U. N. I. O. N.
United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect
|B. Bird, Journalist,
P.O. Box 22765
Sacramento Ca. 95822-0765
U.N.I.O.N. Grievances/Proposed Solutions
Mr. Robert Presley, Secretary
Because you are the executive at the top reporting directly to Governor Gray Davis, the man he appointed as Secretary of the Agency for Adult and Youth Corrections, the Senate Rules Committee has made it clear that our grievances can only be settled by you. We've been told that what happens inside California prisons is ultimately your responsibility. I have prepared this letter for the special Warden meeting you've called which proposes solutions and our collective serious objections and capabilities.
For the wardens who have yet to meet us, here's a little history. Over the past five years, we have united in a statewide communication system and daily newsletter to report to California media and legislators the tragic fiscal and human loss happening in voter-financed penal institutions. As you know, our action system is called United for No Injustice, Oppression, or Neglect (U.N.I.O.N.) We consist of a coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to reforming the criminal justice system from arrest through parole. Additionally, thirty six publishers and journalists subscribe to the newsletter and consider it a very reliable news source in California for what is really happening behind the walls.
We have 6,000 subscribers to the newsletter who are inmate families, groups, lawyers, authors, legislators and other alarmed citizens. Many are in the helping professions. We have been focused on building a voting lobby large enough to change any law or recall any politician through the initiative process. We are pastors of large congregations, priests, social workers, public defenders, civil and defense lawyers, educators, physicians and nurses - humanitarian organization leaders, families of inmates from every imaginable occupation. Somehow the arrests crossed over into the middle and upper middle class. It isn't just family members of the poor and uneducated that you have caged. We know the formula for successful organizing and each and every U.N.I.O.N. subscriber is committed to reach our goals for reform through ACTION.
I should also mention that our U.N.I.O.N. coalition gathered 66,000 signatures even after coming in at the last minute to the Amend Three Strikes petition campaign this past summer.
The point is that we are intelligent and we do know how to organize, write letters to editors and author stinging books. We are skilled at giving speeches and appearing on television and radio. We know how to draw crowds and picket to draw attention to injustice and inhumane treatment of U.S. citizens mistreated daily in California's prisons and jails. We know how to organize initiative campaigns and recalls and are experts in how to deal with onerous bullies and thugs. We do not operate from a position of fear.
During the past five years, we have brought to everyone's attention in CDC and the legislature thousands of instances of unbearable incompetence which result in needless suffering and dying and lawsuits costing taxpayers millions, if not billions of dollars which could better be used to actually rehabilitate and/or to prevent crime from ever happening.
For awhile it seemed that conditions were improving. Admittedly it required a legal settlement of $123 million per year in additional inmate medical care to make the point that abusing and medically neglecting peoples' family members is unacceptable. Not to mention virtually thousands of inches of articles and letters to editors so that the voters could see what they were buying with their tax money. We have learned that just asking nicely without noise making and activism doesn't work.
We have witnessed some improvements but they are so minuscule in proportion to the size of the problems that we are compelled to take a stronger stand against practices that you and the lawmakers accept as business as usual.
I have detailed the preceding so that it is clear we have the numbers, the education and the ability to fight back in a meaningful manner which all of the Wardens and rogue CCPOA members need to fully comprehend.
Our eyes and ears are everywhere, inside every jail, every prison and every juvenile detention facility. We cannot be deceived with public relations cover ups, lied to, or convinced that we shouldn't put an end to this needless suffering and dying. We're here to stay and we're growing daily with ACTIVE WORKERS who are not afraid to fight back for the safety and well being of their loved ones.
That said, we can either engage in an all-out battle where we outnumber all of you, since there are at least three million people hurt, or you can accept that we are dead serious about the following items and set about to make changes. We're way past being merely fed up. This is what we want to see NOW, not six months or years from now - but NOW! We've been waltzing with concepts and empty promises for five years. It is past the time for us to actually see these reforms take effect.
1. This fact is foremost. There are too many people in prison. Conveyor belt laws such as Three Strikes need to be eliminated and non-violent offenders need to be released. Such conditions endanger the public safety as people are just becoming sicker due to inhumane treatment. There are many forms of alternative sentencing at the court level. While it may be CDC's job to warehouse human beings sent to them by the court, some administrator needs to exhibit the courage to say "HALT! We have too many people in custody and we're not going to accept anymore non-violent inmates because we cannot properly care for them within the current budgets." Anyone who buys into this mistreatment by continuing to accept non-violent inmates is just as guilty of crimes against humanity as Gray Davis.
2. The mentally ill only become distraught and depressed in the hostile environment of prisons and jails. Careless double celling of 18,000 mentally ill inmates with light offenders is causing murder and mayhem, and unnecessary lockdowns.
