The majority of inmates housed within the SHU are validated prison gang members/associates. A validated prison gang member/associate will spend an average of six years in the SHU. However, inmates are afforded the opportunity to "debrief" and give a written account of their gang participation. If they are proven to be truthful and forthcoming they will be transferred to a different prison and allowed to "do their time" in protective custody. However, most inmates choose not to participate in the debrief process.
California officials frequently cite possession of black literature, left-wing materials, and writing about prisoner rights as evidence of gang affiliation. In the dozens of cases I reviewed, gang investigators have used the term "[BGF] training material" to refer to publications by California Prison Focus, a group that advocates the abolition of the SHUs; Jackson's once best-selling Soledad Brother; a pamphlet said to reference "Revolutionary Black Nationalism, The Black Internationalist Party, Marx, and Lenin"; and a pamphlet titled "The Black People's Prison Survival Guide." This last one advises inmates to read books, keep a dictionary handy, practice yoga, avoid watching too much television, and stay away from "leaders of gangs."
The list goes on....
None of the gang validation proceedings, from the initial investigation to the final sentencing, have any judicial oversight. They are all internal. Other than the inmate, there is only one person present—the gang investigator—and he serves as judge, jury, and prosecutor. After the hearing, the investigator will send his validation package to Sacramento for approval. The chances of it being refused are vanishingly small: The department's own data shows that of the 6,300 validations submitted since 2009, only 25 have been rejected—0.4 percent. "It's pretty much a rubber stamping," Vasquez says.
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