One Month After Historic Hunger Strike, California Lawmakers Hold Hearings on Solitary Confinement
Guest Post by Victoria Law
The following report on the October 9 hearing held by the California legislature originally appeared on Truthout. The author, Victoria Law is a writer, photographer, and mother. She is the author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women (PM Press 2009), the editor of the zine Tenacious: Art and Writings from Women in Prison and a co-founder of Books Through Bars – NYC. She is currently working on transforming “Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind,” a zine series on how radical movements can support the families in their midst, into a book. Article copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission.
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“Tell us the truth, even if it’s not pleasant,” State Assembly member Tom Ammiano told California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officials, advocates, formerly incarcerated people and family members.
On Wednesday, October 9, the California legislature’s Public Safety Committee held the first of several hearings about the use of solitary confinement in California’s prisons. These hearings were prompted by a 60-day hunger strike that rocked California’s prison system this past summer.
On July 8, 2013, over 30,000 people incarcerated throughout California refused meals.
Hunger strikers issued 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.
Prisoners in Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit (SHU) issued 40 additional demands, such as expunging all violations issued for participation in the 2011 hunger strikes and prohibiting retaliation for those participating in the most recent strike.
In the SHU, people are locked in their cells for at least 22 hours a day. Prison administrators place them in the SHU either for a fixed term for violating a prison rule or for an indeterminate term for being accused of gang membership. These accusations often rely on confidential informants and circumstantial evidence.
Hundreds have been confined within the SHU for more than a decade. Until recently, the only way to be released from the SHU was to debrief, or provide information incriminating other prisoners, who are then placed in the SHU for an indeterminate sentence. SHU prisoners launched two hunger strikes in 2011. This past July, they launched what would become a 60-day hunger strike.
The strike ended after California State Senator Loni Hancock, chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee, and Assembly member Tom Ammiano, chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, promised to hold hearings around the issues raised by the hunger strikers. As reported earlier in Truthout, the legislators’ support pushed both the CDCR and the hunger strikers toward a resolution.
“On September 3, we received a copy of the press statement from Senator Hancock and Assembly member Ammiano using strong language in support of our cause, urging us to end our hunger strike with assurances of hearings, etc.,” hunger striker Todd Ashker told Truthout in a recent letter. “We’re not ones to snub lawmakers, etc., who pledge support – in public – in spite of CDCR’s vilification campaign.” Buoyed by legislators’ support and the promise of upcoming hearings, hunger strikers met and voted to suspend the strike.
“Now this doesn’t end our collective actions to shed light on and end solitary confinement and indeterminate SHUs, but instead is a time of advancing forward on an even broader front,” wrote hunger striker Lorenzo Benton the day after the hunger strike ended. “With the gains made (national and international support and a viable movement to achieve our objectives), we are now in a position to see our goal to the end with no further loss of life and/or serious physical or mental harm. . . . We must not shy away from this golden opportunity to have our collective voices heard and end this mockery of the need for solitary confinement and indeterminate SHUs.”
A Legal Challenge to Indefinite Solitary: Ashker v. Brown
On Thursday, September 26, lawyers presented oral arguments for Ashker v. Brown, a federal lawsuit on behalf of 10 prisoners in Pelican Bay’s SHU. The lawsuit alleges that prolonged solitary confinement violates Eighth Amendment prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment and that the absence of meaningful review for SHU placement violates the prisoners’ right to due process.
Attorneys urged the judge to grant the suit class-action status. More than 500 people have been in Pelican Bay’s SHU for over 10 years; more than 200 have been there for over 15 years; and 78 for more than 20 years. Class certification would extend the remedies in the case to apply at least to all Pelican Bay SHU prisoners who have been held in solitary confinement for more than 10 years.
Claudia Wilken, the federal judge hearing the case, said that she is likely to allow the suit to be expanded from the cases of 10 prisoners to include the approximately 1,100 people held in indefinite isolation. She set the trial date for November 3, 2014.
