My 10 Year Prison Journey After the Agreement to End All Hostilities
This is my history of the sounds, smells, fears, and hopes of racial conflicts and conflict resolutions from 2012 - 2022 inside the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitations after the October 10th, 2012, implementation of the prisoner-led Agreement to End All Hostilities (AEAH).
What is the Agreement to End All Hostilities?
The Agreement to End All Hostilities (AEAH), is a California prisoner-led peace initiative to end all race-based violence inside of California's prisons and its County jails by its general population (G.P.) housed inmates. The AEAH is quite explicit, it does not extend to those prisoners or inmates housed in either protective custody (P.C.) nor on sensitive needs yards (SNY).
Signatories to this agreement were Todd Ashker, C58191, who is White; Arturo Castellanos, C17275, who is Hispanic; Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C35671, who is African American; and Antonio Guillen, P81948, who is Hispanic. The AEAH States in pertinent part:
Greetings from the entire PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Hunger Strike Representatives. We are hereby presenting this mutual agreement on behalf of all racial groups here in the PBSP-SHU Corridor. Wherein, we have arrived at a mutual agreement concerning the following points:
If we really want to bring about substantive meaningful changes to the CDCR system in a manner beneficial to all solid individuals, who have never been broken by CDCR's torture tactics intended to coerce one to become a state informant via debriefing, that now is the time to for us to collectively seize this moment in time, and put an end to more than 20-30 years of hostilities between our racial groups.
Therefore, beginning on October 10, 2012, all hostilities between our racial groups? in SHU, Ad-Seg, General Population, and County Jails, will officially cease. This means that from this date on, all racial group hostilities need to be at an end? and if personal issues arise between individuals, people need to do all they can to exhaust all diplomatic means to settle such disputes; do not allow personal, individual issues to escalate into racial group issues!!
We also want to warn those in the General Population that IGI will continue to plant undercover Sensitive Needs Yard (SNY) debriefer "inmates'' amongst the solid GP prisoners with orders from IGI to be informers, snitches, rats, and obstructionists, in order to attempt to disrupt and undermine our collective groups' mutual understanding on issues intended for our mutual causes [i.e., forcing CDCR to open up all GP main lines, and return to a rehabilitative-type system of meaningful programs/privileges, including lifer conjugal visits, etc. via peaceful protest activity/non cooperation e.g., hunger strike, no labor, etc. etc.]. People need to be aware and vigilant of such tactics, and refuse to allow such IGI inmate snitches to create chaos and reignite hostilities amongst our racial groups. We can no longer play into IGI, ISU, OCS, and SSU's old manipulative divide and conquer tactics!!!
In conclusion, we must all hold strong to our mutual agreement from this point on and focus our time, attention, and energy on mutual causes beneficial to all of us [i.e., prisoners], and our best interests. We can no longer allow CDCR to use us against each other for their benefit!! Because the reality is that collectively, we are an empowered, mighty force, that can positively change this entire corrupt system into a system that actually benefits prisoners, and thereby, the public as a whole... and we simply cannot allow CDCR/CCPOA - Prison Guard's Union, IGI, ISU, OCS, and SSU, to continue to get away with their constant form of progressive oppression and warehousing of tens of thousands of prisoners, including the 14,000 (+) plus prisoners held in solitary confinement torture chambers [i.e. SHU/Ad-Seg Units], for decades!!!
How CDCR's Attempt at Racial Genocide Created the AEAH
In 1989, Pelican Bay State Prison, a brand new super-duper maximum security prison in Crescent City, California, opened for customers. It was designed to keep California's worst prisoners in long-term solitary confinement under conditions of extreme sensory deprivation. Eight by Ten foot cells of poured concrete with no windows whose fluorescent lights are always on. Prisoners remained in their cells twenty-two hours every day, while food was delivered twice a day through a slot in the cell door.
Prior to 2006, prisoners who were held inside of PBSP's Security Housing Unit (SHU), were housed according to their ethnic or geographic backgrounds. For White and Asian (Other) prisoners, geography did not affect their cohesion, but for Blacks and Hispanics, geography did affect cohesion.
The Los Angeles based Crips and Bloods had never acquired strongholds in the Bay Area, this was a demarcation line between the Blacks. For the Mexicans, they are demarcated by the south, central, and northern part of the state. Except for the Mexicans, California's prison gangs are not affected by geography, that is the Aryan Brotherhood for the Whites, and the Black Guerilla Family for the Blacks. The Mexican prison gangs were demarcated by geography, the Mexican Mafia represented Southern Mexicans, while Nuestra Familia represented the Northern Mexicans.
The policy of housing prisoners in homogeneous groups had become a problem, so in 2006, CDCR created the Pelican Bay Short Corridor, and housed all the shot-callers together in hopes of disrupting their communication lines with their underlings, and for these ethnic rivals to kill one another.
Instead of killing one another, they united for one another. In less than five-years, in 2011, these prisoners banded together to lead what would become the first of three hunger strikes that would end California's inhumane practice of long-term solitary confinement; and on August 12th, 2012, the four aforementioned named prisoners signed the AEAH to be implemented on October 10th, 2012.
My Journey Inside CDCR Since the Implementation of the AEAH
I first experienced the effects of the AEAH when it came to a different buzz or vibe surrounding an upcoming hunger strike. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, in 2011, 85% of the prisoners housed in the PBSP SHU were Mexican-Americans. This traditional disparity had greatly impacted Black prisoners' interest in participating in the two previous hunger strikes for those of us not in the SHU, but were being housed in the general population. Amongst the Blacks, the mindset was not to participate in the hunger strikes to end long-term solitary confinement, as it was a, "That's them," meaning that's a Mexican issue.
This time the buzz, and organisational structure around this new hunger strike were different. Blacks were buying in. This hunger strike, the one in July of 2013, turned out to become the largest Prisoner Hunger Strike in U.S. history, when 30,000 prisoners participated. See IPS Inter Press Service, "10th Anniversary of Prisoner Hunger Strike: Where Organizers Are Now."
The hunger strike played a role in Todd Ashker's civil suit, and in 2015, a federal district court ended long-term solitary confinement in California and ordered these prisoners be released from these psychological torture chambers.
Being imprisoned at the only prison in Los Angeles County, I saw first hand these OG's hit the general population yard, and things had really changed for the better. If it wasn't for this different, mutually agreed upon mindset, the world would have never known about the 2015 play I participated in called Redemption in Our State of Blues. Redemption was a multi-race, and multi-gang cast of prison actors who crossed traditional boundaries of race and gang culture to put on a performance of such high caliber, it led to the first-in-the-nation reentry project called, "BREAK IT TO MAKE IT (BITMI): Busting Barriers for the Incarcerated Project, Los Angeles, California." BITMI provides two years of free housing from the Los Angeles Mission. Two years of free education from the Los Angeles City College, and participation in the jails to jobs program of actual paid theatrical work with the theater group, The Strindberg Laboratory.
Six-years later, and it's still going strong. Raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the program going, changing countless lives. See "Strindberg Laboratory Launch Party Featuring Nicole Abbink!"
While Covid-19 greatly impacted rehabilitative services inside prisons here in California, it did not stifle the conflict resolution amongst the various race groups to focus on getting out of prison and become productive members of society, rather than become destructive to such interests through race rioting, and for that, many of us are of gratitude to the principal thinkers of the AEAH.
California prison artist Donald "C-Note" Hooker, aka The King of Prison Hip Hop, has written for Mprisond Thotz, California Prison Focus, Inmate Blogger, Prison Journalist Project, and many more...