[Pnews] Prisoners and advocacy groups oppose Sen. Loni Hancock’s prison reform bill

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue May 6 10:20:32 EDT 2014


    Prisoners and advocacy groups oppose Sen. Loni Hancock’s prison
    reform bill, SB 892
    <http://sfbayview.com/2014/prisoners-and-advocacy-groups-oppose-sen-loni-hancocks-prison-reform-bill-sb-892/>

May 4, 2014
*http://sfbayview.com/2014/prisoners-and-advocacy-groups-oppose-sen-loni-hancocks-prison-reform-bill-sb-892/*

Lawyers from the LA-based Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law 
recently spent two days at Pelican Bay discussing with prisoners bills 
now introduced in the Senate by Sen. Loni Hancock and in the Assembly by 
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano dealing with solitary confinement. The Center’s 
lawyers met with Todd Ashker, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (R.N. Dewberry), 
Arturo Castellanos and Antonio Guillen, four of the prisoners in the 
Short Corridor who inspired the hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013 that 
were joined by 30,000 other prisoners at their peak.

The Assembly and Senate bills are very different in their approaches to 
solitary confinement. Ammiano’s bill, which the prisoners support, is 
short and simple and is focused on one critical issue: prohibiting the 
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from placing 
prisoners in solitary confinement for mere alleged gang membership when 
there is no finding that they have engaged in serious misconduct.

The prisoners believe that this bill addresses a major concern with 
California’s current policy and does so in a clean-cut and effective 
way. In legal discussions and letters to the Center, prisoners suggested 
two additions to the Ammiano bill: First, that it incorporate a 
provision that would prohibit CDCR from using the testimony of an inmate 
informant to place someone in a SHU (Security Housing Unit, where 
prisoners are held in solitary confinement) unless the inmate’s 
testimony was corroborated by independent third party evidence.

Second, they recommend that data-gathering provisions in Loni Hancock’s 
Senate bill be added to Ammiano’s bill so data can be obtained from CDCR 
which could be used in the future to advocate for changes in regulations 
or additional legislation. However, prisoners support the Ammiano bill 
even if these two proposals are not adopted.

On the other hand, prisoners have informed the Center for Human Rights 
and Constitutional Law in personal interviews and letters that they do 
not support Loni Hancock’s Senate bill because for the first time in 
history it would put into state law authority for CDCR to place 
prisoners in solitary confinement for mere alleged gang membership 
without any accompanying serious misconduct. The prisoners believe this 
would be a major step backwards in the struggle to get California to 
follow other states that have terminated their “gang validation” 
policies as a basis for putting prisoners in solitary confinement.


      Prisoners have informed the Center for Human Rights and
      Constitutional Law in personal interviews and letters that they do
      not support Loni Hancock’s Senate bill because for the first time
      in history it would put into state law authority for CDCR to place
      prisoners in solitary confinement for mere alleged gang membership
      without any accompanying serious misconduct.

They would support the Hancock Senate bill only if it adopted the 
Ammiano approach of prohibiting CDCR from placing prisoners in solitary 
confinement for mere alleged gang membership when there is no finding 
that they have engaged in serious misconduct. They would also want it to 
incorporate a provision that would prohibit CDCR from using the 
testimony of an inmate informant to place someone in a SHU unless the 
inmate’s testimony was corroborated by independent third party evidence.

Based on the prisoners’ positions, which seem fair and rational, several 
groups and community leaders, led by the California Families Against 
Solitary Confinement (CFASC) and the Center for Human Rights and 
Constitutional Law, submitted a letter to the Senate Appropriations 
Committee opposing the Hancock bill.

At a hearing before the Appropriations Committee held on April 28, Peter 
Schey, president of the Center for Human Rights, testified against the 
Hancock bill on behalf of a number of groups and individuals, including 
CFASC, Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, Centro Legal de la 
Raza, Community Futures, Council on American-Islamic Relations – 
California (CAIR), Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes (FACTS), 
Homeboy Industries, Homies Unidos, Interfaith Communities United for 
Justice and Peace, International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 13 
(ILWU), Justice Now, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), 
Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), actor-activist Mike 
Farrell and labor leaders Maria Elena Durazo, executive 
secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor 
(AFL-CIO), and Mike Garcia, president of the Service Employees 
International Union–United Service Workers West (SEIU-West). No one 
appeared to testify in favor of the bill.

