Monday, October 31, 2011


After reading the following article where MP Rathgeber was embarrassingly disrespectful to Kim Pate of the Elizabeth Fry Society.  He objected to language Ms. Pate used in describing the impacts of excessive strip searches currently forced on the female prisoners at Kitchener's prison for women.  This particular story struck home.  Not only have I been subjected to multiple strip searches but I am also aware of the deeper issues which can surround them.
Prisoners are subjected to multiple strip searches during any period of incarceration as a matter of routine and under special circumstances such as a suspected presence of drugs in the institution.
 Some guards really detest carrying out these searches, especially those which are done as a matter of routine rather than the safety of the institution.  These state employees have been known to only pretend to carry out a strip searches at these times.  Simply handing prisoners clean clothing and standing in such a way as not to be watching them dress.  At the other end of this spectrum are those guards who get off on the "power over" dynamic of such searches.  These state sanctioned abusers take their time stipping inmates, sometimes carry out the proceedure in open walkways with substantial pedestrian traffic, arrange surprise searches at odd hours with women pushed and hurded into line ups with their hands kept atop their heads or cuffed behind their backs, orders to bend, turn, and lift are carried on much more thoroughly than normal or than called for in regards to the stated purpose of locating restricted weapons and drugs..  
Most prisoners will be subjected to both ends of this spectrum and everything in between during even a minimum sentence.  Many of us cope by transforming the process into a normal routine in our minds.  Oh well, whatever kinda situation.  But its not.  Especially for those men and women who have histories of sexual abuse.
Below is the email exchange between Kim Pate, myself and MP Rathgeber, below that is the article referred to.       by sheryl jarvis
Email Exchange,Re: Supreme Court Selection Committee Work

Description: From: SHERYL JARVIS []
Sent: October 8, 2011 3:08 PM
To: Cotler, Irwin - M.P.; Rathgeber, Brent - M.P.; Comartin, Joe - M.P.; Hoeppner, Candice - M.P.
Subject: re: Supreme Court Selection Committee Work
 Dear Members of Parliament

I would like thank each of you for your  dedication to Canadians through the work each of you are doing on this most important panel, the election of new members to the Supreme Court of Canada.

I would like to believe that each and every portion of this process would be given ample thought and consideration with all those present provided his or her own space to speak from their personal and professional experiences.  This after all is a fundamental aspect of what constitutes a thriving democracy.  It also happens to be included in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
"(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;"
I read about an incident which occurred recently where an invited guest and presenter(Kim Pate) from the Elizabeth Fry Society was disrespected for having discussed openly what is the reality for most women in prison - that is, being subjected to unnecessary strip searches which are experienced by those female prisoners as a form of sexual assault and a continuation of what has for over 80% of incarcerated women been a life time of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse.

Mr. Rathgeber how dare you claim to be speaking for survivors of sexual predators when you stated that Ms. Pate's comments were an affront to victims of such predators.  When it is common knowledge that women in prison are as a group those most often victimized sexually, emotionally and physically.

All Canadians including those imprisoned have the same fundamental rights and freedoms, especially those which necessarily protect human rights.  This of course is contrary to what you and your party would have Canadians believe when you continue to repeat media sound bites such as  “putting the rights of criminals against the rights of law-abiding Canadians”

Ms. Hoeppener, shame on you as a woman for putting the process of state sanctioned abuse of the most vulnerable women ahead of their individual Human Rights.  How very cruel!


sheryl jarvis
Woman, Mother, Survivor

Date: Fri, 21 Oct 2011 15:23:10 -0400
Subject: RE: Supreme Court Selection Committee Work
Dear Ms. Jarvis,
 Thank-you for your correspondence with regard to comments I made in the House of Commons regarding the Elizabeth Fry Society.
 Ms. Kim Pate recently appeared before the Public Safety Committee as a witness for the Elizabeth Fry Society.  In the course of her comments, Ms. Pate stated that strip searching inmates is tantamount to “sexual assault by the state”.  She used this phrase throughout her opening statement and in the rounds of questioning that followed. 
 I am concerned by Ms. Pate’s characterization, especially because it has no basis in fact or in law.  The Criminal Code clearly defines an assault as a non-consensual application of force and sexual assault as having an added aspect of sexual need, gratification, or sexual degradation. I only take issue with the characterization of these situations as having a “sexual” aspect. 
 While I have the utmost respect for the work the Elizabeth Fry Society and its members carry out on behalf of incarcerated women, I stand by the statements I made in the House of Commons. 
  Brent Rathgeber, Q.C.
Member of Parliament
Edmonton-St. Albert

Subject: Re: Supreme Court Selection Committee Work
Date: Sat, 8 Oct 2011 22:26:05 +0000

Dear Ms Jarvis,

Thank you so much for copying us on this. I am preparing some information for the Committee. Please let me know if you would also like to receive it. 
Thanks again and all the best, 

KimSent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Date: Thu, 27 Oct 2011 17:48:30 -0400
To: <>
Cc: <>
Subject: RE: Supreme Court Selection Committee Work

Dear Honourable Rathgeber

The newspapers quote an MP who said that you are usually more reserved and respectful, that he was surprised to find out it was you who had made the comments to Kim Pate.  The tone of your email seems to bear that out.  However its tough to tell if you wrote it or one of your assistants did.....

You point to specific acts of law regarding the definition of sexual assault.  The problem with relying entirely on the law books is that peoples life experience's and thus their reactions to situations such as prison strip searches can not be accounted for.

The purpose of a strip search is to maintain the safety of prisoners and staff.  Tobacco is not a weapon.  The possibility of tobacco being smuggled into prison is not nearly reason enough to put prisoners, women in this case through what is for some a highly traumatic event. 

In the case of women's federal institutions these strip searches are happening regularly and persistently.  The staff are not required to strip search prisoners in order to address the question of tobacco but they do it anyways.

It is common knowledge that many prison guards chose their professions because they enjoy the "power over" dynamic.  There is for some a perverse sort of pleasure in degrading and humiliating others.

Most women who end up in prison have been sexually assaulted in their life times.  A strip search can cause a woman to relive feelings of degradation and humiliation.  Whether this is the staffs intention or not and whether it is written into law or not assault is the woman's experience.  Here again she is being ordered against her will to remove her clothing and to stand, bend, lift, and stretch her body on command for no good reason.