Returning to Pelican Bay
As reported earlier in Truthout, on August 23, the CDCR moved at least 50 hunger strikers to New Folsom Prison, just outside Sacramento, to provide them with better medical attention during their strike. Because New Folsom’s SHU and Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) were full, hunger strikers were housed in a portion of the prison temporarily converted into an Ad-Seg unit. “The cells are constantly cold, given that the cell’s air-conditioning is always on full blast, blowing out cold air,” Benton reported. “We are not allowed any yard activity or physical access to the law library.” Reports on medical attention were mixed: Benton stated that medical staff often “just walk by one’s cell and look in on you, usually with no comment.” However, Mutope DuGuma stated that both medical and custodial staff at New Folsom were “one hundred times more human than Pelican Bay medical/staff. We were actually treated fair.”
For many, the month at New Folsom provided them an opportunity to see the sky. Benton noted that his cell had a window providing him with a view of mountains, trees and birds “to which I am taking in each day, as well as the joys and the warmth of the sun, to which I/we have been denied for so long.” DuGuma too was able to see the outside world. “I haven’t seen a moon or direct sunlight in thirteen years,” he wrote. “It was beautiful.”
Once the strike ended, CDCR began returning prisoners to Pelican Bay and the other prisons where they were originally housed. Mutope DuGuma was moved on September 24. DuGuma noted that, like the ride to New Folsom, no medical staff accompanied the bus. In addition, he stated that prison staff “didn’t lock the cages other than the gate that cut off to them, so the front and back could interact with each other. On the last five-and-a-half hours, they didn’t turn on the lights, leaving us free to move in waist chains and ankle chains.” Given the California prison system’s history of racially-based violence, DuGuma hypothesized, “I think the COs were trying to serve us a threatening message as well as test our end to all hostilities because we literally could have killed someone on this bus and got away with it.”
Effects of Hunger Strike Still Felt
Although the hunger strike has ended (or been suspended, as some participants are quick to point out), hunger strike participants still feel the ramifications of going weeks, if not months, without food. Lorenzo Benton stated that he continues to feel occasional lightheadedness, aches and pains, fatigue, and wakes 10 times each night. “Being 58 years old, one’s body is not as young as it used to be, so one is aware it’s going to take a little time to reboot and rebuild this machine of mine.”
Mutope DuGuma, too, is still feeling the effects of going 60 days without food one month after he resumed eating. “I still got stomach discomfort, and my leg muscles have not come back. They feel like I am walking on stilts,” he reported after his return to Pelican Bay.
The First Legislative Hearing
On Wednesday, October 9, some 100 formerly incarcerated people, family members and supporters drove to Sacramento to attend the first joint Public Safety Committee hearing on solitary confinement.
Marie Levin is the sister of Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, one of the four main representatives of the Pelican Bay hunger strikers. “This is the start of something big,” she told Truthout just before a pre-hearing rally. She had visited her brother two weeks earlier and reported that, although he lost 62 pounds during the strike, both he and she were optimistic. “We’re looking forward to change happening in the SHU and in the California prison system.”
Inside the hearing, CDCR officials, academics, former prisoners and family members testified. Investigator General Robert Barton told lawmakers that of the 4,054 people currently held in SHUS across California, 1900 have life terms. Of these, 574 have been in SHU for more than five years, 197 for more than 10 years, 126 for more than 15, and 84 for more than 20 years. He also noted that 74 women are serving SHU terms at the California Institute for Women. (Because of overcrowding, however, 99 women were housed in the prison’s SHU as of July 2013.)
Steven Czifra, a student at UC Berkeley, was one of the last to testify. After four years as a model prisoner and days before his parole date, Czifra had a fistfight with another prisoner. Because Czifra is white and the other man was black, prison officials labeled the fight racially-motivated and sent Czifra to Ad Seg for a year. The following day, he spit on a guard who was taunting him. Those two incidents placed him in the SHU for four years.