Notably, neither CDCR nor CCPOA, the guards’ union, voiced any 
opposition to Hancock’s bill – whereas they had shown up in full force 
to oppose Ammiano’s bill.

The full text of the letter presented to the Senate Appropriations 
Committee appears below. Over the next few weeks, CFASC and the Center 
for Human Rights and Constitutional Law plan to intensify their lobbying 
and gather more support to block passage of the Hancock bill unless it 
is amended to prohibit CDCR from placing prisoners in solitary 
confinement for mere alleged gang membership when there is no finding 
that they have engaged in serious misconduct.

At the same time they will support passage of the Ammiano bill. “Whether 
we are fighting the gang validation policy in the courts or through 
public advocacy,” said Peter Schey of the Center for Human Rights, “we 
are far better off fighting a policy of the administration than 
something enshrined into state law by the legislature for the next 10 to 
20 years.”

The breadth and strength of opposition that has quickly built up against 
Hancock’s bill shows that over the next few months a powerful statewide 
coalition will form to block the Hancock bill unless it’s amended to 
prohibit the CDCR’s gang validation policy.

*Letter to Senate Appropriations Committee*

The following letter, dated April 25, 2014, was addressed to

    * Sen. Kevin de Le?n, Chair, Senate Appropriations Committee, State
      Capitol, Room 5108, Sacramento, CA 95814
    * Sen. Loni Hancock, State Capitol, Room 2082, Sacramento, CA 95814
    * Sen. Jerry Hill, State Capitol, Room 5064, Sacramento, CA 95814
    * Sen. Ricardo Lara, State Capitol, Room 5050, Sacramento, CA 95814
    * Sen. Alex Padilla, State Capitol, Room 4038, Sacramento, CA 95814
    * Sen. Darrell Steinberg, State Capitol, Room 205, Sacramento, CA 95814
    * Sen. William Monning, State Capitol, Room 4066, Sacramento, CA 95814
    * Sen. Mark Leno, State Capitol, Room 5100, Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: SB 892 (solitary confinement)

Dear Sens. de Le?n, Hancock, Hill, Lara, Padilla, Steinberg, Monning and 
Leno:

This letter is submitted on behalf of the undersigned organizations and 
individuals.

The California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) and the 
Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL), which represents 
approximately 450 California prisoners in solitary confinement, as well 
as several other organizations, have previously communicated to Sen. 
Hancock concerns with certain provisions in SB 892 with specific 
suggested amendments. To date we have not received any response 
indicating whether Sen. Hancock will seek to amend her bill to address 
these matters.

We are writing to explain our concerns with SB 892 that now comes before 
the Senate Appropriations Committee. We are respectfully requesting that 
consideration of SB 892 be delayed for a few weeks to allow greater 
input and discussion about the intended and unintended consequences 
enactment of the bill will cause.

While well-intentioned, SB 892 fails to reform the widely condemned, 
inhumane, and outdated “gang validation” policy of the California 
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Although the bill 
contains some positive provisions, it fails to include critical 
provisions needed to bring California law in line with modern prison 
security trends adopted in many other states – with successful results – 
and worse it institutionalizes “gang validation” as a basis for 
long-term solitary confinement /for prisoners who have engaged in no 
serious wrong-doing while serving their sentences/.

The cost of this program is estimated to be $44 million per year while 
1) perpetuating the inhumane treatment of prisoners, 2) compromising the 
goal of rehabilitation and 3) causing hundreds of “validated” prisoners 
to suffer severe physical and mental disabilities – with added costs of 
treatment.


      Prisoners and prison reform experts likewise agree that the
      minimal efforts in SB 892 to “improve” the due process rights of
      prisoners will be costly to the state while having little to no
      practical effect on prisoners’ rights.

