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Corcoran ASU hunger strikers continue after one starves to death, while CDCR lags on gang validation revisions

February 15, 2012

Insist prisoners’ demands be met before someone else dies – contact information below

Update Feb. 15, 10 a.m.: Minister of Information JR Valrey interviewed Kendra Castaneda, wife of a hunger striker in the Calipatria ASU (Administrative Segregation Unit) and a fierce freedom fighter for all prisoners, on KPFA’s Morning Mix 8-9 a.m. today. They discuss the progress of the hunger strikes, the ongoing strike in the Corcoran ASU and the death of the first known hunger strike martyr, Christian Gomez, to whom JR dedicated the show. Listen here (the interview starts 8 minutes in):

Families of prisoners who knew Christian, witnessed his death or have any relevant information about him or the Corcoran hunger strike are urged to email Kendra direct at kendracastaneda55@gmail.com.

We urge all readers to

  • keep up the pressure on the governor and prison officials listed at the end of this story, telling them to meet the prisoners’ demands now and to monitor and attend to their health before another hunger striker dies!
  • sign the petition posted by families with loved ones hunger striking in the Corcoran ASU by clicking HERE … and spread the word!
  • plan to attend National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners on Monday, Feb. 20. Rallies are scheduled around the country. In California, the Bay Area is rallying at the San Quentin main gate 12-3 p.m.; give a ride or get a ride at 10 a.m. at Oscar Grant Plaza, 14th Broadway in Oakland, and 1540 Market St. in San Francisco. Fresno is rallying at the Fresno County Jail at 11 a.m., and Los Angeles is rallying at the LA County Jail at 3 p.m. Check the Bay View Calendar of Events for details. Huge crowds on Feb. 20 are the best way to win the hunger strikers’ very reasonable demands for universally recognized human rights and, ultimately, to free ’em all!

Update Feb. 13, 2 p.m.: “Theresa Cisneros, public information officer at Corcoran, confirmed to Solitary Watch that Christian Gomez, 27, was hunger striking at the time of his death in the Administrative Segregation Unit. Official autopsy results are still pending,” reports Sal Rodriguez.

In an email received by the Bay View at 9:09 this morning, Manny Espinoza wrote: “My brother knew the man that died. He said the COs didn’t get to him on time. My brother was sick and ask, yelled for help but nothing. He passed out and his celly yelled and banged on the bars to get my brother help.” On Feb. 10, Espinoza had written, “This hunger strike is still going on and the COs do not care! Please send people to check on these men PLEASE!!!”

The Bay View encourages anyone with more information about this desperate situation to call us at (415) 671-0789 or email editor@sfbayview.com.

Update Feb. 10, 7:30 p.m.: Sal Rodriguez of Solitary Watch reports: “While the cause of death and its possible relationship to the hunger strike remains unconfirmed, (CDCR spokesperson Terry) Thornton responded to questions from Solitary Watch with an apparent affirmation that an inmate death had taken place and the statement: ‘I do not know the results of the autopsy.’

“In response to a phone call, Tom Edmonds, chief deputy coroner in Kings County, confirmed that inmate Christian Gomez died on Feb. 2 at Corcoran but also did not share the cause of death.”

CDCR’s Inmate Locator lists Christian Alexander Gomez, 27, CDCR No. G-07338, at Corcoran State Prison. Anyone with more information is invited to contact the Bay View at editor@sfbayview.com, 4917 Third St., San Francisco CA 94124, or (415) 671-0789 any time. Our deepest condolences go to the family, friends and comrades of the martyr, Christian Gomez.

by Isaac Ontiveros, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

This banner was on display the day Occupy Oakland opened at Oscar Grant Plaza in front of City Hall Oct. 1, 2011, and must continue to be heeded until the hunger strikers’ demands are met – the death of a striker making it more critical than ever. Now Occupy Oakland has called for a National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners for Monday Feb. 20, and rallies are planned around the country. The Bay Area will rally in front of San Quentin noon to 3 p.m. Give or get a ride at 10 a.m. at Oscar Grant Plaza in Oakland or 1540 Market St. in San Francisco. – Photo: Sharon Peterson
Although media coverage of the event has been scarce, prisoners in the Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU) at Corcoran State Prison continue a hunger strike that has lasted over a month. In a statement released in late December, representatives of the strikers listed 11 demands that include access to educational and rehabilitative programming, adequate and timely medical care, and timely hearings on their cases and petitions.

