The following piece, and accompanying artwork, comes from an inmate in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit. He is among the over 1,100 inmates at Pelican Bay to be held in isolation from general population. SHU inmates in California generally spend 22 1/2 hours in a cell alone, for an average of over 6 years. In this letter, the inmate blasts the premise of the SHU, and argues that it amounts to nothing more than the “equivalent of waterboarding” to “extract information from [gang] validated inmates.” –Sal Rodriguez

California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Isolation facilities (SHUs) are unique in relation to other supermax facilities in the nation, in that they lock up and house inmates indefinitely without having committed prison rules violations.

They are isolated solely based on the identification as a gang associate, absent any actual gang misconduct charges supporting gang involvement.

The inmates are classified by CDCR as a threat to the safety and security of the central prison population. However, CDCRs own policies undermine these allegations because the CDCR will release these inmates from isolation promptly if they debrief, ie. become prison informants while in SHU. Yes, in exchange for information the CDCR will release them from their torturous SHU confinement (this is  illegal coercion). This exchange discredits CDCRs claim that these inmates are a threat (a danger that requires segregation).

If such was the case, any amount of information cannot remedy that alleged concern. Instead this exchange exposes CDCRs true objective, which is to extort information from prisoners by the threat of indefinite isolation and sensory deprivation. It’s no different than the methods used by tyrants and dictator nations. The SHU is California’s equivalent of waterboarding, for the purpose of extracting information from validated inmates. A SHU housed validated inmate cannot achieve release from isolation by good behavior–but it is guaranteed release if he becomes an informant. A blind man can see what’s going on here in California SHUs. It’s all about extorting the perceived information CDCR suspects an inmate may know.

The end game for CDCR is to break these inmates by turning them into prison informants by debriefing. It’s not about good conduct or actual threats.

  • Alan CYA # 65085

    As I previously wrote “Dr. Skinner developed the behavior operant conditioning theory which is the basis for the step down program, and Dr. Levinson designed the sensory deprivation or “Control Unit” to carry out these live experiments.”

    As far as waterboarding goes the following video made Eric Holder rethink its use.

    You can watch a video of Christopher Hitchens undergoing waterboarding here:
    http://bcove.me/ij0os5um

    Too bad we cannot come up with a similar video to end solitary.

  • Alan CYA # 65085

    I just reread the ending of “The Rise and Fall of California’s Radical Prison Movement” and starting on page 272 everything this man says about Pelican Bay and more is there. The year was 1992, twenty years ago, and we still are rehashing all these same topics. Time is on the system’s side. Actually Marion began this in 1968 over 44 years ago and people took them to court then but the system has only expanded. I know radical change is can be dangerous but no change for the better is worrisome to say the least.

    There is a story line here why not post a timeline on this subject. You have fresh young minds with loads of energy working there.

    Do not overlook the history or you’ll just repeat the failed process of others.

  • Eric

    This is INSANE, Do you ever think of the VICTIM, What about the LITTLE girl who was RAPE and pass around to all his lowlife buddies. What about the VICTIMS who are left with the scars and all the mental issues. I cannot understand WHY it is so hard for you people to understand this is a consequence of the HORROR they committed. You need to go on a call with me some day and see first hand, YOU would be in HORROR. These people did not get there because they were boy scouts. Then to read that last post of, “IS THIS TRAINING FOR OVERSEAS, YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING.
    I still go to work everyday to protect you people, I guess even from yourself… Lets just let them all out and make them say SORRY. I can only think that you are effected because you have a loved one who is in prison and I understand that that has to be hard as you are VICTIMS as well. You want the death sentence abolished now this. WHY? What is the right sentence? I will say it is harder everyday to go to work and know that some people are trying to make you out to be the bad guy, BUT then again it feels good every time you get a monster off the streets. Thank for your Time…..

