The End Of Solitary Confinement in California?

SOLITARY-CONFINEMENTThis week I read on SF Bay Review that California State and local prison have been forced to limit their use of solitary confinement units, or SHU. This is thanks to a settlement reached in the Ashker vs Brown federal class action suit.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of prisoners held in Pelican Bay State Prison’s infamous Security Housing Units (SHU) for more than 10 years, where they spend 23 hours a day or more in their cells with little to no access to family visits, outdoor time or any kind of programming.

I’m glad to hear that as many as 2500 inmates are going to be released from the SHU. Solitary confinement is widely deemed a form of torture. Limited access to the outside world will make an individual go crazy. If prisons are supposed to reform inmates, then SHU does nothing to make the inmate a better person. As the inmates are released from SHU, they now have access to resources such as the library. They also receive better food and better commissary, just as the other inmates have.

However, SHU was also a way to control and minimize gang violence and riots. Other SHU inmates were there to keep them from committing suicide or being killed. There are some inmates that want to “knock off” the shot callers and kill off snitches. Locking up inmates is a form of protective custody and those inmates will still be alive until the end of their sentences.

On the other hand, if SHU is supposed to keep inmates safer, what happens when inmates decide they want to go back to SHU? Most of them purposely violate rules just to go back in, how does that make prison safer? Will the CO and administrators send them back because of their actions? Perhaps the administrators should give them a lesser disciplinary action because of their previous extended time in SHU. There are also prison administrators that want inmates to stay in SHU. What’s keeping them from pulling an inmate out of SHU and then sending him back in two hours? It’s easy for them to justify their wrongdoings; all that is required of them is to say that “the inmate is a security risk.”  

Either way, this clearly isn’t the end of solitary confinement in California. I have firsthand knowledge of prison rules disobeying the law. The prison camp does not always operate as the law requires.

Let me know what do you think below. Do you think it’s a good thing to minimize solitary confinement?

The Minimum Wage In Sacramento Needs To Be $15 an hour

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As many people know, I’ve been working minimum wage jobs for most of my life. I’ve also been working with Sacramento ACT, along with other organizations, in the fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. In order to fairly pay workers for their time and effort, the minimum wage should be increased to $15 an hour.

Job pay should be based on the amount of work an employee has to do, for example, I interviewed for a dishwashing job near Sac State. As I interviewed, I was told the dishwasher was expected to wash dishes, restock dishes, and remove dirty dishes. They were also expected to assist with food prep, cooking, and anything else the manager deem necessary. I asked what else could be necessary and I was told that the other dishwashers deep clean bathrooms and more. The interviewer exclaimed that she had employees that worked for her for over 20 years. Then I noticed that the kitchen help consisted of Spanish speaking Hispanics. I have no idea if this job offered benefits, but they should considering the amount of work that needed to be done.

The job that I accepted was at the Spaghetti Factory in Elk Grove. In the dish room there was myself and another Black man. The cook line consisted of one White male, but everyone else was Mexican. A running joke within the Mexican cook line was that Americans have a lower work ethic than them and therefore they should have more jobs than us because they also don’t trip over money. However, I disagree. There is nothing wrong with our work ethic, in fact I had clients at the temp agency who loved my work.  With all of the work we did, dishwashers were paid $9 an hour, cooks were paid $9.25, and one of the supervisors (who worked the cook line by himself) was rumored to make $10.75. The only way a dishwasher could get a raise is if they were promoted to cook, which could take at least a year.

The Spaghetti Factory had a hard time finding and keeping dishwashers which made it hard to for dishwashers to get a promotion. From what I’ve heard, the only reason dishwashers make $9 an hour is due to minimum wage increasing by a dollar. To offset the dollar wage increase, the free meals that were given to employees were taken away from the back of the house employees.  It was only a dollar, $1.08 after taxes, but that was to help save the corporation money. The restaurant also saved money by making employees work alone. On Friday and Saturday nights, they would have two dishwashers due to the high volume of dishes and customers. However, I had to work alone on Sunday afternoons during brunch, which was one of the most busiest times of the week. To make up for days of high labor costs, they would often use only one dishwasher on Sundays to save the company money.

This made the job extremely stressful and made it difficult for me to create or maintain relationships because I felt used. Then I would compare this job to a second job I had at the temp agency. It was less work and they paid $10 an hour. I’ll talk more about that later. The Spaghetti Factory also required the dishwashers to do light janitorial tasks such as dusting the decorations that were placed near the ceiling (we had to use a ladder), scrubbing dirt and mold, and cleaning the freezers and refrigerators.

Despite all of the work I did, they didn’t like when I asked for days off, especially the weekends. They would constantly remind me that I was only hired for working weekends. They implied that I could be fired for needing more weekends off. If they called me on my day off and I refused to come in, they would get upset and question me about my desire for hours, which was only 25 to 30 hours a week.

