Reportback on Albert Woodfox’s Sept. 2 Oral Arguments at US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

From Angola 3 News:


(PHOTO: A3 supporters outside of the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans this morning at Albert Woodfox’s oral arguments. Big Thanks to everyone that made it out!!)

This morning, Amnesty International USA released the following statement, reprinted in full.

Please check back here for more updates later in the day. See also our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Amnesty International USA Statement on Ongoing Incarceration of Albert Woodfox

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans heard oral argument in Albert Woodfox vs. Burl Cain. A three-judge panel will decide whether Louisiana prisoner Albert Woodfox should be granted unconditional release or face a third trial after spending more than four decades in solitary confinement.

U.S. District Judge James Brady ordered Woodfox’s unconditional release in June, overturning his conviction and barring the state from retrying him. The state of Louisiana appealed the ruling and moved to keep Woodfox behind. Jasmine Heiss, Senior Campaigner for Amnesty International USA’s Individuals at Risk program, attended the oral argument and issued the following statement:

“Today, Albert Woodfox remains doubly trapped — both in solitary confinement and in a deeply flawed legal process that has spanned four decades. Judge Brady’s writ of unconditional release should have been the final chapter in Albert’s 43-year nightmare. Now we can only hope that the courts will finally provide Albert some measure of justice.

“The question remains – why has Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell relentlessly pursued Albert Woodfox? It is time for the Attorney General to act in the name of justice rather than vengeance and stop standing in the way of Albert’s release.”

CA Prisoners Win Historic Gains with Settlement Against Solitary Confinement

From Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity:

Agreement reached in Ashker v. Brown ends indeterminate long-term solitary confinement in CA, among other gains for prisoners

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 1, 2015
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

Oakland – Today, California prisoners locked in isolation achieved a groundbreaking legal victory in their ongoing struggle against the use of solitary confinement. A settlement was reached in the federal class action suit Ashker v. Brown, originally filed in 2012, effectively ending indefinite long-term solitary confinement, and greatly limiting the prison administration’s ability to use the practice, widely seen as a form of torture. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of prisoners held in Pelican Bay State Prison’s infamous Security Housing Units (SHU) for more than 10 years, where they spend 23 hours a day or more in their cells with little to no access to family visits, outdoor time, or any kind of programming.

“From the historic prisoner-led hunger strikes of 2011 and 2013, to the work of families, loved ones, and advocate, this settlement is a direct result of our grassroots organizing, both inside and outside prison walls,” said Dolores Canales of California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC), and mother of a prisoner in Pelican Bay. “This legal victory is huge, but is not the end of our fight – it will only make the struggle against solitary and imprisonment everywhere stronger.” The 2011 and 2013 hunger strikes gained widespread international attention that for the first time in recent years put solitary confinement under mainstream scrutiny.

Currently, many prisoners are in solitary because of their “status” – having been associated with political ideologies or gang affiliation. However, this settlement does away with the status-based system, leaving solitary as an option only in cases of serious behavioral rule violations. Furthermore, the settlement limits the amount of time a prisoner may be held in solitary, and sets a two year Step-Down Program for the release of current solitary prisoners into the prison general population.

It is estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 prisoners will be released from SHU within one year of this settlement. A higher security general population unit will be created for a small number of cases where people have been in SHU for more than 10 years and have a recent serious rule violation.

“Despite the repeated attempts by the prison regime to break the prisoners’ strength, they have remained unified in this fight,” said Marie Levin of CFASC and sister of a prisoner representative named in the lawsuit. “The Agreement to End Hostilities and the unity of the prisoners are crucial to this victory, and will continue to play a significant role in their ongoing struggle.” The Agreement to End Hostilities is an historic document put out by prisoner representatives in Pelican Bay in 2012 calling on all prisoners to build unity and cease hostilities between racial groups.

Prisoner representatives and their legal counsel will regularly meet with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials as well as with Federal Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas, who is tasked with overseeing the reforms, to insure that the settlement terms are being implemented.

“Without the hunger strikes and without the Agreement to End Hostilities to bring California’s prisoners together and commit to risking their lives— by being willing to die for their cause by starving for 60 days, we would not have this settlement today,” said Anne Weills of Siegel and Yee, co-counsel in the case. “It will improve the living conditions for thousands of men and women and no longer have them languishing for decades in the hole at Pelican Bay.”

