Transcript: Testimony of Dolores Canales, mother of current Pelican Bay SHU inmate, at the joint legislative hearing on solitary confinement in California – Oct. 9, 2013

Partial transcript of Dolores Canales, family member of current Pelican Bay SHU inmate, at the joint legislative hearing on “Segregation Policies in California Prisons: Current Conditions and Implications on Prison Management and Human Rights” on Oct. 9, 2013:

…On Aug. 23, 2011, Mr. Charles Carbone – his opening statement was “Here we are again. 10 years later.”

And I do have to agree with what the gentleman said as far as investigating more data, because I feel here we’ll be again, you know, 20 years from now, still searching data, still doing research.

And so that statement has always stayed with me because I think, you know, here we are year after year, decade after decade, as our loved ones sit in solitary confinement, as if we’re still trying to figure out is this detrimental to their physical and mental well-being.

We’ve seen the studies, the research, and the suicides. And by the way, the last suicide took place August 2013 in the Corcoran solitary confinement housing unit. Michael Billy Sell – that’s when the last suicide was. [Audience applause]

We’ve seen the studies, research, and suicides. We know that research chimpanzees are protected under federal government law from being housed in solitary confinement. We know that there was a bill passed to protect chickens from conditions of confinement.

I’ve been to Sacramento on numerous occasions and even Washington, D.C. in hopes of change and in hopes that my son and thousands others will one day be exposed to natural sunlight and in hopes that my son will not be one of the many that has succumbed to suicide or insanity, in hopes that someone will listen and demand changes in conditions of confinement for human beings [crying].

I became involved in these efforts to bring about change after the July 1, 2011 hunger strike, and I honestly believed with all my heart that we would not even be having these hearings today if it were not for the effort of the prisoners in these hunger strikes but yet, they are being disciplined for their efforts.

My son once wrote me and said, “I have no doubt this place was designed with the sole intention of driving men mad or to suicide.” He said, “I know, because I’m living it.”

And as a mother, it’s a daily struggle to hold on to hope when you realize that CDC has went on for decades to defend their policies and now even making a beautiful little book with colored pictures to describe and to show how pretty the cells are. [crying]

So during the recent hunger strike, Terry Thornton said that she does not like to refer to SHU as solitary confinement because they can talk to one another and they have a TV and they go out to visiting.

Well, is the prisoners being allowed to speak to one another at any time, a simple act of acknowledging another human being’s existence is subject to disciplinary documentation. And I have here a 115 – a rules violations report – that my son received for simply saying “All right, now” to another prisoner.

As for the television, first off – imagine a television being one of your sole source of companions for 10 to 30 years. But then and yet another most recent study on Health.com – a study followed 8,800 adults with no history of heart disease for more than 6 years and found “Watching too much television can make you feel a bit brain dead.” According to a new study, it might also take years off your life. So, so much for watching television as their companion.

And not only that, prisoners are not afforded a television unless their family member can purchase one for them.

And as for visiting, there’s thousands of prisoners that have went decades without getting any visits at all. And I know this because our group – California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement – has assisted numerous families and getting them to visit.

Since the July 1, 2011 hunger strike, I have done extensive research as to how one ends up in solitary. And contrary to popular belief, there are thousands that spend decades in administrative segregation and SHU because of other prisoners’ statements, and they receive rules violations reports simply on another prisoner’s statement.

I brought one example. If anybody would want a folder, I made up folders for examples.

They are being written up – serious rules violations report 115 – for the promotion of gang activity with no other source evidence to corroborate with these statements.

And what is troubling is that CDC claims these prisoners are housed in SHU because they are the worst of the worst. But why is it that the minute a prisoner begins making statements and allegations against another prisoner, now they are credible and to be believed?

I have documentation here to show that the only source items are prisoners statements and they are referred to as confidential informants.

You might be asking why am I bringing all this up? What does this have to do with the effects of solitary confinement on the families? Because CDC, in severe contradictions, when we were trying to put forward a media ban bill, they said they didn’t want any prisoners rising to fame and notoriety.

But yet a very well debriefer has risen to fame and notoriety at the hands of CDC, being allowed to write books, being allowed to publish YouTube videos while serving a life sentence, being allowed to not only slander the prisoners but the family members, referring to females as “hood rats”, and he is in state custody and these are YouTube videos. And we have to watch that. People read these books, where they’re published pictures of our loved ones with no shirts, because this is how he’s reaching his fame and notoriety. He’s allowed to travel the country to teach IGI and to give them information, and he’s reached fame and notoriety, and that was in contradiction to why CDC did not want to put forth the media bill.

So because I read a letter from a young man, I would like to just quote this and let you know. He’s quoted as saying…”The worst part of solitary confinement is the absolute state of nothingness, and without a vision, the people perish.” Sometimes I feel that same despair. Sometimes that same hopelessness and that same state of nothingness sets in because nothing really changes.

The use of confidential information still continues, and the use of long-term solitary indefinite confinement still exists.

I do want to say one thing really quick. CDC mentioned that they get 2-hour visits in solitary confinement 2 days a week. Tehachapi only gets 1 hour and it’s Saturday or Sunday, so that’s not consistent with the 2 hours, 2 days a week. That’s for the Tehachapi solitary confinement.

And also, one more thing, as they were mentioning the prisoner’s rights to the appeal process, it is they’re only allowed to file one appeal every 14 days and it is within a hierarchy that it’s heard through the different levels. So they’re appealing to the same people that are writing them up. The only way to get out of that after they’ve exhausted all appeal process from within the system, then it could enter into the courts into litigation, which many prisoners do but there’s many prisoners that do not know how to follow this process through, there’s many family members that don’t know how to follow this process through.

I’ve had my mail returned for promotion of gang activity. It has been immediately rectified as I’ve called, complained, written letters, filed appeals myself. But if I didn’t know that, that would be in my son’s file.

And so I just want to let you know also with the 602 process, when it does reach court litigation, even after court rulings as in the Cabrera case, where they documented about drawings not being allowed as source items, I have documentations here showing as to culture, political forms of expression are still being used. It’s not the violent behavior that CDC continues to portray and proclaim.

Thank you very much.

[Audience applause]

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One Comment on “Transcript: Testimony of Dolores Canales, mother of current Pelican Bay SHU inmate, at the joint legislative hearing on solitary confinement in California – Oct. 9, 2013

  1. Pingback: Spotlight: Joint legislative hearing on solitary confinement in California - October 2013 | What The Folly?!

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