The truth is that many female prisoners find a way to cope with this by dissociating themselves from their bodies.  They may pretend it isn't happening, or that it is someone else standing there, or they may simply pretend to themselves that it doesn't matter, that they don't care.  In any case it does have an adverse impact on the woman's mental health.  This is just the opposite of what we should be aiming for.  

I know you may not believe these statements to be accurate or you may dismiss them as the babble of a "bleeding heart liberal", but I hope you will at least consider that perhaps there is some merit to what I say. 

Human beings, human relationships are all so very complex and often there is more than what meets the eye.  I'm sure you will at least agree with that last statement. 

thank you for continuing the conversation on this topic

Mother, Advocate, Survivor 

Many thanks for your compelling confirmation and correspondence with Mr. Rathgeber, Sheryl. Thanks, too, for being such an articulate ally. All the best, Kim
Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Tory MP Rathgeber refuses to apologize for criticizing director of national group devoted to helping women in prison

Democrat MP Peter Stoffer calls for Conservative MP's apology, but Brent Rathgeber says NDP 'putting the rights of criminals against the rights of law-abiding Canadians.'

Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney, Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose launch Women's History Month on Monday before a Tory MP crticized the Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies. (Photograph by Jake Wright)

By TIM NAUMETZ October 5, 2011

PARLIAMENT HILL—A Conservative MP who sat on a Commons advisory panel screening candidates for nomination to the Supreme Court of Canada is under fire for making a formal statement in the House sharply criticizing the director of a nationwide group devoted to helping women in prison.

Brent Rathgeber (Edmonton-St. Albert, Alberta) slammed Kim Pate, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, for comments she made opposing a rise in strip searches of female Corrections Canada prisoners, describing the naked searches as “sexual assault by the state.”

Ms. Pate made the comment during testimony at the Commons Public Safety Committee the previous day, when she told MPs the strip searches are so invasive and prevalent that some women inmates have refused to have their children visit them in prison out of fear they would also be strip-searched.

She said the searches are for contraband of all kinds, including jewellery and cigarettes, and “virtually no drugs” have been found and no weapons in the searches of female prisoners, which Ms. Pate said have increased “massively” because of a recent ban on cigarettes in federal prisons.

Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner (Portage-Lisgar, Manitoba), who chaired the advisory panel screening nominees for two Supreme Court vacancies and is also a member of the Public Safety committee, also criticized Ms. Pate, after she made the comments in the committee.

Coincidentally, the third government MP on the Supreme Court panel, Robert Dechert (Mississauga-Erindale, Ontario) was recently the subject of lengthy controversy after he admitted to a series of romantic email exchanges with a Toronto-based journalist with China’s Xinhua state news agency, often accused of spying for the Chinese government.

NDP MP Peter Stoffer (Sackville-Eastern Shore, Nova Scotia) asked Mr. Rathgeber to apologize in the Commons to Ms. Pate but the Edmonton MP refused. A lawyer, Mr. Rathgeber and the other members of the panel took part in one of the most sensitive phases of the Supreme Court nomination process.

He accused Mr. Stoffer and the NDP, which had invited the Elizabeth Fry Societies to send a representative to the Public Safety Committee as part of a review of the use of drugs and alcohol in prisons, of “putting the rights of criminals against the rights of law-abiding Canadians.”

The phrase has been used repeatedly by the government and Conservative MPs to attack opposition MPs who have challenged a string of government crime bills over the past three years.

The Conservative members of the Supreme Court appointment advisory panel were all named by Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alberta) as he and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson (Niagara Falls, Ontario) began the reviews of candidates who will sit on the court as it braces for expected cases that could be among the most important it has heard in years.

Human rights lawyers say challenges against the omnibus crime bill, Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Bill, that the Conservative majority is currently rushing through Parliament are inevitable. They also say provincial challenges of legislation proposing to limit Senate terms severely and allow provinces to hold consultative elections on Senate appointments are also expected.

Mr. Hoeppner’s appointment as chair of the advisory panel came under scrutiny earlier because of the notoriety she won as the champion of the Conservative drive to dismantle the federal long-gun registry. Although a private member’s bill Ms. Hoeppner sponsored in the last Parliament to end the registry died in the Commons, her position on the panel was seen as a reward for the cross-country campaign she mounted.

Mr. Stoffer told The Hill Times he was astonished by Mr. Rathgeber’s attack against Ms. Pate, not only because of the group’s longstanding advocacy for women in prison, but because Mr. Rathgeber made the statement only four days into the internationally recognized Women’s History Month.

“We all have statements and if the Conservatives wish to attack the NDP or anyone else, in terms of political things, we don’t really care,” Mr. Stoffer said. “But if you’re going to attack the Elizabeth Fry Society and impugn their evidence, and impugn their motives, I think it is simply wrong.”

In the House, Mr. Stoffer said that the organization has been protecting womens' interests in the country and Mr. Rathgeber "goes after the Elizabeth Fry Society when it cannot defend itself. ... For many years it has been protecting the interests of women in this country, it has been protecting women who are incarcerated, many of whom are mentally ill and should not be in prison.”

In refusing to retract his statement, Mr. Rathgeber told the Commons: “The record from yesterday’s committee will reflect that I quoted the said society accurately and correctly, and I stand by those statements.”

Page 2 of 2

Ms. Pate told the committee the strip searches are a particularly traumatic experience for women inmates who have experienced sexual abuse and assault.

" Going back to the history of sexual abuse and physical abuse that many women have, many women find those kinds of invasive searches not just humiliating, but they become additionally punitive in terms of their histories of post traumatic stress, their histories of abuse,” she said.

NDP MP Joe Comartin (Windsor-Tecumseh, Ontario), his party’s representative on the panel, said he was surprised by what he had heard about Mr. Rathgeber’s statement.

“I’m a bit surprised it’s him, because as much as he is fairly mainstream conservative on these issues, he usually has more of a diplomatic approach,” Mr. Comartin said, suggesting it is possible the government directed Mr. Rathgeber to say what he did.

Liberal MP Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Quebec) cited his oath of secrecy for the panel and said he has not commented on any topic or MP associated with it.

Mr. Rathgeber told the Commons Ms. Pate’s description of strip searches as sexual assault by the state were “a slap in the face to our correctional officers, and legally dubious, it is absolutely insulting to those who have actually been victimized by a sexual predator.”

