Prisoners United Summer 2019 Newsletter

The Frontliners of Jail Reform

Editor's Note:

Members of Prisoners United of Silicon Valley who organized for reform, communicate with each other and the outside through this newsletter that we are proud to share.

THE FRONTLINERS OF JAIL REFORM

“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate 
the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. 
You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.“ 
- Cesar Chavez Address to the Commonwealth Club of California, 1984 San Francisco, CA

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Table of Contents

  1. Introduction Letter - Written By: Jose Valle
  2. Santa Clara County Jail Administration Have Avoided Periodical Meetings With the Community - Written By: Anonymous
    1. Santa Clara County Board Of Supervisors Contacts
    2. Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office Contacts
  3. Your Discipline File - Written By: Anonymous
  4. Prison Reform Bill Updates - Gathered By: Beneé Vejar
  5. Witnesses Of Use Of Force Against Isai Lopez
  6. Letters from the Inside - We Must Know the Importance of Our Basic Human Rights While Behind the Walls - Written by: Victor Ryan Villegas
  7. Submit Your Articles, Arte Y Poemas
  8. Hunger Strike Questionnaire Data Analysis - Prepared By: Jordan Parker

 

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Introduction Letter 

Greetings from the Prisoners United Clearing House,

I hope that this newsletter reaches you in strong and empowering spirits. It has been almost four years since the first hunger strike in Santa Clara County Jails. Two hunger strikes and the Chavez v Santa Clara County settlement followed. Many of those who participated in improving jail conditions, are back home with their families or serving their time in prison. The sacrifices and historic changes that were made should never be forgotten. Unity and organizing for prisoners human rights should remain as a tool locally and statewide. There may always be a need for Prisoners United in Santa Clara County and if able, those who are now serving their time in prison can continue their contributions to the newsletter and or implement change in our state facilities. If you have received this newsletter from behind the walls, it is you, the prisoners who are the driving force of many newsletters and movements moving forward. Through your united and collective leadership, the clearing house on the outside awaits in solidarity. I hope that this newsletter and Prisoners United can be utilized to stimulate the mind, provoke change, and build collective strategy for the issues that impact prisoners human rights the most.

In this newsletter, you will find articles about what you can do to support healthy continued communication with the Jail Administration to implement changes. It has been difficult to continue our periodical meetings as they have all been canceled since late 2018. I have gotten word that the same sort of thing has been happening with the IAC meetings in jail. There is an interesting article about how your discipline file is used against you in trial and how old custody inputs should be purged or dismissed entirely. Beneé Vejar did a great job of updating everyone with criminal justice reform bills that may positively impact you. There is also an article contributed by a prisoner who is now serving his time in prison and how important it is to know your rights behind the walls. I hope to see more articles contributed by prisoners in the future. Finally there is a data analysis gathered by a Stanford University student which based her analysis on the prisoners united questionnaires completed by prisoners inside. This data analysis was submitted to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and the Prison Law Office. It is now shared with you. I hope you can appreciate the questionnaires were created and distributed by you, the prisoners and was used as a tool to uplift improved conditions in our jails. You should all be proud of yourselves!

Continued in our struggle.

Prisoners United Clearing House
Prisoners United Housing Unit Coordinator
Jose Valle
 

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Santa Clara County Jail Administration Have Avoided Periodical Meetings With the Community

Written by: Anonymous

For the past several years there has been a group of community organizations, including Silicon Valley De-Bug, which met every other month with the Santa Clara County Jail Administration. We were able to discuss the many issues that came up for families who have a loved one in our jails, and to bring up topics that we had heard about from those inside. These meetings helped provide an opportunity to get problems addressed and create a line of communication between the public and the Department of Corrections.

Unfortunately, we have not been able to get a meeting since October of 2018. The Sheriff’s office has told us that with the advent of the consent decree from the Chavez V. Santa Clara County lawsuit, they must place all their efforts on making sure the conditions of the consent decree are being met.Repeated requests to meet have been met with silence. Several people and community groups who have been involved in these efforts will continue to push for the meetings to resume. We will attend Board meetings and the Public Safety and Justice Committee meetings so we can keep them aware of concerns from the inside and from families, and to let them know we cannot get a response from the Sheriff's office Administration.

We encourage you to ask your families and loved ones to help us with this effort. Please let them know to contact the Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff's office to let them know that ongoing communication between the community and the Administration is important, and that our community meetings need to get started again!  Our jails and Sheriff's Department are funded with public dollars, and should be available to have dialogue with the community they serve.

