Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The memo signed by CDCR Undersecretary Scott Kernan and the mediators

Bryan sent me his copy of the memo that was distributed to the men as proof that a settlement had been reached and the hunger strike was over.  It is the document agreed to by the Prisoner Representatives and then signed by the mediation team..

It is not a CDCR memo, per se, but a summation of conversations. Attorney Carol Strickman spoke with many staffers about the proposed changes that were in the works and saw a document of about 35 pages across the table that they said had the specifics...she did not actually review it, just saw it from across the table.  She then asked if she could write a summary of the things she was told that were "in the works" and present that for signatures.  CDCR Undersecretary Kernan agreed.  So this document was created by Carol, reviewed by the Prisoner Representatives and then signed off by the 4 mediators and CDCR Undersecretary Scott Kernan.  Note the "acknowledged & agreed" hand written after his signature

This is the document that was presented to Bryan and the other hunger strikers to convince them to come off the hunger strike.  You can see the number 192 showing through on page two.  That is because they wrote his cell number, 192, in magic marker on the memo so it would be distributed to his cell.  Bryan and the 4 other hunger strikers from Pelican Bay housed in his area were a bit concerned because there were no signatures of Prisoner Representatives, but reasoned that all those attorneys, who are known and respected by all the prisoners, probably wouldn't have signed it if it wasn't OK.  But just to be sure, CDCR pulled the four of the five prisoners from Pelican Bay SHU currently staying at Corcoran ASU to conference (# 5 was in the hospital).  One of the 4 was a Prisoner Representative and confirmed that he took that phone call reviewing the document and had agreed to it.  That was Thursday, Oct. 13.  Bryan was enjoying a bologna sandwich by 9 pm that night.  He described it as "20 minutes of heaven", which is how long it took him to get it down.

Speaking of Kernan, he just retired after 30 years with CDCR .... according to this interview,  under the terms of his contract, 30 years of service means he qualifies for 90% of his annual pay...each year, for the rest of his life.  The article says he is 50 years do the math.

I'm hoping that CDCR doesn't use his retirement as a way to wiggle out of honoring this agreement.  That's why it is so important for family and friends of prisoners and ALL the citizens of the world to keep the pressure on CDCR and Governor Brown to follow through with the agreements spelled out in the document below:

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.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A letter from Bryan - written 10/13 thru 10/16

The hunger strike ended on Thursday, 10/13.  I just got a letter from Bryan today written 10/13 thru 10/16 and mailed Monday.  Delivered in 4 days!

He has this message for everyone:

Please let it be known out there how deeply appreciative everyone is.
   Without all the pressure y'all put on Sacramento and the overwhelming way in which everyone very publicly rejected CDCr's propaganda of "worst of the worst" and demanded that we were/are much more than the crimes we've been convicted of or prison gang labels, this never would've been achieved.

I think
that's even fundamentally changed the way even many of us in here see ourselves now.  We've all collectively shattered 30-35 years of CDCr status quo in 3 months.  We should be proud of that.  Not necessarily with the material gains (though it/they definitely make SHU life better) but proud of truly exposing the inherently wrong and unjust policies of how gang validation is implemented, maintained and ultimately abused by way of keeping men forever housed in solitary confinement.

Other things Bryan shared in the letter:

He lost 35 lbs and was 145 lbs at the lowest.

He is doing well, he said one man he knew of was actually hospitalized "due to his labs being so out of whack." (blood tests)

As of the 16th, they 
are all medically released so he said they will take the bus back to PB together.  He expects to be at PB this week, by the time I got this letter.

From the sounds of his letter,  PB SHU guys think the ASU (administrative segregation unit) at Corcoran was like a vacation (relatively).  One must remember that Bryan has been in solitary confinement for 16 years, only leaving the windowless cement cell to go to a slightly larger cement room with a cover over it to "exercise".  Always alone, never experiencing the grass, birds, or the sun directly.  16 years!

While at Corcoran ASU for medical supervision and treatment, Bryan and the men from the Pelican Bay SHU had a chance to experience things they haven't for decades.  For instance, rather than a cement space to exercise, they went to "yard" in wire cages similar to dog kennels.  They each had their own cage (with a toilet in it!) and each cage was separated by 2-3 feet so they could SEE each other.. to quote Bryan...

"Going out there was pure BLISS, Julie.  Three straight hours of sun in 85 to 90 degree clear Central Valley farm land weather.  My buddy was out there a few cages down and I don't think we stopped smiling one time.  I have no doubt that as we stood there in our boxers soaking up the sun chatting about how fantastic it was and how cool it would be to do our time here, that ALL of our neighbors in the other cages think we're zip damn nuts."

Geesh, you think he was writing from Acapulco.  I guess it's all relative.

He said he wished he could stay at Corcoran... "They run this ASU with a lot of professionalism and don't seem to carry that weird disdainful attitude that seems ever present at PBSP.  Everyone just seems like they're simply doing their job... minus that "you're an animal" edge.

Anyway, that's the Bryan report


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mail Call - I got a letter from Bryan !