Mr. Comartin said the panel of MPs, which interviewed prospective candidates and reduced the field to a short list of six, reported the list of six to Mr. Nicholson last week. Mr. Nicholson and Mr. Harper are expected to announce the final two nominees next week.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Though some of the stats in the below article are not exactly spot on (there are no viewer than 22 new facility builds and  expansions in the works across Canada it provides a unique perspective, comparing the harms associated with the legal alcohol to the harms associated with the illegal pot. The author then frames the debate around the death of Amy Winehouse and other famous artists.   sheryl jarvis, Oct 2011

Iman Sheikh: Crime-policy lessons from the late Amy Winehouse

Andrea De Silva/Reuters
Andrea De Silva/Reuters

Amy Winehouse likely died of alcohol poisoning. Can Stephen Harper name a person who's died of a marijuana overdose?

Oct 28, 2011 – 7:00 AM ET | Last Updated: Oct 27, 2011 5:27 PM ET
As they say on Law & Order, the lab called. They found something. Amy Winehouse, the notorious British jazz sensation who died mysteriously in her London home on July 23, had a blood alcohol level of over five times the legal driving limit. That the coroner ruled it death by such a mundane depressant is actually a shocking piece of news considering the troubled singer had experimented with more drugs than the FDA. How ironic that the one legal and socially acceptable mind-altering substance she ingested finally did her in.
It’s a familiar pattern when it comes to celebrity death. Michael Jackson: the (legal) anesthetic propofol. Heath Ledger: oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine (all legal). Anna Nicole Smith: the (legal) sedative chloral hydrate. If all of these stars merely had been committing the crime of smoking pot, they’d still be alive.

Yet Stephen Harper’s Bill C-10 dictates tougher penalties for drug offences, including a potential doubling of sentences for growing drugs such as marijuana. Meanwhile, Manitoba and Ontario have actually loosened liquor laws this year. What’s wrong with this picture?

According to StatsCan, over 58,000 Canadians were arrested in 2010 for simple marijuana possession. This is a 14% increase over the previous year, and comprises over 54% of all drug arrests in Canada. All this for possession of a drug that has never produced a single clinically observed overdose death in human history.
Earlier this year, a report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy declared the war on drugs, started 40 years ago by former U.S. president Richard Nixon, an abject failure: “Arresting and incarcerating tens of millions of people in recent decades has filled prisons and destroyed lives and families without reducing the availability of illicit drugs or the power of criminal organizations.”

The war on drugs is also expensive — and getting more so thanks to the billions of dollars that Mr. Harper is pumping into it. Under his program, eight prisons across the country are scheduled to be expanded at a cost of $2.1-billion over five years. Add to this the immense cost of maintenance of facilities and looking after the prisoners. Parliamentary Budget Chief Kevin Page has said the new rules could raise total prison costs to $9.5-billion a year in 2015-2016 from $4.4-billion this year. It could also require the construction of as many as a dozen new prisons.

This is a Prime Minister who once made a name for himself talking about the need for smaller government. Want to make government smaller, Stephen Harper? The drug war is a really good place to start.
On Oct. 17, officials from Texas — a state not known for bleeding-heart policy-making — said the Canadian government’s crime strategy is futile. “You will spend billions and billions and billions on locking people up,” Judge John Creuzot of the Dallas County Court said. “And there will come a point in time where the public says, ‘Enough!’ And you’ll wind up letting them out.” Texas isn’t alone. According to a February report from Human Rights Watch, “Eight states — including New York, where laws were the most punitive in the nation — have repealed most of these mandatory-minimum sentences, and dozens of other jurisdictions are considering repeal or reform.”

Back to Winehouse, who is not alone: Alcohol consumption is involved in 30% of all suicides, 40% of all deaths due to accidental falls, 45% of all deaths in automobile accidents and — the kicker — 60% of all homicides. The numbers for marijuana are close to zero, zero and zero. Yet Bill C-10 would tighten the screws on the latter, not the former.

To borrow from the late singer, it’s time to send these ludicrous policies back to rehab.
National Post

Thursday, October 27, 2011

 A Little Known Expert on the Harper Crime Agenda?

Paula Mallea didn't make it to the short list for the recent speakers forum at Church of the Redemmer in Toronto.  But not for lack of trying.  People on the organizing committee simply had not heard of her.  I hope to contribute to changing that in whatever small way this blog may be able.  Paula is an expert around criminal justice having worked for 15+ years as a lawyer in Canada.  Paula is also an expert on the conservative governments crime agenda.  Included here is a copy of an article posted on Rabble, but originally written for the Centre for Policy Alternatives(CFPA).  It was while visiting the web site at CFPA that I first discovered Paula and her writing. She had several articles and one longer study published at that time in 2009.  I was inspired to contact her and asked if she could come to Toronto to speak on ideas for how people could oppose the crime agenda.  She agreed, but the pieces just havn't come together so far.  If the CFPA, Rabble, and I couldn't get Paula Mallea's name out there maybe her new book, Fearmonger can.    sheryl jarvis                                                                                                                                                                   For a summary and where to buy the book see:                                                                                                                                             To read her earlier work at the CFPA follow:

Omnibus crime bill won't reduce victimization rates

October 27, 2011
Harper, Nicholson and Toews are selling their snake-oil crime bill by presuming to speak on behalf of victims. When told that the crime rate has been declining for 20 years, they reply that one victim is one too many. When advised that statistics do not support their approach, they say most crimes go unreported by their victims. When criticized for the cost of their simplistic and counterproductive legislation, they reply that crimes cost victims $99 billion per year.

Let's be clear. One victim is too many, and whatever we can do to reduce victimization rates should be done. However, the omnibus crime bill will not achieve that objective. It will contribute mightily to a continuing structural deficit because of the colossal costs involved. And paying for this crime bill means programs that effectively prevent crime and rehabilitate offenders will never be funded.
Victims are not all made the same. They do not all support the strictly punishment-oriented approach of the Harper government. Why not let them speak for themselves?

Arlène Gaudreault, President of the Association québécoise Plaidoyer-Victimes, objects to the way politicians are usurping the legitimate voices of victims. She says victims are "increasingly exploited and used as a tool for partisan purposes by political parties of all stripes. Victims' rights are used to legitimize more crime control, but that discourse does not express the position of all victims. . . . It does not serve the cause of victims, and we reject Canada's decision to take this path." She says that "measures to help parents and families reduce poverty and inequality are essential to combat and reduce criminal victimization."

