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A day in the Life of a shu prisoner

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Compilation of Writings, many of which were sent to

California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement
A Day in the Life of a SHU Prisoner

A day in the SHU becomes a part of your own body, you know it just as well and it rarely changes.. Of course there is always that exception when something unexpected may happen, such as a cell search that may come at any time during the day or night and the officers may take something personal or be overzealous in their search. Recently this happened to me where they took all of my linen (sheets) because the ends were grayed from long time use and they wouldn’t give me anymore unless I paid for them. Of course I refused to pay for something that I didn’t destroy. I went the night without linen and received a rules violation report for destruction of property and I blew up and had a verbal exchange with the officer. Anyways I got some new linen from another officer and I appealed the change. After a few months I had it dismissed but they retaliated by not processing the paper work, so I had my trust account froze for a few months.

We are allowed to have outdoor exercise for 90 minutes a day alone in a small exercise yard, which is nothing more than a cell without a roof. It’s surrounded by 30 foot concrete walls. The roof is a wire mesh with a plexi-glass covering; f you look up your view is distorted by the mesh. You do not get any direct sunlight and you are under surveillance by the video camera the whole time. I do not know the exact measurement of the yard but I have walked it so long that it takes me 26 paces to complete one lap. It’s the size of a dog kennel and is often referred to as the dog walk. It is located at the end of each 8 cell pod; from my cell its located to the left and if I exit my cell and turn left it is 12 paces. If I turn right and walk 20 paces I will reach the shower cell, if I continue for another 8 paces I will reach the pod door that leads out of the pod.

I know these things like I know the front of my cell door, which is made out of perforated steel and has a total of seven hundred and thirty holes in it, and just like I know that anytime one of the seven other cells in my pod flushes their toilet I can tell by the sound which cell it is, and the same goes for any cell door that might open. These things are not something that I purposely learned; they are naturally or unnaturally thrust upon your subconscious and acquired by the sheer idleness of SHU confinement after years of living the same day over and over again, hearing the same sounds over and over, and walking the dame distances and paths that you’re allowed.

A day in the SHU is a repetitive motion that has absorbed me into it. I realize I have no control over it, although I fight against not allowing myself to evolve around it to the point that when yard time, a shower, or breakfast and dinner are late or canceled I am lost and confused and do not know how to adjust like sometimes happens to inmates and they become angry or depressed. I myself have experienced that, its very easy to let that happen. I can walk around my little box of a yard blind folded and not rub up against one of its four walls.

Being housed in SHU has left me looking like a ghost as my color has faded to a very pale shade as many inmates here do without any sun light to beat down upon our faces. How I long to feel warmth steadily beating down on me.

The highlight of the day for most inmates is mail call, its also the worst time. Everyone knows when the mail is coming but will rarely talk about it. The pod door will open and the floor officer will walk in and go cell by cell and stop at your cell if you have mail. He will ask you to repeat your c.d. number and then hand you your mail through the side of your cell door or he’ll keep walking if there is none for you. For myself, I look forward to mail call the most; it’s the only sunshine I get and of course when I don’t get any it can be the loneliest time ever. Mail breaks up my time and the stillness of my captivity and it allows me for that brief moment a bit of freedom and an escape from here. Mail is something that comes from outside these walls and stimulates the senses and my mind which is deprived of such stimulation. Mail is our link to the outside; news from home can do wonders for one’s mental attitude and state. Even just the smallest bit of news, a postcard does wonders!
A lot of times news from home may be shared with a neighbor. In my case several of my neighbors here I have known and been around for years, two of them grew up in the same area I did and one even attended high school with my brother and sister, the other grew up with relatives of mine and is a family friend. The others around me have been here with me for over five years and in that time it’s very hard not to create a bond with these men that suffer the same pains that you do. We have lost family members together and shared our sorrows with one another; how do you not create a bond? Of course, this bond is later used against us as gang activity to continue to retain us in SHU. They put us together and then not expect us to talk to each.other, or maybe that’s their purpose after all? Even our families create a bond with each other; they too share the suffering and have a common bond. So it’s not surprising that when I get mail from home I share news, especially having to do with my daughters, I am a very proud father. I speak of them regularly and share report cards and stuff like that. When my daughters birthdays come around its not uncommon that all my friends here will sign a card from them, and of course this is considered gang activity by the gang investigator even if no such activity exists

