You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘CA’ tag.

Solidarity with CA prisoners poster 2

Prisoners in California will no longer be kept in windowless boxes indefinitely. That improves the lives of 3,000 people. It also brings California into line with the practices of virtually all other states. This is landmark.

Many groups were involved in the support of the plaintiffs in the class action suit. Legal Services for Prisoners with Children put out a press release. Below I copy the press release of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity group.

PRESS RELEASE

OAKLAND — Today, California prisoners locked in isolation achieved a groundbreaking legal victory in their ongoing struggle against the use of solitary confinement. A settlement was reached in the federal class action suit Ashker v. Brown, originally filed in 2012, effectively ending indefinite long-term solitary confinement, and greatly limiting the prison administration’s ability to use the practice, widely seen as a form of torture. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of prisoners held in Pelican Bay State Prison’s infamous Security Housing Units (SHU) for more than 10 years, where they spend 23 hours a day or more in their cells with little to no access to family visits, outdoor time, or any kind of programming.

“From the historic prisoner-led hunger strikes of 2011 and 2013, to the work of families, loved ones, and advocate, this settlement is a direct result of our grassroots organizing, both inside and outside prison walls,” said Dolores Canales of California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC), and mother of a prisoner in Pelican Bay. “This legal victory is huge, but is not the end of our fight – it will only make the struggle against solitary and imprisonment everywhere stronger.” The 2011 and 2013 hunger strikes gained widespread international attention that for the first time in recent years put solitary confinement under mainstream scrutiny.

Hunger-Strike-suspension-1st-anniversary-Mosswood-Park-Amphitheater-Oakland-090614-by-Lucas-Guilkey-web 4

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity (PHSS) coalition members commemorating the first anniversary of the 2013 hunger strike suspension.

Currently, many prisoners are in solitary because of their “status” – having been associated with political ideologies or gang affiliation. However, this settlement does away with the status-based system, leaving solitary as an option only in cases of serious behavioral rule violations. Furthermore, the settlement limits the amount of time a prisoner may be held in solitary, and sets a two year Step-Down Program for the release of current solitary prisoners into the prison general population.

It is estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 prisoners will be released from SHU within one year of this settlement. A higher security general population unit will be created for a small number of cases where people have been in SHU for more than 10 years and have a recent serious rule violation.

“Despite the repeated attempts by the prison regime to break the prisoners’ strength, they have remained unified in this fight,” said Marie Levin of CFASC and sister of a prisoner representative named in the lawsuit. “The Agreement to End Hostilities and the unity of the prisoners are crucial to this victory, and will continue to play a significant role in their ongoing struggle.” The Agreement to End Hostilities is an historic document put out by prisoner representatives in Pelican Bay in 2012 calling on all prisoners to build unity and cease hostilities between racial groups.

The-Agreement-to-End-Hostilities-art-by-Michael-D.-Russell-web

Drawn by Michael D. Russell, Pelican Bay SHU

Prisoner representatives and their legal counsel will regularly meet with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials as well as with Federal Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas, who is tasked with overseeing the reforms, to insure that the settlement terms are being implemented.

“Without the hunger strikes and without the Agreement to End Hostilities to bring California’s prisoners together and commit to risking their lives— by being willing to die for their cause by starving for 60 days, we would not have this settlement today,” said Anne Weills of Siegel and Yee, co-counsel in the case. “It will improve the living conditions for thousands of men and women and no longer have them languishing for decades in the hole at Pelican Bay.”

“This victory was achieved by the efforts of people in prison, their families and loved ones, lawyers, and outside supporters,” said the prisoners represented in the settlement in a joint statement. “We celebrate this victory while at the same time, we recognize that achieving our goal of fundamentally transforming the criminal justice system and stopping the practice of warehousing people in prison will be a protracted struggle.”