  • Alan CYA # 65085

    @Officer Eric: I would first like to thank you for your public service. And yes we do appreciate it when a Face Eating Zombie is taken off the streets for example. But you suppose in your response that everyone that is in prison is a rapist or murderer. That is just not true. Here is a link to the government’s own statistics. I’ll just list the percentage of new prisoners entering prison in 2009 by category of offense.

    http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=2056

    Drugs—————–27.4

    Property————–27.1

    Public disorder——16.1

    Violence————–29

    of which < 4% were for various levels of murders (manslaughter, 1st & 2nd degree)

    and 1.5 for rape.

    Toss in parole violations and it adds up to 100%.

    You also misread the last post, if your referring to mine, it was meant to show how our government sought to train our forces to resist foreign interrogation methods which we perceived to be torture at the time when they were used against us. Then we decided that they were effective and began to use it against enemy combatants. We learned from the experiences of such heroes as Senator John McCain about solitary and other behavior modification techniques and went on to adopt some of them to be used on American suspects at home. After they deserve it right? That is the question, should we as a nation use techniques that we ourselves deem to be torture when they are used against our soldiers? No one on here suggests just opening the doors and releasing all the thugs and other dangerous people without them being ready. This site is about the use of solitary confinement.

  • http://gravatar.com/nublican nublican

    Really too bad that these poor innocent guys are just walking down the street minding their own business when, for no reason, they’re suddenly snatched up by the Prison Industrial Complex and thrown into the Security Housing Unit of the prison.
    How does this happen?
    Oh… they’re not innocent?
    Oh… they’re not just grabbed of the street for no reason?
    Oh… they’re actually tried and their guilt is proven in court?
    Oh… they’re CRMINALS?
    And they’re being fed and housed at taxpayer expense? In their own personal private quarters?
    These things have rights all right. The right to a blindfold and a cigarette.
    Anything else is unwarranted mercy, largesse, and generosity from the state.

    Can’t do the time?

  • Alan CYA # 65085

    @The Nubian Republican: It always amazes me when someone believes that if a person is sentenced to prison that any matter of maltreatment is ok with them or worse as you say just line up all the pot smokers, drunk drivers and petty criminals and just shoot them down. Oh unless they or someone they care about takes a fall then their tune is quite different.

    You sound a bit like Antoine Fregier who wrote this in 1840,

    “The poor and the vicious classes have been and will always be the most productive breeding ground of evildoers of all sorts; it is they whom we shall designate as the dangerous classes. For even when vice is not accompanied by perversity, by the very fact that it allies itself with poverty in the same person, he is an object of fear to society, he is dangerous.”

    Oh and the year is now 2012 so please join us.

  • Alan CYA # 65085

    So here is an example of how no-violent prisoners pass through the system.

    “…..there is no money to pay for educational or vocational programs, even though these prisoners tend to be serving time for non-violent, often drug-related offenses, and so will be released into society, where they will have to make their way.

    “If you are sentenced to state time in Louisiana,” Chang writes, “odds are you will be placed in a local prison in a low-budget, for-profit enterprise, where you are likely to languish in your bunk, day after day, year after year bored out of your skull with little chance to learn a trade or otherwise improve yourself. A coveted spot at a state prison like Angola, Hunt or Dixon is a long shot for anyone not convicted of a violent crime such as murder, rape, or armed robbery.” Yes, you read that correctly: coveted spots in state prisons like Angola.

    Letting the private companies do public work may or may not be efficient; it depends on the job, and the oversight. What it frequently is not is democratic, or just.

    Read more http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2012/06/when-privatization-doesnt-work.html#ixzz1xnN8Zp1G

  • http://gopanama.com/ Panama

    The inmates are classified by CDCR as a threat to the safety and security of the central prison population. However, CDCRs own policies undermine these allegations because the CDCR will release these inmates from isolation promptly if they debrief, ie. become prison informants while in SHU. Yes, in exchange for information the CDCR will release them from their torturous SHU confinement (this is illegal coercion). This exchange discredits CDCRs claim that these inmates are a threat (a danger that requires segregation).