My name is Jessica McGann, I’m writing this petition on behalf of my brother whom I love dearly. My brother’s name is Francisco McGann, he is currently at Corcoran State prison; his prison number is P21818. My brother has been incarcerated since he was 17 years old, to date he has been in the prison system for over 15 years, 7 of those 15 in the Security Housing Unit also known as the SHU.
My brother was placed in the SHU because he had a small telephone book with a name, address and telephone number of an individual whose name is very common in the Mexican American population in fact his name is so common that if you were to take a look in the yellow pages you’ll find at least 100 individuals with that same first and last name in every community around our nation not to mention Mexico. Let me just go back a little bit, it all started when a group of correctional officers raided my brothers cell, they found a small telephone book with a very common name in the Mexican American community: Mario Rodriguez which is one of his childhood friends, (this name is fictitious and the reason I’m using this name is because this first and last name is very common) as well as I don’t want to get anyone in trouble. Anyway, based solely on the name and last name of this individual the correctional officers ran his name on their database and of course they had matched it to another person who is a member of a prison gang, as a result my brother was validated as an associate to a gang because of this simple detail he has been in the SHU ever since. The sad part about this is that the CDC has a system in place to validate prisoners for similar things such as having a tattoo of an Aztec and or reading material of Malcolm X these are some things that can land a prisoner in isolation for many years without having been in any type of trouble and with no hopes of ever getting out of the SHU.
My point is, how can the California Department of Corrections (CDC) validate someone based on a first and last name of a person, I would understand if they had additional information, for example a date of birth or a prison number attached to the above name, but no other detail or specific information was found, as a result my brother has been in the SHU for 7 years. When this happened my brother asked me to help him locate his friend which I did.
When I went to my brother’s friend house to speak with him, I was unable to because he was incarcerated. His parents were very kind and gave me his address, at that time he himself was serving a sentence at Donovan state prison in San Diego. I wrote a letter to my brother’s friend explaining what had happen to my brother and I asked him if he could write a short statement with his name and last name, prison number and to include his date of birth. I also asked if he could state if he was affiliated or associated with any gangs his response and statement was that he had never been involved with gangs and that he met my brother while in juvenile hall in 1998.
I was able to send the signed statement to my brother 6 years ago in hopes that this would clarify the misunderstanding but that did not help him at all, I asked myself many times if this was right or was there something very wrong with the system that the CDC has in place. Neither my brother nor the other prisoners are asking for too much other than just 5 simple things.
One of them has to do with how the CDC validates prisoners. The hunger strikers want the validation part to be examined by an independent organization such as prison watch or an organization that has nothing to do with CDC or better yet remove the validation. Secondly, weekly phones call to family on the outside. Families have no idea that once you are placed in the SHU you don’t get to call them even if there is a death in the family. They are also asking to allow contact visits and not behind the glass visit for the SHU prisoners. Let me tell you one thing about not being able to have a contact visit it sucks because we have not been able to hug, kiss or shake my brother’s hand because all of our visits have been behind a glass for the last 7 years. In the past when we had contact visits we were able to feed and feel him giving and showing him that we have faith, love giving him strength to carry on. Fourth, to extend the amount of time allowed to visit your love one from one hour to 5 or 6 hours especially if you are driving 5 and in some case 8 hours to get to the prison, that makes a lot of sense instead of just one hour, wouldn’t you think so. Finally instead of just receiving one package per year and yes that’s exactly what my brother is receiving one package per year and so are the other prisoners in the SHU. The hunger strikers are asking for 4 packages per year exactly what all other prisoners receive. Which I feel is fare especially if they are not getting in any type of trouble.
In a nut shell, is that too much to ask, I ask myself and my answer would be not at all especially when a lot of these prisoners have not had any misconduct for many years! Whatever happened to the correct protocols, I asked myself? About 3 years ago my brother had a parole hearing and because he failed to provide any self improvement for example a GED or a trade of some kind, he was denied parole, again I ask myself how can someone who is in the Security Housing Unit be rehabilitated when they are not allowed to seek an education let alone a trade. Furthermore, my brother sees no hope of ever obtaining a release date because as long as he is in the SHU the parole board will never provide him with a release date.
In an effort to shed light on the injustice of the prison system he is involved in a massive hunger strike, he wants change just like the other inmates who are in his same situation. These inmates are looking for change in the validation system that the CDC has in place. As of today my brother has been involved on the hunger strike without food for 20 days along with 30,000 prisoners in California that are refusing to eat because of the harsh treatment they have suffered for many years while in the SHU. I think is time for the world to know what is really happening with our prison system which not too long ago a federal judge ruled that the prison system in California was broken and therefore ordered the CDC to release thousands of prisoners because the system was overcrowded. These prisoners are protesting the inhumane and cruel punishment they receive day in and day out, which equals torture!
Today, I received a letter from my brother, in his letter he states that the warden at Corcoran has moved him to a different unit, along with other prisoners because according to the warden he and the other prisoners were provoking the hunger strike: when in fact the hunger strike was and had been scheduled to begin on July 8, 2013. My brother tells me that the CDC is retaliating against the hunger strikers by moving them around to different buildings and taking all their belongings like clothes and property away from them leaving them without clothes, hygiene or even shoes completely naked in his cold cell, and to top things off the warden is relocating the hunger strikers to a designated building for debriefer’s that include child molesters, rapists and protective custody inmates. My brother states in his letter that this is a tactic to provoke inmates that do not condone pedophiles or rapists to have to co-habitate. This is a tactic used by the CDC for inmates to react or snap on a fellow inmate as they are expecting it to do so. This is the CDC way of retaliation, to be able to send these strikers back to the SHU for a lifetime. By provoking them to do things they know are incorrect, yet allowing it to happen. In my eyes it’s like giving the mouse to the cat.
My entire family and the family of many of these inmates worry and suffer in anguish. My mother and father have not been able to sleep just thinking that their son feels the need to deprive himself of food for rights that should have been in place since before he was ever incarcerated. Human rights are rights that the United States of America placed upon EVERY individual no matter what, when or where in the nation they reside. Please help us change this system that the CDC has in place by signing this petition.
I urge everyone to help me by signing this petition and sharing it with family and friends.
“Thousands of California prisoners are engaged in a hunger strike, not because they want to commit suicide, but because they have no other way to protest the egregious conditions of prolonged solitary confinement,” said Rev. Richard Killmer, executive director of the National Religious Campaign against Torture.
Jerry Brown, Governor of California
Jeffrey Beard, Sec'y of CDCR (California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation)
I support the prisoners & their reasonable demands. I am alarmed by the CDCR's refusal to recognize, address, and implement the changes outlined by prisoners being held in Security Housing Units (SHUs). I am further disturbed that, rather than addressing the crisis created by locking people for years and decades in extreme isolation, this peaceful hunger strike is being deemed a "mass prison disturbance" by the CDCR, putting prisoners in further danger.
I urge you to initiate accountable negotiations with these prisoners and/or their chosen representatives. I urge you to take action to implement the fair and reasonable demands immediately, and in good faith. I also want your guarantee that peaceful hunger strikers will not be retaliated against.