We are most concerned with the provisions of SB 892 that will 
memorialize into state law the widely condemned and outdated policy of 
the CDCR of placing inmates in SHUs for mere alleged gang association 
/without any actual incidents of misconduct/. Gang validation practices 
have been criticized by prison reform advocates throughout the country, 
the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, American Bar 
Association, Amnesty International, the U.S. government and members of 
Congress.

While the bill proposes an indefinite number of “step-down” programs for 
“validated” prisoners after several years to be released from solitary 
confinement, both prisoners and prison security experts believe the 
proposed step-down program will be ineffective as proposed in SB 892. 
CDCR already follows a similar step-down program, but only a relatively 
small number of “validated” gang members have been released from 
solitary confinement through the program.

Prisoners and prison reform experts likewise agree that the minimal 
efforts in SB 892 to “improve” the due process rights of prisoners will 
be costly to the state while having little to no practical effect on 
prisoners’ rights. Overall, SB 892 would leave California with the 
largest population of prisoners in solitary confinement of any country 
in the world or state in the United States at enormous cost to the 
taxpayers.


      SB 892 would leave California with the largest population of
      prisoners in solitary confinement of any country in the world or
      state in the United States at enormous cost to the taxpayers.

 From a budget standpoint, enactment of SB 892 in its present form will 
increase the incidence of costly litigation challenging the law, likely 
lead to further costly hunger strikes by prisoners in solitary 
confinement, cost the taxpayers $44 million a year for maintaining 
prisoners in solitary confinement based on mere alleged gang membership, 
and cause untold additional medical costs as hundreds of these prisoners 
suffer mental and physical disabilities due to their confinement in 
segregated housing units.

In contrast, Assembly Bill 1652, introduced by Assemblymember Ammiano, 
is far narrower in what it attempts to achieve, is far better drafted to 
achieve reforms in solitary confinement and gang validation practices in 
California, and would save about $50 million per year in prison costs.

We respectfully request that the Senate Appropriations Committee delay 
consideration of SB 892 for a few weeks to evaluate whether amendments 
can be made that will save costs and potentially close the gap between 
the SB 892 and AB 1652

We urge you to please contact Dolores Canales, California Families 
Against Solitary Confinement, (714) 290-9077, and Peter Schey, 
President, Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, 323-251-3223, 
to discuss whether consideration of SB 892 may be postponed for two to 
three weeks so that experts and family members may provide additional 
input for consideration by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Thank 
you for your consideration.

Respectfully,
California Families Against Solitary Confinement
Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law
Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights
Centro Legal de la Raza
Community Futures
Council on American-Islamic Relations – California (CAIR)
Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes (FACTS)
Hermandad Mexicana Humanitarian Foundation
Homeboy Industries
Homies Unidos
Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace
International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 13 (ILWU)
Justice Now
League of United Latin American Citizens
Mexican American Political Association (MAPA)
Peoples’ Action for Rights and Community
Students Against Mass Incarceration (UC)
William C. Velasquez Institute
Father Gregory Boyle, Executive Director, Homeboy Industries
Rabbi Joshua Brumbach, Ahavat Zion Synagogue, Beverly Hills
Dolores Canales (son incarcerated in Pelican Bay SHU)
Dennis R. Childs, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of California, 
San Diego
Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Los Angeles County 
Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO)
Mike Farrell (Actor-Activist)
Mike Garcia, President, Service Employees International Union- United 
Service Workers West (SEIU-West)
Irene Huerta (spouse incarcerated in Pelican Bay SHU)
James Lafferty, Executive Director, National Lawyers Guild – Los Angeles 
Chapter
Sharon Martinas (prison reform advocate)
Sister Elisa Martinez, MSW
Heidi L. Rummel, Co-Director, Post-Conviction Justice Project (PCJP)
Kimberly Starr (prison reform advocate)
Sarah Torres (prison reform advocate)
Kimberly Rohrbach (prison reform advocate)
Beth Witrogen (life partner incarcerated in Pelican Bay SHU)

-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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