“Until there’s action, we’re going to continue to scrutinize and hold your feet to the fire.” – Tom Ammiano, Chair of Assembly Public Safety Committee, to CDCR officials. Click here for a video of the rally and hearing, or here to watch the full hearing
On October 9th, the Public Safety Committees held the first of several joint hearings addressing conditions in California’s Secure Housing Units. The Chair set the tone early, stating, “I don’t want lip service […] Tell us the truth, even if it’s not pleasant.”
The hearing included heartfelt statements by family members of prisoners, formerly incarcerated individuals, and advocates. Steven Czifra, UC Berkeley student and member of All of Us or None, who spent seven years in prison, a
nd three years in the SHU told the 100+ in attendance: “When I walked into that torture chamber, I walked in a whole human being, when I left, I was a deeply fractured human being.”
We also heard powerful statements from Dolores Canales, of California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement; Dorsey Nunn, of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children; Margaret Winter, of the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union; Keramet Reiter, professor at UC Irvine; and many heart breaking public comments.
Remember, if it were not for the enormous pressure from people in the SHU, their loved ones and allies on the outside, these hearings would not be taking place. As Ammiano stated, we need to hold Governor Brown, CDCR, and other legislatures’ feet to the fire.
An apt opportunity is at the first hearing for the newly formed Select Committee on Justice Reinvestment, investigating prison overcrowding and conditions and “whatever might work: updating sentencing laws, strengthening effective local approaches, and improving education and programs that break the cycle of poverty,” Speaker Pérez said.“The Committee’s goal will be real data-based, long-term solutions that will help us stop spending excessive money on prisons and allow us to focus more on investments that grow our economy and provide opportunity.”
This hearing is taking place Monday, October 21st, at 10am in the Capitol Building, Sacramento. Details regarding the room number, agenda, and names of those on the panels are forthcoming. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan to attend.
This Friday, October 18th, United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, will be speaking in both LA (9:30-11:30am) and Berkeley (6-8pm) discussing solitary confinement in the U.S. and its relation to international law.