“This victory was achieved by the efforts of people in prison, their families and loved ones, lawyers, and outside supporters,” said the prisoners represented in the settlement in a joint statement. “We celebrate this victory while at the same time, we recognize that achieving our goal of fundamentally transforming the criminal justice system and stopping the practice of warehousing people in prison will be a protracted struggle.”

Legal co-counsel in the case includes California Prison Focus, Siegel & Yee, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, Chistensen O’Connor Johnson Kindness PLLC, and the Law Offices of Charles Carbone. The lead counsel is the Center for Constitutional Rights. The judge in the case is Judge Claudia Wilken in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

A rally and press conference are set for 12pm in front of the Elihu M Harris State Building in Oakland, which will be livestreamed at

The settlement can be read on CCR’s website, along with a summary. CCR has also put up downloadable clips of the plaintiffs’ depositions here.


Chicago LGBTQ Inmates Speak Out Against Solitary Confinement, Homophobia

From Shadowproof:


LGBTQ prison abolition group Black & Pink began publishing letters from inmates in solitary confinement last month in an effort to shed light on the abuse and harassment they suffer.


One prisoner recounts, “It’s very easy to be thrown in segregation merely for walking in a way an officer finds too sissylike.” (

In a post introducing the series on their website, Black & Pink explained that last summer, their Chicago chapter contacted to over 100 inmates in isolation to ask for their experiences. They received nearly 40 responses, mostly from the Illinois Department of Correction and Marion federal prison.

The group writes:

We live in a time of growing knowledge of, and outrage about, solitary confinement. We hope this blog series expands our collective understanding about the horrors of solitary confinement and its particular impact on queer and trans people. More importantly, we hope it becomes another tool to help us end solitary confinement for all people, to move us away from a culture built on punishment and isolation and towards a culture based on restoration and community.

The true number of queer and trans inmates in solitary confinement is basically unknown. In addition to being subject to administrative segregation, punitive segregation and ‘therapeutic housing,’ many LGBTQ prisoners are placed in protective custody, in which they are moved to isolation to supposedly protect them from harm and harassment by other inmates. Protective custody figures are not included in tallies for solitary confinement.

The first installment of Black & Pink’s provides the public with a glimpse into the experiences of LGBTQ prisoners in isolation, including those not just targeted by other inmates but singled out by guards for the way they act or look as well. One inmate wrote:

It’s very easy to be thrown in segregation for merely walking in a way an officer finds too sissylike. I’ve been thrown in segregation because an officer felt my fingernails were too longs and girlie. My friend was thrown in segregation cause her eyes were lined.

Another told Black & Pink:

Often LGBTQ inmates are placed there simply because they are not wanted in the general populations. Some correctional officers use the opportunity to harass the LGBTQ inmates. We are literally in a cage and cannot just walk away! And most of the time we don’t deserve to be in solitary confinement

Sixteen percent of respondents to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey Report [PDF] said they had been incarcerated “for any reason,” compared to less than three percent of the general population who said they had been incarcerated “at some point in life.” Seven percent of respondents to the survey said they had been arrested and incarcerated by law enforcement solely on a basis of their identity and sexual orientation.

This discrimination is life threatening and takes many forms behind bars, going well beyond the use of solitary. Last year, for example, a class-action lawsuit brought by inmates alleged sheriff’s deputies in San Bernadino County, California, skipped legally-mandated safety checks for LGBTQ inmates “due to unwarranted dislike by SBCSD employees and an unwarranted fear of AIDS.”

The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that between 2011 and 2012, “inmates who reported their sexual orientation as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or other were among those with the highest rates of sexual victimization.” That study [PDF] found roughly 12 percent of LGBTQ prisoners and over 8 percent of jail inmates reported being “sexually victimized” by another inmate, with an additional 5.4 percent of prisoners and 4.3 percent of jail inmates victimized by staff.

The abuses faced by queer and trans prisoners — particularly those who are black or brown — deserve far greater attention.  I look forward to the rest of this series and reading the first hand experiences of trans and queer inmates in isolation.

Bloc Party: Insurgency, Repression, and Prisoners

Originally posted to It’s Going Down:


This being the inaugural writing of our bi-monthly column here at It’s Going Down, we’re going to take a brief moment to fill y’all in on what you can expect to find in this space. As two anarchists who have long been immersed in movement defense work we find that the connection between what is happening on the inside of prison walls and what occurs on the outside is too often disconnected. We hope to highlight the connections, broadening all of our definitions of movement defense in regards to prisoner support and anti-repression work. You can expect to find a mashup of prisoner updates, repression news from across North America, and some analysis on both the connections and the general state of movements.