The effects of those four years haunted him years after his release. “It took my partner five years before she could touch me without it hurting me,” he recalled. He urged legislators to take action, pointing to the research and findings presented by Margaret Winters, associate director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project, and Keramet Reiter, assistant professor at UC Irvine, earlier in the hearing. “We don’t need to research anything [more]. We already know without a doubt that long-term solitary confinement is torture,” said Czifra.
Dorsey Nunn, executive director of advocacy group Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, cocounsel on Ashker v. Brown, also testified, linking his own experience of solitary confinement with the recent hunger strike. He urged lawmakers to abolish long-term solitary confinement. “If you have to use solitary confinement, set a limit. Like 30 days.”
The hearing lasted four hours. Dolores Canales, whose son Johnny has spent 13 years in the SHU, was hopeful. She told Truthout that Johnny and others at Pelican Bay were hopeful. So was Nunn, who pointed out that the legislators’ support pushed prisoners to end the strike on its 60th day. Reminding legislators that an Irish hunger striker lasted 66 days on his hunger strike before dying, he said, “This hearing gives the opportunity for people to do something other than starve themselves to death.”
Writing from inside his SHU cell at Pelican Bay, however, Mutope DuGuma reminded Truthout, “Remember, we are in a protracted struggle. Therefore, a suspended hunger strike only means that it can be reignited at any given moment.” At the end of the hearing, family members and advocates seemed optimistic that such a course of action might not be necessary.
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The more things change the more they remain the same.
August 13, 1970 Issue
Letter from the Underground
Daniel Berrigan and S. J.
To the Editors:
“…Father Philip Berrigan, and David Eberhardt are at Lewisburg Federal Prison at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, serving six and two year sentences for destruction of draft files…Recently they have been consigned to solitary confinement in the prison; there, they have been fasting for some two weeks, to protest their treatment and that of other resisters of war…
Some background information may be useful as revealing a trend, not only in the Federal Bureau, but in pressures brought on prisoners through the FBI….
They were assigned to Lewisburg, under maximum security, contrary to the general practice of keeping nonviolent prisoners of peace in minimum security….The old question therefore arises yet once more: who is it, anyway, who induces violence, itches for it, invites it in others; in sum, makes it less and less possible for nonviolent men and women to survive?????
One can only conclude that the time has arrived on the national scene, as well as the prison scene, when priests and Panthers are to be given the same treatmen. I take a certain rueful satisfaction in this truth; the church is long overdue in sharing punishment habitually meted out to those who would bring change… Is the federal prison system subject to no law of the land, on limitation of vengeance against nonviolent resisters in prison?”
Footnote to article:
“The latest information is that they have been removed to the infirmary, but are still fasting. [Editors’ Note: Since this letter arrived we have been informed that, after many strong expressions of concern about their treatment, Father Berrigan and David Eberhardt have been released from solitary confinement and have broken their fast.”
The information contained in this new book is related:
The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI
January 7, 2014 publication
“The never-before-told full story of the 1971 history-changing break-in of the FBI offices in Media, Pennsylvania, by a group of unlikely activists–quiet, ordinary, hardworking Americans–that made clear the shocking truth and confirmed what some had long suspected, that J. Edgar Hoover had created and was operating his own shadow Bureau of Investigation.
The book shows how the break-in, and subsequent release of the contents of the FBI’s files to newspapers across the country, upended the public’s perception of the up-till-then inviolate head of the Bureau, paving the way for the FBI’s overhaul for the first time since its inception forty-seven years before, in 1924, and setting the stage for the sensational release three months later by Daniel Ellsberg of the top-secret seven-thousand-page Pentagon study of U.S. decision making regarding the Vietnam War that became known as the Pentagon Papers.”
WE’VE BEEN TREADING WATER FOR 43 years!
Here is a mixed group of inmates that have been held in Solitary Confinement.
After Atascadero our transport bus arrived at “California Men’s Colony” a newer style facility located in San Luis Opismo County. At the time of our arrival, Huey Newton, the cofounder of the Black Panthers, was just beginning his 2-15 year sentence there for voluntary manslaughter of an Oakland police officer that had pulled him over.