I sent mail to Bryan the other day....
Saturday 10-15-11

Dear Bryan,
My dear friend! I hope this letter finds you on the mend and feeling proud and happy about all that has been accomplished. I am still walking around in a daze of wonder. I knew that you were not at PB on Wednesday, even before you arrived at Corcoran – I have my ways! Early Thursday morning, I tracked you down at ASU-1 and called Mr. Gonzales, but he was in committee with the other counselors. I was told to try again in late afternoon so I met a friend for coffee. (yum, coffee...won't it be nice to get your coffee back?)

Anyway, the funniest thing happened when I learned the strike was over. I was contacted almost immediately after the mediators signed the memo and I had to dash home to get the phone number for ASU-1. When Mr. Gonzales answered (he was very nice), after brief introductions and an explanation that I was calling about you, I said, “Have you heard the news?” Pause. “What news?” Pause. “That the hunger strike is over?” Long pause. I continued, “I was going to ask several questions, but they have all changed with this new development”. He said, “Why don't you go ahead and ask your questions?” I began going down the list, Is Bryan there? (yes), How is he doing? (fine), etc. 

Suddenly, he gets very excited and says, “someone just handed me a memo”, and he just started reading it out loud to me. It appeared to be the memo that they got telling them that the HS was over with instructions to give the hunger strikers the attached papers, 1. the memo signed by the mediators and 2. a document about how to resume eating safely after a hunger strike. Bryan, I think he learned that the HS ended at that moment, while we were on the phone together. I could hear surprise, relief and even happiness in his voice.

After that sunk in, I resumed asking my questions – ”Can Bryan get mail, paper/stamps, visits?” Yes! Yes! Yes! I ended by asking if he would let you know I called. Yes! How about that !?!?!

Today, I got an email from Debbie with their phone number; I immediately called her and she put Pops on the phone. Bryan, I liked him and I think he liked me...we talked for 10-15 minutes about everything that has happened. He is soooo happy that you are OK and looks forward to coming to see you. He just had a checkup and other than being told to lose some weight, he is fine. He is going to fill out the visit form so everything is in place when the opportunity to visit you presents itself. I'm not even sure if you will be sent back to PB or stay at Corcoran. So he's just going to get the paperwork going. How about that !?!?!

You will be very proud of me. Upon hearing you could get visits, I looked up flights from Seattle to Bakersfield (about $500) and had to stop myself and laugh. Of course, including hotel and rental car, that is too expensive, but for the moment I could imagine the look on your face as I strolled into the Corcoran visiting area. Ha ha ha If money were no object, I would already be there. As it is, once you settle in somewhere, there will be plenty of time to schedule a visit. Until then, you will be very busy reading your mail after it all catches up with you. Well, I'm out of room on my large sized postcard. Bye for now. 

Your devoted friend,


When I checked my PO Box, there was a letter from Bryan written on 10-8-11, postmarked in Crescent City, CA 10-12-11, received in Settle, WA on 10-17-11.  It took 9 Days.  About average.

Mail into prison moves slowly.  After I write a letter and post it via US Postal Service, it arrives in the prison mail room to be searched for contraband and other innocent items that are not allowed. After the mail room is finished, SHU prisoners have an additional step...mail goes to the Institutional Gang Investigators who look for secret codes and other things related to gang issues.  Then it is delivered to Bryan. When he writes to me, that process is reversed... Bryan, IGI, mail room, USPS then to me.

Postcards don't need to be searched for contraband and get delivered much faster.

Most discouragingly, anytime they want to retaliate against prisoners, individually or collectively, they will hold the mail and not let it through.  For instance, during this second hunger strike (Sept 26-Oct 13), they completely cut all mail that was sent to hunger strikers.  In Bryan's latest letter he says there has been no mail delivered to them since Sept 23.  

Conversely, I have gotten three letters from Bryan since the hunger strike began...(written on 9/27-received on 10/7) (written on 10/1-received on 10/11) (written on 10/8-received on 10-17)

Here is a scan of the mail room restrictions from Pelican Bay.  I have never had anything rejected or removed by the mail room.

IGI has only stopped one of my letters.  When this happened, Bryan got a notice that a piece of mail was stopped.  I also received a notice that my mail was stopped "pending Investigation" (see the form below) I never heard anything else, so the investigators must have not found anything.  Bryan could have just requested it be mailed back to me at his own expense (see the DISPOSITION section) but we didn't think of that...he preferred to have a hearing to find out why they were investigating information in the letter.  

He filed a 602 (grievance) and got a hearing about the letter.  At that hearing (about a month later?)  IGI told him that I was "discussing an inmate in Washington State"  I probably was telling Bryan a story about Greg, who is in a WA prison.  I rarely refer to Greg for this very reason, and only in the most general terms...I can't even remember what I wrote.  Note the IGI #1 handwritten on the 1st rejection...


Saturday, October 15, 2011

He leads by example

My heart is so full.  After experiencing a spiritual or personal milestone, I must retreat to a quiet place and process all that has happened.  

To sit quietly with the monumental reality.          
To allow the joy of the moment to soak into my soul.    
To pray and express my gratitude to the Eternal Source of Love. 

