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California prisoners resume hunger strike today

September 26, 2011

by Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

This sign posted outside the San Quentin gate alerted visiting friends and family on July 2 that the hunger strike had begun at Pelican Bay. Within two weeks, more than 6,600 prisoners in at least 13 California prisons, including those in San Quentin Ad-Seg, were participating – the word spread primarily by visitors.
Today, prisoners at Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit (SHU) and Calipatria’s Administrative Segregation Unit (Ad-Seg or ASU) resume their hunger strike.

Community members and prisoners’ families are holding a press conference outside UC Hastings School of Law in San Francisco at 2 p.m. A panel discussion featuring legal experts, activists, advocates and prisoners’ family members will follow at UC Hastings, highlighting the prisoners’ conditions and reasons for their renewed strike.

The strike this past July exposed the conditions and practices of Pelican Bay’s SHU. Referring to the first round of the hunger strike, Mutope Duguma (s/n James Crawford), a strike representative in Pelican Bay’s SHU, writes, “This is far from over and once again, hopefully for the last time, we will be risking our lives via a peaceful hunger strike on Sept. 26, 2011, to force positive changes. For 21 1/2 years we have been quietly held in Pelican Bay State Prison solitary confinement under some of the most horrible conditions known to man. So we continue to struggle to be treated like decent human beings.”

“What other avenues do prisoners have? As with the first hunger strike, the demands of the strikers are reasonable and long overdue,” says Laura Magnani, a member of the prisoner’s mediation team and a representative of the American Friends Service Committee. “We call on the state of California to move quickly to address the problems of solitary confinement in the state’s prisons.”

Calipatria State Prison
The initial hunger strike started July 1 at Pelican Bay lasted nearly the entire month of July and swept across the state, with at least 6,660 prisoners in a third of California’s prisons participating. Despite claims to the contrary, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has yet to fully address what the prisoners feel are the most substantive changes outlined in their demands.

CDCR statistics show that of the 1,111 prisoners held in the Pelican Bay SHU, 513 have been in solitary confinement for 10 or more years and, of those, 78 have been held for 20 or more years. Meanwhile, an estimated 400 prisoners held in Calipatria’s ASU have been validated by the CDCR as gang members and are awaiting transfer to one of the state’s four SHUs.

“The CDCR’s gang validation process is a sham. They are using supposed gang membership as an excuse to torture people,” says Dolores Canales, the mother of one of the hunger strikers. “Holding people in tiny cells for years on end without any real possibility to get out, without natural sunlight or human contact, is a clear violation of human rights.” The only way to exit the SHU is to debrief, or disclose all knowledge of gang activity, potentially putting the prisoner and their families in danger because they are then viewed as “snitches.”

A prisoner’s view from inside a cell in the Pelican Bay SHU
Now over 100 hunger strikers at Calipatria State Prison, in solidarity with the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay, are risking their lives to expose the conditions of the ASU at Calipatria. According to Calipatria ASU prisoners, roughly 80 percent of the prisoners in the ASU have been given indefinite SHU terms. They are placed in this isolation unit to await transfer to one of California’s three other SHU’s for men. Most of the prisoners currently in Calipatria’s ASU have been awaiting transfer for three to four years.

ASU prisoners at Calipatria have also reported that prison officials have not been implementing the changes addressed by the five core demands written by the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay even though the demands refer to all SHU-status prisoners throughout California, not just at Pelican Bay. The prisoners at Calipatria are furthering the struggle to stop the torture and mistreatment of SHU prisoners by insisting the five core demands be effectively implemented for all SHU-status prisoners no matter what prison they are located in. Since many of the programs and privileges for prisoners varies from prison to prison, Calipatria hunger strikers have amended Demand No. 5 to include TV and radios as well as PIA soft shoes, privileges not already in place at Calipatria’s ASU.

In preparation for the hunger strike, Calipatria ASU prisoners have sent in medical requests for liquids while on strike, after having been denied liquids during the first round of the hunger strike in July. ASU prisoners have also prepared by sending Calipatria’s warden their five core demands with their amendment to the fifth demand. According to letters from Calipatria ASU hunger strike participants, who prefer to remain unnamed, the strike is “a peaceful protest against CDCR’s inhumane solitary confinement and their insufficient and abusive [gang] validation process.”

In preparation for the hunger strike, Calipatria ASU prisoners have sent in medical requests for liquids while on strike, after having been denied liquids during the first round of the hunger strike in July.

In recent interviews, CDCR Undersecretary for Operations Scott Kernan suggested that the department might expand SHU imprisonment to include some unnamed “security threat groups” – reportedly adding prisoners who were members of street gangs before their incarceration to “validated” prison gang members – and that the current realignment process the CDCR has undertaken to relieve extreme overcrowding, as ordered by the Supreme Court, might open up the possibility for more SHU cells.

