Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Angels on the Inside

In an attempt to see if Bryan had been sent back to Pelican Bay, I determined that he is still at Corcoran.  I spoke with his counselor, the CDCR employee who has been assigned to handle his paperwork, programs and other items.  He takes the time to tell Bryan when I call, which always comes as a surprise to Bryan.  That tells me so much about what life is like in the SHU, that something so simple would be so noteworthy.

Throughout my conversation with his Corcoran counselor today it was very clear to me that he  had no idea how exceptionally wonderful Bryan felt about going to yard outside, in the sun.  When I told him that for 16 years Bryan has been going alone to a cement area smaller than a shipping container, he seemed surprised.  This man also thought it was very strange when I inquired if Bryan was getting mail. When I explained  that mail was withheld at PB during the hunger strike, he again expressed surprise and asked," Why would they do that?"  When I suggested the reason might be retaliation for going on hunger striking again, it was almost as if he couldn't believe it. I think what happens at Pelican Bay SHU is outside the awareness of many, many, CDCR employees statewide.  I can hardly fault them, none of us knew.

I must say that although the situation at Pelican Bay SHU is most desperate, so bleak as to have hundreds, even thousands choose to hunger strike to the death, that there are persons involved here and there who have a bit of compassion.  These CDCR employees somehow see past the IGI (Institutional Gang Investigator) propaganda which paints Bryan and men like him as animals, deserving of the most despised treatment.

I just now am remembering that Bryan's Pelican Bay counselor did him the same kindness back in July.  Just after Bryan returned from his hospital stay to Crescent City on 7-26, she made a special effort to go and tell him that I had called and informed him that I would visit him the upcoming Saturday.  What ever the reason, I am grateful for it. Bryan even more so. Perhaps it because we rallied to reveal the conditions of the SHU that CDCR employees are also seeing the situation for what it is.
Since May, I have had the opportunity to visit with CDCR employees, usually related to their official capacity.  But when I was staying in Crescent City this summer, more that once did someone to talk to me about the situation in an informal the man who approached me in a Crescent City restaurant to say he was a CO on the Pelican Bay main line (regular part of the prison).  He said that he and many COs at Pelican Bay don't like what goes on in the SHU and were supportive of the hunger strike.  When I asked him how he knew who I was....he said, "I read your blog, many of us do."  How about that!?!

The first blog related event that Bryan shared with me was from July.  On  Day 13 of the first hunger strike he was at medical for some test or another and a CDCR employee asked him, "Are you Bryan?".  Bryan was stunned!  Bryan is his middle name, no one knows him by that name at CDCR except friends.  At our very next visit he told me about it and stated,"Julie, that had your fingerprints all over it."  We had a good laugh about the effectiveness of maintaining a blog.

So to all the CDCR employees who read this blog, I thank you for the small kindnesses you do for the prisoners as you go about your duties.  It means more to the men and their families than you will every know.

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