Thursday, I needed to reflect upon why things unfolded as they did.  What was it about the choice of a hunger strike that made this amazing change actually happen?  Why was I drawn so strongly to accompany Bryan on this journey?  Why was it so important to me to be present to him, to be a witness of his humanity and sacrifice as he put his life on the line for the common good?

It is because Bryan exemplifies spiritual humility and therefore embodies spiritual power.

Political power is the power to influence others through coercion.  It is the power to hire and fire, to punish, to imprison, even to kill.  Or to threaten such things.  Political power has nothing to do with wisdom or benevolence.  It resides solely in money or position.  This is why it is often referred to as temporal power, because these things are temporary.  They can be stripped away overnight.

Spiritual power is the power to influence others through one's own being -- by example, by kindness, by humor, by wisdom and love.  It is exercised at least as often by the poor as the wealthy, by the lowly as the high and mighty.  Indeed, its hallmark is humility.  The more spiritually powerful people become, the more aware they are that their power is a gift from God and has little, if anything, to do with their achievements -- that it is not theirs, but God's power acting through them.  And usually they are surprised by the extent of their influence for the good.

                                                               ~ M. Scott Peck,  A World Waiting to be Born

Political power is not inherently bad, it is just temporary; it can be given, it can be taken away.  Political power is a matter of externals and spiritual power a matter of what is within.  Spiritual power it can never be taken away.  

This is why CDCR moved the 11 representatives, their 2 cellies and Bryan to Ad Seg.  The representatives are examples of spiritual humility and power and they also hold political power, bestowed upon then by the men who chose them as representatives.  It was important for CDCR to separate them from the others, to cut off that tie.

But why Bryan?  Bryan is not a representative, he has no political power.  However, he is the embodiment of humility, commitment and willingness to sacrifice.  It was his ability to lead by example that made him so dangerous to CDCR.  And it was important that he also be separated from the others.  I don't know if CDCR knew why they needed to separate him from the men, but I did.  I knew exactly why he was moved to AdSeg, he possesses the ability to influence because he has spiritual power.

People are drawn to those who are like Bryan, it is his pure example that draws us to him.  Bryan doesn't use the construct of God to express his spirituality, I do.  Nevertheless, what I saw in him is a universal truth.  I was drawn to be with him and ease his suffering in any way I could from behind glass and in letters.  And in being present, I was a witness to all that I have described above...what a blessing.  Thursday, I witnessed a miracle.  Through out this entire hunger strike, we were all witnesses to a miracle. 


Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Hunger Strike is over, read the press release cross posted here.

For Bryan and the men at Pelican Bay SHU, the hunger strike is over, but a few other prisons will continue their hunger strike for reasons related to their particular institution.....

I spoke with Bryan's counselor at Corcoran, Mr. Gonzales.  He said Bryan is doing well and that he will tell Bryan I have checked in and know what is going on.  He said Bryan is fine at this time. More on this later, but for now I'll let you read the press release just issued and cross posted from our Prisoner Hunger Strike Coalition  -- 

Hunger Strikers at Pelican Bay End Strike After Nearly 3 Weeks, Strike Continues at Other Prisons

Mediators who met with hunger strike representatives at Pelican Bay, one of whom had been transferred to Corcoran due to the strike, confirm that prisoners there have decided to stop their hunger strike after nearly 3 weeks. The prisoners have cited a memo from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) detailing a comprehensive review of every Security Housing Unit (SHU) prisoner in California whose SHU sentence is related to gang validation. The review will evaluate the prisoners’ gang validation under new criteria and could start as early as the beginning of next year. “This is something the prisoners have been asking for and it is the first significant step we’ve seen from the CDCR to address the hunger strikers’ demands,” says Carol Strickman, a lawyer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, “But as you know, the proof is in the pudding. We’ll see if the CDCR keeps its word regarding this new process.”

The mediation team stated that while the memo indicates statewide changes in the gang validation process for SHU prisoners, the CDCR did not address the status of hunger strikers at Calipatria or Salinas Valley prisons, who are not SHU prisoners. All sources say that at this point, these prisoners will continue to refuse food and stand behind the 5 core demands for all prisoners in California. A recent letter from a prisoner at Calipatria states “Men have…placed their lives on the line in order to put a stoppage to all these injustices we are subjected to day in and day out. People would rather die than continue living under their current conditions. …It is a privilege, an honor to be a part of the struggle, to be a part of history for the betterment of all those inside these cement walls… I will go as far as my body allows me to go.”

Gang validation is a practice that the CDCR uses throughout California prisons.  Hundreds of prisoners who have been validated at Calipatria have been held in Adminstrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) for as long as four years, awaiting transfer to Pelican Bay.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Where's Bryan??? He has been moved, *** UPDATE 10-13-11 - Corcoran Prison

Knowing other family members who have loved ones in prison is a blessing.  To keep connections strong, after I check emails, I usually followup with phone calls to coalition members and then family members.  Of course, many of the most informed and productive coalition members are family members.

