02/14/2018 | News release | Distributed by Public on 02/14/2018 17:01
Court Update: Judge Challenges CDCR's Use of Solitary Confinement and Sleep Deprivation
Two lawsuits against CDCR for depriving prisoners of sleep are transferred to Coleman v Brown judge
On Feb 8, 2018, Northern District Judge Vince Chhabria held a hearing on a motion by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to dismiss civil rights lawsuits brought by two prisoners, Christopher Lipsey and Maher Suarez, who are suing CDCR for violation of their 8th amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment. Specifically, they have brought their lawsuits to put an end to the sleep deprivation of prisoners caused by 'security/welfare checks.' Prison guards conduct these checks in solitary confinement units throughout the state every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day. Prisoners report that the checks are loud, disruptive, and abusive.
Judge Chhabria was critical of CDCR and began Thursday's hearing by saying he thought California was getting rid of solitary confinement. He then questioned why the plaintiffs are being held in isolation. Judge Chhabria showed no indication that he would dismiss the cases or that he thought dismissal was appropriate. He also asked CDCR attorneys if it seems to them to be a 'very serious problem' for people in solitary, already under extreme psychological stress and some with mental illness, to be woken up every half hour at night.
Because the 'security/welfare checks' result from a stipulated order in Coleman v Governor of CA- a case in the Eastern District Courts- on Friday, February 9, Judge Chhabria, as he indicated he would do at Thursday's hearing, transferred the cases to be heard by Judge Mueller. Judge Mueller oversees the Coleman consent decree, which mandates adequate mental healthcare for prisoners.
This makes three civil rights cases brought by prisoners regarding harm from the 'security/welfare checks' that have been transferred to the Eastern District. On Thursday, Judge Chhabria questioned the state's contradictory positions in those cases; in some motions, the state claims the 'checks' cannot be challenged by prisoners because they were decided on in Coleman, and other times the state argues that the cases should not be decided by the Coleman Judge. Attorneys from McKool Smith Hennigan, representing Lipsey and Suarez, wrote 'Inmate Plaintiffs are harmed by Defendants' inconsistency, because it allows Defendants to claim that no judge is ever the right judge to hear these cases.'
Around 40 community members and advocates with the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition held a press conference and rally on Thursday, February 8 in front of the Federal Building in support of the prisoners' cases. One person suffering from the checks said in a letter to a Coleman official: 'I ask you to listen to the voices of us prisoners and call for the immediate cessation of these 'welfare/security' checks that don't check on anything, but which make our lives a living hell.'
The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition asks you to help end the sleep deprivation by joining the prisoners' call to end the checks.
If you know someone in solitary in a CA prison (Ad-Seg/ASU, SHU, PSU, or Condemned Units/death row), please print and send this surveyto them. They can write the PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation and send their survey responses to us, also.
Here is an 8 ½ minute VIDEO of highlights from the Rally: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GeAV8MzHlM&feature=youtu.be. Please see the FLIER and PHOTOS below from the February 8, 2018 Rally, Press Conference, and Court Solidarity for prisoners challenging the sleep deprivation.
Flier from Feb 8, 2018
artwork by R.T. 2016, featured on Flier Feb 8, 2018
Feb 8, 2018 Rally/Press Conference outside SF Federal Courthouse: Attorney and stalwart prisoner rights advocate, Carol Strickman (Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and Ashker legal team) expresses respect for prisoners who filed lawsuits against the sleep deprivation and explains what the court hearing will be about. Photo by Urszula Wislanka.
Feb 8, 2018: Urszula Wislanka (California Coalition for Women Prisoners) speaks of the violent retaliation that people in prison face when they complain or file appeals about inhumane conditions. Specifically, she speaks about how guards physically hurt women who dare object to being woken up every half hour. Urszula expresses her respect and support for prisoners who take a stand, at great cost to themselves. Photo by Mark Fujiwara.
Feb 8, 2018: Bato of California Prison Focus speaks about CDCR experiments on the prisoner class- maximum security, solitary, sleep deprivation, torture upon torture, trying to break people down. He speaks about the resilience and wise leadership of the imprisoned class. The people who CDCR and Pelican Bay locked in solitary for decades were not broken and did not back down to their cruel oppressor. They organized and went on hunger strike for 60 days, forcing CDCR to negotiate. Bato reminds us of the lies & double speak from CDCR and warns us of the money motivation to keep solitary cells filled. While emphasizing the importance of the lawsuits against sleep deprivation, he explains that we cannot trust the courts to stop CDCR; we must persist in working for human rights and change during this crisis that is mass incarceration and state torture. Photo by Mark Fujiwara.
Feb 8, 2018: As participants in the End Sleep Deprivation Rally collect signs and line up for the hearing inside the SF Federal Courthouse, Sarah Torres provided a powerful segue way from rally to court with her anti-solitary confinement ballad, '23 Hours.' The song includes lyrics about being rattled with jarring noises every 30 minutes, night and day, from the 'security/welfare checks' in solitary. Photo by Willow Katz.
Feb 8, 2018: Attorney Kate Falkenstien of McKool Smith Hennigan (in black suit) and Shawna Ballard (left in striped jacket), who represent Christopher Lipsey and Maher Suarez, talk with prisoner supporters and press about the 'security/welfare checks' after the court hearing with Judge Vince Chhabria. Ms. Falkenstein impressed all observers in the courtroom with her sharp presentation of arguments on behalf of her clients, and her clear and strong responses to inquiries from the Judge and comments from CDCR. Photo by Urszula Wislanka.