Dinner has come, the day is almost gone, and the last repetitive motion for the day is mail pick up, which is usually between 7pm and 8pm. You rush to get things out, a letter, post-card, b-day card or legal work, whatever you might have been working on. For some there is no rush, they do not have any outside contact or anything else going on; they have been forgotten and the SHU has won.

You try not to have nothing to do or any free time; in the SHU that is a dangerous thing to do and many have nothing to do. The SHU does not provide you with those things and what it does is not nearly enough, that’s why even a month old newspaper is read with much pleasure.

You lay there in your concrete tomb trying to block out the cold especially during winter when this place is more like a morgue. The wall I lay next to is an exterior wall so when the temperature drops to about 40 degrees so does the wall. It’s like sleeping next to a block of ice; you can feel the cold from it more than two feet away. Needless to say, I sleep inches away from it. Believe it or not sometimes the floor is warmer and there I will sleep
Gabriel Reyes C-88996

I would like to say more however this will just be a brief, which I hope can help so I reach out, share my situation, describe my treatment. I am currently being colonized, held captive in draconian conditions in today’s modern era in Pelican Bay SHU; isolated, confined, civil rights violated, medical issues neglected, disrespected, disregarded, basically left to parish the worlds wealthiest country” One of the most prospered, resourceful states on the nation. I’ve been housed in solitary confinement for more than 12 years. The last 10 here in Pelican Bay for minuscule, so called gang association, such as artwork, “cultural drawings”, 3rd party mail, conversating with other prisoners, etc.

I have been put up for inactive review, “Which is a joke” twice in which I have been denied due to fabricated, petty, outside the scope of procedures sources used to deny me my mainline status.
Well I hope this helps. I wish I could say more however I believe this will do for now, so thank you for your time and efforts.
Now regard to my opinion on the new regs. I disagree! The proposal will not help the conditions! Much more negotiations must be done. Please keep me up to date on the results. Proactive work being done, we prisoners will continue to fight once gain. Thank you all for your much needed, appreciated assistance.
Alex Montoya