Today, when I was on one of these calls, I was able to determine that one of the representatives who was in ASU (Administrative Segregation) with Bryan has been moved....or I should say "on the move".  Confirmed with PBSP Public Information Officer Lt. Chris Acosta by the prisoner's wife, this man was on his way to a location/facility for "high level care".  The thought immediately hit me, "Is Bryan being moved?"

To determine the location of any inmate in CDCR, I go to the "Inmate Locator Page" and enter the person's CDCR number or last name.  Then the information pops up like so....I have done an example with the name "Carpenter"

NameCDCR #AgeAdmission DateCurrent LocationMap Link
CARPENTER, ALBERT VAUGHN AC50745203/12/2010San QuentinDirections
CARPENTER, ANTONIO DANTE AH45392505/25/2011San QuentinDirections
CARPENTER, BARRY WAYNEF088403001/10/2006DeuelDirections
CARPENTER, CHAD MICHAEL F130943301/23/2006ChinoDirections
CARPENTER, CHAD THOMAS G339102309/26/2008TehachapiDirections
CARPENTER, CHARLES LOREN V085804110/02/2003IronwoodDirections
CARPENTER, CHARLETTE DENISE X199112608/10/2006Valley State PrisonDirections
CARPENTER, COREY LANCE E928983904/16/1991Salinas ValleyDirections
CARPENTER, CURT CARY H761374405/07/1993SusanvilleDirections

The inmate locator said Bryan was still at Pelican Bay.

Being familiar with the system means there are many legitimate ways to get information.  For instance, after talking to a second family member who has someone in ASU being moved, I tried to call Acosta to find out about Bryan.  I couldn't get through to Acosta and the inmate locator said Bryan was still at Pelican Bay.  So I called visiting to try to set up a visit with Bryan this weekend, as is my right as an approved visitor.  I was told that because he was a hunger striker, all visits would be denied until he began eating.  When I inquired whether the denial of visits was due to not eating or being in ASU, this CO looked that up and determined that "he is no longer housed there" -- clarifying that he was no longer at Pelican Bay at all.  When I told her that the inmate locator showed him at PB, she said the website takes a while to catch up.

OK, so I'm doing the math...three of the prisoners moved from the SHU to ASU are now on the move again.  About this point (day 15) in the July HS, CDCR moved the most physically compromised to Corcoran prison, where there is an accredited hospital.  They said it was because some of the older/sicker hunger strikers were failing, and they decided to move those who had lost 30 lbs or more.   Last time, Bryan lost 29 lbs, so he didn't go.

Here's how I think this is playing out, and this is speculation on my part, but it is the "put two and two together" reasoning that serves me so well....

Pelican Bay only has an infirmary, and feeding by nasal tube to the stomach is a procedure that can't be done there....but it can be done at the hospital section in Corcoran.  I believe that CDCR plans to throw out the explicit instructions of the men NOT to receive artificial nutrition (known as force feeding when it is done against your will) and/or get a court order allowing them to override the Advance Directives the men signed refusing said measure.  There are several layers of CDCR policy that all contradict each other and  legal  injunctions can be obtained, but the bottom line --- we are coming to the situation that was averted last hunger, including Bryan, are going "to the tube".

I cannot stress enough how terrified Bryan is of force feeding, even more than death.  In visit, he told me that the legal right to invade his body under the ruse of "force feeding" allows the opportunity for incredible torture.  Personally, I have two friends who had a tube put down their nose for medical purposes and even with the most gentle approach, it was horrible and painful...imagine if a mean-spirited,  "let's break this prison hunger strike" application of this technique were used!   Under prison force feeding protocol, they "get the tube", are fed, unhooked, then chained to a restraining chair so they won't vomit.  After a period of time, they are thrown back in their cells... only to be fed again every three days.  That's a lot of cramming tubes into their already fragile bodies.
It is lose/lose... torture by the feeding tube, or death from starvation. Wouldn't it be better for CDCR to just address the reasonable demands of the men?  To follow through on the promises made which led to the suspension of the hunger strike in July?

This is how Bryan told me things would evolve. He said, "we have to 'get to the tube' against our will or die before it will disturb politicians and the general pubic enough to support us"

This next development it isn't good, but it is how it must be before CDCR will budge from their "no negotiations" position.

A letter from Bryan - written Oct. 1 from AdSeg

Yesterday, I got a letter from Bryan written on October 1, which was day 6 of the hunger strike.  I will type it out here so it is easy to read...he writes so small.  I put an scanned image below.
Sat 10-1-11
First of all I send you my utmost love & respect.  Obviously I have no idea if you will even receive this and will be shocked if you actually do.  Thursday they came to my cell around 10:00 am and told me I had an interview concerning the hunger strike.  Instead, I was led out into the hallway along with 4 other prisoners from my block and escorted out of SHU over to ASU.  I was then placed into an empty cell with 2 blankets, 2 sheets, some filthy worn out ASU laundry and a fish kit (tooth powder/brush, cleanser, forms, 3 pieces of blank paper & 3 blank envelopes.)  Half of which is/was missing.  They brought over all 11 representatives, 2 of their cellies and me.