In the spirit of expanding our ideas about repression, we strive to open up new questions and dialogue about what it will look like to prepare and intensify our struggles. Since the uprisings in Ferguson, MO, and Baltimore, MD, and all the smaller ruptures over the last year, we think its fair to say that there is a consistent, low-level insurgency developing in the U.S., that we haven’t seen in the last 30 years. The pigs and the State have been looking at various populations of people as potential insurgents for decades. Its time we start seeing ourselves as such, and act accordingly.

“As two anarchists who have long been immersed in movement defense work we find that the connection between what is happening on the inside of prison walls and what occurs on the outside is too often disconnected.”

We know that the State tries to bring its hammer down inside prison walls, and it appears to be ramping things up on the outside as well. Folks who are newer to political struggles can be shocked or dismayed at the lengths the State will go to in attempting to keep back the crashing waves of revolt that have been sweeping the country. The more spectacular expressions of state repression, such as conspiracy charges, grand juries, and informants, have the effect of spreading paranoia amongst comrades and creating an atmosphere of distrust and fear that can deter new people from engaging.

Often times, as we have seen just in the last few years, heavy-handed crackdowns can have their drawbacks. Though many find themselves galvanized into joining struggles after the State appears to overstep its bounds. The contradiction of U.S. values of free speech and stormtroopers in riot gear become too obvious for even the most hardline fence sitters to continue to ignore.


Sometimes, its the less overt forms of repression, that come long before the big news headlines, tear gas, and drawn out court cases, that can do the most damage to our movements. Everyday policing and thinly veiled “investigations” of various communities have the effect of beating down the collective confidence of populations. It is no coincidence that these things intensified and have befallen poor communities of color alongside the rise of Black and Brown Power movements of the ’70s. When a community begins to see itself as a community-in-struggle, folks tend to get too uppity and its time to criminalize and harass them into submission.

Since the racist murder of 9 Black people in Charleston, SC, there have been sweeping direct actions against symbols of the Confederacy across the South. After Bree Newsome declared war on the rebel flag by scaling the flagpole on the Capitol grounds in SC, a flood of similar actions spread across the Southern U.S. and beyond. In Chesterfield, VA alone, just in a few weeks there were 2 confederate flags stolen from front porches and burned, garnering hyped-up coverage by local news outlets.


Confederate monuments across the region have been vandalized, some even hit multiple times, resulting in more news coverage than graffiti would typically garner. There has even been an occasionally trending hashtag, #noflagginchallenge, of people videotaping themselves stealing confederate flags from porches and the backs of trucks, sometimes in the middle of traffic. Aside from the unadulterated joy that comes from watching white middle america fly into a frenzy over what is essentially Bart Simpson-style antics, it is important to note the mainstream media’s coverage of these actions. At every opportunity, petty, political pranksterism becomes a reason to lock your doors at night, even without flying racist symbols outside your house.


After over 2,000 people attended an Anti-Klan counter-demonstration in Columbia, SC, the only arrests made were anti-racists, with almost comical media narratives making the pettiest of charges strike fear into the heart of already fearful white people. Two of the arrestees, Eddien Patterson and Stephen Loughman, are requesting financial aid and other support. While Stephen’s charge of “Breach of Peace,” may seem insignificant, the media portrayal of him paints him as a random white hooligan with no clear anti-racist affiliations. This also serves to widen the distances between communities of color in struggle and potential white accomplices. Eddien has been portrayed as an ultra-violent Black man with no political analysis around race of his own, leaving him to only fit within a racist narrative of “gang bangers,” and “thugs.”

“The more spectacular expressions of state repression, such as conspiracy charges, grand juries, and informants, have the effect of spreading paranoia amongst comrades and creating an atmosphere of distrust and fear that can deter new people from engaging.”

While many of the actions described appear small, we don’t want to seem as if we aren’t elated at a new tradition of militancy re-surfacing across the country. This low-level but consistent attack on white supremacy sets the bar for how far future ruptures can go, legitimizing tactics in the popular imagination that previously were off the table except to the most militant political factions. Evidence of this is seen in the political landscape of the St. Louis area, forever changed by the events of last August.

