From Solitary Watch
by Sal Rodriguez
In response to the statewide prison hunger strike in July, the Public Safety Committee of the California State Assembly, chaired by State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, met on Tuesday to discuss the conditions in California’s Secure Housing Units.
The hearing began at approximately 1:30 PM.
Assemblyman Ammiano opened his remarks saying, “Recent events brought these units to the forefront. We want to ensure that these units are administrated in such a manner to maximize the security of the inmates in the units, general population inmates, prison staff and the public generally.”
Glenda Rojas, a family member of a Pelican Bay inmate, spoke about her cousin’s experience. “The system of validation is wildly out of control,” she said. She discussed how false accusations resulted in her cousin being placed into the SHU for ten months. She talked about the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation’s bureaucratic delays, intimidation, and generally making it difficult to challenge the validation.
Afterwards, Earl Fears a former Corcoran SHU inmate, spoke out against the SHU. “Things that I did going to prison caused me to one time going to the SHU program…when I was in the SHU program..I felt that ‘this right here has got to be crazy.’ I did 18 years in and out of prison but a SHU program was the bottom of the pits…What I witnessed in this short time I feel that…when you hear a cry, a man cry, a gangster cry, a killer cry, a con and an ex-con cry, there’s got to be a reason. I feel that those who started the hunger strike–they had to be willing to get their voice out for someone to hear it for someone to be willing to lay down and die just for someone to hear the situation what goes on in the SHU program they must be serious. Just small thing in the SHU program just causes people to yell or beat against the walls…”
He also condemned the practice of withholding shower and exercise privileges as punishment against inmates already in a psychologically stressful situation. He talked about how the pain of solitary confinement and not having someone to talk to leads to emotional anguish and the damage that can cause in the long-term.
“I know you said there’s regulations…and that it’s not everyday prisoners that are sent to the SHU program but they still are human. And someone needs to look into it.”
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