This is blatant retaliation for our participation in a peaceful, constitutionally protected, protest.  We have now been here for 3 days completely isolated in these empty cells.  We have received no paperwork, have not gone to committee in the required 72 hour time limit, and it's clear that all of the COs here were ordered to keep us in the dark, as they "know nothing".  We are now on day 6 of this protest and have not been weighed or seen any medical staff.  Several men are without their glasses and one man was never issued his 12:00 o'clock medication yesterday.  So here we sit in these strip cells, isolated and punished for our demand for humane conditions.  We expected NOTHING LESS from CDCR and its policy makers.

Julie, you know my heart and you've seen my will, this was a grave mistake.  These attempts to further brutalize my mind and isolate my body have only set my resolve in stone.

Please contact my family and let them know I am alright despite the circumstances.  I will not be broken.  Also please try to ASAP me some paper, 5 envelopes & stamps.  I have nothing here apart from one more blank envelope and a trust withdrawal slip to cover the postage.  I would really appreciate it.  As for my health, I am holding up fine.  My body is tired but it's early.  Love you my friend, please try not to worry too much.

Love always,

(Misspoke, I was seen on day 3 by a doc, weighed 178, but none of the rest of the guys have seen anyone.)

Note: he wrote his letter on the back of a page from the ASU orientation handbook.  The vertical gray streaks in his scanned letter are the words showing through.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Chief Medical Officer of Pelican Bay, Dr. Michael Sayre... medical neglect and abuse of prisoners

Hi all,  I just sent this email to an investigative reporter for the New York Times....


Hi there,

Julie Tackett here, Ron Ahnen of California Prison Focus introduced us via email.  We spoke briefly by phone about letters sent to me by Pelican Bay hunger striker Bryan.

I believe that there is an investigative story surrounding the credentials of Dr. Michael Sayer, Chief Medical Officer of Pelican Bay State Prison (CA) and the medical care provided there. 

Below is an excerpt from Bryan's June 21, 2011 letter to me, providing detailed information about disciplinary sanctions Sayre has received over the years.  Bryan stresses over and over how the inmates are terrified of this man.  In visit he told me that the legal right to invade his body under the ruse of "force feeding" allows the opportunity for incredible torture.  Personally, I have had two friends who had a tube down their nose for medical purposes and even with the most gentle approach, it was horrible and painful...imagine if a mean-spirited, "let's break this prison hunger strike" application of this technique were used! 

Here is the information Bryan sent me
on June 21 as we were preparing for the upcoming July hunger strike.  I had told him about my being in Crescent City camping during the hunger strike and that all family and friends could to contact me for support, etc.  We also spoke of my growing connection with the coalition, etc.  He went back to the pod and shared all that with the guys in his area.  Here is what the men discussed and asked him to share with me.....

6-21-11 letter from Bryan to Julie

".....They also really wanted me to press our concern regarding "Doctor" Michael C. Sayre, "M.D."  We think it could be helpful to you to look into the Dept. of Health Professional Licensing Services Medical Investigations Unit's, Confidential Investigative Report, Prepared for the Medical Disciplinary Board, Case #92-11-0022MD.

On 7-7-92 an inmate at the Walla Walla State Penitentiary (Washington State)  sustained a fractured right ankle and Dr. Scott Hutson scheduled him for surgery.  In short, Michael Sayre was the anesthesiologist at St. Mary Medical Center and ended up being directly responsible for the inmate's death.  According to hospital Quality Assurance reports (pg.83), mechanical ventilation of this patient did not occur because the machine was never turned on resulting in sever hypoxic cerebral damage.  This story was reported in the Union-Bulletin as well on Sun, Sept. 20, 1992.  The victim was Leonard Stephens.

It would also be diligent to ask CPF if they have any information on Sayre's involvement in the forced feeding of a mentally ill man here which drew a complaint and if they have a copy of the declaration of Everett D. Allen, MD? Believe me when I tell you that any person who cared even in the slightest about basic human decency would be shocked at two or three of these complaints but the totality of it all floors me that this man still works in health care.

We're horrified at the inevitability that this man will be directly responsible for our care once we reach the depth of the strike.  (emphasis mine) But I personally will not be deterred from my commitment to prove to this administration that I've taken my last meal under these conditions, as of the 1st, even if it means almost certain physical abuse and disregard of humane care at this man's hands.  All I can do is hope that your voice at that point is heard.  It could really make the difference we've discussed.  But I'm not fooling myself...this will be brutal. Soft handed or hard...."

At that time, I tried to look up the news article andthink I passed on the info to someone at the coalition, but this was June, and no one really knew what was happening at that time.  I'm regretting that I dropped the ball on investigating Sayre, but perhaps now is the time to do it and there are better investigative minds who can followup on the information Bryan provided.

Additionally, there have been many substantiated reports that Sayre is denying medical care to inmates at the direction of the Institutional Gang Investigations Unit and that he is withholding medication from the hunger strikers of Pelican Bay.   An update posted October 7 at the “Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity” website stated that “medical conditions are also worsening for strikers throughout the state. We’ve received reports that after 12 days of no food, prisoners are once again losing severe weight and fainting. One hunger striker at Pelican Bay was denied his medication and consequently suffered from a heart attack and is now is an outside hospital in Oregon.”

