Voices from Solitary: Isolated for Having a “Gang” Calendar

by | July 1, 2012

We have heard a lot about the gang “validation” in California prisons–the process by which inmates are identified as members of prison gangs. Validation can land a prisoner in solitary for five, ten, even twenty years, and was the main focus of the recent hunger strikes at Pelican Bay and other California supermaxes. We have also heard stories of prisoners who’ve been validated on the basis of tattoos or reading materials, as well as testimony by other prisoners, who are rewarded for “debriefing.” This is the first time, however, that we’ve heard of a prisoner being validated and placed in solitary because for having a calendar that was deemed to be gang-related–proving, once again, that First Amendment rights often end at the prison gates. — James Ridgeway

I am currently in the administrative segregation unit in a California prison. I was not placed in the ASU for any disciplinary reasons-I was placed here for having copies of a 10-12 year old cultural calendar. I’m basically here for having copies of other peoples’s artwork that dates back up to 20 years. Because these individuals were deemed “prison gang members” I am deemed a “threat to the safety and security of the institution’’ for simply admiring their artwork. How trivial is that?

I’ve been ion this situation for 15 months now. It is extremely mind-boggling how the state and courts allow the prison system to take all your little comforts, the things that help you feel like you are doing something positive with your time such as education (I was two classes away from getting a second college degree), AA/NA classes, a job and a few hours of recreation a day over some innocuous copies.

Now I sit here day in and day out wondering if humanity has desensitized itself to the suffering of other human beings. It is incredible when I hear about the anger and moral courage some people feel at how a chicken or any animal is caged up, but don’t bat an eyelash whena human being is treated worse. It simply amazes me.


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