Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Testifying in Sacramento about conditions in the SHU

Yesterday I attended the Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing on CDCR Secured Housing Unit conditions.  It was so amazing that I can not find the words to describe the events, and I don't have to because you can read the Solitary Watch article below.

But, I will tell you that the families who came from all over California to stand up and testify about the conditions their loved ones have experienced in the SHU...they were the true rock stars in my eyes.  These wonderful family members PACKED the hearing room, and when the balcony area was opened.. that was packed, too.  The hallway had spill over and groups gathered around to watch the hearing on the TV posted there.

In addition to the large number of family members, the Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (made up of about a dozen prisoner rights organizations) were in full attendance.  Their members organized the entire day... starting with a lobbying blitz at 9:00 am, a rally on the steps of the capital at 11:30 and then the hearing.  Some of the coalition members provided expert testimony during the formal part of the hearing, and the rest lined up with the families to speak during the public comment section.  Another amazing group I am so proud to be associated with. 

I can confidently say that there were over 300 people there.  And as we were all wearing pink, heart-shaped post it notes on our shirts, I could see exactly who was there to support our cause.  Except for the experts who would testify, members of the press, Assembly members there to observe and about 10 CDCR officials...that room was full of supporters with pink hearts !!  It was BEAUTIFUL.

After the expert panels spoke, these brave families lined up at the mike during the public comment section and told the TRUTH about what they have experienced and witnessed as they stood by their loved ones who have been in the SHU for 5-10-15-20-25 and even 30+ years. Their experiences, along with the powerful testimony by coalition members and supporters... It was AMAZING!

I would like to give a big "shout out" to State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, the Chair of the CA Committee on Public Safety, for convening the hearing... and to the Committee members who stayed and listened until EVERYONE who came had a chance to speak during the public comment section.  Thank you for giving us a voice.

Assemblyman Ammiano said this was just the first of many hearings about conditions in the SHU, validation policies and other abuses by CDCR.  With the families, friends, supporters and the public at large continuing to push for reform, I am confident that things will change.

You can read an article about the hearing here: Historic California Assembly Hearing on Solitary Confinement

Or better yet, watch the hearing here:  Assembly Public Safety Committee: Dept. Corrections Rehabilitation Secure Housing Unit (1 of 2)


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