Bryan required a 5 day stay at the hospital due to complications from the July hunger strike and is one of the hunger strikers who has recently been moved to Administrative Segregation, with only a jumpsuit, thin mattress and thin blanket.  With temperatures in Crescent City in the low 50's, Pelican Bay is running the air conditioner full blast in AdSeg.

 It is getting late in the game, the hunger strikers will be reaching conditions requiring artificial nourishment with a week so we are going to be confronted with this soon.   I'm hoping you find this a timely and newsworthy investigative piece. 

Julie Tackett


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Update on Bryan...he's strong!

I spoke with the person who was able to interview Bryan and she said he is looking very strong physically (considering).  Some of the men are so deteriorated physically that they will literally lay their heads on the table after 5 minutes of talking and say, "I need to take a break".  Not our Bryan!

He is strong in his body and in his heart.  He has a "fire in the belly" for justice and is totally committed to the moral correctness of this peaceful protest.  She said he was in good spirits and appreciated all the love we sent his way.  He sends his love to all of us.

As for the conditions in AdSeg, they are as have been reported.  He has a jumpsuit, a mattress and a blanket.  The air conditioning makes it freezing cold. Oh, they also have the watch caps (knit beanie type hat) that were given to them as a concession after the last hunger strike.  I don't know if he has one, he threw his away when they gave it to him in July.

He has received no mail since the hunger strike began.  Their property has been packed up from their SHU cells and put into the property room (storage).  Legally, their legal paperwork is to be available to them, but there are reports that that is not happening, so it sounds like legal mail is not getting through, either. Or if it comes through, it is speculated that it is being examined first, which is illegal but par for the course at Pelican Bay.

They are told that all they need to do is eat and they can go back their SHU cells, get their mail and resume visits.  So the battle lines are still drawn between CDCR and the hunger strikers.  No negotiations, and CDCR is coming at them hard, legally and illegally, in any way to break them.  Bryan is up for the continuation of this action until things move in the right direction.  Period.

Here is a link to an article from Oct.7 in the New York Times, the mainstream media is starting to pick up their coverage of the hunger strike.

I have spoken with his mom and close friends and we are all much relieved to learn that Bryan is OK.  It is very draining to fear for him and all of the others who are suffering so much at this time, but I try to remember that I need to stay strong as well.  Fear only saps energy and if Bryan can stay strong, so can I.

Bryan sends his love...

I had a day-long commitment which kept me away from the phone, I just checked my voice mail:

1.  Dr. Sayre, chief medical officer for PBSP, called in response to my request for Bryan's weight.  As of today, Bryan's weight is 153, down 22 lbs from his regular weight of 175.

2.  I also had a voice mail from the legal person who interviewed Bryan today.   She said he appreciates the messages of support and that he sends his love.  She also said, "he looks great" and "he looks like he is really hanging in there".  Her message said we could talk tomorrow as she is recovering from the all night drive to Crescent City and a full round of interviews today.  A well deserved rest !!!!

That's all I have for tonight, I know I will sleep much better than last night.  My very first question will be about their mail.  But that is just extra credit, what I/we all really wanted to know is that he is OK, and for now he is... :-)

I will update this post tomorrow when I have more detailed information.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ad Seg...Good thing, Bad thing, Who knows

Before I begin posting about Bryan's situation, which appears to have gone from very, very bad to even worse, I want to share this story about remaining in the present moment and avoiding stress and worry.

 Good thing, Bad thing, Who knows

There was once a farmer who owned a horse and had a son. 

One day, his horse ran away. The neighbors came to express their concern: "Oh, that's too bad. How are you going to work the fields now?" The farmer replied: "Good thing, Bad thing, Who knows?"

In a few days, his horse came back and brought another horse with her. Now, the neighbors were glad: "Oh, how lucky! Now you can do twice as much work as before!" The farmer replied: "Good thing, Bad thing, Who knows?"

The next day, the farmer's son fell off the new horse and broke his leg. The neighbors were concerned again: "Now that he is incapacitated, he can't help you around, that's too bad." The farmer replied: "Good thing, Bad thing, Who knows?"

Soon, the news came that a war broke out, and all the young men were required to join the army. The villagers were sad because they knew that many of the young men will not come back. The farmer's son could not be drafted because of his broken leg. His neighbors were envious: "How lucky! You get to keep your only son." The farmer replied: "Good thing, Bad thing, Who knows?"


To repeat, Bryan's situation appears to have gone from very, very bad to even worse.  But I can promise you that he is still drawing breath.  I have word that he is one of 15 men who have been moved from their SHU cells to AdSeg (Administrative Segregation.)  It is a hole even deeper than the property, or any items other than t-shirts, boxers and a thin blanket.  Currently, the temperature in Crescent City is 45 degrees and there are reports that CDCR is running the air conditioners full blast.

