Also they routinely get NO YARDTIME.
Email of the Ombudsman: firstname.lastname@example.org and cc it to: email@example.com.
Here is what Zaharibu wrote:
“We routinely get beat out of everything that we have coming:
– Personal property items that we are allowed to have (there is a new property matrix out since January and Zaharibu was denied boxer shorts sent in by his parents via a vendor!).
– We are fed on paper trays almost daily.
I have personally spoken to an associate warden here, and the guy who is in charge of implementing the SDP (step down program), both agree that we should get everything that we are entitled to, but neither of them will do anything, nothing at all, to enforce policy and ensure that we are issued those items that we have coming: receive our yard, and receive our full portion of food (something that is not possible on paper trays).”
(from a letter dated Feb 13, 2014).
Statement suspending the third hunger strike
The PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective Representatives hereby serve notice upon all concerned parties of interest that after nine weeks we have collectively decided to suspend our third hunger strike action on Sept. 5, 2013.
To be clear, our peaceful protest of resistance to our continuous subjection to decades of systemic state sanctioned torture via the system’s solitary confinement units is far from over. Our decision to suspend our third hunger strike in two years does not come lightly.
From our perspective, we’ve gained a lot of positive ground towards achieving our goals. However, there’s still much to be done. Our resistance will continue to build and grow until we have won our human rights.
- Todd Ashker, C58191, D1-119
- Arturo Castellanos, C17275, D1-121
- Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C35671, D1-117
- Antonio Guillen, P81948, D2-106
- And the Representatives Body:
- Danny Troxell, B76578, D1-120
- George Franco, D46556, D4-217
- Ronnie Yandell, V27927, D4-215
- Paul Redd, B72683, D2-117
- James Baridi Williamson, D-34288. D4-107
- Alfred Sandoval, D61000, D4-214
- Louis Powell, B59864, D1-104
- Alex Yrigollen, H32421, D2-204
- Gabriel Huerta, C80766, D3-222
- Frank Clement, D07919, D3-116
- Raymond Chavo Perez, K12922, D1-219
- James Mario Perez, B48186, D3-124
Family members’ statement on suspension of hunger strike
- Irene Huerta, CFASC, wife of Gabriel Huerta, PB Short Corridor Representative
- Dolores Canales, CFASC, mother of PB SHU prisoner
Legislative leaders welcome end to hunger strike, re-affirm commitment to hearings on prisoner concerns
What you can do
Since July 8th, 30,000 prisoners have started a hunger strike in California protesting the solitary confinement policies which can lead to people being kept in the SHU (Secure Housing Unit) for years, decades even.
Michael Zaharibu Dorrough has been in the SHU for 24+ years.
Since the hunger strike began, the prison authorities of CSP-Corcoran have moved Zaharibu and his cellmate who are both on hunger strike to another unit: 4A 3R. This is a unit used for “debriefers”, which means prisoners who have informed the prison officials and gang investigators (IGI) on other prisoners concerning gang membership.
Here is a letter from Zaharibu, which he wrote to a friend outside on July 14th:
Zaharibu Dorrough: we are being isolated in Corcoran-SHU! No medical checkups! Stripped of property!
From a letter by Zaharibu Dorrough to a friend:
Zaharibu, or Michael Reed Dorrough, is held a prisoner at the California State Prison – Corcoran Secure Housing Unit (SHU). He was falsely arrested in 1985. He has spent more than 24 years in solitary confinement.
With this website we, Friends of Zaharibu, show our support for his case for innocence.
Also, we want to highlight the torturous conditions inside California’s solitary confinement units: locked in a very small cell for 24 hours a day, with only yardtime a few hours a week; no telephone calls ever; one hour visits behind glass; never being able to touch one’s family/loved ones; one photo a year they had to fight for to get; inadequate food and clothing, etc. Zaharibu needs to be heard and released.
We have also created a Facebook profile page for Zaharibu that we manage to keep in contact more easily with his family and friends, supporters.
Note: “Being validated” does not mean a lot, it is the terminology of the California dept. of Corrections (CDCR). The term is being used not only for gang members but also to lock-in solitary people who adhere to authors, political programs, etc. that are classified by CDCR as undesirable in their views. Making these prisoners political or politicised prisoners.