A. Special, accommodations such as hospitals should be provided for the mentally ill so that they can be healed instead of psychologically intimidated, victimized, robbed, raped and physically tortured or murdered in vicious prison and jail settings. Retribution style justice makes "custody" the opposite of "healing." The current methods are not a solution to crime and the mentally ill should not be punished, nor should innocents be exposed to their demented disorders.
B. The mentally ill are never going to be able to follow "rules" - that's what distinguishes them as "mentally ill." Mentally ill inmates have no business in prison at all. End the practice of using pepper spray on the mentally ill to get them to come inside from the walk alone cages.
3. The practice of continuous lockdown in whatever form, whether it is "modified programming", "full lockdown" or "fog alerts" that last all day needs to end. Putting two men in a cell the size of a bathroom for days, hours and weeks on end is just wrong. Guards are made more vulnerable to violence when people are so severely mistreated. Here's what we know about a better way to handle people who need more help than anyone else in prison - young gang members. These mostly young people might also be tremendously mentally ill, or they may be under-educated. The power struggle doesn't work to help them to recover. Medical and psychological tests should be administered on every prisoner when they are committed and then routinely conducted every year afterward.
. a. Never mix three gangs on the same yard. NEVER.
b. Southern and Northern Hispanics shouldn't even be at the same prison, let alone the same yard.
1. Whites and Southern Hispanics can live fairly well together.
2. Blacks and Northern Hispanics can live fairly well together.
3. Blacks and Whites are also fairly compatible.
4. Eliminate any combinations of THREE races or gangs on any one prison yard which is something that most CDC administrators already know. Provoked riots is a way that CCPOA justifies itself to the public but we're wise to this game and we're not going to stand for it any longer. Two compatible races/gangs on each yard will GREATLY reduce violence. This is only common sense.
c. Hold only the people responsible for disturbances accountable instead of blanket punishment lockdown for thousands of men.
The mental breakdown from isolation and continuous lockdown is severe and there is no real treatment, except to offer mind-numbing drugs instead of stimulation of the mind by educational opportunities, some sun and exercise in good air. This should be done in compatible small groups. Military studies show that group punishment and isolation simply do not work.
Guard overtime is costing the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars according to the Legislative Analyst. It shouldn't require weeks on end to search the cells looking for contraband. We believe this is an inhumane ploy mostly designed to benefit the guards. It is unacceptable to us that this continue.
Psychological intimidation, limited access to legal libraries, interference with mail and packages and retribution for filing complaints against Guards are unacceptable to the people of the U.N.I.O.N.
We believe that prison guards intentionally create lockdowns by provoking through psychological intimidation temper outbursts from men who are already emotionally broken people. We have reports of social gatherings, pot lucks, training meetings and other guard fun going on while inmates are cruelly caged for hours, days, months and years.
Often, the guards believe they are above the law and want to justify their jobs and overtime to the voters. They get bored with routine and tranquility. Many have retribution-style training and enter this occupation with only a high school education to live out a "wanna-be" cop fantasy. Some are fearful that the inmates they kick around and psychologically torture with constant cell searches, destroying pictures and legal material, and a thousand other taunts might fight back with physical violence. They go to great lengths to create lockdowns over minor situations such as a cell phone found or a plastic cafeteria tray missing. We're not referring to one or two days but months, years and excessive punishments which gives the inmates no quality of life.
Individual wardens and their employees are making up the rules as they go along, completely disregarding the inmate's Title 15 and D.O.M. which should be used as the final authority. The "system" is out of control and the inmates have nowhere to turn for help. The media is banned, the guards exercise retribution if they file a 602 or a lawsuit. Medical care is withheld as a "punishment" for months and years on end if inmates even dare to speak out. CDC MUST enforce these two sections of the penal code and provide serious consequences to Wardens and Guards who deviate from your own rules.
Penal Code §147. Every officer who is guilty of willful inhumanity or oppression toward any prisoner under his care or in his custody, is punishable by fine not exceeding four thousand dollars ($4,000), and by removal from office.
Penal Code §149 Every public officer who, under color of authority, with out lawful necessity, assaults or beats any person, is punishable by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars. ($10,000), or by imprisonment in the state prison, or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment.
We believe that administrators should have no less than a Master's Degree in criminology and that guards should have a minimum AA degree which includes basic CPR and some courses in teaching and social work. Everyone would be better off if you sent the bar bouncer types back onto the streets and hired someone besides the present bullies and thugs.
The new heart healthy diet is causing needless hunger among inmates. This diet might be practical for people who can eat anytime they want since carbohydrates are known to burn up quickly. But for inmates who are given three eating periods with one of those consisting only of a cold, mystery meat sandwich at lunch, the hunger is intolerable. Mystery meat full of sodium and nitrates is not heart healthy.
We want real meat back on the menus because protein is more filling and nutritious. The word protein is Greek for "first importance" because every function of the human body depends on adequate amounts of PROTEIN. For those people who want protein alternatives to meat due to religious reasons and/or special diets, we support that position too.