Lorraine Berzins worked in federal penitentiaries for 14 years and was the victim of a hostage-taking. As spokesperson for the Church Council on Justice and Corrections, she says the Harper tough-on-crime agenda "goes so much against all the evidence about what keeps communities safe, and it does so much harm, and they are going to spend so much money, that it's really surprising that there isn't more opposition."
Steve Sullivan of Ottawa Victim Services (and erstwhile Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime) says "victims understand, better than most, that nearly all offenders will eventually be released from prison. . . . The best protection victims, their families, and the community will have is if the offender can learn to modify negative behaviour before he or she is released." In other words, rehabilitation programs are key.
In spite of eloquent pleas by victims' advocates, the Harper government forges ahead with a retrograde, antediluvian and discredited approach to criminal justice. Its only "solution" for any and all crimes is a long prison sentence.
There is virtually no hope that the omnibus crime bill can be defeated now that Mr. Harper has his majority. So we turn to Steve Sullivan, who recently sent a desperate crie de coeur to the Conservative caucus:
I believe the ministers when they say they care about victims. . . . Here is what they should do -- at the next cabinet meeting, tell the Prime Minister he should abandon his crime agenda and put the bulk of those resources into programs for victims and prevention. When the Prime Minister says no, and we all know he will, then they should stand up for victims and walk out.

Paula Mallea, B.A., M.A., Ll.B, practised criminal law for 15 years in Toronto, Kingston, and Manitoba. She acted mainly as defence counsel, with a part-time stint as prosecutor, and spent hundreds of hours in penitentiaries representing inmates. She is a Research Associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. She is the author of The Fear Factor: Stephen Harper's Tough On Crime Agenda. Her book, Fearmonger, a detailed critique of the Harper tough-on-crime agenda, published by Lorimer, is available in bookstores and online.

This article first appeared on Behind the Numbers.

Canadian Torture Victim

The conservatives have made new policies not to intervene internationally if Canadians get in trouble abroad. And not to request commutations of a death sentence when Canadians end up on death row in the US. The first 2 stories focus on torture in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.  The last story reflects on both the possibility of wrongful convictions which involve the death penalty and that Harper refuses to intervene on behalf of
Canadians who land on death row in the US!   
             sheryl jarvis, Oct, 2011

Canada finally makes contact with family in Saudi jail
Tuesday October 25 2011      By NOUMAN KHALIL

Canadian officials in Saudi Arabia finally established contact with a
Toronto man and his family, including two children, after they were
granted access to see them in a Jeddah prison, a foreign office
spokesperson told Focus.

"We have been granted access to see the family and we will continue to
engage with Saudi officials about this family's case," said John
Babcock, a spokesperson for the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs
Diane Ablonczy.

Babcock, however, didn't say anything about the charges, the release
or health condition of the children.

It is pertinent to mention here that Uddin Ahmed, a Canadian citizen
of Indian origin, has been living in Saudi Arabia along with his
family for the last few years on a work permit.

On Sept 22, the family, including Uddin Ahmed's wife and two
daughters, aged 18 months and five years, was charged and thrown in
Jeddah's Dhaban Prison for 'unknown' reasons.

Following the incident, MP Jim Karygiannis and members of the family
in Toronto criticized the government and its foreign office for
failing to secure their release and finding out about the health of
the kids - one of them is sick and needs medical care.

In response to a very emotional appeal from Junaid Ahmed, brother of
Uddin Ahmed, Karygiannis said the Minister Diane Ablonczy is ignoring
the two children.

In the appeal to the MP, a copy of which was also received by Focus,
Ahmed said: "We feel helpless and it is saddening to see lack of
Canadian government's intervention for a Canadian family that has been
imprisoned for a month without any reason."

He said the Canadian consulate in Saudi Arabia and ministry of foreign
affairs in Ottawa are not helpful and complained that, instead of
listening, the staff (at least one time) hung up the phone on him.

However, Babcock said: "Canadian consular officials are providing the
detained Canadian and his family, and their relatives with consular
assistance as requested, both in Canada and in Saudi Arabia.

"We hope that he (Karygiannis) is not trying to politicize this issue
for partisan reasons at the expense of the family, that is both
unhelpful and dangerous for the family. As the member knows, Canada
cannot intervene in the judicial affairs of another country," said

MP Karygiannis said: "Once again, this Conservative government is
saying to Canadians, 'If you travel and get into difficulty, don't
call on us, you are on your own.'"

Canadian fears more torture from officials in Bahrain
 By Thandi Fletcher, Postmedia News October 26, 2011

