16 times the rate for the general population. Most people who commit suicide in jail were arrested for non-violent crimes. 

90% of suicides in jails are by hanging and 50% of suicide victims in jail or prison are intoxicated with drugs or alcohol at the time of death. 

Depression represents the major cause of suicides. To understand the leading causes of depression is essential for suicide prevention. Some of the factors which influence depression are distinct to particular regions. To analyze these spatial patterns, GIS can be utilized. GIS makes it possible to compare different variables to assess how these variables are related spatially. The purpose of this study is to find how suicide rates compare to regional economic conditions. In theory, suicide rates should be inversely dependent upon income levels. In other words, higher suicide rates would be located in lower income areas.* 

An attempt to dupe the media and the public into thinking that the suicide rate in California's prison is low deserves a big explanation. If these figures are true, then the rest of the country needs to study our model, wouldn't you think? There should be headlines blasting out what great stats we have compared to everyone else. Except that the figures are a bold-faced lie. 

Who gets hurt during lockdowns besides the prisoners? The children of inmates at Salinas Valley Prison cannot see their dads. The mothers are crying as no calls and very few letters are getting in or out of the prison. 

One prisoner who has been writing to me for several years needed an emergency surgery for seven kidney stones which was denied to him. Finally the surgery was approved in December, 2004, eight months ago. This month he was taken to the hospital twice and then the transport vehicle was ordered to turn around and come back so that the record would show an attempt to get him to the hospital 

However, the surgery was never performed and he is still in agony, still on lockdown and his elderly parents may not speak with him by phone, visit him or know his condition What a deadly and expensive game is being played at prisons statewide. 

This type of standard treatment in the taxpayer's name not only violates the Eighth Amendment as Cruel and Unusual Punishment, it denies the right to the pursuit of happiness to all family members connected who have no place to go for help even in life and death emergencies 

There are 3 million voters (at least) connected to State prisoner in California This does not include those related to inmates in federal prisons, juvenile halls, jails or the l.5 million people who are on parole. All combined that is the largest voting lobby of all, if only the poor and uneducated would get registered to vote in their own defense. By not doing so, they are tolerating oppression and great pain in their lives unnecessarily since rules are made by the largest, best funded voting groups and families of prisoners outnumber everyone else now. 

The children who are separated due to continual lockdowns from their parents in prison for what may be a minor crime should not be made to suffer. When I visit a prison waiting room, what I see there are mothers and wives, fathers and grandfathers who are severely overweight or underweight and emotionally stressed to the maximum degree possible The families of prisoners are innocent crime victims and yet due to their inability to organize their massive voting block properly, their feelings and rights are ignored as if they have no value. This torment to their loved ones is killing them emotionally, financially, affecting every area of their lives 

The families suffer abuse such as being told what to wear, made to show the bottom of their feet at some prisons such as CSP Lancaster, searched and humiliated while the guards bring in the drugs and other contraband without question. 

I propose that guards should have full body cavity searches before and after each shift and at the very least their Volkswagen-sized lunchpails should be thoroughly search and drug-sniffing dogs stationed at their check in points. They are the ones bringing in the drugs and contraband, not the inmate families in 99% of the cases. 

The exploitation of human beings in California, my native state, has gone too far. This cruel lockdown at Salinas Valley is a good indication of that fact and it needs to be halted right now as lawsuits will be filed for those deaths that are certain to occur when medical and dental care is denied 

CDC is interfering with the doctors being able to deliver medicine by denying surgeries and they keep sending the inmates back for more and more tests or bogus runs to the hospital. They do not want to spend the money on saving lives of the people taken to be caged in inhumane conditions. Even many of the doctors are afraid of the bully guards or of being fired if they speak out on this inhumanity widely taking place. 

The lawsuit payouts will be far more than the cost of surgeries denied as more and more families come together to end the games over the lives of real people and preventable deaths in these bloodhouse, mismanaged prisons. And there are questions about why the inmates riot? I am surprised that only one guard has been killed and a few others stabbed after 4,506 inmate deaths. 

The sane thing to do is hold the person who broke under all the pressure accountable and not to keep the entire prison on lockdown each time a mentally ill person predictably acts out in response to continual psychological torture And someone with half a brain at the top needs to look into what these guards are doing to endanger themselves, there is only so much abuse that any human being can endure with defending themselves and striking back 

The families of prisoners are doctors, teachers, nurses, social workers, clerks, your next door neighbor, almost everyone has been touched by the human grinding machine that we are financing to destroy so many lives. 

You can help by writing letters to the editor of ten sentences or less at your local newspaper and voting politicians who posture "tough on crime" instead of "smart on crime" out of office 

Please register people to vote in poor neighborhoods and on election day bring 20 people in your car to the polls if you'd like to get some real representation in our government for restorative justice instead of this ineffective retributive approach that never has been nor will it ever be a real solution to crime. 

We wouldn't treat animals the way that the State's prisoners are being treated all so that law enforcement labor unions can have jobs On September 7 from 10 am until Noon the CDC "R" will have a public hearing at the Water Resources Building in Sacramento over proposed rules changes which will worsen the isolation 

The families of Salinas Valley Prisoners which number about 60,000 residents in California should be at this hearing in mass to speak out against this cruel treatment of their loved ones. There are no visits taking place so they cannot find one another because they do not know how to organize They are so afraid of the retributive bully guards that they do not stand up to them, and so these families need help from others who are unafraid of such tactics 

Every citizen has an obligation to object to the public safety becoming endangered by this type of deliberate torment The prisoners cannot fight for themselves and lockdown, ad seg and SHU's are not the kind of thing that the 3 million taxpayers connected to inmates want to finance. 

Gone are the days when we can depend on our public servants to do the right thing. It appears that some were reared by wolves. If you want a real eye full go to this website where prison guards post 

click on CDC Forums 

These are enforcers of the law? These are the good guys operating under the website name of a famous outlaw? Draw your own conclusion and ask yourself how anyone could emerge from their cave as a better person. Are these people worthy of your hard-earned tax dollars? Wouldn't you much rather see the mentally ill and addicts being healed and rehabilitated in hospitals that have nothing to do with these thugs outside of the torturous prison environment? 

flyers for the hearing is here in both English and Spanish 

 Advice - Index

 U.N.I.O.N. Home