On the anniversary of Mike Brown’s murder, thousands flooded the streets to mark his death and celebrate the uprising. Demonstrations and disruptive actions went off around the country, spilling over into the week after. Showing again who they really are, the police tried to kill again that night, a shoot out erupting in the middle of the protests that details are still very fuzzy on, even from the protestor’s side. A state of emergency was declared as anger in the streets flared once again.


Then once more, 10 days later, on the anniversary of the police murder of the Kajeme Powell, police killed Mansur Ball-Bey. Media estimates anywhere from 100-150 people, mostly from the neighborhood engaged in the initial protest immediately following the shooting. Riot police quickly came in force, forming lines and beginning to push back against the crowd. Before too much time had passed, fires were lit and tear gas was deployed. A new tone is being set in St. Louis and Ferguson that has spread like a wildfire across the country.


Moving our attention back to what’s been going down on the inside, in the last two weeks of political prisoner news there have been some major losses. While many hearts are aching from the murder of Yogi Bear on August 12th, the resolve to fight against the state apparatuses that wish to destroy us can only grow stronger. With hearts heavy, but fists up, here is the last two weeks in North American political-prisoner news.

“This low-level but consistent attack on white supremacy sets the bar for how far future ruptures can go, legitimizing tactics in the popular imagination that previously were off the table except to the most militant political factions.”

Yogi Bear, aka Hugo Pinell, died under mysterious circumstances after having spent the majority of his 50 year imprisonment in solitary confinement. Yogi Bear died much as he lived, in struggle, as his death was during a uprising and riot within the prison. The details of his murder are still unclear and we can only imagine how little help CO’s and prison administration will be in providing answers. This Black August we remember not only the uprising at San Quentin more than 40 years ago, but we remember our fallen comrade. Rest in power, Yogi Bear.

There is a fundraising effort that has started with the goal of creating a public memorial for Yogi Bear. You can learn more and donate here.


On August 19th, Bomani Shakur (Keith Lamar) released a statement about the denial of his appeal to the Sixth Circuit United States Court of Appeals. At this point his case will go before the Ohio State Parole Board who will then set an execution date. Bomani released a brief statement this week that can be found at Lucasville Amnesty. While this news comes as yet another blow to those in struggle alongside Bomani, his head is up and heart is strong “It’s not over yet–and even if they succeed in murdering me, I won’t let that stop me from living my life NOW. I’m not going to unravel, or break down in a heap of sorrow.”

Eric King, anarchist prisoner awaiting trial in Leavenworth, Kansas released a new poem through his support crew this week. His support crew are currently raising funds to help with the bullshit costs of incarceration as well as travel funds for attendance to his trial coming up this Fall. With Eric’s recent return from solitary housing to general population, he now has greater access to recreation time and communications. Drop him a line of support at:

Eric King
CCA Leavenworth
100 Highway Terrace
Leavenworth, KS 66048


Chelsea Manning, currently being held at Fort Leavenworth, was found guilty on allegations of prison infractions. Apparently having expired toothpaste and LGBTQ publications is a no-no in military prisons. Chelsea was being threatened with solitary confinement, but instead received restricted access to recreation time for 21 days. While this is certainly better news than indefinite solitary confinement, it isn’t without possible long term ramifications as Chelsea reminded folks in her recent statement: “Now these convictions will follow me thru to any parole/clemency hearing forever. Was expecting to be in min custody in Feb, now years added.” Chelsea also has a current fundraising effort to gather legal fees for her appeal. Find out more about donating or instructions for writing Chelsea here.

Abdullah Majid, New York state political prisoner, is currently launching a campaign around his parole. He is in need of financial support during his parole process as hiring legal representation and an investigator is an expensive endeavor. You can make donations to:

Abdullah Majid Freedom Campaign
Post Office Box 1274
Bronx, New York 10467

‘Krow,’ aka Katie Kloth, is also in need of legal defense funds. There is a fundraising site that also breaks down Krow’s wishes of how donations are being split between their own legal fees and some radical projects. Remember though, even when you don’t have the funds to donate, a letter of support is of massive importance! So write Krow a letter:

Katie Kloth
300 Taconite Street
Suite 226
Hurley, WI 54534

All letters must be addressed to Katie Kloth (not Krow Kloth) or they will not be received.


