What's the worst prison in California

www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Prison_System/CrimePunish_Pelican.html, Corey Weinstein and Eric Cummins from the book Criminal Injustice, South End Press, 1996, Translation: info distribution list
The Crime of Punishment - Pelican Bay Maximum Security Prison
With prison rates well above those of the worst police states, the US has abandoned the goal of rehabilitation from the 1950s through the 1970s and turned prisons into high-tech dungeons that violate basic human rights and international law . An investigation by the Federal Bureau of Prisonsnoted that 36 states [US states, info distribution list] now operate some form of high-security prisons within the prisons. These maxi-maxi- Prisons have become tools of social control to manage the country's redundant population. Allegedly designed to control breakdowns, punish prisoners, and break gangs within the prison, these new facilities create even more violence. By exploiting racial tensions, they only deepen the already existing divide in the social order of the United States. The hatred they generate is first released inside the prison and then on the streets when the prisoners are released. This prison system, while the ruins are still smoking in South Central Los Angeles [referring to the riot in South Central LA following the acquittal of the cops who beat Rodney King on camera], shows the powder keg we are creating for the 21st century .
The California model
No other state beats California, America's leading road blocker, in the race for the highest number of prisoners. Home to 11% of the US population, the state incarcerates more people than any other state, has more than twice as many prisoners in its prisons as any other state, and locks a staggering 20% ​​of juvenile prisoners in the entire US behind bars . From 1982 to 1990, while spending on schools and other social programs was relentlessly reduced, spending on state prisons increased 359 percent, the number of prisons doubled, and prison numbers tripled.
California is also leading the trend of isolating prisoners in high security prisons with dedicated control units. Security Housing Units(SHU), Level four, Maximum security tracts, administrative segregation(Solitary confinement) and other high security cells housed around 10% of prisoners in the California Department of Correction in 1991.
In the seven recently opened or planned prisons for California, 25% of the cells are high security cells with 750 SHU cells and 3,000 maximum security cells. This division ensures that criminal storage will remain the main function of prisons in the future.
Isolation and violence
In 1989, the Department of Prisons opened its state-of-the-art weapon against crime: a 1,056-cell SHU in Pelican Bay Prison near Crescent City. The main unit, the X-shaped SHU, is a high-tech replica of the country's earliest prisons that contained single cells. These bare, gray torture chambers are now being highlighted nationwide as prototypes for the 21st century.
As with its 18th century predecessors, the key to control within the SHU is to minimize human contact and maximize sensory deprivation. A prisoner at Pelican Bay SHU is safe for at least 22½ hours of solitary confinement a day. Almost half of the cells designed for a prisoner are now overcrowded with two men. A SHU prisoner has little or no eye contact with others - not even with the guards, who have largely been replaced by 24-hour electronic surveillance every day. The prisoner sits in a windowless cell with a concrete cot, fixed concrete stools, a small, concreted writing platform behind a thick, honeycomb-shaped door armored with steel plates. The guards watch him from control rooms with video cameras and communicate over loudspeakers. A SHU prisoner never sees the light of day. He is not allowed to decorate the white cell walls. He has no job, there is no education, no professional training, no advice, no visit to a trade fair or joint activities. It is not allowed to pass the time with hobbies. In his cell, the prisoner eats from a food tray that is pushed through a slot in the door. Once a day he is allowed to walk alone in a small, indoor room [dog walk]; without appliances, toilet or water. Before and after this strictly monitored exercise, he is searched [strip-searched, i.e. stripped naked]. Because each of the 132, eight-cell units has its own area for this, this procedure is more of a ritual of humiliation than a safety measure. Whenever a prisoner is moved from one place to another, he is handcuffed before he is allowed out of the cell, the handcuffed hands are tied to the hips, the feet are tied together, he is accompanied by two guards and over video monitors supervised.
Isolation is a basic law. The eight-cell units are not interconnected. The eight to twelve prisoners within each unit cannot pass anything from one cell to another or simply speak to one another. A SHU prisoner cleaning the unit is not allowed to speak to anyone who is being led out of the cell.