I guess you’re asking why I didn’t quit. When anyone is on federal probation, they have probation obligations and that job fulfilled my obligation. I needed at least 25 hours a week and they were the quickest to hire me. However, once I was released from probation, I immediately quit.

Living off a minimum wage job would vary paycheck to paycheck. I worked for a temp agency, which charged their clients as much as $29 an hour, but only paid me $10. When I worked 40 hours, I would make about $1200 after taxes. Due to some personal expenses that were taken from my check, I would get about $800 per month. However, on weeks I didn’t get enough hours I could use my unemployment to help cover some of the missing income. Of course, if I made too much money, like closer to that $800 per month, I wouldn’t qualify for unemployment.

Do business have the money to pay employees $15 an hour? Yes! While working for a temp agency, I had an assignment with a resort in Sacramento. Their members paid as much as $1000 per month for the resort’s club benefits. They paid their banquet captains, who were the supervisors to the banquet servers, $9.75 and their regular banquet server $9 an hour, without tips or gratuity. If the banquet or wedding left a tip or any form of cash, the employees would have to give it to the managers. The only way they make additional money is with overtime.  The resort pays the agency anywhere from $16 to $29 per hour per temporary employee. Keep in mind, the resorts captains and servers couldn’t receive raises because the resort told them the company couldn’t afford raises.

Also with because I worked for a temp agency, the client isn’t allowed to hire me directly because they could get sued for poaching. If the client liked me enough to hire me they would have to pay the agency upwards to $3000 in fees and give me at least 90 shifts. Their other option was to hire me after six months.  

Overall, I support myself with family help and other temp services, which requires me to travel to and from the Bay area and Davis. Most temps or minimum wage employees have roommates and various welfare services. I believe based on my experiences that minimum wage workers are working too much for $9 to not be able to live without government help or multiple jobs.

Fasting in Prison Camp

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They say fasting has benefits for the mind, spirit, and body. Many people have to fast for medical procedures and some do it for religious reasons. I did it fit none of those reasons, but I still experienced the benefits of a cleansing fast.

My fast was purely accidental. Since I missed the 3:30 pm short line (the food line for food service workers), I decided to fast. I found that if I didn’t think about food, I wasn’t hungry. I had been practicing a lot of vibrational states. and a lot of it became stronger in my mind. I had happier thoughts because of it. In this lower physical state, I learned to make myself happier. This state also helped me understand my inner demons.

Now that I understood them, I could get rid of them and free my mind for the real God within. I began to feel that people were important, their happiness was too. I also understood that some people are miserable and by getting angry with me, they are only reflecting themselves. In order to have the meaningful conversations and relationships I wanted to have I had to reflect how I feel about myself. I allowed my words to express my feelings and obtain what I wanted in life as I wrote it on paper.

After twenty-four hours, I was happier than I’ve ever been. It was because I fasted, looked at my problems, and forgave those I needed to forgive. My fast also helped me remove anger and hatred from my body and mind. My yoga teacher informed me that what I had done was cleanse all my emotional baggage. The vibrational states sent chills down my body and I felt strong sensations in my left hand and up my left arm that day. I had them strongly and sporadically. Off and on, my left hand would get cold and I had a sensation, but my face and body felt normal.

Next day after fasting, I stopped eating my fourth meal and had one of the best workouts I had ever had in prison. I still ate a snack after I returned from the library. I think I will get stronger because of eating less.

Self Discipline in 10 days

While in prison camp, I struggled with some things until an inmate handed me a book called  Self Discipline in 10 days books by Theodore Bryant. This book is one of the best things I took away from my prison camp experience. This book helped me not to be so emotional or allow things to bother me. It also helped me be more productive.

According to the book,

“With Self-Discipline in 10 days, you will go from dreaming, thinking, and planning to do: Fast! You will quickly start to turn your ideas into actions and achievements. Take your first step toward self-discipline today by ordering now! You will learn: How To Overcome The 5 Common Psychological Roadblocks To Self-Discipline! How To Identify & Rid Yourself Of The Sub-Conscious Beliefs That Sabotage Self-Discipline! How To Use Simple Time Management Techniques! How To Program Your Psychological Functions For Maximum Self-Discipline!”

This book addresses defeatism, escapism, delayism, and cynicism. These are all things I’ve dealt with before, after and during prison camp. Being a writer, I developed a need for perfection which is why I needed this book. I also need this book because as a grown man, I believe I should be doing a better job with my life and career as a writer. Since I felt that way, I routinely saw myself as a failure because my writing career wasn’t what I would consider successful.