The majority of the inmates want REAL poultry, beef, pork, chicken, fish and decent quantities food so that they are not continually suffering symptoms of starvation.
Some people do not metabolize carbohydrates well at all and this creates a medical condition known as hyperinsulinism, written about extensively by Dr. George Atkins whose 30 year studies (and 10 million books sold) are widely used by thousands of American physicians. A carbohydrate-based diet creates a pre-diabetic condition which ultimately develops into diabetes for many people.
Inmates are human beings and deserve fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and starches in greater quantity and quality served in a SANITARY manner. God help the thousands of inmates who do not have family to send them money for canteen so they can pay exorbitant prices for junk food to stave off the hunger pangs. It's outrageous and very likely contributing to the present violence throughout the prison system.
Blood sugar regulation is different for everyone and when it gets low or is deprived or shockingly contaminated, nothing but chaos will result. The heartbreak of families witnessing their loved ones underfed is unnecessary. As you know, we UNION people have a way of turning heartbreak into lawsuits. Cutting food will no longer be a cost-savings. We will name individuals responsible for this insanity in lawsuits from the lowest aid to the top callous legislators who sit idly allowing this great abuse. It's a promise we can and we will keep! Cease the heart healthy starvation diet immediately.
We believe that many jail suicides are either homicides or caused by extreme psychological intimidation. Jailers should be neutral instead of voicing degrading opinions to people who may not even be guilty. It seems that there is no justice in the courts and that the prisons are filled with innocent and/or mentally ill people who deserve to be treated with more respect. Our files are full of abuse at all 33 prisons, all the jails and all the juvenile detention facilities.
This all comes back to a testosterone-driven revenge mentality which endangers guards, inmates and the public. This red-neck attitude may be rooted in tradition but this is the year 2002. Restorative justice techniques will stop the never-ending cycle of revenge. Murders, beatings, injustice in CDC's kangaroo courts are causing a strong reaction from people who are already downtrodden and hopeless. Not one U.N.I.O.N. subscriber has any trust whatsoever in our criminal justice system. That's because it is totally corrupt and ineffective. Instead of cutting back on fair trial expenditures, we should be increasing budgets in this area. Ultimately, the taxpayers pay dearly for what is meted out in the name of justice. People begin to take the law into their own hands - both inside the prisons and in the neighborhoods. A little street sense would go a long way toward reducing violence. We want the degradation of our loved ones to stop.
Conditions where 600 men are living in a gym at Mule Creek prison with exposed pipes and bunk beds stacked three high are just as cruel as continuous lockdowns. For ten toilets shared by 600 men to be spaced 12" apart and offer no privacy dividers is an affront to common decency. Human waste on the walls, floors, poisoned water supplies, filthy kitchens and showers endangers the public safety since there are highly contagious diseases such as Hepatitis and Tuberculosis to name a couple which can be transmitted to families.
Clean up ALL the hellholes to reduce the costs of rampant disease. California prisons are on a par with those in Tijuana and are an international disgrace. We've had it on this point! When did it become acceptable for a minor violation to result in a deadly disease due to administrative callousness and ignorance? You are not dealing with herds of livestock, these are the loved ones of California's voters. Many are veterans. Many are simply addicts who need rehabilitation, or geriatric seniors who are well past the point where they are a threat to society. Too many are even innocent or over-sentenced. We are dead serious on this point - clean it up or we'll clean you out through the power of the vote.
Visiting is inexpensive therapy and gives hopeless men and women a reason to live. Yet even after we testified on March 8 by scores we are still experiencing intimidation of families who attempt to visit.
We know that the legislators failed California when it violated our State Constitution by ending all visits in 1997. But the people of the UNION also know very well how to bring 6500 people together to raise money for lawsuits and initiative campaigns. We are not morons incapable of collecting 200 signatures each to change any law, recall any politician or file a class action lawsuit. If rehabilitation, education and healing are the goals then visiting must be viewed in a completely different light. The families of prisoners are innocent victims and to mistreat devastated people is not only cruel and unusual, but certain to bring about violence in the institutions and neighborhoods. It's a downright stupid action. Overnight family visits should be restored and used as a reward system. This would certainly give incentive to rehabilitate.
We have posted at our website a complaint submitted against Mule Creek Prison which details 22 pages of problems. It was composed by 87 inmates. At least 90% of the problems described in this document apply at all prisons, jails and juvenile detention facilities in California. There are many proposed solutions in that document as well. We have it posted online at this website address:
Our general website address containing a collection of our published articles, campaigns and subscriber complaints, as well as informative studies and books authored by our subscribers can be found here.
The human bondage industry cannot continue to operate in its present manner without a tremendous response from the families connected to hundreds of thousands of people victimized by these inhumane practices and failure to adhere to laws. Enough said.
B. Cayenne Bird, Journalist
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