Newton’s conviction was overturned on appeal in May 27, 1970 and he was released on $50,000 bail on August 8, 1970, to await a new trial.
Ironically Newton’s release was only one month before Timothy Leary escaped from the institution’s low security section. The Harvard Professor had been serving a 20 year sentence in C.M.C. for marijuana possession for two roaches that were found in his girl friend’s underpants on the Texas, Mexico border. (I’m still amazed at the difference between the two crimes and their penalties.)
Leary had escaped with the help of members of the radical Weathermen organization who had prearranged to have him smuggled out of the U.S. to Algeria where he joined Eldridge Cleaver and the Black Panther Party’s “government in exile.” Not too long after his arrival Leary had to again flee to Switzerland when Cleaver attempted to extort him. From Switzerland he traveled to Beirut, Lebanon and finally to Kabul Afghanistan where he was captured and brought back to the US.
In his autobiography, “Flashbacks” (Tarcher/Patnam, 1983), he wrote:
“Consider my situation. I was a 49-year-old man facing life in prison for encouraging people to face up to new options with courage and intelligence. The American government was being run by Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, John Ehrlichman, Robert Haldeman, G. Gordon Liddy, John Mitchell, J. Edgar Hoover and other cynical flouters of the democratic process. Would you have let men like these keep you in prison for life for your ideas?”
Once in the states Leary was returned to C.M.C. where he spent four months in solitary confinement. Then Leary, the original LSD guru, was transferred to Folsom Prison’s Solitary Confinement Unit and ironically housed in the cell next to Charles Manson, who told him, “I’ve been waiting to talk to you for years.” Manson was a cult leader of a small band of followers that called themselves “The Family”, Under Manson’s direction the cult were all heavily using LSD as well as other mind altering drugs when they carried out several notorious murders in the late 1960s. These gruesome murders inspired a movie and book titled Helter Skelter.
Manson continued: “Now we have plenty of time. We were all your students, you know. You had everyone looking up to you. You could have led people anywhere you wanted … And you didn’t tell them what to do. That’s what I could never figure out… Why didn’t you? I‘ve wanted to ask you that for years.
L: That was the point. I didn’t want to impose my realities. The idea is that everybody takes responsibility for his nervous system, creates his own reality. Anything else is brainwashing.
M: That was your mistake. No one wants responsibility. Everyone wants to be told what to do, what to believe, what’s really true and really real.” At least that was the Families reality.
After another four months in the hole Leary was released into Folsom’s general population. Then he was transferred to Vacaville for another five months. Leary was eventually released by CA Gov. Jerry Brown in May 1976 after cooperating with the Fed’s investigation of the Weathermen.
Leary’s early release was primarily a repudiation of the government’s conduct, alluded to in the quote above taken from his autobiography Flashbacks, i.e. the Watergate break-in, and other such illegal activities directed towards civil rights groups.
Whitey Bulger also is said to have committed his first murder in 1969. By 1979, Bulger had assumed control of Boston’s Winter Hill Gang, and thus became the town’s undisputed overlord of drug dealing, loan-sharking, gambling, and extortion.
Born in the Crash year of 1929, Bulger was the son of a hard-luck laborer and a homemaker….Bulger fought his way out of both slum life of the public housing projects he lived in. Following a 1956 conviction for a bank heist, he served nine years of a 20-year sentence in Alcatraz, Leavenworth, and other federal penitentiaries.
In Atlanta during the early part of his confinement, Bulger sought to lessen his sentence by volunteering for covert CIA-sponsored medical experiments with LSD. They proved to be horrible experiences “followed by thoughts of suicide and deep depression,” he’d later write in his diaries, adding, “I was in prison for committing a crime and feel they committed a worse crime on me.”
In light of this experience I wonder how Bulger viewed Leary who later proclaimed:
“Drugs Are the Religion of the People—The Only Hope is Dope”
Timothy Leary, The Politics of Ecstasy.