Bryant’s book also deals with other issues such as fear of success, fear of failure, mediocre, and fear of risk. I struggle with these issue too. I have a fear of people seeing me as a sellout if I become successful. I’m also afraid of what people might say if I don’t produce a winning product. To get results sometimes you have to take risks, but what if I take another risk and end up in prison camp again, or something worse.

There are two sides to every person. This book taught me that there is a part of me that will keep myself at status quo because I’m comfortable. However, I can’t allow that to happen because I know that wouldn’t lead to my true happiness. According to the book, I need to make regular goals and tasks that will help me overcome my struggles and then reward myself.

When you read this book, it will ask you several questions that will force you to look inside yourself. After answering those questions, I understood that my fear was all in my head.

This book also has asked me several questions that forced me to look into myself and understand that the fear I have is all in my head. I was able to conclude that the fears I have are not about what or how people think of me, but how I feel about the situation and what I would do to myself if something negative happened. Once I got beyond these emotional issues, I was able to come up with a to-do list that would help me be productive and not overwhelm me with outside problems and issues.

The list was centered on what I wanted to do and what I knew I could do in the time allotted to me. Now I make short, realistic goals that get me closer to achieving daily goals while increasing my confidence.

If you are a person with any of the issues I mentioned,  please get your hands on Self Discipline in 10 days books by Theodore Bryant.

Volunteering at Health Care Enrollment in with the Sacramento Urban League Young Professionals

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Serving your community is great way to give back and impact your local area. I’m always looking to help out when I can and volunteering is such a rewarding experience. This past March, I was able to volunteer to help families with insurance policies.

The event was hosted by Greater Sacramento Urban League and various health care providers. Their goal was to help families get enrolled in healthcare programs, they called it Get Covered Health Care event. I was there early to help setup the space with all that I needed for my task.

That day, it was my job to see which plan each family qualified for. I used a calculator that helped me to determine their eligibility based on information given to me by the family. I needed their social security numbers, their proof of address, a check stub or tax information, and their ID card. After I used the Covered California Calculator, I was able to let them know which plans were available to them. Based on the calculations, they were either eligible for the Medi-Cal or one of several plans with various price ranges.

The other plans were broken into four tiers; bronze, silver, gold and platinum. If they qualified for one of those types of plans, I would down write about two or three different plans for them and point them in the direction to obtain their official enrollment. This was a very short process. I even had information to explain to them and it still only took about five minutes.

Volunteering at the enrollment event was a very easy day. I only worked about four hours. The community of people that were looking for insurance were very friendly. The staff and the other volunteers were professional and pretty laid back. To me, that was perfect, it makes volunteering so much easier when everyone is enjoying their jobs and activities.

Heterosexual Males Having Sex In Federal Prison Camp

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Rumor Has It

Sexual desire is normally very strong in males to begin with and everyone knows the urge for sex doesn’t relinquish its grip when you’re in prison. In fact, the desire increases with every hour that it’s unfulfilled. The media has brainwashed society to thinking that every prison is filled with stories of heterosexual men changing their sexual orientation merely because of their thirst. However, I believe it would be a good TV show or at least an interesting part of the script if some of the rumors I have heard were dramatized.

Let me make myself clear and say that these are just rumors and I cannot prove nor disprove them, but I can say that the inmates that told me were used to bullshitting and joking around. These stories have been told to me while I was locked up at Herlong Prison between May 2011 and May 2012. I take no faith in these rumors, but if you want great entertainment, read below because I have heard a ton of rumors!

CO’s and Inmates
A correctional officer and an inmate were caught having sex while the inmate was in a security housing unit or SHU, which is slang for a type of solitary confinement. The CO was in her early twenties and the inmate was serving a multi-year sentence, but I’m unaware of his charges. When they were caught, the CO lost her job and was charged. The inmate received additional time on his sentence.

At Herlong Prison, there was another CO who charged $500 for sex with inmates. The inmate would wire the money to her account and once it was there, they would proceed. Then the CO would take the inmate to a place where they wouldn’t get caught and neither could get into trouble.

Inmates also took advantage of lazy and/or routined correctional officers. They would wait until after the final count at 10 pm was complete. The CO wouldn’t be supervising and would go into the back room. Then, inmates would somehow sneak out of the back door and a girl would be waiting for them in the parking lot, track or at the baseball diamond.

 

Community Service Opportunities
There is a rumor that multiple inmates received blow jobs or sex while serving community service. Since I have worked community service projects, I could actually see this one play out. A lot of times, there was no one supervising us and we were left alone. The only issue would be keeping your fellow inmates quiet about where you were. It’s possible with bribes, I guess.

 

Inside Prison Facilities
Inside the prison is a library that we called Leisure Library. This is where I did most of my writing and studying. I was constantly made fun of due to the library’s reputation. This library would have paid prostitutes waiting for inmates to have sex with them. Inmates would also watch a lot porn here. This was considered the whore house of the prison.

