[Ppnews] Prison Officials Say Conditions Will Improve, Inmates Ready to Strike Again

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Aug 19 13:45:09 EDT 2011



Prison Officials Say Conditions Will Improve, Inmates Ready to Strike Again

August 18, 2011, 3:07 pm • Posted by 
<http://blogs.kqed.org/newsfix/author/kqed/>KQED News Staff
http://blogs.kqed.org/newsfix/2011/08/18/officials-prison-isolation-units-focus-of-reform/

By Michael Montgomery

[original blog post available at CaliforniaWatch.org]

State corrections officials are moving forward 
with a major policy initiative that could improve 
conditions and reduce the length of time some 
inmates spend in controversial isolation units. 
The changes are being proposed amid threats of 
another hunger strike by inmates who spearheaded 
one last month at Pelican Bay State Prison.

The policy changes, which still are being worked 
out, are in line with proposals highlighted in an 
internal study completed in 2007 by a panel of 
experts appointed by the California Department of 
Corrections and Rehabilitation, according to 
interviews and documents. The panel’s recommendations included:
    * Moving to a conduct-based model that 
punishes inmates for tangible offenses, rather 
than for mere affiliation with a gang. This 
approach is widely used in other states and by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
    * Ending the practice of indefinite detention 
of alleged prison gang members and associates in the Security Housing Units
    * Ending the practice of automatically 
sending validated prison gang members and 
associates to the Security Housing Units
    * Creating a “step-down” program inside the 
Security Housing Units to encourage positive 
behavior by offering incentives, such as special programs
    * Ending the distinction between prison gangs 
and other threat groups to give the department 
more flexibility in determining inmate placement in the Security Housing Units
Corrections Undersecretary Scott Kernan said the 
department is doing more than conducting another assessment of current policy.

“I’m not talking about another study,” he said. 
“I’m talking about making some changes that make 
the process much more in tune and in line with 
national best practices. And that’s what the secretary is going to do.”

Kernan conceded there are “holes” in the 
department's policies for gang management and its 
use of the Security Housing Units. He also said 
the state was wrong to deny some personal items 
to inmates housed in the special facilities.

“I think it’s a sign of strength that the 
department looked at that (Security Housing Unit 
policy) and was able to admit their mistakes and 
that we’re moving forward,” he said.

The policy overhaul could include substantive 
changes in gang validation criteria and the 
practice known as debriefing, which requires 
inmates to divulge gang secrets in order to return to a regular prison cell.

“We need to come up with a justifiable 
due-process validation process and debriefing 
process that makes sense and that’s consistent 
with the rest of the nation,” Kernan said.

Prison experts say California's current policy is 
outdated, inefficient, legally vulnerable and 
often targets gang associates who do not pose a 
major security risk while leaving more dangerous 
inmates housed in the general prison population.

Inmate rights groups say the policies are 
inhumane, leaving some inmates languishing in 
isolation for decades. The American Civil 
Liberties Union and others have called on 
California to adopt practices used in other 
states, where inmates are locked in isolation 
only if they commit serious, tangible offenses and for fixed terms.

Kernan emphasized the changes are not a response 
to last month’s hunger strike and are aimed at 
improving security for inmates and staff. He said 
the department is taking a cautious approach and 
is not considering a mass release of inmates from 
the Security Housing Units into the general prison population.

“Any (policy) modification could very well result 
in serious spikes in violence in the system,” he 
said. “So we have to do this right.”

Kernan also said the changes would depend on the 
governor’s realignment plan being successfully 
implemented and would need buy-in from the 
Legislature, unions and other stakeholders.

Inmates and advocates said that during the hunger 
strike, Kernan spoke of major policy changes, but 
in a July 20 memo, he states only that the 
department was “reviewing” gang validation and 
debriefing policies. Department sources said the 
memo was intended to focus on “minor changes that 
did not require stakeholder review.”

