[Ppnews] CDCR: Bay View is contraband for mentioning George Jackson and Black August

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Nov 8 14:43:01 EST 2011

Bay View is contraband for mentioning George Jackson and Black August

November 7, 2011

Prisoner threatened with re-validation – i.e. 
many more years in SHU – for being a Bay View subscriber

by Tarishi Mwasi

Black August, founded to commemorate the 
assassination of George Jackson on Aug. 21, 1971, 
and countless historic struggles for justice, is 
observed by prisoners and their supporters around 
the world. “August,” wrote Mumia Abu-Jamal, is “a 
month of injustice and divine justice, of 
repression and righteous rebellion, of individual 
and collective efforts to free the slaves and break the chains that bind us.”
Written Nov. 1, 2011 – About two weeks ago, the 
IGI (Institutional Gang Investigator) searched my 
cell in SHU and confiscated my Bay View 
newspapers, saying they are contraband if any 
articles speak on George Jackson or Black August.

I was shocked. Further, they said that the 
newspaper with said articles would be used to 
re-validate me. I’m already validated, but the 
newspaper would be used to re-validate me at my six-year review.

I was told that Mr. (George) Jackson is the 
co-founder of BGF (Black Guerrilla Family). I was 
shocked at the statement and told them it is a 
coincidence that the confiscated October issue 
contains an article contradicting that belief. 
They said Mr. Jackson being co-founder has been “proven” in court.

I explicitly explained:

a) I don’t know facts, as I have never been 
affiliated and know little to nothing about any prison organizations;

b) I should not be penalized for a newspaper article(s).

They advised me not to receive the newspaper. 
That was a retarded advisement, I said.

While I am not affiliated with any type of gangs, 
I am constantly persecuted and penalized merely 
for being Afrikan, Africentric and having an 
Afrikan name. And for studying Afrikan culture and events.

So you might want to advise your readers who are 
in prison of the consequences of reading and 
possessing a newspaper. As for me, I am not deterred. Continue my newspapers.

Send our brother some love and light: K.T. Mwasi, 
T-02518, P.O. Box 3461, Corcoran CA 93212.

Understanding hunger strikers’ second demand: 
Abolish debriefing, modify gang status criteria

by Azadeh Zohrabi

The first round of the California prison hunger 
strike was ended by leaders at Pelican Bay when 
CDCR Undersecretary 
Kernan made a good faith promise that the 
validation and debriefing policies would be 
reviewed. Although more substantial promises were 
made following the second round of the strike, 
from Sept. 26 to Oct. 13, still none of the 
demands have been met and it’s up to the public 
to continue to pressure the CDCR and Gov. Jerry 
Brown to take action and meet these demands.

Intro to prison gangs

The California Department of Corrections and 
Rehabilitation (CDCR) has identified prison gangs 
as a serious threat to the safety and security of 
California prisons. To respond to this safety 
concern, the CDCR has developed a system of “gang 
validation” to seek, identify and validate 
suspected gang members and associates and to 
separate them from the general population by 
housing them in Security Housing Units (SHU).

It is important to note that the CDCR 
distinguishes between street gangs and prison 
gangs. The members of street gangs mostly 
self-identify as gang members or affiliates upon 
entering the prison for general classification 
and placement purposes. The demographics and 
numbers of these members often reflect the 
demographic of the members in the streets.

The prison gang members, on the other hand, are 
usually sought out, identified and validated by 
the prison’s Institutional Gang Investigator 
(IGI). Their validation as prison gang members is 
often not the result of actual gang activity, but 
rather the IGI’s investigation of their property 
and surveillance of their correspondence. Based 
on these materials, the validated gang members 
and associates are preemptively put in SHU for an 
indefinite period as an administrative measure to 
prevent “actual” gang activity. The CDCR has 
identified five organizations that it recognizes 
as prison gangs: Mexican Mafia, Nuestra Familia, 
Black Guerrilla Family, Aryan Brotherhood and Nazi Low Riders.

