Transcript: Glenda Rojas’s testimony on the harmful impacts of solitary confinement practices at California’s Secure Housing Units (SHU) prison facilities
Transcript of the testimony delivered by Glenda Rojas, whose cousin served 10 months in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Secure Housing Units (SHU), before the California Assembly’s Public Safety Committee on Aug. 23, 2011:
“My name name is Glenda Rojas. I am here today to speak on behalf of my family and of the hundreds of families out there that have someone in the SHU.
“I have a family member who is currently serving a life sentence. He was falsely accused of being a gang member back in October of 2009.
“This horrible accusation was backed by false evidence. The correctional officers who handled his case said that he stabbed a man and they found blood on his shirt, which was not true and a knife – not true either. The other officer even went as far as lying and testifying that he witnessed the stabbing.
“Also, the mistakes made by gang investigative units were overseen by several times and still my cousin was falsely validated. The system of gang validation is wildly out of control and needs some sort of real oversight and power to enforce.
“Because of these officers’ lies, my cousin spent three months in SHU and seven in ADSEG (administrative segregation). It was 10 months that felt like 10 years for both my cousin and our family. Our world changed drastically overnight. We were physically drained, as well as emotionally and psychologically. We all lost weight, including his parents, his brother. We lost sleep and peace of mind.
“Not to mention that fighting the CDCR system is very stressful. The 602 process is delayed on purpose by correctional officers. Letters that we send out and phone calls that we make – they’re very seldom answered. And when they are answered, they give you the runaround. We were treated very disrespectful [sic]. And they have no professionalism at all. I was threatened several times by his counselor at the time and by two correctional officers. They told me to stop calling about this case or else.
“My cousin was able to get out of ADSEG after 10 months of fighting. It wasn’t because the institution said “We made a mistake and we’re going to let him out.” That did not happen. It took phone calls to the warden, sergeants, the gang valuation unit, and letters to different departments within the prison. Also, we contacted the ombudsman of the internal affairs, the inspector general, and our very own assemblyperson from Modesto.
“This case was very unusual due to the dedicated family members that he has out here. And also, we’re very blessed to have Carol Strickman – she’s an attorney – and members of the CPF – California Prison Focus – to help us in exposing the lies that were constructed against my family member. If it hadn’t been for their help, our dedication as a family, he would still be in there serving time for something he did not do.
“Now, the positive effect of that whole mess is that I’m now encouraged to help other inmates who are in his case, who likewise have been falsely accused of gang association. Four of those inmates have been fighting their cases for over two years. If they don’t have the help from the outside, they also winning the gang valuation is very little. Three of these inmates have lost contact with their families because the letters they sent to family members are so-called “misplaced” or they never make it to their destination.
“Let me be clear. Prison did not destroy their families. The false accusation of being a gang member and the unjust placement in SHU was what destroyed the family bond that they had with their families. In my eyes, this is called abuse. No matter what anyone else wants to call it or how they want to look at it. Someone out there needs to hear our cries – as a family and as a community – and do something about it and put an end to this corrupted, non-working system. Thank you very much.”
- California Assembly Public Safety Committee: California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation Secure Housing Unit hearing from 8/23/11 (1 of 2)
- California Assembly Public Safety Committee: California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation Secure Housing Unit hearing from 8/23/11 (2 of 2)
- Southern California Public Radio: At hearing, prison officials say Pelican Bay isolation policies will change
- California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation’s website
- California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation: Pelican Bay State Prison
- California Prison Focus (CPF) website