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Indybay Feature
Shake-Down
by Boston Woodard (c/o allianceeditor [at] comcast.net)
Wednesday Apr 23rd, 2008 9:24 AM
An inside view of what is really going on inside the Prison Industrial Complex. This is an update to an earlier article.
boston-06.jpg
Shake-Down
Hate-Filled Retaliation
By: Boston Woodard

Searching a state prison for contraband is compulsory and has been going on for over 200 years in this country. Throughout prison history, right up until now, cel-blocks and other prison housing units are periodically searched by guards in pursuit of contraband and other forbidden goods.

The cognizant convict understands that there are minor to serious consequences to be dealt with depending on the type of stash that is uncovered. There are various degrees of punishment relative to what contraband is found. From loss of privileges to time in isolation (“the hole”) are some of the consequences. It’s no surprise to the convict when the (always expected) punishment is handed down by the “Senior Hearing Officer” (SHO) who is usually a correctional lieutenant. It is nearly impossible for a prisoner to be found innocent at one of the infamous pre-dispositioned disciplinary hearings. It rarely matters how much evidence against a charge of contraband is in the prisoner’s favor. Many prisoners are charged simply for being in a general area where contraband is found. Any honest audit of the California prison system’s disciplinary process, and hearing dispositions, would reveal substantial abuse of procedures by prison officials. Senior Hearing Officers will always find a “preponderance of evidence” even if it does not exist. Go to any prison, ask any prisoner. Forget that.

Examples of different types of contraband are:

“Prisoner Manufactured Weapons” (knife, shiv, piece, bone-crusher etc.), “Homemade Booze” (pruno, hooch, juice, wine, etc.), “Drugs” (the gamut), and whatever else the guards deem contraband of the day. Because there is so little contraband behind prison walls these days, the list of items deemed contraband grows and includes, but is not limited to: empty containers, too many state issued clothing, cardboard boxes, and the list can be endless. Anything to justify the shake-down. Oh! and let’s not forget - It’s always for the “safety and security of the institution.”

On April 7, 2008, at Solano State Prison in Vacaville California, initiated a massive shake-down for the second time in a one week period- An alleged “note” was discovered by prison staff (HMmmrn) indicating there is a gun on prison grounds- [See “ZIP—GUN” http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/04/11/18492221.php ]
Building by building, hundreds of prisoners were ordered to strip naked, searched, then forced to dress only after they were hearded to the prison yard. The sun was hot that day and prisoners were told that they could not wear sunglasses, an order making no common sense or logic when you consider protecting ones eyes is not a security risk.

Approximately 70 full-time guards and another 80 or so guard-cadets (new, spit-shined guards from an academy in Gait Ca.) stormed into one prison housing unit at a time for approximately seven hours per building. The guards destroyed, confiscated, misplaced or damaged the personal property of prisoners. TV’s, radios, music instruments, educational materials (books) etc.), personal clothing and a litany of other authorized items, were tossed into laundry carts and removed from the housing units- all of these approved possessions were bought and paid for by the prisoners, who work for pennies an hour, or was bought by their friends and families. Prisoners have to work hard and demonstrate good behavior in order to earn the privilege of possessing these amenities.

One ugly signature act discovered after the shake-down stood out like a sore thumb. There are two large bulletin boards in the housing unit’s day room. Hung up on those boards were dozens of pages from several prisoner advocacy group’s newsletters. The information was helpful to prisoners regarding family resources, case-law updates for lifers, attorney information etc. All the pages were torn off the boards, ripped into pieces and thrown all over the day room floor. Coffee and dirty boot prints were apparent on the newsletters. Nothing else displayed on the walls seemed to be touched or removed. This type of hate-filled, vindictive undertaking is typical throughout California’s prison system during many shake-downs.

Not one item plundered by the guards was paid for by tax payers as some prison officials would have the public believe. What was paid for by the tax payers of California was the unnecessary and ruthless pilferaging condoned by Solano State Prison’s warden D.K. Sisto, his administrative subordinates, and rank-and-file guards. Tens of thousands, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of dollars were wasted on what many believe to be retaliation because state government cut the guards overtime and because of an uprising in another prison 400 miles away in Tehachipi Ca. It would be interesting to know how many of the other 33 California prisons were all of a sudden shook-down during this same time period. The guard’s union, the California Correctional Peace Officer’s Association (CCPOA) would probably have the answer to that question. This group of hard-hearted CCPOA ruffians are masters at orchestrating uncalled for, self serving events to advance their agenda.

Prison officials will hold the prisoner’s property for a period of time (if they get it back at all) until they (the prisoner) “can prove” ownership. Hundreds of cumulative overtime hours and massive amounts of money could have been saved if prisoner “property cards” were checked against the usurped property. It takes hundreds of guards to shake-down a prison and a half-dozen to check property cards. Retaliation has it’s price, the question is, do the tax payers agree?

While on the yard during the shake-down, sick, infirmed, and elderly prisoners developed severe sunburned skin. One man, Cliff, had facial burns that festered into huge watery, blistered burns the next day. This gentleman (age 66) who is a stroke survivor with partial left-side paralysis, was told to take two Tylenol and was given a small gauze so he could “dab cold water” on his burns. No cream, no ointment, no antibiotics for possible infection, and most of all, there was no compassion for this senior. Cliff’s hat was confiscated by a guard while he was headed to the yard. There is no shade on Solano’s prison yard and everyone was forced to sit or stand in the center of the yard in the blistering sun for seven hours.

