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Medical condition of hunger strikers deteriorates, some days away from death

October 11, 2011

Join the emergency action to support the California Prisoner Hunger Strike on Friday, Oct. 14, 10:30 a.m.‐1 p.m., at McAllister and Van Ness in San Francisco and tell CDCR and Gov. Jerry Brown to meet the strikers’ five core demands

by Isaac Ontiveros, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

Hunger strike supporters were there in force when Occupy Oakland was launched Monday, Oct. 10, in Frank Ogawa Plaza at City Hall, redubbed Oscar Grant Plaza by the protesters. – Photo: Sharon Peterson
Oakland – With the second phase of a massive California prisoner hunger strike in its third week, prisoners have begun to report grave medical issues. “Men are collapsing in their cells because they haven’t eaten in two weeks,” says a family member of a striker at Calipatria state prison.

“I have been told that guards refuse to respond when called. This is clearly a medical emergency.”

In an effort to isolate prisoners perceived by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to be leaders, some prisoners at Pelican Bay have been removed from the Security Housing Unit (SHU) to Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg). The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition has received reports that prison officials have been attempting to freeze out strikers held in the Ad-Seg Unit at Pelican Bay, using the air conditioning system in conjunction with cold weather conditions where the prison is located.

Last week a hunger striker in Pelican Bay was taken to a hospital in Oregon after he suffered a heart attack. Prisoners have also been denied medications, including prescriptions for high blood pressure.

The CDCR has been treating the current strike, which began on Sept. 26, as a mass disturbance and has refused negotiations. “The prisoners are saying that they are willing to take this to death if necessary to win their demands,” says Dorsey Nunn, executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and a member of the mediation team working on behalf of the prisoners.

“Any deaths that result from the men starving themselves will be on the hands of the CDCR. We are at a point where we are calling on the media to make inquiries on prison protocol if and when prisoners begin to die. If they want to avoid that kind of scenario, the CDCR can start negotiating.”

Prisoners at Corcoran have stated, “Due to what they have done here to us, some men have stopped drinking water completely, so we may well be close to death in a few days.”

“Due to what they have done here to us, some men have stopped drinking water completely, so we may well be close to death in a few days.”

Prisoners and advocates have expressed serious concerns about the state of medical care in Corcoran, Calipatria, Pelican Bay and Salinas Valley, where the strike continues. Dr. Michael Sayre, who is the chief medical officer at Pelican Bay, was sued successfully by a prisoner in 2009 for knowingly disregarding his severe medical needs. In addition, Sayre was also investigated and disciplined surrounding the death of a prisoner in Washington State in 1992 during surgery.

“The California prison system is in federal receivership in part due to the substandard medical care provided inside,” says Terry Kupers, M.D., a member of the mediation team and an expert on prison health issues. “It is my professional opinion that the hunger strikers are not receiving the care that they need and that their conditions could be exacerbated by the CDCR, especially if force-feeding comes into play.”

Force-feeding is a common practice used against prisoners who refuse to eat and can involve forcing a tube into the person’s stomach via the nose. The practice has been widely condemned as torture by hundreds of doctors worldwide.

For continued updates and more information, go to www.prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com.

Isaac Ontiveros of Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization working to abolish the prison industrial complex, is a spokesperson for the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition. He can be reached at (510) 444-0484 or isaac@criticalresistance.org.

Emergency action to support the California Prisoner Hunger Strike

On Friday, Oct. 14, 10:30 a.m.‐1 p.m., at McAllister and Van Ness in San Francisco, prisoners’ families and other supporters will tell CDCR and Gov. Jerry Brown to meet the five core demands.

A crowd of thousands kicked off Occupy Oakland Oct. 10 - in the rain! And the thousands of prisoners on hunger strike were definitely on the agenda. - Photo: Sharon Peterson
Hundreds of prisoners around California are entering the third week of their hunger strike. CDCR refuses to negotiate with the prisoners, but the department still has not adequately addressed their five core demands. Many prisoners have said they will strike to the death in order to maintain their rights as human beings and stop the torture they are experiencing.

Call Gov. Jerry Brown at (916) 445‐2841 or fax him at (916) 558‐3160. We aim to make 160,000 calls by Friday, Oct. 14, one for every prisoner in California!

Five Core Demands

1. End to group punishment and administrative abuse.

2. Abolish the debriefing policy, and modify active/inactive gang status criteria.

3. Comply with Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 recommendations regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement.