Naser Al-Raas says he's fearfully awaiting the moment Bahrain police handcuff, blindfold and drag him back to a jail, where he contends, he'll ruthlessly be tortured for a crime he did not commit.
Al-Raas, a Kuwait-born Canadian citizen, was sentenced this week for breaking Bahrain's illegal-assembly laws. He and 12 others were sentenced for having links to antigovernment demonstrations.
Al-Raas, 28, is free pending an appeal, but could be arrested before the scheduled Nov. 22 court date. If so, he is certain he will be tortured again. Earlier this year, Al-Raas said he was kidnapped and beaten for a month in an underground prison.
"The main thing that was going through my head was 'How will I survive?' Al-Raas told Postmedia News on Wednesday, calling via Skype from Bahrain as he believes his phone lines likely are tapped. "I saw death many times."
On March 20, Al-Raas was leaving Bahrain after a three-week visit to check up on his five sisters and ensure they were safe amid the political unrest enveloping the tiny Persian Gulf country.
Pro-democracy protests that broke out in February amid the fervour of the Arab Spring were crushed by Bahraini security forces, backed by Saudi troops. The government says 24 people were killed, including four police officers, while the opposition puts the count at 31.
Al-Raas was returning to Kuwait where he worked as an IT specialist.
At Bahrain International Airport, four policemen in civilian clothes ambushed and forced him into a tiny office where he was beaten and held at gunpoint, Al-Raas recalled.
They blindfolded him, took him to an undisclosed location, and subjected him to a mock execution where bullets were repeatedly fired around him.
For a month, he was held hostage, taken to an underground prison cell where he endured the screams of others. He said he witnessed one man being tortured until he was dead.
When it was his turn, he said his torturers took him to a wooden room, blindfolded him, and tied him to a chair with ropes. They beat him with a rubber hose, kicked him with military boots, and electrocuted him. Sometimes they would spit into his mouth and force him to swallow, he said.
Other times, he would be forced to stand up for hours at a time without rest and was beaten when he tried to sleep, said Al-Raas.
"I could not sit, I could not sleep. Whenever I moved, I was beaten by many officers," said Al-Raas.
Often the blows were targeted at his chest, where he has scars from two open-heart surgeries.
Al-Raas has pulmonary hypertension, a heart and lung disease that requires careful medical attention and anti-clotting medication.
When he asked for his medicine, his requests were denied and the torture intensified, said Al-Raas.
A month after he was arrested, Al-Raas said he was forced to make an on-camera confession, threatened to not speak to the media and told not to tell anybody about the torture. Then finally, he was released.
Once free, Al-Raas pleaded to have his Canadian passport, which was seized during his arrest, returned. On June 7, when security officials told him he could come get his passport, he was arrested and beaten again, and charged with kidnapping a Bahraini police officer.
He denied the accusations and was taken to military court earlier this month, where he was acquitted of all charges.
But on Tuesday, he was found guilty in civilian court on other charges, for participating in protests and publicly inciting hatred and contempt against the regime.
Amnesty International is now urging Canada's federal government to pressure Bahraini authorities to drop the charges against Al-Raas, who they said is being held as a prisoner of conscience.
"In our view, there is absolutely no reasonable basis for the charges," said Alex Neve, secretary general for Amnesty International in Ottawa. "Now that the conviction has happened, it's vitally important that the Canadian government bring considerable pressure to bear on Bahraini authorities to drop the charges and for the verdict and sentence to be quashed."
On Wednesday, John Babcock, spokesman for Diane Ablonczy, the minister of state for foreign affairs, said Canadian consular officials in Ottawa and in Riyadh are providing consular assistance to Al-Raas and his family in Canada.
Al-Raas has lived on and off in Ottawa since 1996.
"Although the government of Canada cannot interfere in the judicial affairs of another country, we have made high level representations to Bahraini authorities to seek assurances that the individual is afforded due process and to ensure his well-being," Babcock said.
Babcock added the Canadian government is aware and concerned of reports that Al-Raas was mistreated while in detention in Bahrain, and has raised its concerns with the "appropriate authorities."
Although he has appealed the decision, Al-Raas said he has been advised to surrender himself to Bahraini authorities within 10 days.
For now, he is enjoying spending time with his fiancee Zainab, waiting in fear for the unpredictable moment Bahraini police may storm his home.
Since his arrest, Zainab has worked tirelessly to contact international human rights groups for help.
"Naser can't go there again," said Zainab, her voice thick with emotion. "(The police) are animals. They are not even human."    

Reflections in the wake of Troy Davis’ execution
    Human Rights . . . Here & There

Written by  Sonya Nigam Posted Date: October 10, 2011

On Sept. 21, 2011, the American state of Georgia executed Troy Davis.
Like many organizations that fought for a stay of his execution, the
International Association of Lawyers was deeply disappointed with this
final turn of events.

In its press release the association expressed its support for a
commutation of the sentence to the Georgia State Board of Pardons and
Paroles and the district prosecutor, Larry Chisolm. The association
raised the same issues cited by many others: the fragile nature of the
evidence that Troy Davis actually shot police officer Mark MacPhail,
the disappointing inability of the American legal system to re-examine
the evidence, and the perpetuation of errors that “tarnish the justice
system on the whole.” The press release states, “Apart from the fact
that it constitutes a form of legalized violence that trivialises and
even legitimizes violent behaviour among individuals, it also promotes
an atmosphere of vengeance and brutality that is incompatible with the
idea of justice and, above all, human rights.”

A huge number of people were mobilized to stop this execution. This
appeared to many to be a case of supreme injustice considering the
evidentiary problems with the case: several recantations by
eyewitnesses, admissions of guilt by the alternative suspect, Davis’
clear and continuous assertions of innocence, and no incriminating
physical evidence or a murder weapon.

The execution was scheduled for 7 p.m. For reasons that have not been
explained, the Supreme Court delayed the execution. According to press
reports, the mood of the crowd outside the prison brightened, only to
be dashed about four hours later. Davis’ execution was a very
emotional and deeply saddening event. In a recent Huffington Post
article, David Protess, president of the Chicago Innocence Project,
wrote that the result should have been expected. “Troy Davis never had
a chance,” he wrote. “From the day he was arrested, Troy Davis had
three strikes against him.”

Davis was black, and MacPhail was white. According to the Death
Penalty Information Center’s web site, where there is interracial
murder, the likelihood of execution is much higher if the accused is
black and the victim is white. Protess wrote, “In the past three
decades, 255 blacks have been executed for killing whites, while only
17 whites have been put to death for killing blacks.” Citing the U.S.
Bureau of Justice Statistics, he continued, “During the same period,
almost 80 per cent of executions involved inmates convicted of
murdering whites, even though half the murder victims in society were

“MacPhail was a police officer. Law enforcement, charged with
protecting all citizens equally, protects some more equally than
others. The murder of a police officer compels prosecutors to pull out
all the stops to get a conviction and death sentence. State law makes
the murder of an officer a capital offense. If MacPhail had been the
mayor of Savannah, his murderer would not have been eligible for the
death penalty.”

He continues: “The crime happened in the South. Three Southern states
(Texas, Virginia, and Florida) account for the majority of all
executions since 1976, according to a recent report by the NAACP Legal
Defense and Educational Fund. Georgia ranks seventh in the country in
total executions, and its death row is one of the nation’s largest.”

The recorded moments of Davis’ final hours are so human it is
difficult not to be moved. Associated Press reporter Greg Bluestein
was one of five reporters to witness the execution. He wrote: “Death
watch began at 7 a.m. on Sept. 20, a day he spent meeting with
visitors, watching TV, and talking to his attorneys. A nurse brought
him a fish oil pill and other unspecified medications around 9:20 p.m.
and he was asleep within half an hour.

“He awoke the next morning and refused his breakfast tray. He stayed
in bed until about 7:50 a.m. when he was strip-searched and escorted
to the shower. The prison warden met with him a few minutes after he
finished shaving, and the first of his 28 visitors came to see him at
that morning.

“He turned down his lunch at noon and, after the last visitor left
about six hours later, refused to eat an early dinner, requesting only
the grape drink on the tray. Guards spotted him praying around 6:45,
and 15 minutes later, when his execution was scheduled to begin, he
was napping. He awoke an hour later, called his attorney for an update
and asked the guards to bring in some food. He spent the next few
hours on and off the phone with his lawyer awaiting news on his fate,”
continues Bluestein.