Michael Dorrough, an inmate at California State Prison, Corcoran, who has spent 24 years in the SHU after being validated as a member of the Black Guerilla Family in 1988, is skeptical of any talk of reforms:
It is virtually impossible to figure out or believe anything you might hear regarding the step down program. It’s supposed to be revised again. This will be the sixth revision. In all honesty I would not want to be included in it. Aside from those privileges that have been outlined in each of the draft proposals, you have no idea what the expectations are. And it is stated that there are expectations. There is a contract that you must sign stipulating that you agree with whatever the expectations are. No one knows what the contract looks like and that’s usually the best indication that something is wrong.
Dorrough, who has been held in all three of California’s SHUs, writes of psychological struggles as a result of his prolonged isolation:
I know that, psychologically, damage has been done. I don’t just talk to myself, I curse myself out. Sometimes I’ll drop something, a piece of paper, a spoon, and I’ll get mad at whatever I’ve dropped. I’ll snatch it off the floor with the intention of harming it.
You can actually feel yourself disconnecting. And I ask myself from what? You really have been cut off from everything. This is it.
And here we are only allowed out to the yard cages once, maybe twice a week. We are confined to the cells 24 hours a day, five or six days a week. I have developed a condition in which I bite down on my back teeth constantly. It’s been happening for a couple of years. And the only thing I have been told is that it’s all in my mind.
“Isolation can really crush your spirit,” he writes.
Michael Zaharibu Dorrough
P.O. Box 3481,
Corcoran, CA 93212
(Zaharibu was forcibly removed from 4B to 4A during the July 2013 hunger strike)
Another friend of Zaharibu wrote: “We believe it is things of this nature which further prove the positive impact on people’s lives that N.C.T.T. (NARN Collective Think Tank, the movement for positive change for people) Activists continue (and have always) have (had); while simultaneously debunking the lie that Zaharibu and his comrades inside of the N.C.T.T. are “gang members” or anything other than the progressive political activists which they are.”
Giving him a label of “gangster” and denying him visits is cruel and does not enhance the rehabilitation that CDCR is supposed to do.
Zaharibu has been in solitary confinement since more than 24 years. He is an example of why CDCR’s STG policies have failed and are nothing more than cruel Nazi-laws.
Zaharibu sent this poem along with his letter in April, and he wrote underneath: “one of my favorites.”
If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
From: SF Bay View, March 10th, 2013
|Michael Reed Dorrough with his family before he was incarcerated|
I have learned profound lessons from him in the short three months I have known him. In hearing more about his story and the horrendous conditions he lives under, I have been driven to learn more about solitary confinement, why it must be abolished and the resistance against it. I have also been moved to become a part of that resistance in any way I can.
Solitary confinement in the United States is entrenched in the history and contemporary reality of mass incarceration of poor folks and people of color. Mass incarceration based on race is not a new phenomenon. In fact, the penitentiary system was created as an extension of chattel slavery through the Black Codes, in that freed Black folks and often Indigenous people could be detained and imprisoned for ambiguous reasons in order to maintain a slave class and a capitalist system built on exploited labor. This history is evident when looking at the huge numbers of people of color inside prisons today. It is within this racist context that solitary confinement has become a standard among politicians, wardens and administrators in the U.S. prison system.
According to Amnesty International, “More than 3,000 prisoners in California are held in high security isolation units known as Security Housing Units (SHUs), where they are confined for at least 22 and a half hours a day in single or double cells, with no work or meaningful rehabilitation programs or group activities of any kind.” Many of those locked in long-term isolation have been put there because of alleged gang affiliation. The criteria used by the California Department for Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to establish gang membership are unsound. They use “evidence” such as what prisoners are reading, connection – as simple as a greeting – to other prisoners, tattoos and the contents of their mail.
Solitary confinement is akin to torture as it includes inhumane levels of sensory deprivation, extremely limited interaction with the outside world, and poor food and access to healthcare. The torture of isolation not only stems from the conditions of sensory deprivation – no human touch, no fresh air, no natural light, no windows, no sound, often no communication, no exercise, no activities, no warmth in winter – but from the strategically prolonged lengths of stay.
The combination of total isolation for extended periods of time, coerced snitching, the hostilities between racial groups inside, mental abuse and physical violence by guards can thoroughly crush prisoners. There is nothing left to do but unite and act.