“This is exactly the opposite of what the prisoners have asked for in their very reasonable demands,” says Manuel LaFontaine, an organizer with All of Us or None. “It is this kind of manipulative gerrymandering that has brought us to a crisis point in terms of conditions in California prisons.”

CDCR’s response to the July hunger strike was inadequate to say the least, giving prisoners and their families false hope of timely substantial change and an end to torture. For a detailed summary of the CDCR’s response to the strike and why Pelican Bay prisoners are resuming it, read “Tortured SHU prisoners speak out: The struggle continues, hunger strike resumes Sept. 26.”

CDCR officials seemed to be preemptively cracking down on prisoners in anticipation of resumption of the strike and have publicly said they were preparing to take harsh actions against strikers. Illustrating the CDCR’s hard-line stance, Undersecretary Scott Kernan said in a recent interview, “If there are other instances of hunger strikes, I don’t think the department will approach it the same way this time around.”

Lawyers who have recently visited Pelican Bay have taken testimony from SHU prisoners who have been retaliated against by prison officials for their participation in this summer’s strike. “Prisoners are receiving serious disciplinary write-ups, usually reserved for serious rules violations, for things like talking in the library or not walking fast enough,” says Carol Strickman, a lawyer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. “It’s clear that prison officials are trying to intimidate these men and to make them ineligible for any privileges or changes that may be forced by the strike.”

It’s these sorts of responses and retaliation by the CDCR that show us prisoners are not recognized and treated as human beings, are constantly abused and tortured by the CDCR, and that the CDCR has no intention of stopping this. The prisoners clearly have no other recourse but to risk their lives again.

Broad international support for the strikers continues to grow as the hunger strike enters its next phase. For more information and updates, visit www.prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com.

This story combines information from four Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity releases, two of them written by Isaac Ontiveros, and contributions by Bay View staff. The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition can be reached at prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity@gmail.com and Isaac Ontiveros can be reached directly at isaac@criticalresistance.org.

 

26 thoughts on “California prisoners resume hunger strike today

  1. TAMARA MORALES

    I'm with you amor stand strong in what you belive……God is with you and all the brothers who see no race and band as one to make a change in the broken system….Day one of no food only water today I began my small protest for you to be with you and indure as you and so many others in a protest …….I'm here with you as always te amo with all I gots. YOUR PRETTY EYES

    Reply
    1. The big O

      I to will joing and have a few beers while they starve to DEATH. Let them starve or ship them to a state where the bleeding hearts do not exist and then they can find out what prison should be like.

      Reply
      1. Helen

        It is obvious you know nothing of the penal system or else you wouldn't be blowing hot air. I ask you to read any information from a credible source and truly get some knowledge befpore you make yourself sound like a cold-hearted fool again.

        Reply
  2. Patricia Aguilar

    I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion including you The Big O, however maybe before you open your mouth and spit out some nothingness…perhaps you should consider going to another country where the foundation on which it was built does not revolve around human righst for ALL people including those in prison. So go celebrate with your beers today and take this thought with you: Because you refuse or are unwilling to do your own research into why people are housed in the SHU and just how many inmates are housed there for non violent acts but rather a picture, a tattoo or address book, keep in mind that it cost tax payers double the amount it normall cost to house a inmate in general population than the SHU. So who looks like the suckers in this situation???? Our judicial system is in need of an overhaul beginning with our prison system. Torturing another human or depriving them of basic human rights is not the answer to any problem. If you don't know anything about the SHU or it's government inside or behind prison walls,get to doing some research to avoid leaving such senseless commments.

    Reply
    1. Helen

      You spit out venom so easily behind he protectionof your computer screen. Would you be brave enough to spout your hated to the families of the inmates you hate so much? Didn't think so…..

      Reply
      1. wallace

        If one of these killers and lifetime losers were my relative, I like most people would have written them off years ago. The people who support the antics of these criminals are enablers. Behind every lifetime thug is a family of excuse making fellow sociopaths.

        So yeah, telling the relatives of these killers that the losers they have cheered along into gang thuggery is a danger, as the relatives are also thug scumbags.

        Reply
        1. Rose

          They would not have to be on welfare if instead of putting one in prison,but made them pay,work for what they did,this could help address this problem! Like home arrest,with permission to work in the community. Just like those who do community service court ordered.
          So like those like you who hate can get off your anger by seeing them work,then do not go off and say they are taking your job!

          Reply
  3. StoptheDeathPenalty

    I support this action and it is frustrating that it takes a hunger strike in this country for our prisoners to protest their own torture and maltreatment. These are not "correctional facilities" but, at best, "holding pens" or "torture cells". Many exist around the country. Look at Parchman, the Polunsky Unit in Texas. Our tax dollars going to pay for torture and degradation. Obscene.

