1990 – 2001
LSPC staff, interns and attorneys receive and respond to people incarcerated in Pelican Bay, Corcoran, Tehachapi and other SHU prisons. The letters report horrendous conditions, severe isolation, suicide attempts, and mental breakdowns.
Staff attorney Cassie Pierson develops relationships and corresponds with several Pelican Bay Prison Security Housing Unit (SHU) prisoners until her retirement. She forwards their human rights complaint to the United Nations in Geneva.
Staff attorney Carol Strickman continues correspondence with people incarcerated in Pelican Bay SHUs, including communication with several prisoners about the possibility of a major lawsuit.
Todd Ashker and Danny Troxell, along with others incarcerated in the Pelican Bay SHU, send a formal human rights complaint in February to Governor Schwarzenegger and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Secretary Matthew Cate.
LSPC sends out a survey to SHU prisoners at Pelican Bay and Corcoran to document the effects of long-term isolation and publishes A Cage Within a Cage, our report on the findings in July.
Pelican Bay prisoners sign a “Final Notice” which sets July 1, 2011, as the beginning of an indefinite prisoner hunger strike if the listed 5 Core Demands are not met.
In anticipation of a July 1 hunger strike, Bay Area prisoner rights organizations and supporters begin meeting to coordinate outside support.
The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity (PHSS) coalition is officially formed. LSPC/All Of Us Or None is a founding member, along with California Prison Focus (CPF), Prison Activist Resource Center, and Critical Resistance. The coalition sets up a Media Team and recruits a Mediation Team. Two LSPC staff members join the Mediation Team. The coalition identifies family members, the religious community and students as likely allies.
LSPC Executive Director Dorsey Nunn and Staff Attorney Carol Strickman travel to Crescent City to interview four Pelican Bay SHU prisoners.
The prisoner hunger strike is initiated. At its peak, 6600 prisoners from 13 California prisons participate. It is suspended on July 20. LSPC/All Of Us Or None organizes rallies and does media work. The Mediation Team meets with CDCR officials several times, and speaks by phone to prisoner representatives (reps) to help facilitate a resolution. As part of the discussions, the reps request to help put together a litigation team to further pursue the prisoners’ claims.
The Assembly Public Safety Committee (Tom Ammiano, Chair) holds an informational hearing on conditions in CDCR’s security housing units. LSPC is instrumental in setting up this hearing, identifying speakers, and organizing a rally outside the Capitol that day. Hundreds of family members and supporters travel from around the state to speak out. Executive Director Dorsey Nunn is a panelist at the hearing and a rally speaker.
LSPC helps organize and participates in a conference call with several attorneys who had expressed interest in representing the prisoners in litigation to challenge solitary confinement. Jules Lobel of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who had been following the situation for months, was on the call.
People in sensory deprivation units resume their hunger strike because they feel that the promises CDCR made are not being fulfilled. On September 29, CDCR places staff attorney Carol Strickman and CPF Executive Director and attorney Marilyn McMahon under investigation, and ban them from Pelican Bay prison.
Almost 12,000 prisoners participate in this phase of the hunger strike, which goes on for 18 days. Again, LSPC/All Of Us Or None organizes rallies and events, and does media work. As part of the Mediation Team, LSPC is instrumental in the final conversations which end the hunger strike. The attorneys’ visiting ban is lifted without further incident a few months later.
During this hunger strike, the newly formed legal team begins meeting with potential plaintiffs and gathering facts to support a lawsuit. Following cessation of the hunger strike, LSPC and the rest of the legal team continue this investigation, which includes visits to Pelican Bay and examination of CDCR documents.
Litigation team members file appearances as attorneys of record for Todd Ashker and Danny Troxell in a lawsuit they had filed on their own behalf in 2009.
A United Nations human rights petition is filed with the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of California SHU prisoners and human rights organizations by the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law. LSPC is a petitioner and co-counsel on this petition.