Kernan is expected to testify Tuesday before the 
Assembly's Public Safety Committee. The hearing 
was called in response to the inmate hunger strike.

During a media tour at Pelican Bay yesterday, 
acting Warden Greg Lewis declined to go into 
detail about the new policy and said any changes would move slowly.

“Change is like an aircraft carrier. It takes 
many miles to turn an aircraft carrier,” he said. 
“It (the plan) is going to be thoroughly vetted, 
thoroughly reviewed. And I foresee some change. I really do.”

Kernan is scheduled to meet strike leaders at 
Pelican Bay tomorrow, with Donald Specter, head 
of the Berkeley-based Prison Law Office. Kernan 
said he will inform inmates about the 
department’s long-term goals and will emphasize 
that it could take months to develop a detailed 
new policy for the Security Housing Units.

But within weeks, a new system could be in place 
to allow inmates in the Security Housing Units to 
earn privileges, such as phone calls to family 
members, craft items and exercise equipment, he said.

However, it remains unclear whether inmates will 
be swayed by the department’s new initiative. 
Pelican Bay inmate and hunger strike leader 
George Franco wrote a letter warning of new 
protests if corrections officials don’t move swiftly on changes.

“We’re only waiting to see if he (Kernan) will 
keep his word. If not, we will re-enact our 
hunger strike indefinitely and there is nothing 
they can say to any of us, period,” Franco wrote.

Franco's entire letter, and accompanying 
documents, are included and transcribed below.

KQED has not verified facts in the letter, and 
note that CDCR Undersecretary's name is Scott Kernan.


Here is a transcription of Mr. Franco's letter:

Mr. Montgomery,

I am in receipt of your postcard on ___
In a few words: he promised the whole five core demands.
I thank you for taking the time out to write to 
me and it will be my pleasure to answer all your 
questions, because what we need out there more than anything is the truth.

Meeting 1: on 7-14-2011 we had our first 
negotiation with the CDCR secretary Scott Kerhan, 
it was me and three other negotiators. I 
personally represented the Mexican (Northern 
District – optional). Mr. Scott Kernan was very 
demanding and disrespectful towards us therefore, 
the negotiators went “no where” we explained to 
our mediation team what occurred and what to do as a result of this meeting.

Meeting II: on 7-18-2011, c/o Ellery approached 
one of the negotiators saying that he was sent 
down to ask the three negotiators if they would 
meet with Associate Warden K.I. McGuyer, Captain 
Wood, due to the New Afrikan negotiator being 
transferred early that morning on 7-18-2011 at 
5:30 AM. We insisted that we would not go out to 
meet with them unless there was a New Afrikan 
representative. The c/o Ellery made several trips explaining our position.
Then the associate warden K.L. McGuyer came down 
himself along with Captain Wood.
They asked one of the negotiators would they 
agree to meet with undersecretary Scott Kernan, 
tomorrow on 7-19-2011, the negotiators said only 
if a substitute New Afrikan could take the place 
of the one you all transferred abruptly.
He said yes!!

Meeting III: Did not take place on 7-19-2011, 
because Undersecretary Scott Kernan did not show 
up, but he did show up on 7-20-2011.

Meeting III: on 7-20-2011 in the board of prison 
term-room all four principal negotiators met face 
to face with Undersecretary Scott Kernan along 
with the following officials: Director George 
Giurbino, Warden G.D. Lewis, Associate Warden 
K.L. McGuyer, and eight COIS correctional officers.

The first thing Mr. Kernan, asked us to do is end 
the hunger strike and we said, we cannot do that 
without our five core demands being met, Mr. 
Kernan said its impossible for me to meet all of 
your five core demands with all that’s going on 
with the hunger strike. We said that we are 
making our sacrifice due to the 25 years of 
torturing and suffering we have endured. Mr. 
Kernan then said I agree with all of your five 
core demands, “everything you all asked for you 
should of received/had a long time ago,” but I 
cannot give you all five core demands over night.