Dare to Struggle_Carlos Ramirez_Pelican Bay

Drawn by Carlos Ramirez while in Pelican Bay SHU

Legal co-counsel in the case includes California Prison Focus, Siegel & Yee, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, Chistensen O’Connor Johnson Kindness PLLC, and the Law Offices of Charles Carbone. The lead counsel is the Center for Constitutional Rights. The judge in the case is Judge Claudia Wilken in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

A rally and press conference are set for 12pm in front of the Elihu M Harris State Building in Oakland, which will be livestreamed at http://livestre.am/5bsWO.

The settlement can be read on CCR’s website, along with a summary. CCR has also put up downloadable clips of the plaintiffs’ depositions here.

Conscious-Rising-by-Chris-Garcia-PBSP-SFBV

By Chris Garcia, drawn while in Pelican Bay SHU.

glove

I was recently alerted about a disturbing change in policy within the California prison system. There are numerous reasons to be alarmed and thankfully Kenneth Hartman details them below and in the linked Los Angeles Times Op-Ed he wrote.

Californians United for Responsible Budget (CURB), for whom Hartman is an Advisory Board Member, forwarded me his open letter.

Dear Friends & Colleagues:

As you may already know, the CDCR has implemented a new screening system for visitors that includes the use of Ion Scanners and dogs. The upshot of this is visitors, and only visitors, if found positive by either of these highly inaccurate methods, are required to submit to a strip search in order to have a contact visit. For the details of what constitutes a strip search, please see my opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, Strip-Searches Will Keep Helpful Visitors, Not Illegal Drugs, Out Of Prison.

Over the past few weeks, at this prison alone, a 77-year old woman with a recent knee replacement was ordered to squat naked, another woman who refused to submit to the humiliation of a strip search was denied contact visits, but when she reluctantly agreed the following weekend she was forced to strip search twice as punishment, and multiple other visitors were placed on non-contact visiting status for not surrendering their dignity.

The goal of all of this is clear.  The CDCR wants to do away with contact visiting. They are heaping their own failure to control the drug problem in the prisons onto the backs of the visitors.  It’s a terrible thing we all have to fight back against now before it’s too late, before we’re all on non-contact visiting status forever.

As a starting point to this campaign, there’s an online petition called “Stop Strip Searching My Mom.” I encourage all of you to sign the petition and get everyone you know to sign the petition.  Further, please forward this to all your contacts and ask them to do the same thing.  We need 100,000 signers before we send it to the governor.  Let’s get to work!

And there will be more to this campaign, so please get ready to participate again when we press for legislative help and seek legal help in the not too distant future.

Thank you in advance for your help in defeating these unreasonable policies.

Take the best of care and strive to be happy. Peace…

Sincerely, Kenneth E. Hartman

Group holding cages, C-Yard, Building 13, Administrative Segregation Unit, Mule Creek State Prison, August 1st, 2008

Photographer unknown. Group holding cages, C-Yard, Building 13, Administrative Segregation Unit, Mule Creek State Prison, August 1, 2008

The coalition activist groups Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) are doing tremendous work at tracking was is said as compared to what is done by the Golden State’s politicians. Governor Jerry Brown has been particularly adept at appeasing the centrist and liberal leaning electorate without ever taking bold action to reduce California’s reliance on incarceration.

This morning, Gov. Brown announced an increase in spending on corrections at the state level. Not acceptable.

You may wonder why I focus on California so much. Well, aside of the fact it is my home state, California is often a bellwether for actions in other states. California was the first to enact Three-Strikes-And-You’re-Out Laws in the mid-nineties and it was the first to repeal them at the ballot in 2014.

California is a massive economy — bigger than most nations — and yet inequality in the Golden State has never been more stark. California tells itself it is a global leader. However, if that were true it would be spending less money on cages and more money on education, rehabilitation, and initiatives to build healthy communities.

Today’s announcement from the Governor’s office simply is not good enough. Here’s CURB’s response:

CURB PRESS RELEASE

California Governor Jerry Brown Backslides on Corrections Budget, No Substantial Reductions to the Prison Population Except Costly Expansion

Gov. Brown’s 2015-16 Budget, released this morning, defies comments earlier this week that the administration is committed to shrinking California’s over-sized prisons by increasing prison spending by 1.7%, bringing the total Corrections budget up to $12.676 billion.