    Reply
    1. StopTheWelfareRats

      "Torture and maltreatment?" Degradation? You are clueless and have no idea what you are talking about. You support liberal bleeding heart scumbags. That's about it.

      Reply
  4. chumlee

    You want to talk about the "Most horrible conditions known to man and torture?" Then you must mean our U.S. military personnel who have been murdered and tortured by our foreign enemies, specifically the Taliban. The lady sticking up for her son says, "A violation of human rights." Where were the human rights of the victims?!! You inmates are in a cell receiving food everyday, medical everyday, exercise everyday, letters to your family everyday, visits if possible, television everyday, laughter with your homies everyday… WHERE IS THE TORTURE?!! You committed a crime to land you in prison. You were involved in criminal activity while in prison, and now you (inmates) are in the SHU crying! DO YOUR TIME AND STOP WHINING…MAN UP!!! God Bless our men and women in the military who have been TORTURED.

    Reply
    1. Remo Williams

      Chumlee, I couldn't agree with you any more. How soon the public forgets about the real victims of the crimes that these felons commited. When the the media covers a crime story, it's all about "How could this ever happen, Who would commit such a crime?, They should be facing the death penalty." These are not innocent people. They use the gullible public and the tree hugging lawyers in San Francisco to further their cause. These people who are in opposition of us are blind to that fact. They will never understand because most of them are their family members, or others who know people behind bars. The family members will never know the types of crimes that are done in prison, and never know what kind of threat the inmates cause to the prison system. These inmates don't tell their moms, and dads what really goes on, and they shouldn't. It's a cold, cold world out there.

      Reply
  5. mike

    They say their doing this because they want positive changes in ASU, how about making a positive change in their lives like obeying the law and staying out of prision. They just don’t ship you off into an ASU unit with out 3 validation. They all have in one way or another actively participated in gang activities. I like all these activist that think” o those poor prisoners” . I would like to hear for once ” what about the poor victims these convicts were sent to prison for in the first place”.

    Reply
  6. mike

    @Helen, you must have some one behind bars you think loves you. But reiality is he only loves what can be provided from you in the form of a handout. I can say from experience that 90 percent of inmates behind bars are looking for someone on the outside to provide them with things that they could not get on there own. Just like the criminals in ASU there looking for a handout and want someone to feel sorry for there ass. Just remember there not in prison for being quality citizens.

    Reply
  7. wallace

    I have a hard time feeling sorry for killers. These people look on the do gooders who feel sorry for them as people to take advantage of.

    Reply
    1. Rose

      NOT EVERYONE OF THEM IS A KILLER. AND THOSE WHO ARE,WHY DO YOU WANT TO BE COLD AS THEY WERE? YOU ARE THEN NOT MUCH BETTER,AND YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER AND BE BETTER.

      Reply
  8. CDC Sergeant

    I am a Correctional Sergeant in one of California's 32 prisons and have been in the department for 15 years. I understand the families of the inmates having the feelings they do. I do not work at Pelican Bay and honestly have no axe to grind. I would however like to shed some facts on the subject of the SHU. 1. Inmates incarcerated by the department EARN their way into the SHU. That means that they (the inmates) are active members of prison gangs for one. Prison gang member are responsible for drug trafficking, murder, extortion and various other felonies while incarcerated in prison. Placement in the SHU is used to minimize their criminal activity. 2. Inmates who have a history of violence toward other inmates in prison, for example: assaults, rape and murder are housed in the SHU, isolated from other inmates so they cannot continue to injure other inmates. 3. It is true, that active gang members housed in the SHU are required to De-brief (provide all information they know about the gang that is cross referenced and corroborated with already known information). Gang membership on the streets has no positive aspects associated with it, neither does gang membership within prison. If inmates are serious about changing their lives, like they protest to the outside, de-brief and get out of the gang. 4. SHU inmates are in their cells 22-23 hours a day. Out of cell time is for yard or other required programs that the inmates is required to attend. 5. In some instances, the courts can and do sentence inmates to the SHU. That, again is dependent on the crime and what the judge feels is an appropriate sentence. The courts can send an inmate to the SHU for up to 12 years.

    These are some of the main reason inmates are placed in the SHU. The SHU isn't designed to be comfortable. It is designed to be isolating, uncomfortable and a hard place to do time. Whether that's right or wrong, I honestly don't know. But what I can say is that if an inmate wants out of the SHU, maybe they should be honest to themselves and to the people they have pleading their cases and make real and honest changes to their lives.

    Reply
    1. Rose

      IF THE RAPIST,MOLESTER'S,KILLERS,VILOLENT ONES WERE REALLY ALL IN THE SHU,PRISON WOULD BE A SAFER PLACE WITH FAR LESS CRIME GOING ON. IT'S PRETTY MUCH HELL ON EARTH.