4. Provide adequate and nutritious food.

5. Expand and provide constructive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU status prisoners.

CDCR has tried to break the strike by:

• Banning family member and legal visits.

• Confiscating mail.

• Taking away all medications.

• Taking away canteen items.

• Turning on the air conditioner to keep cell temperatures cold.

• Removing prisoners to Administrative Segregation.

• Issuing disciplinary actions.

And yet, the hunger strikers remain strong.

There are 1,111 prisoners in the SHU at Pelican Bay. Over 513 have served 10 years or more in the SHU. Of those, 78 have been in the SHU for 20 years or more; 544 have been in the SHU more than five years but fewer than 10 years.

Take action!

Call Gov. Jerry Brown, CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate and your state representatives and urge them to negotiate with the prisoners and honor their demands:

• Gov. Jerry Brown, (916) 445-2841

• CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate, (916) 323-6001

• Holly Mitchell, Assembly member from Los Angeles, (310) 342-1070

• Tom Ammiano, Assembly member from San Francisco, (415) 557-3013

• Curt Hagman, Assembly member from Chino Hills, (909) 627-7021

• Nancy Skinner, Assembly member from Berkeley, (916) 319-2014

Attend or organize weekly Thursday vigils where you live. Stay tuned to www.prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com for more details.

 

6 thoughts on “Medical condition of hunger strikers deteriorates, some days away from death

  1. Earl of DVI

    The inmates are upset over the effectiveness of CDCR's isolation/debriefing policy. All one has to do is look at the number of RICO convictions that have broken the back of the Eme, NF and AB.

    Reply
  2. Julie

    Earl, does this mean you are comfortable torturing people, any person – in a gang or not, in order to get convictions?

    Reply
  3. Patricia Aguilar

    You know what surprises me is the ignorance behind the comments some people leave on these sites. I am totally for everyone being entitled to their own opinion, but who writes a comment that they know nothing about and THINK what they say has any relevance at all. I am here to say that torture of any kind against any human being is not acceptable. For those of you who disagree, perhaps you should consider moving to a country where the foundation to its existence is not based on human rights for ALL people including prisoners. Lastly, for those of you unfamiliar with the SHU process, do your own research and see where your hard earned taxpaying dollars are being spent. NOPE not all inmates in the SHU have been placed there for gang activity even though CDC will call it that…some are there due to a condolence card being sent or received, a drawing or even a tattoo. I see where it is much easier to believe that CDC is not breaking the law than to believe these inmates don't deserve to be treated fairly. Research the subject matter; you will be amazed at what you find.

    Reply
  4. AJ Honeylake

    “Men are collapsing in their cells because they haven’t eaten in two weeks."

    This is caused by low blood pressure (hypotension) as a result of not eating. Unless you are diabetic, no one dies as a mere result of not eating for two weeks. The average human being can go about 45 days without food before showing symptoms. Church groups do it all the time for spiritual reasons. That stuff about the Israelites going 40 days and 40 nights without food is for real.

    This woman on Youtube goes through three 40-day consecutive fasts (for a total of 120 days!): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ixZICyJJck

    "Prisoners have also been denied medications, including prescriptions for high blood pressure."

    I can understand this. Though it sounds bad, technically you are not supposed to give blood pressure medication to someone who stops taking food for more than a few days. It is dangerous. The medication could force your blood pressure to go low and cause you to go into coma. When you deprive yourself of food, your blood pressure naturally dips way down. This must have been at the recommendation of medical staff.

    Reply
  5. AJ Honeylake

    "…some are there due to a condolence card being sent or received, a drawing or even a tattoo."

    Patricia,

    You are clueless about the world of prison. In my line of work, inmates are sophisticated and highly manipulative. A Christmas card supposedly sent from their kids could be soaked in crystal meth. A birthday card sent from their mother could be written in code that says to put a hit on staff or a rival gang. I work in the prison system. I deal with this stuff everyday. The general public is beyond the reach of the criminal mind. Has no clue.

    The guys in the SHU are the worst of the worst. They are the ones who have proven themselves many times over to be a threat to both inmates and officers to the point that the prison has to isolate them. Before a guy gets to the SHU he's already been in and out of AdSeg multiple times and probably stabbed or sliced several people or put out confirmed hits.

    A peek inside Pelican Bay & the SHU: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeZykGNHQOw

    Reply

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