The Plantation Called Pelican Bay

Tiny - Posted on 08 July 2011

Michael Glynn/Poverty and Prison Industrial Complex Skolar

I think back to my first time inside a cell. I remember my first time in prison as an inmate.  I remember every return to custody. The anger rises up. The pseudo-reality of incarcerated life threatens to sweep me into the past. I focus on the story and move on--abandoning the lost years to the past.  It was 2002 at Arizona State Prison Buckeye.  We stopped eating and working to protest policy decisions made regarding meals and vocational programs. We felt the pressure of our mail being shorted but not stopped, visitors being refused entry, midnight shakedowns and increases in disciplinary reports and imposed sanctions  A feeling of invevitable defeat was felt by everyone.  After 17 days we gave up. The wheels of progress had rolled over us. I hope that doesn’t happen to the incarcerated men in resistance at Pelican Bay.  The years of losing battle after battle with prison officials does not inspire much hope other than that no-one is hurt in this clash of wills.


The issues at Pelican Bay may not be the same ones as the hunger strike at Buckeye, but the manner in which the prison officials will deal with it are identical. Complete cessation of recreational activities, increases in disciplinary reports and imposed sanctions are some of the ways that the badge will fight the organization of prisoners in opposition to departmental policy.  I can hear the doubletalk from here.


The men at pelican Bay State Prison in the SHU (security housing unit) are labeled as the "worst of the worst"--the gang leaders, killers, threats to peaceful society--real bad men. We know that such persons exist so--we as free persons--accept this designation at face value, never looking closer at who can end up there and what kinds of evidence gives the department of corrections the right to give a man that kind of label.  These are the issues which are now under counter-attack by organized prisoners, their families and supporters.


Notorious for inhumane conditions, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has in the past few years undergone a superficial dog and pony show type transformation, giving itself the extra designation of a ‘Rehabilitative’ agency. Formerly known only as CDC, they are now the CDCR--a change in acronyn only--giving inmates no more access to rehabilitation than prior. I personally watched the closure of the education department at Tracy--the Deuel Vocational Institution--as well as the final meeting of alcoholics anonymous, where we were informed that the unpaid volunteers--due to lack of funding--would no longer be given access to the prison for meetings which cost nothing, required no extra supervision, and helped inmates with alcohol problems gain tools to better cope with their lives upon release.


The list of "little things" that prison officials and guards do to inconvenience prisoners is almost without limit. Mail gets slow. Visitors get turned away. Expensive collect phone calls are terminated at crucial points by guards who eavesdrop for "security purposes".  These are what they do to the average prisoner every day in a General Population prison.  Pelican Bay is not one of these yards.  Pelican Bay is the place that the prison system uses to throw away "human garbage".  Anyone who goes as an inmate to this place is categorized exactly that way to discourage belief in the horror stories they would tell if they thought someone would credit them as the truth.  Most men don’t have that hope after a SHU term.


I barely believe that bringing to light the abuses by guards and prison officials is worth the time because no one cares is the first lesson you learn in prison--they make sure of that. Part of the experience of incarceration--a huge part--is the intentional separation from family and friends that the prisoner is subjected to.  I could write five of these papers and barely scratch the surface of the tricks and methods employed by prison workers to destroy the bonds which tie us to the society we were cast away from. The struggle to be treated fairly hurts to the extent that many men don't try to fight anymore. Uprisings, strikes, and sit-downs are some of the methods employed in previous generations to combat prison policies which were unfair or inhumane . Today almost any cooperation between rival factions or gangs of prisoners is unheard of and so, conveniently for the prison guards and policy makers, they present no real threat to any decisions made or policy enacted.


The hunger strike at pelican bay is an exception to the rule as all reports make this out to be a multi-racial issue (unilaterally the prisoners have agreed). That makes this one different. The "Worst of the Worst" have gotten together to fight the oppressive conditions which they and others live in daily.


Editors Note:

Hunger Strike Reaches 6,600 Prisoners and is Going Strong

The CDCR’s own figures acknowledge 6,600 prisoners participated in the hunger strike across 13 prisons (out of a total 33) in California this past weekend. While the CDCR claims the number of prisoners participating has dropped to 2,100 people yesterday, we know this hunger strike is strong, and many prisoners are in it for the long haul.

Thousands of prisoners have come together in solidarity with the prisoners at Pelican Bay SHU, while being locked up in brutal conditions themselves. This massive resistance and support is a testament to people’s undying will and ability to build collective power in the face of disappearance and death.

Now’s the time to really make the prisoner’s voices heard!!!

  1. Call the CDCR, Gov. Brown and your local representatives and urge them to negotiate with the prisoners and honor their demands!
  2. Sign & circulate the online petition!
  3. Make sure to attend rallies and demonstrates in cities near you, and if there isn’t one yet planned, get together with your friends, networks, communities and make some noise for the Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers!


 For more information go to

...than Poor Magazine's support of Muomar Khaddafi (sp). The inmates who end up in Pelican Bay are not only the most violent offenders to begin with...murderers, rapists, robbers, etc..., but are, even among these reprobates, the ones who cannot get along peacefully enough with their fellows to stay in a regular prison.

By all means, show your solidarity with "the worst of the worst," and pretend that that's merely a politically-inspired label. Your true colors are showing once again.


(Aside from not bothering to spell brother Gaddafi's name correctly)is people like you, who don't do much of anything, except sit at a computer and belittle those of us who do. I guess you'd like to see more prisons and less schools. Maybe you should take a trip to a correctional facility and see firsthand what that is like. But of course that won't happen because you have your so-called privilege and keen insight to fall back on. You seem to think you have a hold on the facts but as Henry Miller once said, "we do not talk, we bludgeon one another with facts and theories gleaned from cursory readings of newspapers, magazines and digests. Facts aren't necessarily truths my friend.

...then you're smarter than Wikipedia, which spells it at least three different ways.
What exactly does "is people like you, who don't do much of anything, except sit at a computer and belittle those of us who do" mean?
And "facts are not necessarily truths?" Molotov and Goebbels would be proud: only in the hands of true propagandists is this so.

I worked a case of a violent criminal. Use and carrying of a weapon during a drug trafficking offense. It was actually for the reasonable foreseeability that a gun would be present during the trafficking event.

This person's actual role, not justifying his behavior, for it was despicable, was to make like he was going to purchase a large amount of cocaine. Then the policeman, who was dirty, would show up, and try to arrest the dealer. The dealer runs, the buyer runs with the drugs, and later splits it with the dirty cop.

Problem is, the dealer got wind of it, turned snitch in a different case to get time off. They're going to stick the cop with the gun, so they stick it on the other co-conspirator.

So the guy, weaponless, running away with a bag of dope, is now the violent criminal. Because factually, he did have foreseeability that a cop would bring a gun to the event.

Upheld on appeal, denied cert., 2255 dismissed. this case was lost, despite its ludicrous nature. If this is your worst of the worst, please live a little more, there's far worse out there. Like the dirty cop, to begin with.

You worked it in what capacity? Defense attorney? Social worker? Prison ministry advocate? No one associated with law enforcement, I suspect.


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