Transcript: Marie Levin on the class action lawsuit against prolonged solitary confinement at California’s Pelican Bay prison

Remarks by Marie Levin, family member of Pelican Bay SHU prisoner Ronnie Dewberry, on the Ruiz v. Brown class action lawsuit challenging California’s use of prolonged solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison

(Telephone press briefing held on May 31, 2012) 

“My name is Marie Levin. I am the youngest sister of Ronnie Dewberry.

“Ronnie has been held in the Secure Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison since 1990. That is truly cruel and unusual punishment.

Read more: Lawsuit challenges California’s prolonged solitary confinement policy

“When I heard about the inhumane conditions in the SHU, I broke down crying uncontrollably.

“Ronnie lives in a cramped, windowless cell for at least 22.5 hours a day. He is let out of the cell only to exercise alone in a concrete enclosure and to shower 3 times weekly.

“He is allowed no phone calls and they only receive one package per year.

“His food is often cold and rotten.

“Ronnie has chronic stomach problems, swollen thyroid glands, and a severe Vitamin D deficiency. He also suffers from high blood pressure and has at times been denied his medication.

“He says that being in the SHU feels like psychological torture.

“This is traumatizing knowing that a loved one is suffering and there’s nothing you can do about it.

“Ronnie and I are 10 months apart, and we were very close growing up.

“At first, he was in [a] prison near our family and we were able to visit regularly. I was able to visit him regularly.

“Since he was transferred to Pelican Bay in 1990, I have seen him only 5 times. The drive is almost 8 hours in a car in travel…very expensive.

“There is much time between visits that each time Ronnie looks much older.

“After the long, costly trip, we are only permitted to visit for 1 hour through a piece of glass. I have not been able to hug my brother in over 2 decades.

“My mother has had several strokes and is now paralyzed, speaks with difficulty, and suffers from dementia. She longs to see her only son but she is no longer able to make the long and difficult trip.

“Though Ronnie is eligible for parole, he will not be paroled while he is in the SHU.

“I fear our mother will pass away before she and Ronnie can see each other again.

“In 2001, our oldest sibling, Carol, suffered kidney failure and Ronnie set about trying to donate a kidney for her. He was able to get tested and found out that he was a compatible donor. But the prison would not allow him to make the donation.

“For years, Ronnie fought for permission to save his sister.

“Carol died in 2010 in a pool of blood, bleeding out after a dialysis treatment. She was 59-years-old.

“I am very grateful for this lawsuit and for all of the support that has been given to Pelican Bay prisoners since the hunger strike.

“The movement to end these barbaric conditions has lifted Ronnie’s peers as well. For the first time in a very long time, I felt hopeful that Ronnie’s situation might change for the better.”



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