“If the Governor believes that ‘we can’t pour more and more dollars down the rat hole of incarceration’ and has actively attributed the voice of the voters in this decision, then why is he increasing spending on corrections, planning for more prisoners rather than fewer and defying the demands of the Federal Court to further shrink the prison system?” asked Christina Tsao of Critical Resistance. The proposed increase of funding for corrections is partially due to 13 new reentry hubs.

California’s overwhelming passage of Prop. 47 was widely recognized as a mandate from voters to further reduce the prison population. County officials in Los Angeles have estimated an annual reduction of 2,500 in their jail population, however today’s budget predicts that in 2015-16 only 1,900 people will be released from state prison under the proposition. The budget highlights the release of people from prison as a result of the expansion of good-time credits (4,418) and elder parole (115). The budget does not outline any further plans to expand these efforts.

“Today’s budget shows the success of parole and sentencing reform measures in beginning to reduce crowding in California’s bloated prisons,” said Diana Zuñiga, Statewide Organizer for Californians United for a Responsible Budget. “Then why is Governor Brown still spending millions of dollars to open thousands of new prison beds, instead of implementing even more aggressive population reduction reforms?” asks Zuñiga. The budget anticipates that 2,376 new state prison beds will open in Feb. 2016 at 3 different locations.

“Today’s budget maintains California as #1 in poverty and #1 in prison spending. This is not an accident, “ said Vanessa Perez from Time for Change Foundation. “This morning Brown applauded the legislature on a balanced budget but we need to tear down the wall of poverty and invest more into vital programs and services that will lift the most vulnerable in our community out of poverty and stop wasting money on building new prisons walls. That is something that will be worthy of an applause”.

After years of cuts, today’s budget includes an increase in spending on K-12 and higher education. Education advocates, particularly in the UC system would like to see even further increases to prevent tuition hikes. “Higher educations in California has needed more funding for years. As we see tuition hikes happening for UC students across the state, here in San Diego they are building new prison beds at Donovan State Prison,” says Allyson Osorio a student working in External Affairs at UC San Diego. “We should support the students in California and stop wasting precious funding to increase incarceration.”

——

CURB Press Contact

Emily Harris, Statewide Coordinator, Californians United for a Responsible Budget

1322 Webster St. #210
Oakland, CA 94612

510-435-1176

emily@curbprisonspending.org

Twitter: @CURB_Prisons

There were two categories of interviewees I planned to connect with during PPOTR – photographers and prison reformers. I didn’t expect to meet many individuals who satisfied both definitions. Ruth Morgan does.

Morgan became director of Community Works, a restorative justice arts program in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1994. Prior to that, she was director of the Jail Arts Program, in the San Francisco County Jail system (1980-1994).

It should be noted that the county jail system is entirely different to the state prison system and operate under separate jurisdictions. County jails hold shorter term inmates.

For three remarkable years, Morgan and her colleague Barbara Yaley had free reign of San Quentin State Prison to interview and photograph the men. In 1979, it was the sympathetic Warden George Sumner who provided Morgan and Yaley access. In 1981, a new Warden at San Quentin abruptly cut-off access.

“I think there were a few reasons [we were successful],” explains Morgan. “Despite the fact I was a young woman, I had a big 2-and-a-quarter camera and a tripod and so they took me seriously. That helped us get the portraits and the stories we did.”

The San Quentin News (Vol. I.II, Issue 11, June, 1982) reported on Morgan and Yaley’s activities. The story Photo-Documentary Team Captures Essence of SQ can be read on page 3 of this PDF version of the newspaper.

Ruth and I talk about how the demographics of prison populations remain the same; her original attraction to the topic; the use of her photographs in the important Toussaint v. McCarthy case (1984) brought by the Prison Law Office against poor conditions in segregation cells of four Northern California prisons; why she never published the photos of men on San Quentin’s Death Row; and the emergence, funding for, and power of restorative justice.

LISTEN TO THE DISCUSSION WITH RUTH MORGAN ON THE PRISON PHOTOGRAPHY PODBEAN PAGE

Ruth Morgan, San Quentin (1979-81)

Image source.