While a certain wife visited her husband in prison, they somehow were able to sneak off to the women’s restroom. Once inside she gave him a blow job – and they both got away with it. You know that only added fuel to their fire, so the next time she visited, they did it again. This time they were both caught in the restroom. As punishment, the inmate was moved to a different federal correctional institution (FCI) and received an additional year on his sentence. His wife was banned from seeing him, charged with rape and sentenced to one year in prison.

I was told in my A&O ( Admission & Orientation) Meeting that regardless of an inmates voluntary actions to participate in sex, they are legally considered to lack the ability to mentally consent. This inability to consent means that any sex (regardless of sexual orientation) with an inmate is considered rape.

 

As you can see, there weren’t homosexual stories here. Sorry if that disappoints you, but I’ve seen no evidence that there were any homosexuals in Herlong  Prison Camp when I was there (May 2011 – May 2012). As for the rest of the stories, if you are planning a wild heist such as exploiting loopholes for sex while in prison, let me know how that turns out for you. Even if you’ve only heard rumors, let me know – you can write your story down in the comments below.

Never Say Racist Jokes If You’re The Only Black Man In The Room

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I guess I should be used to being the in the minority. I should probably already know what to say and what not to say. I’ve been in this situation since I was a child. I still remember being in those classrooms surrounded by 25 white kids with only 2 or 3 kids from other ethnicities. Before I moved to Lodi, I grew up thinking that Whites were offended by racist jokes. My parents warned me not to say those types of jokes because I wouldn’t like it if they said that to me. I didn’t listen.

At school I was the only Black person in a mostly White class. I told comedic jokes about White people and they all chuckled. However, a white person told a racist joke about Black people and it really pissed me off, though everyone was laughing. Due to my offense, I told the appropriate titles, but they did nothing. There weren’t any disciplinary actions.  Instead they spoke to the classes and warned us about respect each other cultures. That was it.

When I got home, I told my parents. I thought I would get some sympathy, but even though they were offended by the other kids joke, they were more disappointed in me because I had used a similar racist joke. My parents made a valid point, “How can you be mad at them when you just did the same thing? This is what we were trying to tell you.”

The lesson I learned from this experience was no one is going to respect your culture, if you don’t respect their culture. That was one of my first “treat those the way you want to be treated” lessons. I stopped using using racist jokes, though that never stopped racist jokes from being directed towards me. More on that in another post.

Once I started respecting other cultures and educating myself about their cultures, I noticed I was able to show people how to respect my culture and I started getting more friends. Then I noticed something interesting—White people would be disappointed at other White people using the n-word or making fun of Blacks. Even to this day, I can only theorize that maybe their affection for me hurt them when I was hurt. Or maybe they were disappointed in their people when they tell those jokes for the same reasons my parents were disappointed at me.

How To Make Friends In Prison

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Everyone needs a friend sometimes, even when you’re behind bars. It can be lonely in prison whether you’re in a camp or a higher security area. Day to day struggles require someone’s help to overcome negative emotions. If you’re new to prison or haven’t many friends while locked up, here’s how to make friends.

  • Be Yourself
    Don’t try to make people like you by imitating other people. You might find that inmates and CO’s will like you because you seem different and unique. They’ve seen it all and are sick of fake people.
  • Don’t Be Afraid of Your Own Personality
    You may be goofy, funny or strange, but honestly expressing your personality will bring you respect, thus more friends. Keeping it real really means be yourself. If you try to act hard or better than others, time will tell the truth. You’ll be looked at as a scum and this could make you prison camp stay worse than what it already is.
  • Have Something to Offer
    Drinks, smokes, food, advice, or even something intelligent advice are great ways to make friends and keep them. Don’t be afraid to use your knowledge from the outside to help make their lives better. You can use it as a means to bartering. You will expose them to business opportunities that most inmates would never receive.
  • Be Positive
    Prison is negative enough. Don’t add to it by making people depressed about your problems. When you talk, develop a conversation about the best times of your life or something funny that will make people laugh. Talk about a funny news article you found or something your loved one sent you. If you feel yourself breaking down and on the verge of crying, remove yourself from the group and have a private moment to yourself. This behavior should only be done alone or in front of inmates you can trust.
  • Stay Busy
    When in prison you have to have your own life and schedule. You can’t get attached to a person or a crowd. You don’t want people to think you’re clingy and needy. When other inmates saw me reading and writing daily, they were more confident about being my friend. They were also confident that I wouldn’t get them into any trouble. I was too busy to be a snitch or to spread any drama. This will also prevent you from being a bug-a-boo; someone who’s around all the time bugging people.