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The Pelican Bay Factor

[Editors' Note: The author submitted this manuscript in May of 1996. Because of our article backlog and space limitations we are only now printing it. The issues outlined in this article, however, have since received coverage in the mainstream press. We regret not publishing the article sooner.]

Prior to 1987, the California Department of Corrections (CDC) had a policy which segregated alleged members of rival prison gangs and groups while assigned to the Security Housing Unit (SHU) exercise yard. This policy was designed to minimize prison violence, and based on the available statistics, this was an effective policy. But 1987 marked a change in this policy when New Folsom State Prison partially integrated the SHU exercise yard. This partial integration resulted in a significant increase in prison violence.

It wasn't until 1988 that the integration became complete. Corcoran State Prison forced all rival groups together on the same exercise yard, and this resulted in a dramatic and rapid increase in prison violence. Corcoran was averaging 2-4 assaults a day.

At that time, most of us didn't understand what was happening, but those of us who have been very active in the Prisoner Rights Movement knew something was not right about this change of policy, especially considering that the policy had always proven to be effective and logical. The answer was simple: To intentionally increase prison violence among alleged members of rival prison groups.

We then realized that the CDC was using us as a means to develop the propaganda (and statistics) to justify the construction (and over $200 million price tag) of Pelican Bay State Prison. Take note, the CDC justification for Pelican Bay is rooted in two primary criteria: 1) To isolate the so-called worst of the worst who have proven too violent to be held within other prisons; 2) To minimize prison violence.

The CDC reported an increase in prison violence to the media on a number of occasions between 1987 and 1990. But the CDC intentionally neglected to tell the public that it was their policy (both in practice and intent) which was responsible for the rapid increase in prison violence.

There are two other factors that must be considered. In 1987 the CDC implemented the "shoot to kill" policy and in 1988 they changed their weapon/ammunition to a new bullet that was designed to blow up in a prisoner's body - a guaranteed kill!

These changes at New Folsom and Corcoran were not only a prelude to Pelican Bay, but were specifically designed to justify and add credence to the CDC campaign to build a control unit prison. If there's any doubt in your mind to the allegations, ask yourself, "Why did the CDC integrate the rival prison gangs and groups, knowing that violence would surely result?" They were not being pressured by local/state politicians, a court order or the public to integrate the exercise yards. So what was the CDC's motivation?

The CDC knew without a doubt that by integrating the SHU exercise yards all hell would break loose. So why would the CDC implement a shoot to kill policy at the same time the forced integration policy was being implemented, and then introduce a new weapon that was designed to facilitate the "kill" portion of the shoot to kill policy?

Based on official reports, in a five year period the CDC murdered 27 prisoners, and at least seven were murdered on the integrated SHU yards at Corcoran State Prison, and five on the SHU yard at New Folsom. Compare this to the rest of the country, where during this same five-year period there were a total of seven prisoners murdered by prison guards in all other states combined.

Pelican Bay State Prison, home of the worst of the worst, was born out of the blood of murdered prisoners as a direct result of CDC policy changes which were intended to raise the level of violence and bloodshed. Pelican Bay cost more than its $200 million price tag. It cost the lives of at least a dozen prisoners who were murdered by the CDC in order to promote their political agenda.

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