Dec 4, 2009 UNION Press Conference

Wrongful Deaths, Sacramento Capitol



We are here today, five years later, because of a system that is still out of control. It's a paramilitary system that terrorizes its own United States citizens; and is more concerned with pay raises and benefit packages than providing inmates with medical treatment.

The California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation is funded by the taxpayers of this great state. We are here today to let it be known that we, citizens and taxpayers, do not support our tax dollars underwriting terrorist activities in our prisons. When we closely examine what is happening within the prison walls -- the abuse and pattern and practice of failing to provide medical treatment to inmates -- it is terrorism. Prisons have become institutions of degradation, humiliation, and destruction instead of centers for training, change, and reform. 

It has been over five years since my nephew, Anthony Shumake, was murdered by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. On June 29, 2004, my niece, Toya Shumake, received a voice-mail message from the California State Prison Solano that her brother, Anthony Shumake, was dead. That's it! That's all! They did not provide any details on how or why he died. Later, after we heard this shocking news, the family made several calls to Vacaville for answers. To no avail. They were unwilling to provide my family any information about Anthony's death.

To add insult to injury, later that afternoon, Anthony's grandmother, Annie Shumake, who has since passed away without any closure to her grandson’s homicide at the hands of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, received a telegram stuck inside her screen door. It indicated that not only had her grandson, Anthony Shumake, died, but she had forty-eight hours to claim his body -- or the State of California would cremate him.

Pursuant to Article 7, Section S1070.1 of the Department of Corrections Operations Manuel regarding deaths, the policy states: "The Department shall treat the death of an inmate or parolee with dignity and respect as is regularly accorded persons who are not incarcerated or on parole."

Pursuant to Article 7, Section S1070.10 of the Department of Corrections Operations Manuel regarding Notification of Next-of-Kin, the policy states: "The senior custodial officer shall review the inmate's C-File and using the CDC&R Form 127, notify the next-of-kin as humanely as possible." Institution staff and/or P&CSD staff may be utilized for this purpose. P&CSD staff are located, or have assigned agents, in every section of California.

Regarding Anthony Shumake's death, the Department violated its own policies. It is shameful the way our family was treated. We had never experienced such a disregard for humanity. No one in the CDC&R was willing to talk to us. As of today, over five years  later, we still have no closure of Anthony Shumake's homicide. Where is the dignity and respect? Is this humane? Is this what we expect from our prison system?

As a family, we are crying out for help. We would like to know why the policies and procedures of the CDC&R were being violated. We are concerned that inmates do not receive proper medical treatment, and in many cases, are actually denied medical treatment. Five years later, this is still a pattern and practice of the CDC&R. We want to know if CDC&R guards are trained to recognize serious ailments or behavior changes that indicate illness? We want to know if the doctors and medical personnel are competent; and most of all, if they are truly concerned about the inmates' medical needs? 

My nephew, Anthony Shumake, had a tooth pulled, and now he is dead! Anthony Shumake was given a prison sentence, not a death sentence! We want to know why the wrong tooth was pulled; and why the medical staff did not identify the infection until it was too late? We want to know why Anthony Shumake was transported two-and-a-half hours from Vacaville, to an emergency room in Manteca, and there was an emergency room a few minutes from the CSP Solano institution?

Was it because CSP Solano was being sued for $18 Million in unpaid health care bills? This is still America! Inmates ought to be treated like human beings! They're American citizens and ought to be treated better than this. 

In spite of my family's personal pain and suffering, and the suffering of other families -- who have incarcerated loved ones or who have lost loved ones due to the failure of the system to provide medical treatment -- I still have hope. If the CDC&R is to be transformed, we the people of the great State of California must move forward with the expectation that we can make a difference. We must fight for justice for the inmates who can't fight for themselves. We must be the voice of the voiceless!

We must all have hope. We must understand that the system can change; and acknowledge that we are the instrumentality of change. When men and women of good will come together, the impossible becomes possible. Brothers and sisters, this is no time for apathy and complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action. We must have a restoration mentality.

I believe God is going to transform this system. He is going to comfort all of us who have lost our loved ones and who have loved ones currently suffering in the CDC&R system. I believe in God. I believe in America.
So let us leave here today, with a renewed commitment to get involved. Let us leave here today, with a renewed commitment to write letters and make phone calls to our elected officials demanding that this system be reformed. Let us leave here today, sending a clear message to those men and women currently incarcerated that they are not alone, that we feel their pain, and that we are committed to fight the good fight for inmate justice and prison reform.

Let us send a message to our Governor, and our State Legislature, that the men and women in prison are our loved ones. Let the message be clear that we care for our loved ones and will not go away.

Anthony Shumake, five years later, we still miss and love you. You will always have a place in our hearts. Thank you for forty-one years of being with us. 

Reverend Andre L. Shumake, Sr.                                                                                          
Richmond Improvement Association
P.O. Box 2261                                                                                                       Richmond, California 94802                                                                                                             (510)860-3681                                                                                                                                         

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