Hello Ms. Silva,

I just received your most welcomed card of 4-23, I must admit that I was surprised as moist of my mail is held for weeks and lately a lot has disappeared or been returned to sender without notification…actually I expect my mail to be stopped as I continue to expose IGI tactics. The other day I sent a post card to a friend explaining what a “Take down” by PBSP C/Os consist of, it’s when a prisoner who’s handcuffed is surround by approx 5-6 C/Os, then one will place a chock hold on the prisoner and he is thrown to the ground as the rest of the C/Os beat, kick and punch the prisoner, if the prisoner files a grievance 602, he will be charged with a rule violation of “Resisting” or “Attempted Batter on a peace officer” or just plain “Assault” on staff thereby justifying the “Take down” of course the prisoner will be found guilty and that rule violation will be permanently used against at every institutional classification committee, the day after I sent the postcard 2 IGI C/Os came to my door, for the record all allegations of staff misconduct are to be investigated by the Internal Affairs, so when the C/Os asked me for the names of C/Os involved in these “Take downs” I knew it was a set-up and I laughed and told them that they have NEVER investigated each other as the code of silence prohibits exposing other C/Os abuses! One C/O actually had a pen and clip board to complete the façade! After they left, awhile later, a Lieutenant came up with a video camera asking if I would “like to come out and talk about the allegations” I told him that same thing, you guys don’t investigate each other and you know it and you are not Internal Affairs so I knew it was “Stop talking about our tactics” visit. The Lieutenant said that’s a refusal after I gave him a #22 request form I had written to the 2 161 C/Os asking for the name of the supervisor who sent them to coerce me into silence, then I sent another #22 request form asking that the video disk be placed and preserved in an evidence locker and not lost or destroyed or intentionally covered up. All of this happened on Wednesday April 25th, of course my cell was searched that night again, as it had been searched on Tuesday morning. But they did not trash my cell or tear it up. But I’m sure that and many more retaliations will come as I continue to speak out on the tactics being used. After all, this is Pelican Bay.
After the last hunger strike, many of us were targeted for retaliation and I was issued a 3 Rule Violations back to back so I’m not eligible for the photo program as I must be disciplinary free for a year. I believe approximately 700 – 800 prisoners in the SHU were issued 115 Rule Violations for their participation “excuse the error %” the majority lost their T.V./canteen for 90 days, by the way, because of a “clerical error many of those 115’s are to be reissued because the senior hearing officer would not sign off on the way the 115’s were written.
As for my family, my wife lives up here, but have family all over LA and San Bernardino area.
Well I guess I’ll close this up for now, before I forget, I mentioned about how the mail is being withheld and returned to sender. That has been going on for years! The IGI routinely fabricates issues with their own interpretation of regulations, I’m sure the court in Del Norte County has hundreds of Habeas Corpus on the mail issue and believe me there are thousands of 602 grievances that were rejected, denied or cancelled that never made it to the courts. Even legal mail is routinely opened by the IGI illegally. PDSP have their own regulation of what is and is not confidential mail. A couple of weeks ago a nephew wrote asking why his card and letter were returned and yesterday my neighbor got a letter stating his mail has been returned for almost 6 months, I told him it’s the administration trying to isolate us and break our family relationships so be prepared for more head games.
Okay now I’ll close up and say thank you very much for all your work.
Alfred Sandoval

In Re: Gathering of Faith Community on May 10th

I would like to address the faith community as a whole… And challenge you to open up your hearts and minds and hear the cries of the oppressed and afflicted…

“You cannot choose your battlefield, God does that for you, but you can plant a standard whereas standard never flew, and proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” (Isaiah 61:1)

“In war, truth is the first casualty.” And make no mistake, we are at war against principalities, against powers, against rulers of darkness of this age… Against a system and officials who are hell-bent on destroying our minds, hearts, spirits, and ultimately our souls. These officials of CDCR are will have you believe we are evil, and the so-called “worst of the worst.” I would ask you to look below the surface of their propaganda. And open up the eyes of your heart to see the truth.
A Greek philosopher wrote… “He knows nothing loves nothing, he who can do anything, understands nothing. He who understands nothing is worthless. But he who understands, also loves; notices and see’s… The more knowledge is inherit in a thing, the greater the love… Anyone who imagines that all fruits ripen at the same time as strawberries, knows nothing about grapes.”
The matter why we are in prison, where we came from, whether we believe in God, Jehovah, Allah… Or no God at all. We are still his children and his creation.
We know that in the book of Psalms 69:33 it is written “the Lord hears the poor. And does not despise his prisoners.”
Hebrews 13:3 says, “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them - those who are mistreated, since you, yourself, yourselves are in the body also.
The SHU is a tool used by her captors to break our spirit, our mind. To force us to lose hope and faith. It destroys our bonds with family and friends… And our isolation and solitary confinement is not because of what we have done! It's based on what they “think” we are capable of doing! For associating with the very people that they themselves put us next to. I am literally in the SHU until at least 2013 because of attempting to buy some food for another man who couldn't afford it. I've been in the SHU since September 2003. Sounds like there's more to it? Can’t be that simple? I assure you it is! Records will attest the veracity of my statement. This is why we rejected CDCR's concept paper on validation policy and step down program. We don't want reform on validation policy. We want abolishment of it. We should not be punished and locked away in isolation for years, and decades. Just because officials “validate” us. And label us. So what? If we talk to our friends, and family… As long as we don't commit crimes we should not be punished for associating with people we grew up with. This place is so ridiculous, if a father and son seeing one another at visit or medical and actually talk to one another, they would be punished. Imagine that, if you had a grandfather, father, son, brother, uncle, cousin, in the SHU with you, in another building and had the chance to see one another in the hallway, etc. Officials could take away visits, TVs and give you six years in the SHU… Just for talking . Does this sound fantastic and absurd? I assure you it’s the truth. Look it up.
What we're asking for is to be let out of the SHU. And not have to spend one more year, one more day in the SHU for innocuous behavior. We have no quarrel with being punished for acts that we commit which break the rules, and we should be held to account for our individual behavior. Not for group behavior based on frivolous conjectures. We want you to assist us in getting CDCR to implement the Pelican Bay Human Rights Movement, Counter-Proposal to CDCR, i.e. Modern Management Control Unit (MMCU)
Again, what we're asking for, is your voice in speaking for those of us who are voiceless. God's servants should not stand idly by and allow these injustices to continue to befall the oppressed. Thank you for listening and considering my words. May the Lord bless you all and make his face to shine down upon you.
In solidarity and in faith,