As of Feb. 9, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) disclosed that 30 men were still striking and a representative in the office said that prisoners had been intermittently striking for the last month. Unlike the California prisoner hunger strikes of July and September, little attention has been given to the ongoing strike at Corcoran.

Family members and advocates fear strikers may be experiencing serious medical issues and even death. A prisoner at Corcoran, who remains unnamed due to fear of reprisal, stated in a letter received on Feb. 5: “On or about Feb 2nd or 3rd 2012 an inmate has passed away due to not eating that has been going on over here in Corcoran ASU. Inmates are passing out and having other medical problems and it seems that this is not being taken seriously. There will be more casualties if this isn’t addressed or brought to light.”

While this death is unconfirmed, it raises concerns that the CDCR is failing to deal with this hunger strike in an appropriate manner. “The prisoners are making very reasonable and legitimate demands regarding basic human rights,” says Carol Strickman, a lawyer working on behalf of some hunger strikers in California. “For those of us on the outside, the slow pace of reform is frustrating. For those people enduring barbarous conditions, the lack of meaningful improvement is unbearable.”

A prisoner at Corcoran ASU wrote this letter to activist Kendra Castaneda, whose husband is at Calipatria ASU. The writer’s name is withheld for his protection. Retaliation against hunger strikers who communicate with activists has been brutal. The three Corcoran ASU petitioners – Asian, Latino and Black – were immediately transferred to other cells or other prisons after calling the strike in December. Kendra reports that one of the petitioners, Juan Jaimes, wrote her on Jan. 31 to say "we are not accepting any state food whatsoever and were not being allowed any food items from canteen at all." He said the hunger strike at Corcoran ASU will be on-going until their humane demands are met. – Letter courtesy of Kendra Castaneda
The demands of the Corcoran strikers are somewhat different than those of the strikes sparked in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit (SHU) this past summer and fall, which at one point included 12,000 prisoners in 13 prisons across California. Administrative Segregation Units are often used as holding places for prisoners in route to SHU facilities or who are waiting release back into general population. Many prisoners in the various ASUs in California have been validated as gang members by CDCR and languish, sometimes for years, awaiting transfer to facilities such as Pelican Bay, where some prisoners have spent more than 20 years in solitary confinement.

Following the September hunger strike and significant pressure from the public and legislators in Sacramento, the CDCR announced that it would make changes to its gang validation procedure and would release a draft for review by stakeholders sometime in January. “The CDCR is clearly behind on their timeline. Meanwhile, prisoners continue to be validated largely due to association and baseless allegations effectively dooming them to indefinite SHU sentences without any means of challenging their cases,” says Azadeh Zohrabi of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition. The stakeholders’ review will reportedly involve the California Correctional and Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), state legislators and prison advocates.

Lawyers, families, and advocates will continue to monitor the situation at Corcoran. For updates and further information, please visit 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.

How you can help

Activist Kendra Castaneda, who first heard the news of this tragic death and notified the coalition, writes:

Please put the pressure on CDCR before someone else dies.

“Please put the pressure on CDCR before someone else dies. This could be your loved one or family member. Please help:

“Email or write or call asap to Matthew Cate and demand that he meet these prisoners’ demands. Write or call Corcoran Warden C. Gipson and email or call Nancy Kincaid to make sure these men are receiving proper medical treatment while on their hunger strike.”

Here’s the contact information:

  • Gov. Jerry Brown, c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento CA 95814, (916) 445-2841. He can also be reached through his website, at http://gov.ca.gov/m_contact.php.
  • CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate: 1515 S St., Suite 330, Sacramento, CA 95811, (916) 323-6001, Matthew.Cate@cdcr.ca.gov
  • Corcoran Warden Connie Gipson: Corcoran State Prison, P.O. Box 8800, Corcoran, CA 93212, (559) 992-8800
  • California Correctional Health Care Services Director of Communications Nancy Kincaid: P.O. Box 4038, Sacramento, CA 95812-4038, (916) 323-1923, nancy.kincaid@cdcr.ca.gov

 

16 thoughts on “Corcoran ASU hunger strikers continue after one starves to death, while CDCR lags on gang validation revisions

  1. I don't like you

    If you die because you refuse to eat that is your fault your a grown man live with the consequences of your actions . Blaming others for your stupidity shows your lack of intelligence.