“He probably heard that the Supreme Court denied his request for a
last-minute stay shortly before guards came into the room at 10:28. A
few minutes later, he was strapped to the gurney and execution
witnesses started filing in. It was over at 11:08, when authorities
pronounced him dead and cleared the death chamber.”

In Canada the last hangings took place in 1962. The death penalty was
officially removed from the Criminal Code in 1976 and replaced with a
mandatory life sentence without possibility of parole for 25 years for
first-degree murder. Finally for military personnel, the death penalty
was removed from the National Defence Act in relation to the most
serious military offences, including treason and mutiny, in 1998.

While the current government says it has no intention to re-open the
death penalty debate, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he
believes in the use of the death penalty in some cases. The current
Conservative government has modified Canadian policy and no longer
requests stays of execution for Canadians who find themselves on death
row in the United States.

Further, the government has decided, even in these very uncertain
economic times, to devote a significant amount of its budget to
expanding prison facilities. Through the new omnibus bill C-10, the
“safe streets and communities act,” it is signalling it wants to put
more Canadians in jail for crimes that did not necessarily receive
jail time in the past.

Are Canadians being co-opted to accept a black-and-white law-and-order
agenda as we hang on to the fiscal conservatism of the current
government as a life vest against the current tide of economic
uncertainty? Will we slowly start thinking differently, and at some
point accept that it is OK to kill in the name of justice, even when
we know that our justice system is a flawed human invention? Or, will
our knowledge of the cases like David Milgaard and Steven Truscott
safeguard us from this mistake?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Safe Streets and Communities Act - Speaker's Forum Summary

Organizing with Anti-Oppression in Mind
As organizers for the event we were cognizant of the fact that our speakers should be representative of those most likely to be impacted by the conservative crime agenda. We wanted to ensure that we heard from women, aboriginal peoples, and other people of colour, as well as those who have already been criminalized and have “done time”.
While I had my concerns along the way about how successful we would be in this part of our endeavour. Tuesday was a testament to, I believe, our success.

Tuesday night was a success. All our speakers turned up, had important points to make and engaged the audience (of 225 people) by answering their questions directly. In this way our format was a little different than many speakers forums I have attended. The audience had a chance to submit written questions which were then passed to our moderator and put directly to the speakers.
We heard from a really lovely, intelligent, young, aboriginal woman named Krysta Williams from the Native Youth Sexual Health Network. Krysta reminded us about the optimism many felt when we as a society made the progressive and extremely warranted move to institute what became known as Gladue courts. Gladue was intended to ensure that sentencing judges take the context of vulnerable, usually minority persons lives into account. One of the main intentions for its use is to reflect the ongoing effects of colonization in sentencing aboriginal men and women.
Unfortunately Gladue is not being used nearly as frequently as it should be and only a few cities have instituted separate Gladue courts. Krysta warned that Bill C10 will be at serious conflict with Gladue particularly where mandatory minimums are concerned. If a judge must give a minimum sentence that fact in and of itself conflicts with the stipulations in Gladue and how they are to be considered.

The Native Youth Sexual Health Network
For Information on Gladue:
The Native Women's Association of Canada at
The Revolving Door of the Drug War
Greg Simmons has spent 14 years of his life traversing the dark corridor's of Canada's prisons. He is a survivor of the drug war. Greg like most of us who have used drugs in a manner disruptive to our lives, did what many of us do to support our habits...he sold drugs to other drug users. Greg had an interesting take on the effects of longer, tougher sentences on the choices law breakers will make. He suggested that many will become more reckless. This is not the first time I have heard this refrain from so called career criminals. My ex of 13 years spent many years in and out of the system as well. I recall hearing that sediment from him and from other guys with similar histories as his. “If the sentence is going to be harsh then I will avoid it at all costs and if they are to take me out, I will go down with a vengeance.”

Greg also expressed repeatedly his concern for victims of violent crime and championed restorative justice programs as opposed to prison or in addition to at sentencing. He spoke of the need for healing on both sides of the equation. The victim or survivor and the prisoner.

Greg is both client and volunteer at PASAN – the Prisoner HIV/AIDS Support Action Network.
Giving Victims a Voice?
We also heard from Steve Sullivan, the inaugural Federal Victims Ombudsman from 2007-2010. Steve began by noting the unlikeliness of the panelists sitting together Tuesday evening. He went on to say that in beginning the ombudsman position he felt the way many Canadians do – lock em up and throw away the key – Restorative programs are soft on crime and have no place in addressing violence. If the conservatives had their way we would all believe that victims and their advocates want nothing more than to see law breakers, especially those committing violent acts locked away forever with no rehabilitation or treatment. However many victims feel excluded, even silenced by traditional justice practices. Many don't want to see anyone jailed in their name, particularly without any voice in the matter. And most victims are never provided the support they need to move forward.
What changed Steve's mind was what he was hearing from the victims who had gone through a program of restoration. They were talking about healing. This was far different from what he was accustomed to hearing from those who had gone through a traditional court process. Many of those victims felt unheard and when they did feel included it was satisfying that someone was being held to account but healing was never mentioned.
Despite what some believe, restorative justice unlike traditional justice, promotes the need in people to accept true responsibility and to hold themselves to account. In fact what could be more real than facing the person you have hurt. One to one, face to face, confronting how you have impacted their life.
While I don't agree with everything Steve has to say about what we must do to stop victimization I do believe he is on the right track. Most importantly he uses his brain and seeks the truth as opposed to ideology.
Steve's blog can be found here.
To learn more about restorative programs in Canada go to

HIV and HCV - Coerced Contraction
We also heard from Pat Allard, Deputy Director of Research and Policy at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. The Network has long championed the plight of those with HIV/AIDS or at risk of contracting the virus. This includes those drug users who in Canada are sentenced to jails and prisons which refuse to provide harm reduction services and equipment. This stance ignores the fact that people are addicted and not in complete control of addictive compulsions. These two pieces combined leave people in a position where they are vulnerable to sharing scarce injection paraphernalia and more likely to contract HIV and/or HCV.

This in fact was my situation. I have HCV and am lucky not to have contracted HIV. There are everyday consequences which are ongoing in my life and that of my children. From health to financial to emotional.