Coming of age during the sixties I had been aware of the counterculture rally, “Human Be-In”, also known as the “Gathering of the Tribes”, held at S.F. Golden State Park on January 14, 1967. This is where Harvard Professor Timothy Leary, speaking to a crowd of 30,000 Haight-Ashbury hippies and Berkeley radicals, had introduced the phrase, “Turn on, Tune in, drop out.” to the masses. For such sentiments President Richard Nixon once called him, “the most dangerous man in America.”
The underground chemist” Owsley Stanley had provided a large quantity of his trade mark, “White Lightning” LSD, specially produced for the event in defiance of the California law of October 6, 1966 which banned the use of the psychedelic drug. The term “hippie” had itself only just been coined weeks before the event by Herb Caen, of the San Francisco Chronicle Newspaper, using a play on the 1940’s term hipster or beatnik.
Later during the summer of 1967 over 100,000 young people would converge on San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district in what has since been called the “Summer of Love”, and touted at the time as a social experiment of alternative life styles. Because of the Mamas and Papas 1967 hit song San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) the hippies were now also referred to as “Flower Children.” While the hippies were all about peace, the Bay Area’s “New Left Movement” was rapidly moving away from such pragmatic idealism and towards a radical, “Let’s just pick up a gun.” attitude. Leary had a foot in both of these movements.
And Bulger like Leary ran afoul of the law and was indicted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act for the murder of 19 people over five decades.
James “Whitey” Bulger had been a fugitive for 16 years by the time of his arrest in 2011 in Santa Monica, CA.
Bulger’s reign involved the biggest breach of FBI security and ethics in the bureau’s history.
The common link between these three is the use of large amounts of LSD.
“Hunger strikers issued five core demands:”
I’m sorry, but you lost your right to issue demands when you committed your crime. Until you are released you are relegated to requests ONLY.
Of all the “demands” I think this one was the most ironic:
“Provide adequate food”…..roflol
You quote DuGuma as writting:
“prison staff “didn’t lock the cages other than the gate that cut off to them, so the front and back could interact with each other. On the last five-and-a-half hours, they didn’t turn on the lights, leaving us free to move in waist chains and ankle chains.” Given the California prison system’s history of racially-based violence, DuGuma hypothesized, “I think the COs were trying to serve us a threatening message as well as test our end to all hostilities because we literally could have killed someone on this bus and got away with it.””
I am glad they didn’t fall for it.
Which some may thing is BS but let me tell you about a bit about my own experience on a CDC transport bus.
I hadn’t slept much by the time they came to get me just before dawn. I had restraints placed on me, comprising of handcuffs with a loop attached, attached to the loop was a chain that ran down to the loop on the ankle cuffs. I had seen these used on others before, but it was the first time that I had ever worn them. Still I looked forward to getting on the bus so I eagerly hopped up onto the large bus where a group of adult prisoners waited my arrival.
I was told to go to the back, and sit by myself after all, at the age of 17, I was still a minor. That was just fine with me, so I moved towards the rear, and as I did so, I could feel the inmates sizing me up as I walked down the aisle. I was by now, acutely aware of the need to use only my peripheral vision to make my own threat assessment, having learned over time that direct eye contact could be perceived as a challenge by the other inmates. Ironically this is the same advice dog handlers give for handling an aggressive dog. This threat assessment was a necessary process in order to identify those around me that were most likely to present a problem in a unforeseen situation. I felt a sense of relief in the belief that I could probably hold my own with this first batch, but then again, there would be many more stops to be made down the road before the bus arrived in L.A.
The seats on the bus were simple black vinyl benches, and the windows were barred. There was a wire mesh wall separating the inmates from the guards, which were armed with pump shot guns.
First we stopped Folsom, then Vacaville, then San Quentin, then Soledad. I noted that the inmates were a lot younger in Soledad than either Folsom or San Quentin and therefore they were more likely to act violently. I sat waiting to see who would be coming with us. I had to rub my eyes when I saw the group arrive at the bus. They were already shackled and each one of them appeared to have spent a lot of time weight training. One by one they climbed the steps of the bus which would sway a little with their weight. The last one to enter was a black man so large that the bus seemed to bow to him as he climbed the steps. The man’s massive arms were protruding from his sleeveless shirt which had been removed to accommodate his massive arms. To this day he is still the largest well conditioned man that I’ve ever seen. This was a person I didn’t want to be on the wrong side of, and I sank a little in my seat, feeling threatened by his presence. As we drove to our next destination, I watched with interest, from my seat at the rear of the bus, all the interactions between the new arrivals, and the other inmates that had already been on the bus.
