Tag Archive: SHU

Two Years After Hunger Strike, California Settlement May Release 2,000 Prisoners From Solitary


From Truth Out/ By Victoria Law

Attorneys and family members announced on September 1 what they called a “landmark settlement” in the class-action lawsuit Ashker v. Governor of California. The settlement, stated lead attorney Jules Lobel, “is an important step in the growing movement to end solitary confinement.”

The settlement comes after months of negotiations between advocates and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). It also comes after years of agitation, including a lawsuit and three mass prison hunger strikes, aimed at ending California’s practice of placing prisoners in isolation for indeterminate periods of time. Advocates predict that between 1,500 and 2,000 people will be released from isolation in the coming months.

At issue is California’s security housing units (or SHU) and its practice of placing those accused of gang affiliation within these units for an indeterminate time period. Within the SHU, they are locked into windowless cells for at least 23 hours per day. When taken out of their cells – for a shower, a visit or an hour of recreation alone in an exercise pen – they are handcuffed and ankle chained. Two categories of people are placed in the SHU. Those who break prison rules are temporarily sent to the SHU for up to five years. The other category includes those who have been placed in isolation on accusations of gang involvement. For them, there is no fixed end date. Until recently, accusations that have landed them in the SHU often relied on confidential informants and circumstantial evidence, such as tattoos or associations with others. Until recently, one of the few ways to be released from the SHU was to “debrief” or provide information incriminating others, who are then placed in the SHU for an indeterminate sentence. They are the ones who have written manifestoes, filed lawsuits and repeatedly gone on hunger strike to protest their conditions of confinement.

In California’s Pelican Bay State Prison, 1,134 of its 1,181 prisoners were held in the SHU as of June 2015. Although CDCR insists that solitary confinement does not exist within its prison system, those within the SHU argue otherwise and, in 2012, went to court to prove it. (more…)

Hooray! Marius Is Out of the SHU!


From Marius Mason

We have good news! Marius was transferred out of the SHU (or Special Housing Unit) on Saturday, August 1st, after nearly a month and a half of solitary confinement.

At this time, we do not know how the alleged violation cited by prison officials as the basis for his punishment will affect Marius in the long term, but we do know that in addition to the time he spent in the SHU, more restrictions have been placed on him that further limit his already limited life in the Administration Unit at the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas.

While we are overjoyed that Marius is out of the terrible and dispiriting world of solitary confinement, we cannot forget where Marius is—prison. The Administration Unit at Carswell is gymnasium-sized, holds up to 20 prisoners, and is frequently and unpredictably locked down for hours on end due to violence and suicide attempts resulting from the claustrophobic and oppressive conditions.

We urge all of you to write Marius a letter or drop a line with a postcard. Your solidarity matters!

M Mason #04672-061
FMC Carswell
Federal Medical Center
P.O. Box 27137
Fort Worth, TX 76127

Marius Transferred to the SHU! Please Write Him a Letter!


From Free Marius Mason

On June 16th, we received notification from Marius that he has been transferred to the SHU—or Special Housing Unit, also known as solitary confinement—for, we believe, 30 days as a result of an alleged violation of prison disciplinary rules. We still do not know the basis of these allegations, but we believe they involve a violation of his right to counsel. At this point, Marius does not have all of his property in the SHU, and his normal phone privileges and all e-mail privileges have been suspended. Marius’s lawyer, Moira Meltzer-Cohen, has not yet received the incident report, but based on what she has has heard from prison officials, she believes the disciplinary action to be unjust.

Marius is currently in good spirits, but solitary confinement is a terrible and dispiriting form of punishment. Marius can still send and receive letters, so please show your support and solidarity by dropping him a line!

Please be aware that any mail sent to Marius will be under even more scrutiny than it was before, so we ask you to be cautious in writing to him about his situation. Also, mail addressed to ‘Marius Mason’ has been getting rejected, so we ask you to use the following address in your correspondence:

M Mason #04672-061
FMC Carswell
Federal Medical Center
P.O. Box 27137
Fort Worth, TX 76127

Jeremy in solitary: here is what we know

Jeremy Hammond, by Molly Crabapple

Jeremy Hammond, by Molly Crabapple

From Free Jeremy

We received word last night that Jeremy had been placed in the Segregated Housing Unit (SHU), also known as solitary confinement. He had previously been placed in solitary confinement during pretrial detention. Details are spotty, but this is what we know so far:

  • He was placed in the SHU on 10 October.
  • The prison, FCI Manchester, claims that Jeremy stole clothing, but we don’t know whether they allege that he stole from a guard or another inmate. Jeremy denies this accusation unequivocally, and it goes against his character.
  • We have been in contact with Jeremy’s lawyers, who are in contact with the prison to see if anything can be done to appeal his placement in the SHU.

Make no mistake: We firmly believe Jeremy has been placed in solitary confinement as retaliatory punishment for filing complaints against the prison for withholding his mail. The prison had begun rejecting books and even legal material related to Jeremy’s own case. Jeremy had written that he was willing to take his grievances to the highest possible level in order to see them resolved. (more…)

How Can The Atlantic Give Us 5,000 Words on Prison Life Without Interviewing Prisoners?

solitary_630_2From Mother Jones/ by Shane Bauer

As someone who writes about prisons, and who two spent years behind bars, I devour nearly everything written about it, especially the long-form stuff. So I was excited when I saw that The Atlantic’s latest issue had a major story called “How Gangs Took Over Prison.”