External communication is also completely under control. The prison administration holds mail for weeks for irrelevant or incomprehensible reasons and opens mail from lawyers themselves. Televisions and radios can be bought [in jail], but with television broadcasting six Colorado cable stations and radio only local stations, prisoners receive no news from their home states - not even from California. The administration also restricts access to news and books; the Seattle-based organization Books to Prisonersprotests against it: "We do not succeed in sending books in".
Guards and administrators give false information to the media. For example, in the late summer of 1992, after a prisoner was murdered by another prisoner in Pelican Bay, prison staff attempted to prevent an investigation by claiming it was a drug gang war.
The silence of the cells
The Ministry of Prisons defends near-complete control of communications and facilities as necessary to deal with the violence. And while inter-prisoner violence does indeed decrease within the SHUs, the level of physical and mental violence against prisoners by the guards is extremely high. Minor offenses, such as refusing to return a cup in protest because the coffee was cold, or refusing to attend a hearing, may result in the cell being ransacked. In this brutal procedure, a team of six to eight guards in riot suits with helmets and visors and counterinsurgency shields storm the cell, often shooting and injuring the prisoner with rubber bullets or stun ammunition before storming the cell. So overwhelmed, the prisoner is often beaten again and then left handcuffed in the corridor or in the cell for hours.
Verbal harassment is another common form of assault. Guards mock prisoners with threats, the refusal of the simplest wishes, or with the proud description of the latest brawls. The predominantly Latin American (approx. 59%) and Afro-American (approx. 23%) prisoners complain that the predominantly white guards usually also make racist remarks against them.
Given the constant harassment, sensory deprivation, and isolation, some prisoners become upset and aggressive. Others withdraw into themselves, prefer to sleep all day, refuse exercise, no longer write to their families and friends, and only turn on the lights to eat or for medical treatment. Some step into a world of madness of their own, screaming incessantly in their cells, and even smearing themselves with their own excrement. The psychological decline is worse for those prisoners who cannot afford radio or television. The often confused and insane prisoners who receive psychotropic drugs and in so-called thing-blocksare held, are victims of an even worse ordeal.
The devastating consequences of prolonged solitary confinement are predictable and well documented. In his 1980 study of Walpole Prison in Massachusetts, Dr. Stuart Grassian The Impact of Isolation: Prisoners develop “glowing hallucinations of light, noise, taste, and touch; suddenly find themselves in dream worlds ”, develop characteristics of psychoses; develop aimless excitement and violence; fall into delusions.
Grassian's studies contain a self-fulfilling prophecy: The SHU drives people crazy, makes them vulnerable to violence, and in turn their solitary confinement is legitimized.
Treason, Dismissal, or Death
The Institutional Classification Committeein Pelican Bay - a joke court - decides which prisoners will be housed in the SHU. These decisions are based on vengefulness to chance, often based on vague information from confidential informants. Some inmates of the SHUs attacked guards, participated in brawls (often after provocation), or were arrested with weapons. Other prisoners are locked up in the SHU as punishment for wanting to exercise their rights, such as complaining to the prison ministry or engaging in political activities or resistance. Still others were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In half of the cases, the decision to send someone to the SHU is made on the basis of a gang membership penalty. In line with the Prison Ministry's intention to make the Pelican Bay-SHU the primary weapon against the prison gangs, all prisoners associated with gangs receive an indefinite sentence. Once linked to a gang, the prisoners' only hope of escaping the SHU is either telling off or waiting to be released, or death. Telling off means that a prisoner is the Criminal Activities Coordinatorindicates a violation of prison rules. Since it is illegal to isolate prisoners in order to get information out of them, even in wartime, this policy violates not only US law but also the Geneva Convention.
The indefinite sentence SHU prisoner is in an untenable situation: when he chats he becomes a target for retaliation by those he has dragged into it and has to become a constant source of information to ensure that the guards are protecting him. SHU inmates who choose not to betray anyone or who have no information to trade with are staying here indefinitely. Others pass on false information to their advantage by labeling their enemies as gang members, and recruit new gang inmates by threatening them with treason. Many who are forced to betray try to denounce the loners, the mentally unstable, the individual entrepreneurs (inmates who collect debts or sell drugs, sex, condoms, etc.) or anyone too weak to return the favor .