Since the hunger strike resumed on Sept. 26, all visits for hunger strikers have been denied, but for those in AdSeg, there are rumors that the mail is cut completely... conversely, there is also some word that they get three envelopes and a few sheets of paper.  Not that that does them any good, at this point in the last hunger strike, Bryan was too weak to even write.

Here is the good news.  Tomorrow, legal representatives from the Bay Area have interviews scheduled with several prisoners.  Bryan is on the list to be interviewed!!  One of the lawyers who knows that Bryan is my friend, called and said he was on the list.  I then called the person doing the interviews and she said she would request to interview Bryan and report back to me on his condition, which I will post here late tomorrow (no earlier than 10 pm).  So, things look bad, but at least we will know what is going on.

Now I will get into some information about the hunger strike and share with you a conversation that Bryan and I had before the July HS started.  If you are faint of heart, be forewarned, this is a very hard position he is taking:

Bryan was convinced that it would be a small number of strikers from the Short Corridor willing to go to the death, who would be key to the success of their peaceful protest.  There was some discussion/disagreement among the collective about taking this to a mass HS level as shrinking numbers might be perceived as CDCR breaking the strike.  As a group, although there was discussion, they did agree with the concept that large numbers could go as long as possible out of solidarity.  With an estimate that 12,000 men were not eating last week and the numbers going down, it is important to remember that is was the original intent... to keep it small but intense.

At this point, the men know that the next step is for several of them to "get to the tube" or be force feed.  This horrible procedure is painful in the best of circumstance, but with retaliatory intentions, force feeding will give CDCR the ability to inflict tremendous pain and suffering.  Bryan knows this and it is his greatest fear, even greater than the fear of death.  As his emergency and medical contact, Bryan designated me on his Advance Directive (DNR) to carry out his wishes when he is in a diminished capacity and can no longer speak for himself.  When the  CDCR calls me to ask for permission to force feed him or provide medical care, I will say no.  Bryan's mother, sister and other family members have all been informed by Bryan of this fact and understand what must be done and why.  It is a hard thing to do and perhaps Bryan wanted to spare his mother.  I am sharing this now so you won't be shocked or angry when the time comes.

Bryan also told me that in order for enough people to become aware of the tortuous situation in the SHU, it may take several deaths to get the mainstream media to cover the story adequately.  Bryan knows this and expects to be one of the first to fall.  He was sent to the hospital in town for 5 days of life-saving treatment after the last hunger strike and almost died.  He doesn't write of "if" but "when".  I pray he is wrong.

This site is about the truth of what is happening to Bryan and what he is choosing to do. He is willing to lay down his life on the hopes that someday he can get out of the Shu and that no one else ever has to live is such torturous conditions.  I have intentionally left out many brutal truths about what he expects in these coming days, because I do not want to speculate or cause any unnecessary concerns about things that may not happen.  But be prepared, if the CDCR does not make some progress towards meeting the reasonable demands of the prisoners this will get very, very ugly.  I am hoping for the best, but given the hard line CDCR is taking, we must prepare for the worst.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

12,000 prisoners hunger striking, family visits denied, prisoners' legal team barred

Yesterday, I got a post card that Bryan wrote on 9/27, day two of this hunger strike.  On that date, he was in good spirits and stronger than ever in his resolve to "see this thing through".   After 5 days off-line for a personal retreat, I decided it was time to turn on my computer.  Imagine my surprise to find out that 12,000 prisoners are now on hunger strike over conditions in CA prisons.  CDCR, not content to horrify us with their treatment of prisoners, has retaliated by cutting family visits (my visit with Bryan was denied last week) and now has decided to bar the prisoners' legal team from Pelican Bay State Prison.

No press, no family visits, no attorneys....their fear is palpable.  CDCR can no longer hide the brutality they have been engaged in for decades.  Don't they realize?  It is too late.  The truth can no longer be hidden.  We are aware, we are disturbed, we are speaking out, we are acting in solidarity with Bryan and men like him to say NO MORE!!!

To quote the press release printed below,

..." People on the outside have the moral responsibility to act in a way commensurate with the justness of the prisoners’ demands and the urgency of the situation.  What people do on the outside of prison will be a big factor in what happens now that the prisoners resumed their hunger strike...."

I am so overwhelmed.  This blog is about Bryan, but I feel some responsibility to keeping readers informed about the nature of events.  But things are changing so fast....I just have to turn this over and redirect you.  If you wish to get information about the latest developments, go to: The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity website.  To keep myself informed,  I set up in a Google alert which searches for news related to "Pelican Bay" and "Hunger Strike".  All the news comes related to these items comes straight to my in box.

Give me a day to gather myself and reflect on these newest developments. Until then, Call the Governor of CA to insist that he put pressure on CDCR to stop the torture, then please read the press release below.

You can make a difference right now, take a moment to call:

Governor Jerry Brown
Phone: (916) 445-2841 
Sample Statement:

 “Hi my name is _________ . I’m calling about the statewide prisoner hunger strike that resumed on Sept 26th. I support the prisoners & their reasonable “five core demands.” I am alarmed by the CDCR’s refusal to implement these demands. I urge you to make sure these demands are implemented for all SHU-status prisoners in CA immediately and in good faith. I also urge you to lift the CDCR’s ban on lawyers from the prisoners’ mediation team, and ensure the CDCR ceases all retaliation on the hunger strikers. Thank you.”