Angel Martinez

H 93376 C7-115 PBSP SHU

Foremost I would like to extend my revolutionary love and give a revolutionary salute to all of the people of the free communities who stood in solidarity with the Pelican Bay human rights movement that became manifest through the course of the hunger strikes, as our ability to struggle and expose the contradictions of state-sanctioned torture that we have been subjected to for the past 10 to 40-plus years would have been impossible to do without the support of the people. So I would like to thank you all!

But for those who are not familiar with the historical materialism of our legacy of struggle that entails a continuum of resistance against the subjugation of U.$. colonial slavery that is perpetrated under the cloak of U.$. imperialism, the Pelican Bay human rights movement, and thus the hunger strike, is an outgrowth of this phenomenon as we collectively stand on the shoulders of those courageous New Afrikan Black sistas and brothas like Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Sojourner Truth, Denmark Vessey, Assata Shakur, Frederick Douglass, Betty Shabazz, Gabriel Prosser, Ida B. Wells, George Jackson, Angela Davis, W.L. Nolen, Dessie Woods, Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter, Elaine Brown and Marcus Garvey, just to name a few.

All of these New Afrikan Black sistas and brothas have paved the way for us via their fearless and committed struggle against our oppressors that constituted an unrelenting fight to protect our human rights, while ultimately pursuing the objective of total liberation of all oppressed people, meaning that the hunger strike and in addition to the Pelican Bay human rights movement were not mere aberrations that just appeared out of nowhere.

An example of this truth is echoed by the New Afrikan Black historian and author Herbert Aptheker. In the foreword to the 40th anniversary edition of Aptheker’s classic, “The American Negro Slave Revolts,” John Bracey writes: “From personal experience, I can testify that ‘American Negro Slave Revolts’ made a tremendous impact on those of us in the civil rights and Black liberation movements. It was the single most effective antidote to the poisonous ideas that Blacks had not a history of struggle or that such struggle took the forms of legal action or nonviolent protest.” Understanding people like Denmark Vessey, Nat Turner and William Lloyd Garrison provides us with a link to our past that few ever thought existed.

I am a New Afrikan Black political prisoner and a class representative of the Pelican Bay human rights movement by way of the recent hunger strikes that just took place throughout the prison industrial slave kamps in the state of California and abroad. In August 1994, I was placed in the cross-hairs of the state, as a brotha was commemorating the cultural and historical legacy of my New Afrikan Black ancestors, which entails the redemption and the liberation of all oppressed people from the subjugation of U.$. colonial slavery.