  

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors Contacts:

70 West Hedding
East Wing, 10th Floor
San Jose, CA 95110

District 1, Supervisor Mike Wasserman
(408) 299-5010
[email protected]

District 2 Supervisor, Cindy Chavez
Phone: (408) 299-5020
[email protected]
Hablamos Español

District 3, Supervisor Dave Cortese
(408) 299-5030
[email protected]

District 4, Supervisor Susan Ellenberg
(408) 299-5040
[email protected]

District 5, Board President Joe Simitian
(408) 299-5050
[email protected]

Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office Contacts
Office of the Sheriff Laurie Smith Headquarters
55 West Younger Avenue
San Jose, CA 95110-1721
[email protected]

Sheriff Laurie Smith
(408) 808-4400
[email protected]

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Your Discipline File 

Written by: Anonymous

Recently we have noticed that DA and law enforcement will include custody inputs during trial as evidence of gang involvement or a “lack of rehabilitation” effort. Be aware that since changes were made to the classification process a few years back, some things that would have been cited as “infractions” or documented as negative custody inputs have changed.

For example, exercising in a group or cooking for a group is no longer seen as a “gang related” activity. However, a few years back this could be documented as evidence of gang involvement via a custody input in your file – and without your knowledge. We have seen these old Custody Inputs brought up in court to support allegations of gang involvement, even though they would no longer be consequential under the current classification system.

When “gang experts” were asked by the Public Defenders if they knew these activities were no longer seen as discipline issues or evidence of gang involvement, they were not aware.

Simply put, there is no reason prosecutors or law enforcement should be able to use old Custody Inputs against you in court. Currently Custody Inputs are largely based on behavior monitoring issues which are not serious enough for an actual infraction, and they are definitely not serious enough to charge you with a crime. Prior to changes in the classification system, Custody Inputs were written and kept in your files without notice and could be used against you in court and in classification.

The DOC Administration changes the CI forms a while back detainees are now supposed to be made aware of what has been written on them. You can review CI’s at your 60 days reviews, and challenge them for accuracy. The Jail Administration removed many of the old behavior monitoring issues when the new classification system came into being over two years ago. Classification and the courts should not use old Custody Inputs that were written using the now outdated system against you.

If a prosecutor uses these old Custody Inputs against you in court, you may want to argue that they are no longer valid. Be sure your attorney knows what is in your file and is ready to counter these claims if they come up. Activities that are no longer considered problems by the administration should not be presented as “evidence” of anything. We believe that these old Custody Inputs should be purged, but for now you should at least be able to argue against their use in court. Ask that your file be seen by you and your attorney, and that the DA not be allowed to use outdated and invalid information during prosecution.

 

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PRISON REFORM BILL UPDATES

Gathered by: Beneé Vejar

  • SB 1393 - The judge has discretion to waive the 5 year prison  prior enhancements (sentencing or on appeal)
  • AB 1308 - Extends youth offender parole through age 25.
  • 1437 Felony murder rule- Due to a change in the felony-murder rule, starting Jan. 1, codefendants will no longer automatically be considered guilty of murder for participating in crimes such as armed robbery. The law is retroactive.
  • 1170(d) - CDCr could refer for resentencing.
  • SB 260 - Youth offender parole hearing, specific reasons, recommended to the court that a prisoner’s sentenced be recalled, and that a court may recall a prisoner's sentence when the defendant was under 18 yrs.
  • SB 261 - Youth offender parole hearing, to get a BPH conducted who committed those specified crimes when they were under the age of 23.
  • SB 620 - Would allow the court to strike firearm enhancements at the time of sentencing or on appeal.
  • Prop 57 - Gives non-violent offenders early parole release, good time credits and stops youth from direct filing.
  • AB 2942 - Gives the DA the discretion for resentencing.

 

You can have your families reach out to Beneé Vejar, the Family Coordinator at
(408) 971-4965 [email protected] for any updates or info.

You can also write us about any prison reform updates at:

Prisoners United Clearing House
ATTN: PRISON REFORM BILL UPDATES
701 Lenzen Ave.
San Jose, CA 95126

 

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WITNESSES OF USE OF FORCE AGAINST ISAI LOPEZ 

If you were an audio or visual witness during any point of time in which use of force was inflicted on Isai Lopez, you can reach out to his family’s attorneys at John Burris Law and request a meeting in confidence. When reaching out by mail or phone, you do not have to mention details, but you can request a meeting to speak confidentially. They have a GTL account. You can reach out to:

Law Offices of John Burris
ATTN: Patrick Buelna
Oakland Airport Corporate Centre
7677 Oakport St. Suite 1120
Oakland, Ca 94621 or Call: (707) 805-7805

You can also reach Jose Valle, the Housing Unit Coordinator at (408) 661-2604 or write to:

Prisoners United Clearing House
701 Lenzen Ave.
San Jose, CA 95126

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                                                    Letters from the Inside
We Must Know the Importance of Our Basic Human Rights While Behind the Walls

Written by: Victor Ryan Villegas

We as human beings must know the importance of our basic human rights while behind the walls and thrown into a system of oppression through unjust practices and tactics. While we are in a world where things are unfair and unethical, we must always have the determination to challenge these injustices. We must equip ourselves with the proper knowledge of our rights that we as prisoners deserve to be treated like human beings with equality, unbiased treatment, due process and fundamental human rights.