Then I read it. Anyone who has ever survived anything traumatic—domestic abuse, rape, torture, war—knows the particular jolt that happens in the body when someone makes light of that thing that you once thought could destroy you. I am a former prisoner—I was held captive in Iran from 2009-2011—and a survivor of solitary confinement. In my experience as a reporter who writes about prisons, it is surprisingly rare that I come across people outside of the prison system who justify long-term solitary confinement. Even within the world of prison administrators many are against it. The last two times I’ve attended the American Correctional Association conferences, there have been large, well attended symposiums on the need to curb the use of isolation.

Graeme Wood, the writer of the Atlantic story, gives a different impression of the practice. He visits Pelican Bay State prison, which probably has more people in solitary confinement for longer periods than any other prison in the world. He goes to the Security Housing Unit, or SHU, where people are kept in solitary confinement or, as he gently puts it, are “living without cellmates.” When he enters, he says it’s “like walking into a sacred space” where the silence is “sepulchral.” The hallways “radiate” and the prisoners are celled in the “branches of (a) snowflake.” Beautiful.

It’s difficult to understand why Wood does not find it worth mentioning that the cells in those snowflakes are each 7×11 feet and windowless. Men literally spend decades in those cells, alone. I’ve been to Pelican Bay, and wrote a story about it in 2012. I met a man there who hadn’t seen a tree in 12 years. Wood tells us categorically that everyone there is a hard-core gang member. This is what the California Department of Corrections consistently claims, but if Wood did a little digging, he would find that number of the prisoners locked away in the SHU are jailhouse lawyers. (more…)

Monday 9/8: Call-in against racist repression and censorship in Indiana prisons!!


Call-in numbers:

DOC central office: #(317) 233-6984

Pendleton mailroom supervisor: #(765) 778-2107 extn.1264

The Indiana Department of Corrections is taking cruel and racist actions in a number of their prisons.

A New Afrikan prisoner was recently transferred from New Castle (because of their intolerance of his political organizing) to Pendleton, where Internal Affairs are seeking revenge on him for past political organizing.  He is being threatened with state court for alleged weapons possession, while many members of the Aryan Brotherhood have recently been caught with upwards of 5 knives each and been only lightly penalized by comparison.

Another prisoner at New Castle dared to organize against the for-profit prison’s lack of transitional programming and transfer-to-population opportunities.  For this, he was transferred back to the Secure Housing Unit, where he’s now indefinitely locked up in solitary confinement.

These men are clearly being targeted and excessively punished by a chauvinist administration which allows racist groups to form and thrive within their walls while snuffing out any and all sparks of radical organizing. (more…)

A Year After Mass Hunger Strike in California Prisons, What’s Changed?

hungerstrikeFrom Truth Out/ By Victoria Law

On July 8, 2013, 30,000 California prisoners launched what became a 60-day mass hunger strike. One year later, however, Luis Esquivel is still sitting in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) in solitary confinement in California’s Pelican Bay State Prison. “Right now, my uncle is in his cell with no windows,” said his niece, Maribel Herrera. “It’s like sitting in a bathroom – your sink is there, your toilet is there, your bed is there. And you’re just sitting there. I can only think about that for so long because it hurts.”

Herrera’s uncle has been in solitary confinement for 15 years. “I hadn’t seen my uncle since I was a child,” said Herrera. “I can’t even remember hugging him.” When she visited him in 2012, her first-ever visit to Pelican Bay, more than 850 miles away from her family’s home in San Diego, hers was the first visit Esquivel had received in seven years. (more…)

Fight new prison censorship rules in California

“They want to be free to pursue the maintenance of the SHU torture units and the expansion of the prison industrial complex (and the ever-growing portion of the public’s tax dollars) without the prospect of legitimate criticism and the voice of opposition.” -Prisoner in Corcoran State Prison SHU

“They want to be free to pursue the maintenance of the SHU torture units and the expansion of the prison industrial complex (and the ever-growing portion of the public’s tax dollars) without the prospect of legitimate criticism and the voice of opposition.”
-Prisoner in Corcoran State Prison SHU

From Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

We need your help. Under the guise of “obscenity” regulations, the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) has proposed sweeping new political censorship rules for mail going both into and out of the prisons.

If these changes are approved, CDCR will permanently ban any documents it defines as “contraband,” including political publications and correspondence that should be protected by First Amendment constitutional rights.

The proposed regulations are designed with two main purposes: to censor writings that educate the public about what is actually occurring inside the prisons, and to stifle the intellectual and political education and organizing of prisoners themselves.

1.) Please weigh in and speak out against these regulations. The public comment period is open until 5pm on June 17th. Resources to help craft a letter are provided at the action page.

2.) Spread the word on Facebook and ask your friends, family, neighbors, pastor, school class, place of worship, and organizations to write also.

Thank you for everything you do.

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

UPDATE: Sekou Kambui Facing Continued Retaliation

sekouFrom Denver Anarchist Black Cross

Sekou Cinque T. M. Kambui, after having his cell ransacked, has been written up by Bibb County officials on  an alleged contraband violation. For this he faces at least forty-five days in a disciplinary unit (it is unclear whether this is SHU or some other high-security wing of Bibb County Correctional). He cannot receive visitors for the next 145 days, meaning of course that he will be lacking crucial support before and after his parole hearing. This is simply the latest in a long list of retaliatory actions taken against Sekou for his political activity behind bars, and reflects a history of transfers, write-ups, and mail-tampering preceding upcoming parole dates.

This ploy to silence Sekou at a crucial moment in his fight to be free is nothing new, but it must be met with resistance. For now, Sekou simply requests continued support through the petition for his freedom and letters to the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. The link to the online petition is below. Freedom to Sekou Kambui and all political prisoners!