Prisoners and Family
Pat reminded us to remember that those people we lock away are assets to their families, both financially and emotionally. The vast majority of them are parents, whose children also need to be considered.
I would ask you to consider too that most children which to remain with their parents. Separating them causes the most severe trauma. And later consequences often far outweigh any harm the parent may have caused society initially.
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network:
Families and Corrections Canada Resource

Sensible Drug Policy - Youth
We also heard from Caleb Chepesiuk from Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Caleb and I have collaborated and/or run into one another around a number of similar events which seek to educate others around drug policy, harm reduction, and this crazy conservative law and order agenda. I've come to know Caleb as a thoughtful and intelligent activist who is quick to realize the connections between the anti drug war, and anti poverty movements.
Caleb is a true advocate for the young. He knows many are at risk of being caught up in certain elements of this Bill C10. The conservatives claim that C10 will protect our kids from drug dealers but in reality it will actually transform the act of sharing a joint or passing a pill into trafficking, thus transforming our kids into drug dealers. Convictions of this sort will see them doing prison time.

Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy

Sensible Drug Policy – Expert Analyst’s
Eugene Oscapella, a lawyer, professor, and founder of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy agreed with Caleb about the effects this Bill will have on students. Eugenie’s expertise is in policy around issues such as privacy, human rights, illicit drugs, national security, and criminal justice. Eugene told us that Bill C10 will potentially see as many as 80% of his students criminalized, with 10-20% of them at risk for imprisonment.

He used the example of a group of college kids at a party. He told us that those who share a tab of Ecstasy or Ketamine (special K) could see up to two years in prison under provisions targeting those who “traffic” (which includes sharing or passing drugs). Particularly if this occurs near a school, or in a place normally frequented by youth. Those most likely to be targeted by these provisions which could in some cases see mandatory prison terms of 3-5 years are other youth. Youth associate with youth. The dark stranger on the corner wont be the guy dealing to our kids, the best friend from grade school very well could be.

Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ricky's Blog - Short. Sharp. Sentences.

Prisoner Blog

For those of you who might be interested in a male take on the prison system, prison issues, and the human condition, "Ricky's Blog" is a good one.   Richard Atkinson has spent a substantial portion of his life in Canada's prisons.  He co-created a really interesting TV program called Prison TV in the 90's.  It aired in Kingston, ON.  And is one of the most interesting, really amazing projects I have seen in a Canadian context which gave an honest look into the prison and which included prisoners and their families.  Ricky and Brian have made portions of those shows available on Ricky's blog.

Ricky's Blog - Short. Sharp. Sentences.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Speakers Forum - Tuesday, Oct. 18

Please come out tomorrow night to Church of the Redeemer at 162 Bloor St. W. for an important discussion around the Conservative government's law and order agenda.  

What are the options to addressing community harm aside from prison and learn what triggers people to break the law in the first place.  
Learn about the impacts of harm and the justice system on survivor's, lawbreakers, family members, and the community.  
Be a part of the discussion - Bring your questions for our panelists!