LSPC accompanies mental health expert Dr. Terry Kupers to Pelican Bay for interviews with prospective plaintiffs.
After eight additional prisoners agree to be plaintiffs, the team files its Motion to Amend the Complaint, adding those plaintiffs, dismissing certain individual defendants and causes of action specific to Ashker and Troxell, dismissing claims for money damages and converting the case into a class action lawsuit.
The PHSS coalition constructs a model SHU and sets it up at various locations for community outreach that summer. LSPC participates in the original construction of the model, as well as regular outreach events with the model at parks, schools and other locations.
The Agreement to End Hostilities, written by the Pelican Bay prisoner representatives, asks for all people in California prisons and jails to cease race-based hostilities, and embrace the unity needed to end long-term solitary confinement and improve overall conditions.
The court grants the plaintiffs’ motion to file an amended complaint.
Assembly Public Safety Committee Chair Ammiano convenes a second legislative informational hearing on SHU conditions. LSPC supports family members who made presentations.
Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit Short Corridor Representatives issue a letter to Governor Brown and CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard, about their intended resumption of their nonviolent hunger strike-work stoppage protest, citing CDCR’s failure to make the changes agreed upon during the July and October 2011 negotiation process.
LSPC arranges interviews for medical and mental health experts to interview plaintiffs and other long-term SHU prisoners.
April 12 – 14
Transporting the model SHU to Southern California, LSPC makes public presentations about solitary confinement to three communities – in East LA, Inglewood, and at Scripps College in Pomona. Mental health expert Dr. Terry Kupers also spoke.
Plaintiffs file a Motion for Class Certification, seeking to expand the reach of the lawsuit beyond the ten named plaintiffs to include all Pelican Bay SHU prisoners confined there for more than ten years, or on the basis of unconstitutional gang validation procedures.
The Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective initiates a third hunger strike, which lasts for about 60 days. At its peak, over 30,000 prisoners participate. LSPC visits prisoners on hunger strike, advocates on their behalf through the mediation team, media work and organized rallies.
Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committees hold a joint informational hearing about SHU conditions under the leadership of their respective chairs, Senator Loni Hancock and Assembly member Ammiano. LSPC Executive Director Dorsey Nunn, UC Berkeley student and SHU survivor Steven Czifra, and Dolores Canales from PHSS speak on the panel of family members and formerly incarcerated people. (See powerful public testimony from the day here.)
LSPC arranges a week of interviews for mental health expert Dr. Craig Haney with long-term SHU prisoners.
Senator Hancock and Assembly member Ammiano convene another joint legislative hearing on SHU, this one focusing on current CDCR policies. The four main prisoner representatives are banned from testifying over phone or video, so they submit their written testimony.
LSPC arranges a tour of Pelican Bay SHU for our mental health experts.
The court grants plaintiff’s motion and certifies the case as a class action lawsuit.
LSPC arranges a tour and prisoner interviews for plaintiffs’ expert Juan Mendez and accompanies him on his visit. Mr. Mendez is the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. LSPC also arranges two weeks of interviews with Pelican Bay SHU and General Population prisoners with Dr. Craig Haney.
The litigation team files its Motion to File a Supplemental Complaint, to broaden the scope of the lawsuit to include those prisoners who had been in Pelican Bay SHU for over ten years and were then transferred to another SHU.
The court grants plaintiffs’ motion to Amend the Complaint, expanding the reach of the lawsuit to former Pelican Bay SHU prisoners now housed in other SHU prisons, namely Tehachapi , Corcoran and New Folsom.
The litigation team submits ten expert reports, and five rebuttal reports, to defendants. LSPC works closely with Drs. Kupers and Haney on their reports.
The litigation team takes the depositions of the defense experts and defends plaintiffs’ experts in their depositions.
April to September
The litigation team engages in settlement negotiations with defendants. LSPC participates in several negotiation sessions with the CDCR Secretary.
The parties submit the settlement to the federal court judge for preliminary approval.