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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  B. Cayenne Bird
Bio: B. Cayenne Bird
Date:  November 19, 2008
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Murder By Medical Neglect Must End in CA Prisons
Rally this Fri Nov 21 at 9 am sharp, Philip Burton Fed Courthouse, 450 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco

The media is banned from being able to interview specific prisoners so the public cannot comprehend the full extent of this humanitarian crisis. The three judge panels' courageous stand deserves support. Our education and human services budgets are going to pay prison guards while college enrollment falls behind. There are quadriplegics, paraplegics, brain dead, people with Alzheimer's, and cancer who can't swat a fly off their noses being stood over 24/7 by expensive prison guards. How ridiculous.

After ten long years of the UNON families fighting to end murder by medical neglect in California's prisons, as well as constant abuse of the mentally ill, this Friday is the day the UNION families are calling everyone with a loved one in prison to rally in support of Judges Thelton Henderson, Lawrence Karlton and Rhinehardt.

This Friday, Nov 21 at 9 a.m. sharp 450 Golden Gate Ave San Francisco, CA Meet by the flagpole rain or shine Get the rally flyer

It has been ten long, lean, grueling years and still the state of California has violated more than 77 orders issued by the judges to stop the inhumane and unconstitutional practices in the prisons.

It feels to me as if were fifty years after all we witnessed and personally endured as complaints still flow in from 33 prisons by the hundreds, and the bodies continue to stack up at my feet.

Our UNION families have worked 24/7 for a decade to end abuse of the mentally ill and expose what is nothing less than a humanitarian crisis of great magnitude, happening in the prisons because nobody cared enough to fix the problems. Video cameras in all areas would have helped tremendously and saved a fortune in lawsuits, but a profit is not made on the inmates unless medical care, rehab, a proper diet and education are denied.

Thousands of people died during this era of occupation and death right under everyone's noses.

The prisoners are still dying preventable deaths in taxpayer-financed institutions where the media is banned from being able to interview specific inmates. This ban is to cover up the extent of the crisis in my very qualified opinion.

There are four journalists with loved ones in prison who are communicating. It isn't the same as being able to do one on one interviews, but we know there is a crisis that shouldn't be happening in our country, let alone progressive California. This media ban is why the public is largely unaware of third world conditions that exist due to extreme overcrowding in the prisons.

Thanks to our UNION members who are also active in the Prop 5 campaign, the public was able to see graphic images on television because millions were spent that should have been raised years ago. We are all indebted to the Drug Policy Alliance and the 25,000 members nationally who raised $8 million to do long-needed public education.

Thanks to the many teachers in the UNION who have loved ones in prison themselves, we were finally able to get the California Teachers to come out against more harsh conveyor belt laws such as Prop 6 and Prop 9 and to at last understand that our precious education dollars are spent on hiring prison guards instead. "Hire a prison guard, fire a teacher" - that's where we are and have been for many years as more than one third of our budget is wasted on a failed prison system.

Prop 6 was defeated, but Prop 9 was passed by an uninformed electorate, which only intensifies the prison overcrowding and will cost billions of our human services and education dollars to implement.

We UNION families have filed lawsuits, attended legislative hearings and for the entire course of the decade-long Plata lawsuit, were the only group of people showing up in support of the courageous and capable Prison Law Office. You can google up some of our work on the internet.

The families in our UNION communications network have filed about 100 wrongful death and abuse lawsuits against state employees who have been deliberately indifferent to repeated pleas for help.

We have posted comments daily at the news sites to educate the public and the editors who are banned from being able to interview specific prisoners. We spent money out of our empty pockets to produce television shows that aired on 100 community channels statewide.

We have opened our personal cases up to the public, including the National Prison Commission and the lawmakers.

Every year for more than a decade we held at least one rally at the Capitol over prisoner medical neglect. We even rallied out at the prisons. You can see our past rallies at the website, and some of the very reall faces of grieving moms who continue to fight for everyone, even after their own loved one has died. [ About UNION ]

We have worked and are working very hard. Our jailhouse lawyers are suffering extreme retaliation for filing complaints and legal actions. It's as though organized crime is in charge of our government instead of public servants.

Educated people know that there are only three ways to change the laws.

1. Electing the right people in the first place. UNION members went into poor neighborhoods and registered the poor to vote which dramatically changed the voter base. Everyone should be registering voters on a daily basis who wants reform. If the poor all voted and back up candidates with a little money and brought people to the polls, we would have almost none of our problems.

2. Initiative Campaigns - No group in California has the 6500 trained working volunteers it takes to actually be able to win an initiative campaign. We cannot force changes in the laws until the volunteers and funds are lined up in advance. Most groups out there who do this via initiative campaigns pay the signature gatherers. The deadline is too short to rely upon volunteer work alone.

3. Lawsuits - we certainly have filed scores of lawsuits and plan to file more in the future. Our UNION families have sued at least 1000 prison guards, administrators and unfortunately, some bad apple health care workers for deliberate indifference.