Brandon Baxter of the Cleveland 4 has been in SHU since June after having been assaulted by a correctional officer after having called out the CO’s for their negligence in handling a sexual assault of one inmate by another. It is unclear how long Brandon will be housed in SHU, but several more months are expected. SHU is torturous and your letters of support are vital during this time. Send Brandon some love and soli at:

Brandon Baxter
FDC Oakdale
P.O. BOX 5010
Oakdale, LA

Michael Kimble, a black gay anarchist, currently serving a life sentence for the murder of a white, homophobic and racist asshole. Michael has served 28 years is up for parole this December and needs support in this process! Letters, petitions and phone calls of support are requested. You can find all the details to support Michael over here.

That’s the roundup for this edition. Until next time, keep those fires burning and the insurgency rising.

– Your friendly career bad kids

Barrett Brown out of solitary, still under restrictions



Barrett Brown has been moved out of solitary confinement, known as the Segregated Housing Unit, and back into the general compound. Barrett had been in solitary for more than two months, since around 17 June 2015, a duration far exceeding that which psychologists and the United Nations say constitutes torturous treatment. Barrett turned 34, his third birthday in jail, while in solitary confinement last week.

However, Barrett is still prohibited from using the phone, accessing email, purchasing commissary items and receiving visitors until 18 October. The email prohibition will last even longer unless his appeal succeeds.

We’ll continue to report on Barrett’s condition and access to various prison privileges as restrictions are eventually lifted.

Chelsea found guilty of prison infractions, but no solitary confinement

August 18, 2015

By the Chelsea Manning Support Network

We just heard from Chelsea following her hearing today before the Fort Leavenworth disciplinary board:

“I was found guilty of all 4 charges @ today’s board; I am receiving 21 days of restrictions on recreation–no gym, library or outdoors.”

So while she was convicted of all four charges (yes, even the expired toothpaste!), she did not receive any time in solitary confinement. We believe that had everything to do with the outpouring of support, and the attention focused on Fort Leavenworth… including the 100,000 folks who signed the petition organized by Fight for the Future.

Chelsea added, “Now these convictions will follow me thru to any parole/clemency hearing forever. Was expecting to be in min custody in Feb, now years added.”

So, this is good news, but not without significant ramifications.


Beloved political prisoner Hugo ‘Yogi Bear’ Pinell, feared and hated by guards, assassinated in Black August after 46 years in solitary

From SF Bay View:

by Dr. Willie and Mary Ratcliff

Black August adds another hero and martyr to the roll.


From December 1970 to 2014, when he finally had a contact visit with his mother, Yogi was allowed to come out from behind the thick glass in the visiting room and touch a loved one only once: When he married Shirley, they were given 15 minutes together. She later died.

By some accounts, it was his first day on the yard after 46 years in solitary confinement when Hugo Pinell, affectionately known as Yogi Bear, was assassinated Aug. 12. The news sparked a victory celebration by  prison guards on social media: “May he rot in hell” and “Good riddens” (sic), they typed. Yogi was the only member of the San Quentin 6 still in prison, and his role in the events of Aug. 21, 1971, the day George Jackson was assassinated, has earned the guards’ incessant enmity ever since.

“This is revenge,” declared his close friend, fellow Black Panther veteran Kiilu Nyasha, on Hard Knock Radio Aug. 13. “They hated him as much as George Jackson. They beat him constantly, kept him totally isolated for 46 years – no window, no sunlight – but they could never break him, and that’s why they hated him.

“The only way he survived was that this man was full of love.”

Isolated in the Pelican Bay SHU from 1990 to 2014, Yogi supported his SHU comrades’ campaign to end solitary confinement. He participated in the hunger strikes and applauded the Agreement to End Hostilities, authored by 16 of his comrades, Black, Brown and White, and dated Aug. 12, 2012, three years to the day before he was killed. It has nearly erased racial violence from California prisons.

The comrades who conceived and wrote the agreement were following Yogi’s lead.

“There was a time in the prison sys­tems throughout the United States,” according to a story headlined “The Black Panther Party and Hugo Pinell” in The Black Panther newspaper of Nov. 29, 1971, “when the prisoners themselves were divided, not only white against Black, but Latinos against Blacks. This – the result of racism in every area of U.S. society – was particularly apparent in Cali­fornia prisons.


This is the story from the Nov. 29, 1971, edition of The Black Panther. – Courtesy Billy X Jennings,

“Blacks and Latinos fought, stabbed and killed each other in the yards, cell blocks and dining halls of every prison camp from Tehachapi to Tracy. This is always the case when the racist white prison guard, under administration orders, pits one man struggling to survive against another.