I noticed an inmate sitting next to another speaking rather softly but intensely. The other inmate looked intimidated and it appeared a classic example of coercion.
Later on in the day we arrived at a small-town jail somewhere between Soledad and Atascadero, in what appeared to be a farming town. A chain was run through the loop in our handcuffs so that we were all now daisy chained together and then we were unloaded under armed guard. Once we were all off the bus we were made to walk a short distance to the jail’s entrance where more armed guards waited. It was an embarrassing few moments as pedestrians, and the inhabitants of cars, stared at all of us, with expressions of distain, and concern on their faces.
Once inside I was placed in a cell by myself and all the others were placed in a larger cell within ear shot of mine. Later, during the wait for the guards return, I heard an attack taking place on an inmate, and I assumed it was the two men that I had witnessed talking earlier. Later, when the guards returned, and we were all loaded back on the bus along with one new prisoner, the body language of the two inmates confirmed my suspicions. Submission had been established, and my heart sank a little for the man that had been made to summit.
I convinced myself that it was better for me to pretend I didn’t know, so I looked away as the victim raised his eyes to mine. Now the trip was beginning to be a concern for me.
The new arrival had a wild look on his face, as he asked the others who I was since I was sitting alone. They explained that I was a C.Y.A. inmate. Satisfied he began to tell the others of how he had escaped from Atascadero State Hospital for the criminally insane. I listened as he described his escape. He had overpowered a guard then took him along with other hostages. The guard was forced to hand over his keys to his car, and while one of his accomplices drove the car, he stuck his gun in the mouth of the guard. The inmate was simply delighted that the guard had wet his pants as he was forced to repeat, that he was the inmates bitch. Then in order to prove that he was indeed his bitch the inmate forced the guard to perform fellatio on him. This all took place with the gun now held to the guard’s forehead while traveling down the road.
I imagined the scene and wondered what the pay back would be when the inmate was returned to the facility. Most inmates think that a real man would never submit to such an act. If someone has been forcibly raped it requires the quick gruesome murder of the offender by the victim in order to prevent any further exploitation. This is the bare minimum that will regain even a small measure of respect from those around you. And this need to be respected is the root cause of prison violence where the slightest sign of disrespect can get you killed.
From a article in the San Luis Obispo County, Telegram-Tribune newspaper report on May 27, 1968 and the 1970 case file of (People v Quinlan), one of the three inmates that escaped, I have pieced together a more complete picture of the events.
On May 26, 1968, Robert G. Quinlan, Gerald Joseph Gallant, Jr., and Robert Higuera were inmate patients in Unit 23, at Atascadero State Hospital, when two officers arrived to do a shakedown of the high security unit. Armed with a gun, that someone had smuggled in, Higuera greeted them at the door, and ordered, the officers, to turn over their uniforms, keys and wallets, then they were locked in a room along with all but two of the staff assigned to the unit. Hearing the phone ring Gallant held a knife to the lone male hostage’s throat and ordered him to answer the phone. After the hostage complied, with their demand, and hung up the phone, Gallant and Quinlan put on the officers’ uniforms. Meanwhile Higuera held a knife to a female hostage’s throat and forced her to accompany them to the first security gate’s office where Gallant poked the gun through its opening while Higuera shouted, “Open the gate up or I’ll kill her!”
Fearing for the woman’s life, the officer stationed inside complied, but once let through Quinlan stabbed him in the stomach. They repeated this tactic at the next security station, and were again successful, but this time they did not stab the officer. Then the three patients, the original two hostages and the two security officers, got into the male staff member’s car and drove off with Quinlan behind the wheel.