I was abducted from the general population mainline under the false premise that I was organizing prisoners for purposes of carrying forth a physical assault in the spirit of Black August. I was never charged or convicted on this bogus charge! But, nonetheless, 18 years later, I remain confined in their “mad-scientist” like torture chambers as an alleged prison gang member solely because I refuse to become an informant for the state!

Under the false premise that I was organizing prisoners for purposes of carrying forth a physical assault in the spirit of Black August, 18 years later, I remain confined in their “mad-scientist” like torture chambers as an alleged prison gang member solely because I refuse to become an informant for the state!

The manner in which these fascist prison guards targeted and labeled me as a prison gang member speaks to the systemic phenomenon as to how the entire class of New Afrikan Black prisoners within the system of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is being targeted and labeled as prison gang members via the criminalization of our cultural history for the sole purpose of being relegated to indefinite solitary confinement status in the SHU.

The motivation behind this is simple, as it literally amounts to corporate greed for profit, as it costs taxpayers approximately $80,000 for the housing of each prisoner in the SHU, whereas it costs taxpayers approximately $50,000 to house us prisoners on a general population mainline. Therefore it is within the socio-economic interests of these fascist prison guards of CDCR as operatives of the state to sensationalize crime from the perspective of labeling us as prison gang members, which as a consequence also constitutes the economic exploitation of the people in the free communities, via this “bogey-man” theory of crime. So should you, the people, continue to allow this contradiction to be manifest, when already confronted with the worst economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s?

The courts have even ruled that “Black August does not promote violence and that PBSP-CDCR officials have been utilizing a race-based approach to say that our cultural history is gang related.” See Harrison v. I.G.I., Case No. C-07-3824-SI, dated Feb. 22, 2010, by logging onto Note that although this case was settled on Jan. 13, 2011, the particulars of forthcoming changes are still being worked out.

The courts have even ruled that “Black August does not promote violence and that PBSP-CDCR officials have been utilizing a race-based approach to say that our cultural history is gang related.”

The fact that racism is instrumental in validating New Afrikan Black prisoners as prison gang members is critical as it speaks to the materialism of McCarthyism, in which the Communists were labeled and persecuted as criminals in a similar witch hunt. But more importantly, this practice violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “Article 2. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political, or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”

“Article 7. All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.”

So now that the elephant in the room has finally been exposed, it is imperative to understand that our struggle to ultimately uproot the practice of state-sanctioned torture is just beginning! And therefore the support of the people is still needed by way of applying pressure upon your local legislators and politicians by becoming vocal and demanding that they change the laws that legalize the current practices of state-sanctioned torture upon your fellow domestic citizens.

Freedom is a constant struggle.

For more information, contact me at Kijana Tashiri Askari, s/n Marcus Harrison, H-54077, D3-133 SHU, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95531, or email

As I recently shared with California legislatures at their Aug. 23rd Hearing (Public Safety Committee Chaired my Tom Ammiano), I arrived here to Pelican Bay SHU in Nov. 1990, in good, positive health now I suffer for, diagnosed eye disease, called Glaucoma, and related “supra or bital nerve” and “photo phobic hyper sensitivity” conditions, as well as hyperlipidemia, and other internal complications. But its not about me – the individual – but its about us – our families, relatives, communities – humanity supporters, who all being severely impacted and affected. As a (grand) son, brother, father, uncle, neighbor, friend, etc. believe me to go decades without holding/holding, seeing/visit, your loved ones in here is torture, pain, and suffering, they built PBSP SHU way here in this rural white area, so far away from our families, communities of color that we can’t afford to visit I been in here unable to visit my father who I had not seen since the 80s, before he passed, my mother Queen Betty, who I had not seen since I was 11 ½ years old when misfortune involuntarily separated us, and she too recently passed on (Oct. 2010), never seeing/hugging/kissing and spending time with her youngest, since 1975 so this is torturous.

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