Mr. Kernan, was very agitated/anxious, he then 
said I will give you all your five core demands, 
we said when, he said in two to three weeks I’ll 
come back up (from 7-20-2011) and we will 
progressively attack this but all five will be 
given. We said what can you give us right now? 
Before you come back up to implement 1 thru 5 he 
said you can have all of five. Many of us haven’t 
talked to our families in over 20 years and some 
in 10 to 40 yrs. Then he lied and propagated 
something else (i.e. calendar, proctor, and watch 
cap) this pissed everyone off but we remain 
united and ready. He did this to try and 
demoralize our support. But if he don’t keep his 
word all he did is played on CDCR administration. 
Because we’re only waiting to see if he will keep 
his word. If not we will reenact our hunger 
strike indefinitely and there is nothing they can say to any of us period.

CDCR Cate/Kernan, also put fake five core demands 
see enclosed memo he signed 7-20-2011.
Also see our real five core demands that we 
“Pelican Bay human rights movement” stand by demands.
It should be clear that we negotiators had a 3 
hour meeting with Scott Kernan and his chronies.

In respects to changing (SHU) policy he said that 
they were already in the process of changing 
policy as to long term solitary confinement he’s 
a joke he even went so far to tell us “let’s keep 
our business between us we do not need no class 
action lawsuit we can rectify this ourselves.” 
Just prisoners and officials they’re attempting 
to exclude our mediation team. They CDCR said 
they’re moving from information base placement in 
solitary confinement to behavior/conduct 
placement into solitary confinement. But he said 
our five core demands will be implemented bottomline.

Note: I been in (SHU) on an indeterminate SHU 
since beginning of 1992. For conspiracy to commit 
harm to others safety. This info was given by 
informant(s). Every six yrs I could appear before 
a committee to see if I’m eligible for the six 
yrs. Non-active so that I can be sent to a 
mainline but before this six yr. period an 
institutional gang investigator (IGI) with search 
property in cell and for some reason will always 
use something a picture, drawing, pattern, 
address plus some so called valid info to use to 
extend the six yr non-active period all over 
again. It’s a cycle we all go through. If I 
choose to debrief: snitch-rat I would be let out 
to a mainline but that is not my belief. I would 
never have a person put in SHU. So like I said 
only option to get out of SHU is either snitch, die or parole.

The conditions/policies are so abused I was put 
on mail restriction meaning I have to appear 
before a special committee every 6 months with a 
list of names/addresses so they can consider 
having them put on my approved correspondence 
list. I was put on this mail restriction back in 
5-18-2011. I was not given a writeup for any so 
called CDCR mail violations. This is another 
tactic IGI uses to cut off our communications 
with family, relatives, and friends. Us prisoners 
and our families, relatives, and friends are 
accused/penalized for so called conducting 
illegal/gang activities. Children to grandparents 
have been accused of such “?”.

With respect,

George Franco

Note: Please send copies of our original (5) core 
demands also a copy of Kernan’s non-sense (5) core demands. ‘Thank you.’

One more item of evidence to present to you this 
CDC 128-B chrono is what is given to us and a 
similar one to whoevers mail got stopped by CDCR. 
Shot caller press pertains to having inmates 
compete for a financial prize on best poems, 
stories, literature its harmless. You see on the 
left hand side all the little squares that IGI 
can use/abuse to cut off our communications. This 
tactic also scares off people to communicate with 
us further. This tactic also scares off people to 
communicate with us further. This tactic is 
abused it penalizes, violates peoples 1st 
amendment right. This form stated being used when 
the short corridor was established. All these 
different options can be fabricated for 
violations in order to have our mail stopped/confiscated.

You can check with this shot caller press in 
Portland Or. To get a better insight of what they print. “This is it.”

Michael Montgomery is an investigative reporter 
with KQED and California Watch. Read more from 
California Watch <http://californiawatch.org/>here.




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