When the group reached the freeway they headed south where one of the escapees in uniform motioned for the car driving alongside them to pull over. After compiling to what they assumed to be an officers order, the armed men forced the occupants out of their car and transferred the hostages to the traveler’s car and drove off.
The group stopped at a random, unoccupied, Avila Beach house where Quinlan, armed with the gun, watched over the hostages as the other two escapees ransacked the house. Finding more guns, liqueur, and suitable street clothes they changed out of the stolen uniforms, tied the two wounded officers to a bed, stabbed the uninjured officer in the back, and stole a Buick that was parked at the premises.
Then they drove the stolen Buick north on Highway 101, stopping at yet another random house in Los Osos, but this time the residents happened to arrive while they were still in the house. So Quinlan held the surprised elderly residents at gun point, as Higuera made a mysterious phone call in the other room then he and the female hostage headed south in one of two cars belonging to the couple. So Quinlan and Gallant took the couple’s other car and along with their male hostage and headed north towards San Francisco. Once they arrived in San Francisco the escapee’s tied up their hostage and left him in an isolated location.
Higuera had called another woman staff member at A.S.H. who agreed to swap places with his female hostage. The new female staff member then drove to a Pismo Beach motel where the swap took place.
Once freed the original hostage then drove non-stop to San Luis Obispo where she telephoned the authorities. When asked why she waited so long to call she answered “I just wanted distance between us right then.” She later told the newspaper that, “I didn’t know any of the three.” So the woman that had received the call from Hidurea, and then swapped herself for the hostage, fell under immediate suspicion.
After the authorities learned the location from the freed female hostage the new “hostage” was spotted walking outside the Pismo Beach motel barefooted. When questioned by the police she told them that Hidurea had taken a stroll on the pier. Shortly thereafter the two officers spotted Hiduera clinging to a piece of driftwood and ordered him to come out of the surf which he did.
The newspaper also reported that, 28 year old Gerald J. Gallant, 28, was the apparent ring-leader and that he had originally been convicted of robbery and rape in Los Angeles and was considered to be a “disordered sex offender.” It was also noted in the court report that Gallant and Quinlan were apprehended in Ohio.
Given that Quinlan was the driver of the getaway car, and considering Gallant’s description as a “disordered sex offender”, leads me to believe the escapee was Gallant and that he may have even forced the officer to perform fellatio on him. Gallant was most likely tried where we picked him up for his role in the trio’s crime spree.
We next stopped at a state building of some kind, most likely yet another courthouse. First one of the guards, then the other, went inside. We were alone for the first time since I had been placed on the bus. The story teller from Atascadero, as if to confirm his bravado, quickly jumped to his feet and began going up and down the aisle looking for a weak spot on the bus. Finding an open window the man laid face up on the seat and began kicking at the bars outside the window. He had to do this with both feet since we all wore ankle cuffs as well as handcuffs. Bang bam nothing, bang bam nothing, pausing he asks to be notified if the guards reappear. Bang bam nothing, I begin to ask myself if he succeeds and gets out and the others follow what would happen if the guards return and see a massive prison escape. The thought of the guards firing on us now worried me.
And then it all hit me, I’m here with a bunch of hardcore desperate men. Yes I wanted to be free, but I also knew that I didn’t have years to do, and although doing time was rough, I felt I could make it.
The inmate soon tired and just as he took a brief rest the guards exited the building carrying bag lunches. Once the guards boarded they began to distribute the bag lunches unaware of the drama that had preceded their return.
We all were required to eat while handcuffed and bouncing up and down as the bus maneuvered down the road. As one can imagine, it was difficult to eat while holding onto our drinks in handcuffs, so either we raised our drinks along with our sandwich or the drinks had to be squeezed between our legs while the rest of our meal rested freely on our lap. All of this took awhile for the inexperienced, like me, to figure out, so you would hear men cuss as they spelt their drinks, and/or dropped their food.
Our next stop was Atascadero State Hospital (ASH) which first opened its gates in 1954 one year prior to Vacaville’s CMF to return the escapee.