Prisoners have been fighting back against inhumane treatment and abuse in the prison system since the conception of it. Two recent racial unity movements started by prisoners inside long-term solitary confinement units in California have been the hunger strike started in the Pelican Bay SHU and the agreement to end hostilities. In writing back and forth with Zaharibu, I focused my questions on these struggles and more generally on multiracial movements outside and inside prison walls.
In the second letter I received from him, I fixated on a particular statement. He said: “The housing of citizens in isolation for any length – 10 days or 30 years – and depriving them of any and all meaningful programs for absolutely no legitimate reason should provoke a sense of outrage. That it is being done … to break human beings should provoke outrage amongst all of those who love democracy.” I realized at that moment that I have limited knowledge about solitary confinement. I sought to find out everything I could about the history, application, conditions and resistance to these atrocious control units. What I read, listened to and saw is torture under the guise of rehabilitation and safety. It is helpful to re-read Zaharibu’s letters with this research fresh in my mind. I am even more filled with outrage!
Although halting racial driven violence and uniting across race is an immense achievement and central to prisoner resistance, there is more to it than singing “We Are the World” by Michael Jackson and calling it a day. By no means am I saying that this is what incarcerated men, women and transgendered folks are doing inside, but that those of us on the outside need to do our homework and learn this history that shapes the current situation.
Zaharibu wrote in response to my questions: “A lot of us have always believed that ending the [state-created] violence and hostilities is crucial to having any kind of chance of changing the realities that we are confronted with daily. And it’s important to put this in a correct historical context. This specific effort by the state has been ongoing for the past 30 years or more.”
“The housing of citizens in isolation for any length – 10 days or 30 years – and depriving them of any and all meaningful programs for absolutely no legitimate reason should provoke a sense of outrage. That it is being done … to break human beings should provoke outrage amongst all of those who love democracy.” As I mentioned before, Zaharibu has been in solitary lockdown for 25 full years. What I did not mention is that he is incarcerated for a crime he did not commit. Like so many other African American men and women locked inside prison walls, he has a completely sound case of innocence that the courts refuse to hear.
He is guilty until proven innocent and, although his attorneys have done so, the color of his skin and his radical political views overshadow his innocence. He is currently struggling, with the help of his family, to get a new trial for his case.
“It not only connects me to life outside of prison but when I am blessed enough to meet someone like you, it connects me to the larger activist community. I consider the prisoner rights movement to be inclusive of the broader abolition movement … It is simply not possible for meaningful lasting change to occur without coalition building … I consider my being able to connect with you and the class there to be part of that coalition building.”
That statement is one of the first things Zaharibu wrote to me in November. The warmth and care that rests in these words is not uncommon in his writing. With each letter I feel more and more seen, cared for and connected to something larger than our correspondence. I am connected to the movement of a people unified to gain humanity back.
“This struggle had to happen. It was inevitable. There is simply no way that people are going to continue to allow themselves to be subjected to the constant assault on their humanity. The disrespectful, degrading, dehumanizing get down that is directed at us at some point has to be responded to. It honestly does not matter what one’s political ideology might be.” – Zaharibu Dorrough
“The time for us to get off our knees is long overdue” – Zaharibu Dorrough
What does it look like for those of us on the other side of these walls to “get off our knees” and support prisoners fighting for dignity, humanity and freedom? Some call it accompaniment or solidarity and, while I respect their praxis and can see where they are coming from, I do not agree with the notion that I am supporting someone else in their struggle. There lies a harmful distancing within that framework that is important to unpack.
With each letter I feel more and more seen, cared for and connected to something larger than our correspondence. I am connected to the movement of a people unified to gain humanity back. I view my participation as stepping up to a struggle that is all of ours to fight. Although we all have differing placements, privileges and entry points into it, that doesn’t mean we aren’t all affected by it. Some examples of how I see my role in the abolition and prisoner rights movements are being in dialogue with prisoners about needs and ideas, working with organizations such as the California Coalition for Women Prisoners and funneling resources that I have access to through the academy into these movements.
I certainly am outraged and will continue to be. I am blessed to continue learning from and sharing outrage with Zaharibu. Like a great man once said, “None of us are free until all of us are free.”
To read more about Zaharibu’s case, go to: http://nctt-shu.blogspot.com/p/zaharibu-dorroughs-case-for-innocence.html and http://zaharibuisinnocent.weebly.com/index.html.
Dendron Utter, a graduate student at the California Institute of Integral Studies studying prison activism with Anthropology Department Chair Andrej Grubacic, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org