Anyone who is released from the SHU is automatically assumed to have betrayed someone. The number of reprisals against suspected inmates has helped give Division B (the adjacent high-security section in Pelican Bay that houses 2,200 prisoners) the reputation of the most violent prison in California. Guards reported that 67 knife fights had taken place within three months of 1992. In 1993, one inmate died and another 21 were injured in the largest gang war in Pelican Bay
“The way the system works,” said one prisoner in Pelican Bay, “is that the guards run it. The prisoners no longer have any power. In 1984/85 the prisoners still had power, they ran the prison and the guards had to treat the prisoners with respect. That has all changed in Pelican Bay. Now you have to snoop to get any kind of benefit, even for a phone call. Give it away or stay here at SHU. It's an atmosphere of total fear. "
Rehabilitation and Race
Pelican Bay as a prototype prison for the future is the clear rejection of a “treatment-era” prison. In addition, the Prison Department's improper efforts to control the gangs and violence, resorting to pre-treatment-era ordeals, have failed and have made Pelican Bay a place of extraordinary violence. The forces that gave rehabilitation an early grave are complex. Perhaps the most important component - the racial inequality that pervades society - is practiced in the judicial system and reproduced in prison.
Prisons are increasingly and disproportionately non-white, with Pelican Bay primarily targeting Latino Americans. While only 15% of the population was Latinos in 1992, they made up 37% of the prisoners and 59% in Pelican Bay. One rumored explanation for this dramatic discrepancy in the SHU is that shortly before the opening of Pelican Bay in 1989, officials at Folsom Prison made a deal with African-American gangs: if they could control violence in Folsom, the Latino would -Gang transferred to Pelican Bay.
The proportion of blacks in California prisons also far exceeds their proportion of the general population, and this pattern has been around for decades. During World War II, a disproportionate number of African-Americans who moved to California for jobs in the aircraft and shipping industries ended up in prisons. By 1970, African Americans made up only 7% of the state's population, while 29.8% were black in prisons. In 1993, a total of 3,000 out of 100,000 African-American men were imprisoned in the United States, six times the national average. South Africa started apartheid at a significantly lower rate of 729 per 100,000.
At every stage of the judicial system - arrest, prejudice, sentencing, division within prison, and denial of early release - California Americans and other minorities received more severe sentences than whites. At the same time, no other group of prisoners showed more anger towards the punishment machinery than the black inmates of California prisons. In the early 1950s, in the relatively free atmosphere of "rehabilitation" prisons, black prisoners began to take power in state prisons as they fought exclusion and their position at the bottom of this caste system. When the civil rights movement outside the prison walls heated up in the 1950s, it began Nation of Islama nationwide recruitment of prisoners and became the incarcerated arm of the movement. Around 1960 the nation65,000 to 100,000 members, many of them in prisons. Although the group originally preached submission to the government, the prison staff overreacted. They exiled the group, broke up meetings of the Muslimsand threw their militants into isolation cells they called Adjustment Centers. These adaptation centers were the forerunners of the SHU.
The risk of prison gangs
In the early 1960s, these adaptation centers were touted as a humane alternative to the dungeons of the past. The state called them the ultimate rehabilitation tools, in which uncorrectable prisoners received intensive, daily psychiatric support, group therapy, good education and a specially tailored work program. The adaptation centers quickly turned into prisons within the prisons, with their own practice rooms, dining rooms and schools.Although designed for a maximum of three months of rehabilitation, they soon became the long-term solution to undermine prisoner organizations and political agitators like them Muslimsto isolate.
This repression reached a peak when the Minister of the Muslim Temple, Booker T. (X) Johnson was shot dead by an officer at the San Quentin Adaptation Center in 1963. His successor, Eldridge Cleaver, forged links with radicals outside of San Quentin Prison and demonstrated to California prisoners that a radical, staunch political association could change the balance of power in prison. A year later, as if inspired by this insight, the California system of gangs emerged in the prisons. An increasing minority of politicized prisoners created political "gangs" in an increasingly revolutionary culture. They started groups like that Black Family / Black Guerilla Family, and the department of Black Panther Partyin San Quentin. These prison gangs were an attempt by the most downtrodden to take control of their immediate surroundings and to reverse the effects of racial discrimination. Other gangs, including the Aryan Brotherhood, La Nuestra Familiaand La Eme(the Mexican Mafia) were only political in that they also wanted to control the terrain and the economy within the prisons.
All of these gangs provided vital social, economic and security services that made it easier for prisoners to survive, helped them against the humiliation, withdrawal, incarceration violence and endemic racism.
With the beginning of the California prison gangs system, the fighting between prisoners escalated, resulting in the deaths of guards and prisoners. The attacks on the security personnel jumped from 32 in the overall system in 1969 to 84 in 1973.
Gang members, revolutionaries, prisoner organizations and lawyers joined the radicals Muslimsin the adaptation centers. These adaptation centers were now a unit of transformation, no longer intended for rehabilitation, but for oppression, for restricted freedom of movement, for breaking off human contact. In the late 1960s, the Adaptation Centers became the prototype for Pelican Bay - filled with political "troublemakers".
In 1970, armed guards murdered three black prisoners at the Soledad, California Adaptation Center. Prisoner George Jackson declared a 1: 1 retaliation on the guard. Almost immediately, the body of a white guard was thrown from a cell block. The response to the actions of prisoners in California prisons came swiftly - with the beginning of control of movement, access to information, visitors, and access to legal remedies. George Jackson secretly put his book out of his cell in the San Quentin Adaptation Center, which has now become the breeding ground for revolutionary ideas Blood in My Eye, the call for guerrilla action, together.
On August 21, 1971, inmates at the San Quentin Adaptation Center launched an attempt to take power that resulted in the deaths of Jackson and two other prisoners and three guards. Three guards were injured. Prison revolts spread across the country that fall. In the bloodiest, in the Attica Cor­rectional institution,in New York State, 32 prisoners and 11 guards died when police and National Guard crushed the riot with tear gas, helicopters, and heavy gunfire.
Government power in the country was shaken. In 1972, cell blocks in San Quentin were divided for better control of the prisoners and their contact with the people outside was further restricted. Reports of widespread beating of prisoners and other assaults got through to the courts from the adaptation centers. In the same year, the Governor of California and later US President, Ronald Reagan, called for new, high-tech high-security prisons to be built for the prisoners he called “troublemakers”. Meo Comacho, later president of the California Correctional Officers Association, supported him. And in 1973 it started House In­ter­nal Security Committeewith hearings about the revolutions in the US prisons, especially in Attica and San Quentin, with the intention of finding ways to end the ongoing unrest.
The legacy of the August 21st San Quentin Uprising and subsequent uprisings fueled the government's drive to build the largest isolation prison in the United States - the SHU in Pelican Bay.
Pelican Bay is the nightmare: the fulfillment of the desire for more prisons. This termination of incarceration for rehabilitation is the apotheosis of the adaptation centers that went wrong - adaptation centers without treatment. The SHU show that the more cruel and overcrowded our prisons, the more violent the prisoners are made.
In fact, prisoners who were incarcerated in SHUs are returning to communities with no training, no treatment, poorer and more marginalized than they left them. This system of dehumanization, high-tech torture, creates violence, exacerbates gang activities, and deepens the racial and class rifts that are already dividing the United States.
Addendum: Currently (BBC News, April 25, 2005) more than 2.1 million people are in prison in the USA. That's more than any other country in the world, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Since June 2004 alone, the number of prisoners has increased by 2.3%. Here is a comparison:
USA 726 out of 100,000 residents are incarcerated
Great Britain 142
China 118
France 91
Japan 58
Nigeria 31
Furthermore, members of “ethnic minorities” are in prison to a far greater extent than whites. 12.6% of African American males between the ages of 20 and 30 are incarcerated, 3.6% of Hispanics and 1.7% of whites.