Another elderly man (approximately 70 years old) fell into what appeared to be some sort of a seizure and is an insulin dependent diabetic. He too was exposed to the elements and the hot sun. He was eventually carried to the prison’s infamous Satellite Clinic. [See “They Don’t Triple Bunk Dogs” http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2006/08/13/18297041.php ]. His condition was so serious, he had to be rushed to an outside (free-world) hospital, and as of this writing, he has not returned to this prison.

Upon returning to his housing unit after the shake-down, another man, Marcus, learned that 15 photos of his mothers funeral were missing, taken during the shake-down. These photos are especially sensitive to prisoners as they are not allowed to attend funeral services to grieve for their loved ones. Many families send photos of those who attended the funeral so the prisoner can at least accept the loss and grieve in his own way. Marcus is still trying to get answers from prison staff regarding these very personal and irreplaceable photos. Dozens of other uncalled for atrocities and iniquitous acts were carried out by those who were involved with the shake-down.

California Code of Regulations policy (rules governing prisons) dictates worthless verbiage regarding searching a prison, such as: “...inspections [shake-downs] will not be used as a punitive measure nor to harass an inmate. Every reasonable precaution will be taken to avoid damage to personal property and to leave the inmate’s quarters and property in good order upon completion of the inspection.”

The blatant arrogance of these self-proclaimed public servants was evident in the aftermath of the shake-down. Sonic living quarters were in the usual post shake-down disarrayed condition. Many of the prisoners bunk areas were thrashed. Legal papers, personal photos, clothing, food items were strewn about and/or piled high on the bunk and surrounding floor area. Neatly packed boxes were dumped and confiscated. Plastic buckets used to wash clothing were all taken. Pillows and linen were gone from some dorms and plastic spray bottles for cleaning were taken; and much more. A crime scene profiler would probably surmise from the aftermath of the shake-down that only those of a sadistic bent could have been involved with this so called security search.

The public should sleep well tonight knowing that all cardboard boxes, plastic wash buckets, and extra underwear have been located and disposed of “per institution policy” at Solano State Prison.

###

Boston Woodard is a prisoner/journalist who wrote for the San Quentin News, The Soledad Star and edited The Communicator. The Department of Corrections pulled the plug on all three publications.

Boston Woodard, B-88207
CSP-Solano, 13-F-8-L
P.O. Box 4000
Vacaville. CA. 95696-4000
§Reply from Boston
by Boston Woodard (c/o allianceeditor [at] comcast.net) Saturday May 10th, 2008 4:24 PM
A few weeks ago, my editor Mike Rhodes of The Community Alliance (http://www.fresnoalliance.com/home), posted two articles I authored. The first one was about an alleged ‘Zip-Gun” on Solano State Prison grounds in Vacaville California. The second article called “Shake—Down” described the vicious and cruel treatment infirmed and elderly prisoners had to endure during a retaliatory search of the prison.

During the shake-down, thousands of prisoners had their personal property confiscated, damaged or lost. Housing units were ransacked and left in total disarray by the guards. On April 25, 2008, days after the articles appeared on-line, I was taken to an administrative office and questioned about “allegations” I made in my articles; I believe this interrogation was an intimidation tactic by Solano Prison Officials. One of the interrogators told me that “The warden sent us here to question you about your article.” Further investigation, and questioning of other prisoners, proved my written accounts of what happened to these men to be true. Prison medical records also confirm what I wrote about was true and accurate.

I read many of your comments and for those of you who had kind words and understanding of what it is like dealing with these miscreants (“public servants”) who are sucking up all your tax dollars. Prison officials continue to administer punitive treatment toward prisoners and our families. I encourage you to write, call or text message prison officials in Sacramento and demand more public media access into California’s prison system, and demand independent investigations into the unlawful practices that abound behind these prison walls. The California Code of Regulations Title 15, Section 3260; “Public Access to Facilities [Prisons] and Programs” explains that these prisons belong to you, the tax payers, and you have an absolute right to inquire as to exactly how your money is being used; or in the case of California’s prison system, wasted.

I also want to thank Mike Rhodes who has helped me get the other side of the story out from behind these walls for more than three years. The Community Alliance and other progressive media outlets need our support for affording myself and other prisoners a forum from behind these walls.

Thank you again for all your kind words and encouraging comments.

Boston Woodard

###

Boston Woodard, B-88207
CSP-Solano, l3-F-8-L
P.O. Box 4000
Vacaville, CA. 95696-4000
LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
These comments are submitted anonymously by website visitors.
TITLE AUTHOR DATE
Tired CO really must be tiredTeriThursday Aug 14th, 2008 4:39 PM
BEEN THERE DONE THATTIRED C/OMonday May 12th, 2008 9:50 PM
Oh please!YapYapMonday Apr 28th, 2008 7:42 AM
Why are you in Prison?"Knuckle Dragging Guard"Sunday Apr 27th, 2008 8:04 AM
Overtime for Cell Searches has destroyed our budgetMichael WestmorelandFriday Apr 25th, 2008 12:18 PM
...elderly "Gentleman"Joe taxpayerThursday Apr 24th, 2008 9:38 PM
yeah, no thanks for killing peopleluciThursday Apr 24th, 2008 5:46 PM
I feel kind of bad for CO'sohnonotmeagainThursday Apr 24th, 2008 4:19 PM
TypicalBravomanThursday Apr 24th, 2008 8:50 AM
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