“It is the easiest way for the prison to assure almost absolute control over its inmate population. After all, only an idiot would believe he could control 100 men with one man, unless the 100 were divided. Quite often men were paid to start fights between two men. …

“(B)rothers and sisters across the country inside the maximum prisons began to awaken to the fact of their oppression. They began to realize, as Comrade George Jackson would say, that they were all a part of the prisoner class.


“They be­gan to realize that there was no way to survive that special brand of fas­cism particular to California prison camps except by beginning to work and struggle together. … The prisoner class, especially in California, began to understand the age-old fascist principle: If you can divide, you can conquer.

“There are two men who were chiefly responsible for bringing this idea to the forefront. They helped other com­rade inmates to transform the ideas of self-hatred and division into unity and love common to all people fighting to survive and retain dignity. These two brothers not only set this example in words, but in practice.

“Comrade George Jackson and Comrade Hugo Pinell, one Black and one Latino, were the living examples of the unity that can and must exist among the prisoner class. These two men were well known to other inmates as strong de­fenders of their people.

“Everyone knew of their love for the people, a love that astounded especially the prison officials of the state. It astounded them so thoroughly that these pigs had to try and portray them as animals, perverts, madmen and criminals in order to justify their plans to eventually get rid of such men.

“For when Com­rades George and Hugo walked and talked together, the prisoners began to get the message too well.

“In a well-planned move, the state of California and the U.S. government carried out the vicious assassination of Comrade George Jackson, field marshal of the Black Panther Party, on Aug. 21, 1971. Their plans to slaughter Hugo Pinell are now in full swing.”

What happened on New Folsom Prison’s B yard on Aug. 12, 2015?

California, the prisons are abundantly funded, but the billions of taxpayer dollars are spent in secret, as the media are prohibited from covering prisons. So the stories coming from the mainstream media about Yogi so far are based on press releases from CDCr, the Corrections Department, not from reporters who go inside to hear from prisoners.

Highly paid prison guards and their CCPOA (California Correctional Peace Officers Association) are called the most powerful lobby in the state. Guards at New Folsom, located in a suburb of Sacramento, the state capital, likely exert much of that influence. Is that why Yogi was sent there after more than 23 years at Pelican Bay?

“Once a man declares that he will retain his dignity, that he will not forfeit his manhood, then he has in essence declared war against the prison,” The Black Panther reported on Nov. 29, 1971. “He has declared war upon the guards, who operate on the smallest amount of intelligence and human un­derstanding, and upon the prison and state officials, whose every move is planned and calculated to help in this government’s last feeble attempts to quell the desire of the people to see power returned into the hands of the people. Hugo, from the very beginning of his imprisonment, made that declaration.”

Yogi’s enemies were not his comrades in the prisoner class – though he reportedly died at the hand of one or two prisoners, said to be white, though their race is unconfirmed. He was no threat to other prisoners. It was the guards who loathed him and loath the Agreement to End Hostilities, which he exemplified and set in motion over 40 years ago.


Sitting in the sunshine on the San Quentin yard in 1976 are Khatari Gaulden and Hugo Pinell. – Photo courtesy Kiilu Nyasha

Did they have him killed to demolish the agreement, to rekindle all-out race riots? Riots are job insurance for guards.

Several of the authors of the agreement have also been transferred to New Folsom, where they have been educating other prisoners to understand and wield its power. A prisoner on the C yard, Hakim Akbar-Jones, P-85158, wrote this to the Bay View in July:

“Let this be understood: At CSP Sacramento on the C yard, the End to Hostilities Agreement is in full effect. Even though the summertime is here, there is rhythm and harmony amongst respective class members. There are diligent efforts made on all fronts to work hand to hand in solidarity to build a better future amongst the prison class. With this said, we stand fast and salute all conscious guerrilla revolutionaries whose concepts have been brought forth and come to fruition, those in solidarity who support the movement, thus bringing on and creating positive change for the oppressed.”

Does this sound like a place where Hugo Pinell, the legend, the giant amongst conscious guerrilla revolutionaries, would not be protected? Did the other prisoners even know that Yogi would be joining them on the yard on Aug. 12?

What else are the guards afraid of?