For Immediate Release – Media Advisory
Press Conference – Unprecedented CA Prisoner Hunger Strike!
Wednesday, October 5, 10am sharp
West Hollywood City Hall – 1st Floor Lobby
8300 Santa Monica Blvd. (Sweetzer and Santa Monica Blvd. )
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Support the Unprecedented CA Prisoner Hunger Strike --
Stop Torture in the CA SHU’s and Stop Retaliation on the Prisoners and the Targeting of Legal Advocates
Contact: 213-840-5348; CA Prison Hunger Strike Action Network
Speakers and Participants:
·        ACLU of Southern California ; Peter Eliasberg, Legal Director
·        National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT);
Virginia Classick, Member, Board of Directors, NRCAT
·        Progressive Christians Uniting; Peter Laarman, Executive Director
·        Ed Asner, actor, a statement
·        Wayne Kramer, Jail Guitar Doors
·        Clyde Young, Revolutionary Communist and Former Prisoner
·        National Lawyers Guild, UCLA Law Chapter
·        Family members with loved ones in CA SHU’s (Security Housing Units)
·        Moderated by Michael Slate, KPFK radio host and writer for Revolution newspaper
Following 20 days in July when 6,600 prisoners in CA participated in a hunger strike to stop torture in the Security Housing Units (SHU) at Pelican Bay and other state prisons, over 11,800 prisoners resumed the hunger strike in at least 8 CA State Prisons beginning September 26.  This extraordinary, historic action and upsurge of prisoners is the one of the most important since Attica 40 years ago. 
Courageously, in the face of threats of disciplinary sanctions by prison officials -- including the threat of being thrown into solitary confinement if a prisoner in the “general population” dares take part in the strike -- an unprecedented number of prisoners have become even more united in their demands to end the inhumane, barbaric torture of long-term solitary confinement in the SHU’s. 
As this hunger strike has grown and taken on an even more determined character, so must our efforts to expose the torture in the SHU’s and to support the prisoners’ just demands to end long term solitary confinement and the sham of “gang validation” that lands prisoners in the SHU for years and often decades (see 5 core demands below). 
Torture is unequivocally unacceptable under any circumstances.  But what has been unfolding in the SHU’s is a systematic use of torture by the state for years and decades: torture of both the minds and bodies of many thousands of prisoners to “break them” and to either have them die in long term solitary confinement or be driven insane through the psychological torture of years and decades of isolation.  Such torture is an affront to human dignity.  People on the outside have the moral responsibility to act in a way commensurate with the justness of the prisoners’ demands and the urgency of the situation.  What people do on the outside of prison will be a big factor in what happens now that the prisoners resumed their hunger strike.
Moreover, not only has there been steady stream of reports of intimidation and retaliation against prisoners (and their families), the CDCR has now sent expulsion orders to two key mediation team lawyers, notifying them they have been banned from the prison pending an investigation into whether they had “jeopardized the safety and security of the CDCR.”  On top of serious threats against prisoners by prison officials and the recent denial of family visits, the actual cutting off of contact with the prisoners legal team adds to the tremendous urgency to act in support of the prisoners and stop further efforts to isolate the hunger striking prisoners – isolation which has potentially ominous implications unless a giant spotlight shines on this new outrage and the situation as a whole.
Briefly the five core demands of the prisoners are:

1. Eliminate group punishments.  Instead, practice individual accountability. When an individual prisoner breaks a rule, the prison often punishes a whole group of prisoners of the same race.  This policy has been applied to keep prisoners in the SHU indefinitely and to make conditions increasingly harsh. 

2. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria. Prisoners are accused of being active or inactive participants of prison gangs using false or highly dubious evidence, and are then sent to longterm isolation (SHU). They can escape these tortuous conditions only if they "debrief," that is, provide information on gang activity. Debriefing produces false information (wrongly landing other prisoners in SHU, in an endless cycle) and can endanger the lives of debriefing prisoners and their families.

3. Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long term solitary confinement.
  This bipartisan commission specifically recommended to "make segregation a last resort" and "end conditions of isolation."  Yet as of May 18, 2011 , California kept 3,259 prisoners in SHUs and hundreds more in Administrative Segregation waiting for a SHU cell to open up.  Some prisoners have been kept in isolation for more than thirty years. 

4. Provide adequate food.  Prisoners report unsanitary conditions and small quantities of food that do not conform to prison regulations.  There is no accountability or independent quality control of meals.

5. Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates.  The hunger strikers are pressing for opportunities “to engage in self-help treatment, education, religious and other productive activities..."  Currently these opportunities are routinely denied, even if the prisoners want to pay for correspondence courses themselves.  Examples of privileges the prisoners want are: one phone call per week, and permission to have sweatsuits and watch caps. (Often warm clothing is denied, though the cells and exercise cage can be bitterly cold.)  All of the privileges mentioned in the demands are already allowed at other SuperMax prisons (in the federal prison system and other states).