We Say NO! to Torture... at Pelican Bay

| | TrackBacks (0)
Participants in Berkeley's Week Against Torture make the connection between the atrocities at Guantanamo Bay and America's domestic prisons:

devorah major:


six feet by ten feet

wider than a lead coffin

no natural light

sometimes only darkness

a punishment for surviving

so many shades of black


or weeks of  light bulb

days have no rhythm but howls

torture knows no clocks


twenty three hours

every day alone boxed

one hour to breathe wind


will a cloud drift by

a patch of summer blue sky

a black bird's feather


perhaps tomorrow

arc of sun will show itself

kiss your skin  golden

Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute:


Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute (MCLI) supports the prisoners of the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit (SHU) and all those prisoners striking in solidarity, in their five core demands upon the CDCR.  MCLI agrees with the prisoners' contention that the inhumane conditions that exist in the SHU are in violation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). The CAT defines torture as


"any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."  (Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, art. 1, Dec. 10, 1984, S. Treaty Doc. No. 100-20 (1988), 1465 U.N.T.S. 85, ratified by U.S. (1994).)


The CDCR policies of long-term isolation, which result in severe mental and physical anguish of SHU prisoners, are in clear violation of CAT.  For many years Pelican Bay has instituted policies punishing prisoners for mere possession of books, newspapers and other literature.  These and other innocent actions have been used by the CDCR as evidence of alleged gang activity justifying SHU imprisonment.  Moreover, Pelican Bay uses "debriefing" sessions, in which a prisoner is expected to inform officials of another prisoner's gang membership, as virtually the only way for a prisoner to be released from the SHU.  This debriefing policy results in coerced confessions in which prisoners are falsely labeled as gang members.  The prisoners accused of gang membership subsequently face indeterminate SHU sentences and parole becomes practically impossible unless they "die or debrief."


Prisoners are spending decades in sensory and socially-deprived conditions where there is effectively no rehabilitative programming.  These policies continue under the guise of maintaining prison security.  These extreme conditions of physical and mental isolation are not only unconstitutional but they violate international treaty law to which the United States is committed.  As stated by Justice Kennedy in the recent Supreme Court decision, "Prisoners retain the essence of human dignity inherent in all persons.  Respect for that dignity animates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment." (Plata v. Brown, 131 S.Ct. 1910, 1928 (2011)).


We urge the CDCR to address and remedy the daily human rights violations happening in the Pelican Bay SHU immediately.



Andy Worthington:


The similarities between Guantánamo and the US domestic prison system are undeniable, as both were conceived and are maintained by administrations that have a horrendous disregard for the human rights of prisoners, and an apparent thirst for vengeance, In addition, the violence of successive administrations, and of lawmakers in Congress and also of the judiciary, is reflected in the opinions of the people who vote for hardline lawmakers and apparently support brutalizing, cruel and inhumane prisons, in which isolation has become a key element of a system that can, without exaggeration, be described as one that involves torture.


Marjorie Cohn:

The torture of prisoners in U.S. custody isn't confined to foreign countries. For more than two weeks, inmates at California's Pelican Bay State Prison have been on a hunger strike to protest torturous conditions in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) there. Prisoners have been held for years in solitary confinement, which can amount to torture. Thousands of inmates throughout California's prison system have refused food in solidarity with the Pelican Bay prisoners, bringing the total of hunger strikers to more than 1,700.



Cindy Sheehan:


I lend my voice and support to the courageous prisoners on hunger strike against inhumane conditions, cruelty and torture in Pelican Bay, Corcoran, and other prisons throughout California.



Ray McGovern:

Dear Gov. Brown,

I'm thinking that the Jesuits who educated you probably told you, as they did me, that Ignatius of Loyola required all Jesuits, including the highly educated ones, to empty bedpans at local hospitals and prisons on a regular basis. 

The current crisis in California prisons brings this to mind and prompts my appeal to you to remember what you and I learned in high school and college in the Fifties. A huge opportunity has been dropped on your doorstep to bring Justice for those in prison... more

Jeffrey Kaye:

As a matter of basic humanity and support for the principles of justice, all Americans should support the protest of the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay and other California prisons. Driven by desperation over the conditions of their incarceration, and double-dealing by the state prison authorities, they are putting their very lives on the line to let the public know about the injurious and inhumane conditions under which they are incarcerated. The solitary confinement and the indefinite terms under which that such isolation is endured is a fact of life in the SHU units. It amounts to torture.

Yet it is not without its diabolical intent, as the psychological coercion of isolation, the weakening of inmate will by providing inadequate food, and the constant and institutional demands to inform on other prisoners, even at the cost of an end to the torture, goes against all domestic and international laws and treaties, and is itself a crime worthy of investigation and prosecution. It is uncomfortably similar to conditions of detention and interrogation implemented at Guantanamo and certain other U.S. Department of Defense and CIA interrogation centers. Such procedures have been a part of the Federal and state Supermax prisons for almost 30 years now. Failure to end such conditions of imprisonment are an affront to humanity, and have ensured the perpetuation of such conditions even to today. It is not clear that one rationale or operation of such prisons has been to research the effects of stress and physical and psychological deprivation upon prisoners. This is something that should be seriously looked into by legislators and judges, as well as the press.

U.S. prison and national security authorities have stepped over the bounds of basic human rights, and should be held accountable. It is most pressing that the demands of the prisoners be met: an end to group punishment of prisoners, an end to the hated "debriefing" system, compliance with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement, independent monitoring of food and sanitation (to ensure adequate provision of each), and the provision of constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates, including opportunities "to engage in self-help treatment, education, religious and other productive activities."

many more statements here: HS statement body

0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: We Say NO! to Torture... at Pelican Bay.

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://www.firejohnyoo.net/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/1884

UC Berkeley Billboard

press conference, protest, photos, video, reports

Donations via PayPal
are not tax deductible.

Events & Calendars

War Criminals Watch Events

Important Reading

Physicians for Human Rights
Broken Laws, Broken Lives

NLG White Paper

The President's Executioner

Detention and torture in Guantanamo

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry published on July 27, 2011 10:55 PM.

LA Times: it doesn't take a president to commend those who resist torture was the previous entry in this blog.

LA Times: it doesn't take a president to commend those who resist torture is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.