Three initiatives are underway that could empty the SHUs and empower the remaining prisoners, and the guards, fearing for their jobs, are fighting them. A reasonable assumption is that the guards expect that the assassination of Hugo Pinell will see a return of the bad old days of racial violence to “justify” filling the SHUs and guaranteeing job security and top pay for guards:

Black Guerrilla Family – According to family members of prisoners who have been negotiating the hunger strikers’ demands with CDCr administrators since the hunger strikes began in 2011, CDCr has decided to remove the Black Guerrilla Family from the list of eight prison gangs because it’s a political not a criminal organization, but reportedly the guards and their CCPOA are furiously opposed. If BGF is not a prison gang, then all the Black prisoners “validated” as BGF “gangsters” would have to be released from SHU.

George Jackson University – Abdul Olugbala Shakur (s/n James Harvey) recently settled a suit to legitimize George Jackson University, which 25,000 prisoners signed up for when he and other prisoners and outside supporters founded it years ago. Guards are adamantly opposed to the distribution and study of books that prisoners might find mentally and spiritually liberating and have prevented the prisoner-led institution from taking root. Though the settlement terms have not yet been revealed, guards are undoubtedly fearful.


Hugo Pinell in 1982

Class action lawsuit to end solitary confinement in California – Currently in settlement talks with CDCr are the attorneys for the plaintiff class of prisoners who have been held in the Pelican Bay SHU for 10 years or more. The attorneys are led by Jules Lobel, president of the very prestigious New York based Center for Constitutional Rights, the public interest law firm that also represents many of the hunger-striking prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The New York Times is giving the case multi-media coverage, including a recent video showing some of the plaintiffs describing how they survive the torture of long term solitary confinement. If the case doesn’t settle, trial is set for December.

These initiatives, bolstered by the awakening in the court of public opinion to the evils of mass incarceration and solitary confinement, are driving efforts by California prison guards and their “union,” CCPOA, to demolish the carefully constructed Agreement to End Hostilities and revert to racial warfare that divides and conquers prisoners of all colors so that the guards can rule over them as cruelly as they want without getting their hands dirty.
We call for a full independent investigation immediately

The Bay View, joining a consensus of prisoner family members and advocates, calls for investigations into Yogi’s death at both the state and federal level. We challenge California Attorney General Kamala Harris, now a candidate for U.S. Senate, and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to demonstrate they believe this Black life – the life of Hugo Pinell – matters. Harris, whose office acts as the attorney representing CDCr, needs to counsel her client to reign in the guards, especially the gang investigators.

We also call for the full and fair investigation of all deaths in jails and prisons, where incarcerated people are routinely abused and tortured and even killed. Begin with Sandra Bland and Hugo Pinell.

Yogi’s attorney, Keith Wattley, says his family is planning a wrongful death lawsuit.
Honor our fallen comrade

Long live Hugo Pinell, who showed us the power of the human spirit, that love can survive and overpower hell on earth.

Hugo Pinell in 2001

Hugo Pinell in 2001

To anyone tempted to avenge Yogi’s death against another race, remember the wisdom of the Panthers: “If you can divide, you can conquer.” Ever wonder why the Bay View calls our prison section Behind Enemy Lines? The prison system, not another prisoner, is the enemy that hopes you won’t get out alive.

Embrace Yogi’s spirit and read the words that follow from current and former prisoners who loved him back.

Dr. Willie Ratcliff is publisher and Mary Ratcliff is editor of the San Francisco Bay View. They can be reached at or 415-671-0789.

Yogi’s time

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Written July 30, 2006 – Few of us know the name Hugo Pinell.

That’s because the last time it was in the newspapers was probably in 1971, or 1976, when he was tried as a member of the famous San Quentin 6, six young Black prisoners facing assault charges stemming from battles with prison guards at the notoriously repressive California prison.

Yet that wasn’t the beginning nor the end of things.

Hugo Pinell (known as Yogi by his friends) came to the U.S. as a 12-year-old from a small town on Nicaragua’s East Coast. If he knew then the hell he would face in America, would he have left the land of his birth? We’ll never know.

He came. And he spent the last 42 years in prison – 34 of them in solitary! He hasn’t had a write-up in 24 years.

Now, his family and lawyer are seeking his parole after a lifetime in some of the most repressive joints in America.

Why so long? Why so many years? The answer, not surprisingly, is politics. Hugo was a student and comrade of the legendary Black Panther Field Marshal, the late George Jackson, with whom he worked to organize other Black prisoners against the racist violence and prison conditions of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Consider this: When Hugo was sent to prison, Lyndon Baines Johnson was president, bombing in the Vietnam War was intensifying and Martin Luther King Jr. was still alive!