Understanding and utilizing the administrative appeal process through filing CDCR 602’s (CDCR grievances) has its benefits, making our time here in prison a little more bearable. When used correctly, factual info holds merit and weight giving value to exhausting all administrative remedies, and more so when it comes to our conditions of confinement, regulations and policies, the BPH (Board of Parole Hearings), and how they make decisions of parole.

We must put forth effort in ensuring we are not taken advantage of, and that we always leave a paper trail. Because if its not on paper, it never happened. When we provide a paper trail of how our human rights are being violated, a paper trail of the appeal process can provide more weight and hold merit, allowing us to be able to take legal action. This can provide us the chance to state the facts of said complaints.

Now is the time, and more so than ever with new laws and changes that benefit prisoners. There is a lot of heat being put on CDCR / Jails right now and their wrongdoing is being brought to light. We also have the support of Human Rights Organizations who are echoing our concerns of the bias mistreatment and human rights violations within the penal system. We must seize the moment and opportunity that can benefit us as the prison population and continue our fight to acquiring long lasting and meaningful change to pave the way for the next man after we are gone who may benefit from these changes.

Now with all this said, allow me to further articulate on exhausting all administrative remedies. The courts will not hear any legal action challenging prison or parole policies, conditions or actions unless a person completes an administrative appeal process (CDCR 602). An administrative appeal process can also benefit a legal position by establishing the underlying facts or demonstrating that officials were made aware of the problem but failed to correct it! There is specific exhaustion requirements for several types of legal actions commonly used by people in prison or on parole i.e. state habeas corpus and mandate, federal habeas corpus, federal civil rights lawsuits and state tort lawsuits.

When it comes to challenging one's condition of confinement, one must have a completed appropriate administrative appeal process through the highest level of review - before filing a state court petition for a writ of mandate.

When it comes to BPH (Board of Parole Hearings) decisions to grant or deny parole or find unsuitable, the BPH does not have to go through any administrative appeal procedure before filing a court case challenging a BPH decision. There are some exceptions. 1.) The BPH has a procedure for parole to object to factual errors and a risk assessment that are prepared for BPH hearings. A written objection should be sent to the BPH headquarters in Sacramento no less than 30-days after your denial. 2.) There is an administrative appeal procedure for challenging a BPH decision denying prop 57. One must request review within 30 days after denial.

These are just some ways of taking action. Anything further can be researched in the law library or legal research which is highly important when exhausting administrative appeals and taking legal actions within the courts. Let us always be hungry for long lasting change and willing to educate ourselves and others of what’s important. Let us always strive for positive meaningful change and proper due process as prisoners and as human beings. With that said, let’s continue forward in solidarity with none other than respect and blessings.

Always, 

Fellow Hungerstriker of Prisoners United of Silicon Valley,
Victor Ryan Villegas
CDC# BF7742
CSP Solano
PO Box 4000
Vacaville, Ca 95696

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SUBMIT YOUR ARTICLES, ARTE Y POEMAS TO:

Prisoners United Clearing House
ATTN: ARTICLES, ARTE Y POEMAS
701 Lenzen Ave.
San Jose, CA 95126

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HUNGER STRIKE QUESTIONNAIRE DATA ANALYSIS
PREPARED BY: JORDAN PARKER 

OVERVIEW:

                  Analysis of questionnaires detailing the outcomes of three hunger strikes in the Santa Clara County Main Jail Complex in San Jose, CA. The first strike began in October of 2016, followed by another strike in early 2017, and the final strike in October of 2017. Although not included in this data set, there was yet another hunger strike, lasting eleven days and concluding on April 27, 2018. This most recent protest marks four hunger strikes over the course of the past 20 months in Santa Clara County.

View the analysis here

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View and print the Summer Newsletter here

Santa Clara County Prisoners Write To: 
Prisoners United Clearing House 701 Lenzen Ave. San Jose, CA 95126

  • Jose Valle - Housing Unit Coordinator - Prisoners Contact: (408) 661-2604 - [email protected]
  • Beneé Vejar - Family Coordinator - Families Contact: (408) 971-4965 - [email protected]

View an Print the full newsletter:
PUSV Newsletter - The Frontliners of Jail Reform - Summer, 2019




Related Media:
Message from Prisoners United of Silicon Valley Suspending 11 Day Hunger Strike
Prisoners United of Silicon Valley to Resume Hunger Strike
Open Letter from Prisoners United Hunger Striker of 2016
 



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