    Reply
    1. reese

      in response to "i dont like you"
      It is important not to judge something that you don't fully understand and, rather, ask more questions about what would lead a person to such deep despair. In this particular situation, the reason for the refusal to eat is because it is a hunger strike, which is a last resort. It is because they are not being heard and every bit of their power is being stripped away. Can you imagine the extent of pain and suffering involved to come to such a drastic decision to starve oneself? No you cannot. What these hunger strikers are asking for is so ridiculously simple, more miniscule than you the writer of the comment could ever imagine, which is why you should have more compassion rather than writing shallow comments. They deserve our respect.

      Reply
  2. I don't like you

    Free medical free food hanging with the homies while your family struggles at home shows your true colors . Don't lie to your family and the press about how bad your treated . You know what's up but everybody that isn't in prison or working there are deceived by you and all the other inmates .

    Reply
  3. I don't like you

    The inmate who passed away had prior medical problems and was at a outside hospital when he died do to medical issues not related to not eating . Tell the truth don't lie

    Reply
  4. Pray4Peace

    Irish soldiers, and other prisoners have used hunger strikes when nothing else would draw attention to injustice. The conditions in America's prisons, especially in solitary confinement, are inhumane and cause mental illness.

    The Supreme Court upheld the Constitution and California must reduce the number of prisoners it packs in like feedlot cattle. The Court has not yet addressed the conditions in solitary confinement. California pays more for incarceration than it does for education. Prison profiteers include fear mongering politicians hoping for votes and prosecutors who win at any cost, including sometimes hiding evidence that the person is not guilty.

    Reply
  5. ILLUMINATI

    THERE IS CERTAIN RULES WHEN YOUR LOCKED UP..IF YOU EAT & YOU LET YOUR PEOPLE DOWN TRUST YOU WILL GET YOUR ASS KICKED FOR MAKING THEM LOOK BAD..YOU CANNOT JUST EAT & WATCH YOUR OTHER PEOPLE NOT EAT..YOU ALL GO OUT TOGETHER!!!! WHETHER A GROWN ASS MAN OR NOT..U JUST GOTTA DO IT OR THEY WILL BE CONSEQUENCES..I SHOULD KNOW BECUZ IVE BEEN LOCKED UP..

    Reply
  6. Rose

    Hebrews 13:3

    New International Version (NIV)
    3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

    Reply
  7. Debbie Garcia

    Some people can be so cruel with comments. Just because a person is incarcerated doesn't mean they should be treated like crap. Yes, they did something to put themselves there, but they're paying the price and doing their time. Maybe you don't have a family member in prison. I bet if you did, you would think differently. Many have been in isolation for 20 + yrs to be confined in a small cell would make anyone go crazy! They aren't asking for much, what's wrong with this country! They sure don't mind if this HS leads to death, they already care less!

    Reply
    1. Republican

      Just so you know I worked in the California prison system for 25 years and I can tell you from personal experience that 90 percent of the guys in SHU or Ad/.Seg would kill you as soon as look at you if given the opportunity..I was a counselor for those DEAR fellows and was trying to help, do they care , heck no, I have had death threats and feces thrown at me many times and I was there trying to help…As you said they put themselves there, and believe me many of them need to be there…for your safety…

      Reply
      1. kvsp

        The majority of the CO's and counselors that work in the prisons are nothing but LAZY individuals that are as bad as the prisoners or even worst. There are good inmates and bad ones as well, but not all of the prisiners are as bad as you said. If you had such bad experience I am POSITIVE that you were a very LAZY counselor that did NOTHING TO HELP THEM. I bet you sat on your lazy butt and watched T.V just like the rest do. The majority of the people that work in the prisons are the one's bringing in the drugs and CELL PHONES and selling them to the inmates. You are nothing but a BIG liar so if you are going to post anything say the TRUTH!! Don't try to put the prisoners down by saying lies. Having people like you is what makes this whole system so disgusting that it makes me sick to my stomach. KARMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        Reply
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