Friday, August 26, 2006 - bNews
Ailing and Elderly Moms to Protest Salinas Valley Prison this Sun.
Over Visiting Abuses
Dr. B. Cayenne Bird is an ordained minister and a 37-year veteran op-ed
journalist and publisher. She 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 to subscribers.
Dr. B. Cayenne Bird
The reason is centered around visiting abuses, vague and arbitrary enforcement of policies including denying the families of prisoners an opportunity to say good-bye to their loved ones in their final hours.
We're working with local law enforcement agencies who are aware of our pristine record of non violent protests and everyone is invited to join us in the area on Stillman Rd. where the families usually start lining up at midnight just to be assured of actually getting a visit.
You may bring ice chests, cameras, videos and wear any color you like as we will be on public property across from the prison exercising our First Amendment rights to peacefully petition the Government through protest.
It is very important to stay off the railroad tracks and not to block traffic by standing in the road. It is always the NUMBER of people at a protest that speaks the loudest. It will be a beautiful day, chilly in the morning and in late afternoon warming up to the 80's. We will be there at dawn and stay until our old bodies give up on us.
It's time the moms took on the Green Wall nonsense so this is everyone's chance to be heard before the session closes next Wednesday about visiting abuses statewide.
If you care, please be there. The link for the flyer is located here August 27 Protest Flyer at Salinas Valley Prison
U.N.I.O.N. (United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect)
Thursday, August 24, 2006
For Immediate Release:
Sacramento, CA - At dawn on Sunday, August 27, 2006, in Soledad, California, at the entrance to adjoining Salinas Valley and California Treatment 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
Visiting appointments to see inmates in Administrative Segregation or Segregated Housing Units are nearly impossible to get. Most prisons have only a few windows available for hundreds of men on each yard. Often the telephones needed for a window visit do not work so all windows are not functioning. These inmates are often mentally ill and isolated for months and years at a time. They need family contact the most yet this is not happening.
Minor children of inmates who have been convicted of any from a long list of crimes, some of which are not even against children, are without exception denied visitation with their parents, regardless of the sex or age of the minor. A conviction of broad interpretations of the penal code is not necessary, only an accusation is required and that could be an accusation that occurred after they were imprisoned. (i.e. prosecution for masturbation is common) They may with special permission be granted a non-contact visit (one hour behind a glass window), but this would call undue attention to the inmate, who would then risk becoming a target for violence. This denial of a relationship with their parent punishes children and is too often used as a cruel punishment to prisoners.
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 one to appeal to that is really going to help the families. The inmates appeal 602 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 with a code of silence, one guard can lie and all the others stick together on it, which is exactly what is happening to the prisoners. They abuse the families in a similar manner.
This abuse is tearing families apart and putting children, mothers and grandmothers 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
CCR 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 abusive “processing”
Rev. B. Cayenne Bird
United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect