In preparing this statement in support of the men housed in Pelican Bay's Security Housing Unit (SHU) and prisoners similarly situated in other prisons throughout California, it is my hope and desire that this body assembled is truly and genuinely interested in understanding ALL aspects of the problems related to the negative ramifications of long term and indefinite periods of confinement to isolation, intimidation and physical/psychological abuse by prison administrators and guards.
There are two specific issues I would like to address which intersect in some ways with the five core demands (End group punishment and administrative abuse; Abolish debriefing policy and modify gang status criteria; Comply with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse; Provide adequate and nutritious food; Expand and provide constructive programming and privileges), but that I believe speaks to a very germane issue of the prison administrators demonizing the men housed in the SHU by the blanketed classification of them as the worst of the worst, prison gang members and extremely violent, which is intended to justify to the general public the bases for the harsh treatment of these men for everyone's safety.
The other pertinent issue is not only the practice of indefinite SHU isolation, but the omnipotent unchecked powers the prison administrators wield over men serving life sentences who DO NOT fall into the LWOP (Life With Out Parole) category, but who are serving "de facto" LWOP sentences at the whim of prison administrators or guards capricious and arbitrary decisions and their philosophy of "snitch, parole or die."
There is no existing structure or process in place that allows a man in SHU to meet the criteria for obtaining a parole date even if he has remained disciplinary free for years and in many cases for multiple decades.
I believe that I'm uniquely situated to speak to those two specific issues because I fall into the category of those prisoners that prison administrators and guards falsely and maliciously labeled as the worst of the worst, violent and a prison gang member while housed in the SHU from 1978 until my release from prison in 1982, along side many of the men who are currently being housed in Pelican Bay's SHU.
The persecution, harassment and abuse didn't stop after my release from prison, but was instead continued through the prison's Special Security Unit (SSU) with unjustified arrest for spending time at my sister's home, which they defined as a clandestine resident, sending me back to the SHU for a parole violation, and an arrest for a wooden chair leg found in my parents room during a gestapo and paramilitary style parole search and classified as a weapon. The harassment included putting an automatic handgun to my head, grabbing me by the back of the shirt as using my body as a shield as they advanced through each room of my parent's home conducting a search. This type of activity continued until I successfully completed the parole period.
Many of the men housed in SHU and specifically the ones that I personally know who have been in there for more than thirty years, have been continuously confined because of their political beliefs which challenges the institutions of racism and oppression which overtly and overly relies on mass incarceration of people of color as a means of social control.
If this body assembled is truly interested in investigating the tortuous conditions under which these men have had to endure and co-exist for decades, then it will be essential and critical to examine the real facts and not the smoke screen of violence crazed gang members being propagated by the prison authorities. Let's call it what it is, many of the SHU prisoners are political dissidents who are being subjected to tortuous conditions (extreme isolation, sensory deprivation, medical maltreatment, and nutritional deficiency, etc) because of their views and resistance to a program of physical and psychological abuse.
A significant number of men housed in SHU should have been home decades ago to enjoy a life with family, develop relationships, create a family, witness the birth of their first newborn and nurture the growth of their child, spend time with their parents during their golden years and be a productive part of their communities.
With a slight twist of fate (SB42) I was allowed to experience many of the aforementioned benefits of eventually making it out of those hell holes. These are the things that many of us discussed doing upon our release from prison.
Being labeled as the worst of the worst and not having a voice to speak for themselves, they will never experience those benefits of life. They will continue to be demonized, never know what it feels like to father and nurture a child or in cases like Louis Powell, one of the hunger strike leaders and a very compassionate father of a child born with a disability, and being denied the opportunity to be a significant part of his development.
I will end where I started, I profoundly hope and pray that this body has the courage to challenge the powerful prison apparatus to uncover and deal with the ugly realities associated with indefinite confinement to SHU.
Jitu Sadiki, Executive Director
Black Awareness Community Development Organization- BACDO
Posted in BLOG
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