      TAKE NOTE,AVOID HELL,IT'S FOREVER!

      Reply
    2. zulema estavillo

      ME GUSTARIA QUE TAMBIEN COMPARTIERA CUANTAS VECES A PENSADO LO INHUMANO QUE ES EL TRATO QUE LES DAN SI USTED CREE QUE ESTO LOS VA A AYUDAR A REABILITARSE A INCORPORARSE A LA SOCIEDADA SI ALGUNA VEZ NO A SENTIDO EL DOLOR DE ALGUIEN QUE ESTA EN ESA JAULA SI NO CRE QUE TANTO MALTRATO NO ES PEOR QUE UNA BUENA TERAPIA,

      Reply
  9. sd1904

    @ CDC Sergeant, working for the prison system you know of the corruption that goes on with your fellow staff members. Not all SHU inmates are affiliated and it only takes one person trying to save their own ass to claim another inmate is a gang member. You are taking the words of a convicted felon as evidence. Does anybody else see the irony in this? You more then most people on this site know why some people who have never had any gang affiliation in their life previous to going to prison make some of the decisions they do as far as possible gang affiliation. And to all the people saying all these guys are killers, thats ridiculous. In Ca you can go to prison for a bar fight, self defense, literally anything. So to all who want to cast stones, look at your own "law abiding" self first and be honest with yourself, because I can't think one guy I know that has never been in any kind of physical altercation in his life.. Now back to CDC officer, you are asking these guys to be honest with themselves? More like you are asking them to tell you anything they can to get out of a horrible situation which will sometimes lead people to make up stuff they think you want to hear. There are some people who obviously deserve to be in SHU, but if the CDC were serious about people rehabilitating their lives they would make a system that works. CDC officers have become their own gang and even copy some of the same dress styles, tattoos etc that gang members wear. They bring contraband into the prisons more then outside visitors. They have allowed our prison system to be the mess it is today. If they really wanted to stop all this gang violence inside, they could have done so years ago. Someone is obviously benefiting from the situation, so even if you are of the frame of mind that you think all prisoners should rot, think about what your tax dollars are paying for. And if you think they are paying for medical, TV's, radios and such, you are sadly mistaken. My husband was in Pelican Bay SHU for 7 years, he has been out for 11 without so much as a traffic ticket. He was validated/affiliated , he NEVER debriefed. He is a journeyman tradesmen and supports a family of 6. He is no welfare case nor will he ever be. He is proof that not all of these guys are lost causes.

    Reply
    1. Rose

      GOD BLESS,sadly your husband must have at least one strike against him with that old record. 3 Strike Law must be abolished! God help all 2'nd Strikers and those facing a possible,it can easily happen and those who are innocent but still charged and fighting for their rights,lives and their families.

      Reply
    2. StopTheWelfareRats

      @sd1904 Everywhere there is corruption. If you think for one second that dirtbag staff members are even remotely as big of dirtbags as 99% of the SHU inmates, you are sadly mistaken. To land in prison, you are pretty much a lifetime dirtbag with multiple multiple felonies. And those are just for the one you got caught on. Don't start with "you can go to prison for being in a bar fight, self defense" crap. Literally anything? No, you are an idiot that commits multiple felonies… thats what lands you in prison. Otherwise, it is a misdemeanor crime and you do jail time. Different that a felony in prison. You are right about CDC being a joke. It is a joke. The rehabilitation is a joke. But so are inmates. They are the only ones that can rehabilitate themselves. 88% recidivism. Thats a joke. Put them to work, for free. No canteen, no packages, no free medical, nothing. Put them to work, less sentence time, feed them well and they will be too tired to riot and pillage others. CDC Officers are their own gang. Where do you come up with this crap? Same dress styles? Too funny. Yeah, they want to look like dirtbags. Awesome.
      "They bring contraband into the prisons more then outside visitors" Wrong. You are misinformed and completely brainwashed by your lying husband. To land in a SHU you are a dirtbag, plain and simple. You were a dirtbag to begin with and then became a bigger dirtbag to land in the SHU. Our tax dollars are paying for their free medical, yes free medical. If you think different, you are wrong. Why should we pay for their dentures, knee surgeries, heart surgeries. Late case Cirrhosis when they are going to die anyways… Why the billions upon billions on brand name prescription pills. I am sorry, but you are wrong about 99% of what is written above and shame on you for being so naive. Good for your husband for somewhat getting better i guess. No welfare case? So you make enough money to support 6 kids all by yourself. I highly doubt you are not a welfare case. During the Great Depression, less than 1% of the US population was on some government assistance. In 2004 in good economic times, over 40% was on some form of government assistance. Welfare rats… the real degradation of society.
      @CDC Sergeant, you said it well.

      Reply

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