Finally Raising Our Voices

I open this with a salutation to all those of like-mind, who in solidarity stand as one. My name is Carlos. I come to you from San Quentin´s Death Row. Here in the Adjustment Center (A/C)[1], like other S.H.U. units, for decades we have endured mental as well as physical torture and injustice by the administration and correctional officers. However, the time has come to respond to this injustice and remain silent no longer.
            Never again will we be quiet about the discrimination, the inhumane treatment and torturous practices that take place behind these walls. The misuse and abuse of authority by Prison Officials and Correctional Officers can no longer continue to be kept quiet. The injustice being done here needs to be exposed, with the hope that this injustice may be brought to an end.
            Maybe then we can be treated with the dignity and self-respect that is entitled to all human beings. For though we are prisoners sitting on Death Row, who have already lost our physical freedom, we have not ceased to be human and still have our rights: Human Rights and Civil Rights. When we were sentenced to death, we weren´t sentenced to be mistreated, humiliated, discriminated against, psychologically tortured and kept in solitary dungeons until the day of our executions. Never once did the judge say that was to be part of our sentence.
            This is why now is the time for us, too, to make our voices heard. To shed light on the injustice that continues to take place here. The time has come to seek to be treated fairly, with human dignity and have our human rights recognized.
            For here in the infamous San Quentin State Prison resides a population of prisoners that have been shunned by the state. Allowing prison officials to get away with too many rule violations for far too long. That group of prisoners resides in the Adjustment Center. A prison within a prison and a solitary confinement torture unit used to seclude prisoners from the rest of the prison population. It´s a `punishment unit` otherwise known as a S.H.U.[2] for those who have committed an alleged infraction of the rules. Some are immediately placed in the A/C without any due process afforded or write-up. It is supposed to be only for a set amount of time; after that rule infraction is adjudicated. Once that set amount of time expires they are supposed to be released back to general population. Yet, some are held here without any further rule violations or without ever having had one to begin with. It is supposed to be a unit of “Temporary Punishment” of sorts for rule violators. However, it has only been a unit of torture, sensory deprivation and mental abuse. It is where no prisoner wants to go.
            Unfortunately for death row prisoners, there´s no choice but to start serving our death sentence here in this unit upon our arrival from county jail. It is home to 102 prisoners and over 90% of us are death row inmates. Many of us have not left this unit since our arrival at San Quentin. Never being given the opportunity to program as moderate inmates. A custom afforded to all prisoners when sentenced to state prison. We are held here indefinitely since our arrival, without even, for some, a single rule violation. We have been subjected to a different form of treatment and in truth, we are being punished without merit. We have been housed here in this unit under the false pretense that we are being monitored / observed before we can be given a regular program. The reality though is we have been treated to a harsh and psychologically torturous environment. One where throughout the day and late at night, you can hear the screams of those who have been driven over the edge and into mental illness by this environment. We have been subjected to a different set of rules, a set of rules called `I.P. No. 608`[3]. A set of rules that mirrors the CDCR Title 15 Rules book[4] (that governs all CDCR inmates) but gives more authority to death row prison officials and administration to do as they please with us. To violate our rights under the cover of “The Law”, to discriminate against us and hold us here in the A/C –Solitary Confinement indefinitely. But only to a set of certain prisoners for whom they seem to hold disdain and dislike. Being that, that set of prisoners is a small fraction of the condemned they have been able to get away with this for decades.
            This though is only the tip of the iceberg. For the problems here on Death Row go far beyond this. To cover them all, we need more time, space and patience from you. We want to disclose it all so you can understand why we also choose to peacefully protest this injustice being done. Why we, too, will be joining the national hunger strike. Pitching our own demands for change. The change needed here and everywhere else. Where there is the continued abuse of authority and solitary confinement torture units. That all needs to come to an end for the greater good of humanity.
In solidarity,

[1] Adjustment Center also referred to A/C in this article.
[2] S.H.U. short for Security Housing Unit.
[3] I.P. No. 608 is the Condemn Manual and rules and regulations sets forth policies and procedures, details organizational framework, and describes criteria and standards governing the operation of the condemned male inmates house at S.Q. I.P. No. 608 can be found on the C.A.P. (Cali Appellate Project) site at www.capsf.org.
[4] CDCR Title 15 is California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Rules and Regulations, www.cdcr.ca.gov/regulations

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