Gang validation

In order for someone in prison to be validated as 
a member or associate of a prison gang, the gang 
investigator must complete a gang validation 
package for the inmate documenting three 
independent sources of evidence that are believed 
to show gang association or membership. These 
sources can include any admissions, tattoos, 
symbols, photographs, books, newsletters and 
other written and verbal communications including 

An inmate can be validated as a prison gang 
member, associate or dropout for the mere 
possession of any of the above mentioned items, 
if the prison administrators determine the items 
are evidence of gang membership. Once a person is 
validated as a gang member or associate, the 
Office of Correctional Safety must also determine 
whether that person is “active” or “inactive” 
before he is assigned to the SHU. Unfortunately, 
as the hunger strikers assert in their second 
demand, this requirement is virtually ignored by 
CDCR, resulting in many inmates being assigned in 
SHU indefinitely without being involved in any gang activity.

I recently read a case in which the court upheld 
an inmate’s validation as a member of the Black 
Guerrilla Family based on his possession of a 
piece of paper with the contact information of 
Hugo Pinell, a book by George Jackson, an audio 
CD outlining the life and ideology of George 
Jackson, a flyer promoting a 2005 Black August 
community event in Oakland and a newspaper 
article explaining the meaning of Black 

I thought about how likely it would be for me or 
a number of people I knew to have those materials 
at any time. I was assigned 
Jackson’s books in college and they are still 
sitting on my shelf. An issue of the 
<http://prisons.org/publications.htm>Prison Focus 
newsletter containing an article on 
August was in my bag for weeks when it was released.

In fact, it wouldn’t be an incredibly surprising 
discovery to find all five of those source items 
in the backpack of a college student in any major 
city in the country. In that context, possession 
of these materials could by no stretch of the 
imagination be considered a legitimate or 
reasonable reason to suspect gang membership.

However, if the person happens to be a Black man 
and happens to be in a California prison, he 
could easily be validated as a member of a prison 
gang and given an indeterminate sentence in a SHU 
facility as an “administrative measure” without 
any finding of actual gang activity.

The debriefing policy

Once prisoners are validated and assigned to the 
SHU, they are generally kept there until they 
parole, debrief or die. The CDCR allows inmates 
the option of “debriefing” for the opportunity to 
be verified as a gang dropout and be released 
from SHU. To debrief, a validated gang member 
must participate in an interview with the 
Institutional Gang Investigator (IGI) and tell 
the IGI everything he knows about the gang, its members and its activities.

This is especially problematic for inmates who 
are validated without any finding of actual gang 
activity because they are often not actually 
members of a prison gang and don’t have truthful 
information to offer about the gang. Therefore, 
either the inmate can never debrief because he 
doesn’t have any information to give to the IGI 
or the inmate can misinform the IGI with anything 
he can muster with hopes of being released from the SHU.

Any information given to the IGI by inmates who 
are debriefing can be used to validate other 
inmates as gang members. This results in the use 
of potentially invalid testimony obtained under 
the extremely coercive debriefing process as 
“evidence” in the validation of another inmate.

Even when inmates complete the debriefing 
interview with the IGI, they are not guaranteed 
release from the SHU. The decision remains open to the discretion of the IGI.

Inmates take a serious risk if they choose to 
debrief. They may face retaliation by other 
inmates for providing information to the IGI and 
they may be putting other inmates in danger of 
being improperly validated by providing false 
information during the coercive debriefing process.

Unlike some of the other demands, the internal 
policies regarding gang validation can be 
immediately changed within the CDCR without 
requiring funding or legislation, but they won’t 
do it on their own. We have to continue putting 
pressure on the CDCR by exposing their inhuman 
practices and 
on Gov. Brown to intervene.

This story was published July 27, 2011, under the 
Hunger Strike: The Struggle Continues.” The 
introduction has been modified slightly to bring 
it up to date. Azadeh Zohrabi is 
co-editor-in-chief at 
Race and Poverty Law Journal, spent the summer of 
2011 as an intern at the Ella Baker Center, where 
she wrote this analysis, and appeared as a 
panelist, with Dennis Cunningham, one of the 
original Attica attorneys, and Manuel La Fontaine 
of All of Us or None, at the commemoration of the 
40th anniversary of the Attica Prison Rebellion 
held in San Francisco by the Freedom Archives and 
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement on Sept. 9, 2011, 
to connect the dots between Attica and the recent 
California prison hunger strikes. She graduated 
from UC Riverside in 2008 with a degree in 
African Diasporic Studies and Critical Ethnic 
Studies. She can be reached through Facebook at 

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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