California's Inhumane Treatment of Prisoners

California Prison Hunger Strike Ends, Conditions of "Immense Torture" Continue

by: Victoria Law, Truthout | Report 
Imagine a concrete room no more than eight by ten feet. It has no windows, only a perforated steel door facing a solid concrete wall. Fluorescent lights stay on 24 hours a day.
Now imagine being locked in that room.
This is the reality for 1,111 people locked in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) of California's Pelican Bay State Prison. The SHU comprises half of the prison. It is explicitly designed to keep prisoners in long-term solitary confinement under conditions of extreme sensory deprivation. Men are locked into their cells for at least 22 hours a day. Food is delivered twice a day through a slot in the cell door. They are allowed five hours a week of exercise in a cement yard the length of three cells with a roof only partially open to the sky.
Prison administrators place men in the SHU either for a fixed term for violating a prison rule or for an indeterminate term because they have been accused of being prison gang members, often by confidential informants and highly dubious evidence. Prisoners who have been "validated" as gang members are released from the SHU into the general prison population only if they "debrief" or provide information incriminating other prisoners. Debriefing can be dangerous to both the prisoner who debriefs and his family on the outside. In addition, prisoners are often falsely identified as gang members by others who debrief in order to escape the SHU. One does not necessarily need to be a gang member to be sent to the SHU: jailhouse lawyers and others who challenge inhumane prison conditions are disproportionately sent to the SHU. Mutope DuGoya is one of those men: he states that, in 2001, despite his work with Code 4, the prison's Scared Straight program and his record of remaining free of violations for six years, he was placed in SHU on the word of a confidential informant. (Letter from DuGoya, dated September 21, 2011.) Another prisoner, who has been in SHU for 21 years, writes, "Because I am here with people who the CDCR [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] have labeled as being gang-involved, the CDCR uses that to confirm that I am involved with a gang." (Letter from person in Pelican Bay SHU, dated September 26, 2011.)
These atrocities are not limited to Pelican Bay. California holds nearly 4,000 people in SHUs and nearly 14,500 in other forms of segregation within its prison system. Over 240 of these people are women, who are often guarded and watched by male staff, even when they are undressing, showering or on the toilet. Transgender and transsexual prisoners are often likely to be placed in isolation.
Pelican Bay State Prison opened in December 1989. Almost immediately, prisoners began filing complaints about abusive conditions.
In 1993, over 3,500 prisoners signed onto Madrid v. Gomez, a class-action lawsuit that charged prison officials with abuse and violation of their human rights. In 1995, the federal court issued injunctions aimed at eliminating excessive force, improving health care and removing prisoners with mental illness from the Security Housing Unit. Although he stated that conditions "hover on the edge of what is humanly tolerable," the presiding judge stopped short of declaring the physical structure of long-term solitary confinement unconstitutional.
In 1994, Steven Castillo, who charges that prison administrators placed him in SHU in retaliation for his hunger strikes and numerous lawsuits against CDCR, filed Castillo v. Alamedia. Seven years later, in 2001, Castillo and approximately 1,000 other prisoners at Pelican Bay and a second California prison launched a six-day hunger strike, protesting the prison's gang policy. The strike was suspended after California State Sen. Richard Polanco intervened and vowed to help broker a resolution. Although Polanco's office convened several meetings between corrections officials and prisoners over the next year, no changes resulted. In 2002, Castillo and 60 prisoners at Pelican Bay again launched a hunger strike. The strike lasted three weeks, but no changes in CDCR's debriefing policy occurred.
In 2004, ten years after Castillo v. Alamedia was filed, a settlement agreement was reached that, ostensibly, would reshape the debriefing policy governing release from SHU. However, the substantial changes promised never happened and, seven years later, conditions in SHU remain fundamentally unchanged.
In 2010, prisoners at Pelican Bay drafted and sent a Formal Complaint about conditions to lawmakers, prison and CDCR officials and then-Governor Schwarzenegger. "CDCR's response was 'file a grievance if you haven't already,'" recalled Todd Ashker, a co-author of the Complaint. "Then we were locked down, even more, in our cells from July 2010 to February/March 2011." During that time, the prisoners agreed that "something had to be done ... It was agreed, a peaceful protest via hunger strike was our best option, the goal being to expose the illegal policies and practices to the mainstream media (and thereby masses of people) and, with outside support, pressure/force meaningful changes!" (Letter from Todd Ashker, dated September 25, 2011.)
On July 1, 2011, SHU prisoners began a hunger strike with five core demands:
  1. Eliminate group punishments for individual rules violations;
  2. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria;
  3. Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement;
  4. Provide adequate food;
  5. Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates.
"No one wants to die," stated hunger-striker DuGoya. "Yet under this current system of what amounts to immense torture, what choice do we have? If one is to die, it will be on our own terms."
Over the course of the three-week hunger strike, at least 1,035 of the SHU's 1,111 inmates refused food. The strike spread to 13 other state prisons and involved at least 6,600 people incarcerated throughout California.
Outside prison walls, family members, advocates and concerned community members took action to draw attention to the hunger strike. In Oakland, supporters held a weekly vigil on Thursday evenings. On July 9, supporters organized demonstrations in cities throughout the US and Canada. On July 18, 200 family members, lawyers and outside supporters from across California converged upon CDCR headquarters in Sacramento, delivered a petition of over 7,500 signatures in support of the hunger strikers and then marched to Governor Brown's office to demand answers. That same day, supporters in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York City and Philadelphia also held solidarity rallies.
On July 14, two weeks into the strike, CDCR Undersecretary of Operations Scott Kernan spoke to representatives of the Pelican Bay hunger strikers. He promised that their demands would be addressed and that the CDCR would enact positive changes over time.
On July 20, Kernan and other CDCR administrators again met with hunger strike representatives. Again, Kernan made assurances about positive changes to SHU and stated that he would provide specifics about their demands in a couple of weeks. The hunger strike representatives met and discussed Kernan's proposals. They decided to temporarily suspend the hunger strike to allow CDCR a grace period to fulfill their promises.
The next month, on August 19, prisoner representatives met with Kernan and other administrators. Kernan had no specific plans regarding the hunger strikers' core demands, but, as the prisoner representatives noted, offered only "very vague, general terms, about CDCR staff working to come up with some type of step down program for inmates to get out of SHU, which does not require debriefing-informant status." The representatives asked that specific details be provided on paper to all SHU sections. Kernan agreed to begin providing documentation within two weeks.
Sparked by the hunger strike, its ensuing publicity and community pressure on legislators, the California Assembly's Public Safety Commission held a hearing on SHU conditions on August 23. Former SHU prisoners, family members, attorneys, advocates and psychiatrists testified about the need for substantial changes to SHU policies and practices. CDCR Undersecretary Scott Kernan, who was a negotiator with the hunger strike representatives, also testified.
On August 31, SHU staff issued memos stating that prisoners would be allowed to have handballs on the yard and the ability to purchase sweatsuits. If they remained free of disciplinary violations for one year and gained committee approval, they would be allowed to have a yearly photo taken and to purchase art pens and drawing paper from the prison canteen. None of the core demands were addressed.
In addition, many strike participants were issued a disciplinary memo stating, "Your behavior and actions were out of compliance with the Director's Rules and this documentation is intended to record your actions and advise that progressive discipline will be taken in the future for any reoccurrence of this type of behavior."
Prison officials have retaliated against the hunger strikers in other ways. According to Carol Strickman, an attorney with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, "Prisoners are receiving serious disciplinary write-ups, usually reserved for serious rules violations, for things like talking in the library or not walking fast enough. It's clear that prison officials are trying to intimidate these men and to make them ineligible for any privileges or changes that may be forced by the strike."
On September 2, a memo entitled Gang Management Proposal (dated August 25) was issued to the four principal representatives of the hunger strike. Hunger striker Antonio Guillen wrote that the proposal is, "by far the most punitive and restrictive program I have ever seen. It is way worse than what we have in place now and that's saying something because the current program is, in part, what prompted the hunger strike." It also widens the criteria from "'traditional prison gangs' " to "anyone they consider to be problematic." (Statement from Guillen that came with a letter dated September 27, 2011.) Kernan himself alluded to this during his testimony on August 23: "We believe that the current process, which targets six prison gangs, needs to be modified and what we really need to do is identify security threat groups ... our policies target just the prison gangs today and we're not capturing the inmates that perhaps should be segregated from our population."
Despite these threats, prisoners throughout California resumed their hunger strike on September 26. By the third day, nearly 12,000 were participating. The strike spread not only to 12 prisons inside California, but also to prisons in Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma that are housing California prisoners.
In response, the CDCR classified the strike as an organized disturbance and transferred hunger strikers form the SHU to Administrative Segregation, where they lose access to all of their personal possessions and are denied access to their mail (including legal mail). According to recent interviews with the men, they have only a jumpsuit, a mattress and a thin blanket.  The transfer could also negatively affect parole decisions. The retaliation has caused the number of hunger strikers to drop. In addition, hunger strikers at other prisons report that the CDCR has been undercounting the number of participants, refusing to mark men as hunger strikers if they drink liquids or touch the food tray.
Prison officials have also retaliated against outside supporters: Carol Strickman and Marilyn McMahon, executive director of California Prison Focus, had been involved in extensive discussions with corrections officials, including Kernan and leaders of the strike. On September 29, the Department of Corrections placed them under investigation, alleging that they "violated the laws and policies governing the safe operations of institutions within the CDCR." Both attorneys are banned from all California prisons until the investigation is concluded.  Attorneys who were able to visit reported that the CDCR has the air conditioning on high in 50-degree weather.
On October 13, prisoners at Pelican Bay ended their nearly-three week hunger strike after the CDCR guaranteed a comprehensive review of every prisoner in California whose SHU sentence is related to gang validation under new criteria. Two days later, hunger strikers at Calipatria State Prison stopped their strike to allow time to regain their strength.
"This is something the prisoners have been asking for and it is the first significant step we've seen from the CDCR to address the hunger strikers' demands," says Carol Strickman, a lawyer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, "But as you know, the proof is in the pudding. We'll see if the CDCR keeps its word regarding this new process."