Of his introduction to the prison system, Yogi would later write:

Of these three political prisoners, Hugo Pinell, Mumia Abu Jamal and Nuh Washington, only Mumia is now alive, and his health has been precarious lately due to the prison system’s medical neglect and abuse. – Art: Kiilu Nyasha

Of these three political prisoners, Hugo Pinell, Mumia Abu Jamal and Nuh Washington, only Mumia is now alive, and his health has been precarious lately due to the prison system’s medical neglect and abuse. – Art: Kiilu Nyasha

“I was 19 years old when I turned myself in. I pled guilty to the charge of rape with the understanding that I would be eligible for parole after six months. When I arrived at the California Department of Corrections, I was informed that I had been sentenced to three years to life.”

California’s notoriously unjust indeterminate sentencing has led in part to the present prison overcrowding that now threatens to bankrupt the system. California’s prisons are roughly 172 percent over capacity, and parole is a broken, nonfunctional agency.

That’s not just my opinion, but California State Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, has called the present regime a “failure,” particularly the parole system.

Despite California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2004 promises of major reforms of the parole system, which would lead to significant prisoner population reductions, the incarceration rate has soared. Today, there are a record 168,000 people in 33 state prisons, nearly double the rated capacity.

As Hugo Pinell seeks parole, California is spending $7.9 billion – yeah, with a “b”! – in the next fiscal year, an increase of $600 million a year for a prison system that has one of the worst recidivism rates in the nation, 60 percent!

Clearly, the so-called “Correctional and Rehabilitation” Department has failed in its mission to do both.

Support parole for Hugo Pinell; 42 years is more than enough.

© Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal. Keep updated at His new book is “Writing on the Wall,” edited by Joanna Hernandez. For Mumia’s commentaries, visit Encourage the media to publish and broadcast Mumia’s commentaries and interviews. Send our brotha some love and light: Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCI-Mahanoy, 301 Morea Road, Frackville, PA 17932.

Hugo Pinell – Rest in Power!

by Claude Marks

Graphic courtesy Freedom Archives

Graphic courtesy Freedom Archives

We are saddened by the news of Hugo Pinell’s death. Hugo Pinell always expressed a strong spirit of resistance. He worked tirelessly as an educator and activist to build racial solidarity inside of California’s prison system.

Incarcerated in 1965, like so many others, Hugo became politicized inside the California prison system.

In addition to exploring his Nicaraguan heritage, Hugo was influenced by civil rights activists and thinkers such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King as well as his comrades inside including George Jackson. His leadership in combating the virulent racism of the prison guards and officials made him a prime target for retribution and Hugo soon found himself confined in the San Quentin Adjustment Center.

While at San Quentin, Hugo and five other politically conscious prisoners were charged with participating in an Aug. 21, 1971, rebellion and alleged escape attempt, which resulted in the assassination of George Jackson by prison guards. Hugo Pinell, Willie Tate, Johnny Larry Spain, David Johnson, Fleeta Drumgo and Luis Talamantez became known as the San Quentin 6.

Their subsequent 16-month trial was the longest in the state’s history at the time. The San Quentin 6 became a global symbol of unyielding resistance against the prison system and its violent, racist design.

As the California prisons began to lock people up in long-term isolation and control unit facilities, Hugo was placed inside of the SHU (Security Housing Unit) in prisons including Tehachapi, Corcoran and Pelican Bay. There, despite being locked in a cell for 23 hours a day, he continued to work for racial unity and an end to the torturous conditions and racially and politically motivated placement of people into the SHU. This work included his participation in the California Prison Hunger Strikes as well as supporting the Agreement to End Racial Hostilities in 2011.

At the time of his death, Hugo had been locked behind bars for 50 years, yet his spirit was unbroken.

Claude Marks, director of Freedom Archives, 522 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94110, (415) 863-9977,, can be reached at

Hasta Siempre Hugo (Forever Hugo)

Solidarity forever

And we are saddened

Solidarity left

You when (it) should have

Counted for something and

What your long imprisoned

Life stood for

Now all your struggles

To be free have failed

And only death

Inglorious and violent

Death has

Claimed you

At the hands of the

Cruel prison system

La Luta Continua

– Bato and the San Quentin 3: Willie “Sundiata” Tate, David Johnson and Luis “Bato” Talamantez, who can be reached at


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