In spite of our own major challenges and empty pocketbooks we never dropped the ball in being there to expose the holocaust that has been happening in the prisons. The state cannot make a profit on the human bondage industry unless they deny prisoners education, rehab, medical care and a proper diet. Lawmakers put into office by law enforcement labor unions are never going to represent the three million people attached to a state prisoner.

Now comes the time to battle out Plata.

This will probably be our last chance for prison reform as Judges Henderson, Karlton and Rhinehardt are a dying breed and the public outcry (mostly law enforcement caring more about their jobs than they care about people) - so whatever happens here is a consequence that will last forever.

With an estimated 30% of the veterans coming home from the war in Iraq with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the passage of Prop 9 (read about that at, the prisons can only become more and more overcrowded.

Nobody cleans up their drug habits in prison. The guards bring in any drug or contraband the prisoners want. Prisons are giving us little or no value for our taxpayer dollar and they are not healing places.

We have known for ten years that a prisoner dies every day but records have been withheld, distorted, destroyed and the corruption and cronyism within the society of the punishers who control our state has even excluded the media.

What we don't know is how many prisoners die in the hospitals, die shortly after release from long-neglected chronic ailments. We do not know many are maimed and sustain permanent disabilities due to careless double-celling decisions of the mentally disordered happening more frequently than ever.

The California Department of Corrections (no rehab is deserved here in this title), has passed another unlawful underground regulation that gives custody the power to overrule mental health professionals on double-celling issues. The wardens and administrators think that this underground regulation will protect them from coming legal actions and complaints filed with American Disabilities, but it won't hold up in a federal court.

Title 18 of the USC (US Civil Code) Sections 241 and 242, as well as California Penal Code 2652, 2653(a) clearly stipulate that custody does not have legal authority to over rule a mental health professional.

Our jailhouse lawyers have already challenged two of the CDCr underground regulations and won, so it is time to rally together and file another legal action on this outrageous practice.

There are some mental health professionals who have prostituted the ethics of their profession. CDCr will simply transfer an inmate to an institution where the psychologists will declare former recommendations invalid. We have one such prostitute in the form of Dr. Rusty Otto at Sierra Conservation Center who in collaboration with Warden Ivan Clay, is about to put a prisoner who was declared to be in need of single cell status by 30 doctors at five prisons no longer eligible.

This type of deliberate indifference is inexcusable and will be dealt with in every legal manner possible. We cannot take every case due to the lack of funds and clerical workers, but there will be a legal action filed against these two men for 8th amendment constitutional violations, violations of the California penal code and Americans With Disabilities violations, not to mention Coleman, Plata, Gomez and Madrid rulings. I will keep you posted every step of the way in my column since the situation affects at least 40,000 prisoners.

This is but one reason why Judge Henderson must step in. The abuse of mentally ill prisoners throughout the system is criminal. Yet there are no criminal charges filed on wardens, administrators, prison guards and even medical workers who participate in blatant violation of the eighth amendment against cruel and unusual punishment. The only accountability these unethical people ever receive is when one of the family members sue them. These violations should be criminally prosecuted and immunity should not be recognized.

Under the guise of the Supreme Court ruling to integrate the prisoners, this irresponsible double celling in 8' x 10' areas that were designed for one person is taking place. It is not uncommon for the insensitive knuckledraggers to lock the men down for 23 hours a day for months on end with a person who might be mentally ill or terminally ill. It is not uncommon for permanent disabilities and even murders to take place every day.

I am calling everyone out to rally in support of hospitals for the mentally ill. It is not necessary to have these under the administration of two failed agencies, CDCR and DMH. They could be administrated as regular hospitals, which is what Dorothea Dix and the Quakers were able to convince the lawmakers to do in 1850. All of the mentally ill were taken out of prisons and jails where they were being brutalized for being unable to follow rules in a similar way that we have today.

These hospitals remained until Reagan cut off the funding. The state was supposed to pick up the responsibility to provide services but they never did this adequately. This is why we have so many mentally ill people in prison. About ll% of them are veterans. The veterans have often committed the most violent crimes of all, because this is the destruction that war brings upon all of us.

The government creates more crime than it prevents.

I have written many articles on these problems for the past ten years and you can look at some of my archived articles at these two links.

Updated information about the rally appears at the website, attendees should check it just before leaving.

B. Cayenne Bird

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Biography - B. Cayenne Bird

B. Cayenne Bird is a 45-year veteran op-ed journalist and publisher. A descendant of Mary Todd Lincoln, and General Andrew Porter, she is passionate about human rights and criminal justice issues. A mother and grandmother with advanced degrees in Journalism, Liberal Studies, and Humanities (Cultural Anthropology) she has focused on prison reform making great strides in Calif. supporting the landmark Plata-Coleman case for a decade which resulted in major prison reform. She writes scholarly articles too but prefers op-eds.

Read other commentaries by B. Cayenne Bird.

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Copyright 2008 by B. Cayenne Bird
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