Ara Oshagan sat down for an interview with Boy With Grenade to talk about his project Juvies from the California Youth Detention system. Oshagan talks about “access, his process and the state of documentary photography today.” It’s long but parts make good reading.

There is a certain pragmatism in my outlook. I knew I could not have access to these kids outside of the limited access that I had when I went in. So I did not worry about that. I made sure that I was totally ready—physically and mentally—when I did spend time with them, to make the absolute most of that time, to be fully in the “space” with them, to have a clear mind, to connect as much as possible, and hope that this connectivity will translate into good photographs.”

“To make good photographs, I feel, one must create a good process. Photographs can never be an end; they necessarily must be a byproduct of an experience, a process. That connectivity with your subject matter must be present. If you go into a situation with the sole purpose of making “good photographs” you will invariably fail. Or at least, I will.”

Read the full interview.

I’ve written about Oshagan’s Juvies on Prison Photography once previously.

unemployed youths

Joseph Rodriguez‘s work is essential. If I and others can promote his photography humanity then we’ve done some good.

Last week PDN ran a post about the value of the “Digital Curator“. It was a well threaded argument about things we already know: that if an online presence (blogger) does his/her thing for long enough and with a consistent (their own) voice they’ll begin to garner readers, respect and influence.

[WARNING: link blitz, but all justified]

Thankfully, we have (I believe) a healthy photography blogosphere in which plenty of photographers present their own STUFF; megaliths go vernacular; academics question and answer; fine art specialists point us in the direction of good practice & theory; insiders offer editorial, publishing, gallery, collector, buyer or industry viewpoints; universities promote; non-profits take new angles; curmudgeons grumble; old media gets hip; young guns splash out with collective and interview projects & some hover untouchably above.

In September, duckrabbit joined the fray. You may know already, but I am a fan of duck’s blog (by Ben Chesterton). I am not a fan because I agree with everything Ben has to say, but because he says it without frills and then will spend the time necessary to engage the consequent discussions. Such commitment is a priceless commodity.

duckrabbit deals primarily with photojournalism and multimedia and so Ben’s coverage doesn’t always dovetail with the preoccupations of other photographic genres – which is fine, we all have our favourite corners.

To get to the point. I am nodding furiously toward the coverage of Joseph Rodriguez on duckrabbit for three reasons:

1) Because Rodriguez (along with Leon Borensztein) made me realise how vital the relationship between photographer and subject is in creating images. Rodriguez is worth more time than duck or I could ever commit.
2) Because this is the latest in principled stances duckrabbit has taken, AND it happens to highlight the stories of formerly incarcerated.
3) Because I am committed to writing more about Rodriguez in the next month … and need to let you know.

duckrabbit’s first feature of his new series ‘Where It’s At’ (stuff that kicks a duck’s arse) is Rodriguez’s work on Re-entry after prison. Rodriguez worked with Walden House (I remember fondly the stained glass of the San Francisco WH, Buena Vista Park). As duckrabbit puts it, “Rodriguez records lives lived and he never measures the lives of those he shoots against a photographic award, magazine spread or advertising contract. His eye is never on the future, it is always in conversation with the now.”

Go to duck’s post and watch Rodriguez’s 7 minute multimedia piece on re-entry. California is where I cut my teeth in the prison policy and prisoners’ rights fields, so for me, it is especially resonant … and vital.

Also worth noting is Benjamin Jarosch, Rodriguez’s current assistant.

While we are on the topic of different realities in urban America, keep an eye out for this film at your local cinemaplex indie-theatre.

In the next few weeks I’ll be making comment and whirring the brain cogs over Rodriguez’s photographic endeavour Juvenile Justice . Stay tuned.

juvenile

Rodriguez has won acclaim from all the important people that need to take notice, including Fifty Crows, which incidentally started up a blog recently. Everyone reading this should follow Fifty Crows because they support photographers who get in knee deep … and then some.

Peace.

EMAIL

prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com

Prison Photography Archives

Post Categories