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Prisoner in Corcoran SHU dies while on hunger strike

July 27, 2013

Fellow prisoners mourn, advocates raise questions about his death

by Isaac Ontiveros, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

Oakand – Mediators working on behalf of hunger striking prisoners have received disturbing news that Billy Sell, known to his friends as Guero, died while on strike at Corcoran State Prison Security Housing Unit (SHU) on Monday, July 22. His death is being ruled a suicide by prison officials.

Drawing by an unknown prisoner

Drawing by an unknown prisoner

Fellow prisoners have reported that Sell was participating in California’s massive statewide hunger strike – now in its 20th day. They further reported that Sell had been requesting medical attention for several days prior to his death.

They described Sell as “strong, a good person” and openly questioned the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (CDCR) ruling his death a suicide, saying it was “completely out of character for him.”

Advocates are outraged at Sell’s death, noting that it could have been prevented if CDCR had negotiated with strikers.

Advocates are outraged at Sell’s death, noting that it could have been prevented if CDCR had negotiated with strikers.

Mediators are working to get further accurate information and accountability from the CDCR. “This story is deeply troubling and contradicts the assurances that the hunger-striking prisoners are receiving about appropriate medical care,” says Ron Ahnen of California Prison Focus and the mediation team representing striking prisoners.

This report comes amid growing concern for the medical care strikers are receiving, along with continued condemnation of the CDCR’s response to the strike and Gov. Brown’s total silence on the issue.

Mediators have made an official inquiry to the federal receiver overseeing California’s prisons. This report comes amid growing concern for the medical care strikers are receiving, along with continued condemnation of the CDCR’s response to the strike and Gov. Brown’s total silence on the issue.

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.

Editor’s note: This very tragic news is of the first known death of a participant in the 2013 hunger strike. According to the person who first reported it and who spoke with several of his fellow prisoners, Billy Michael “Guero” Sell, CDCr No. P-41250, age 32, was housed in 4B-3L of the Corcorcan SHU, had not been under mental health care and had been going without water as well as food.

The prisoners reportedly described him as “strong, a good person, a good soldier” and concluded that “Billy died because of the hunger strike.” He is said to be from Riverside, but supporters have not yet been able to locate and talk with his family. The Bay View sends condolences to everyone who was Billy’s friend, comrade, fellow prisoner or family member.

This preventable death compels us all to push Gov. Jerry Brown harder to meet the prisoners’ demands and end the hunger strike before we lose any more of these brave freedom fighters.

This preventable death compels us all to push Gov. Jerry Brown harder to meet the prisoners’ demands and end the hunger strike before we lose any more of these brave freedom fighters. Billy “Guero” Sell’s life mattered.

Call Gov. Brown at (916) 445-2841, email him via http://gov.ca.gov/m_contact.php, fax him at (916) 558-3160 or write him at Gov. Jerry Brown, State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814.

 

10 thoughts on “Prisoner in Corcoran SHU dies while on hunger strike

  1. D. J.

    I HAVE BEEN SITTING AT MY COMPUTER TRYING TO FIND THE WORDS TO SAY ABOUT THE SHU!!!!! I CAN TELL YOU THIS MY HEART BURN WITH MUCH PAIN TO KNOW THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO INFLICK SUCH BAD THINGS UPON MEN AND WOMEN WHO ARE TRYING TO DO THEIR TIME AND COME HOME TO THEIR FAMILIES. ALL OF THE INMATES IN THE SHU ARE LIED ON TO KEEP THEM THERE AND THE THINGS THAT ARE PHYSICALLY DONE TO EACH OF THE INMATES ARE INHUMANE. THERE IS SO MUCH MORE THAT THE PUBLIC DO NOT KNOW. FOR THE GOV. BROWN NOT TO SPEAK ON THIS IS NOT EXCEPTABLE DOWN WITH THE SHU NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  2. dlang

    My heart is sad over this Im going to pray
    Because this is just wrong .. To bad A.Kennedy hasn’t stepped in to stop this
    Or make up his mind what he going to do
    Shame on all of you and you to Jerry brown
    That was someone son :-(

    Reply
  3. Audrey Ortiz

    Let's complete and submit a citizens complaint form, this death was preventable… send to Warden of the Prison and to Internal Affairs… you don’t have to list a specific name on complaint, just note your concerns regarding the hunger strike – form can be obtained at the following website, just copy and paste. Thank you. http://www.ifc-solano.org/documents/complaint.pdf

    Reply
  4. Audrey Ortiz

    California State Prison, Corcoran
    4001 King Avenue, P.O. Box 8800, Corcoran, CA 93212-8309 • (559) 992-8800
    1988 I, III, IV, SHU
    WARDEN: Connie Gipson, ext 5000

    Reply
  5. Johannah

    First of all, it is NOT NEWS that prisoners do not receive adequate health care, even when life is at stake. This is well documented. Some cases of deliberate neglect are acts of murder.
    Regarding this particular case, I wish we had more facts. When he requested medical care, what for? Relief from pain? Or what? Prison officials had the option of force feeding/hydrating and should have done so at the point where the fasting prisoner's life was at stake. Was it suicide? Or rather, did the fasting prisoner knowingly risk death? Perhaps. But prisons are supposed to *prevent* suicide from occurring. To let him die was vicious and illegal and heads should roll.

    Reply
  6. Audrey Ortiz

    CDCR Hunger Strike Hotline: Let your voice be heard! Please call and leave a voice message today ! ! !

    Call (916) 324-3397 today!

    Reply
  7. Pebbles Trippet

    Sometimes a person becomes larger than life due to the meaning behind their death, as with the Tunisian fruit vendor who sparked the consciousness of the nation when he lit himself on fire to protest conditions he could no longer tolerate. Billy “Guero” Sell is the first hunger striker to die, depriving himself of food/water, dying as a symbol of intolerable conditions. That is not suicide, it is courage of his convictions, carrying a strong belief it is important to do something worthwhile with your life and your death, when the opportunity arises.
    I honor Guero. He put his last breath on the line. His death was a stop sign. The situation is so dire, it requires Gov. Brown to step up to negotiate the prisoners’ modest demands, before more people needlessly die. Brown is directly responsible for each death of a hunger striker. They are human beings & prisoners of conscience being cruelly deprived of medical attention when death is imminent.

    Reply
  8. Anon

    What did he expect? Hunger strikes do not include water. One cannot go a week without water. There are only five causes of death that can go on a death certificate: homicide, suicide, accidental, natural causes, and undetermined. His death was not from natural causes (i.e. cancer), nor was it undetermined. It wasn't accidental because the prison hunger strike is purposeful. It wasn't homicide (at the hands of another human). It had to be deemed suicide, as he chose to starve and dehydrate himself, albeit for a cause he felt was important.

    Reply
  9. Tina Schooner

    I am Billy family, I have been reading many things about his death and the one thing that hurts me most is the prison is trying to say Billy wasn’t a part of the hunger strike. Billy wrote me a letter dated July 19th just 3 days before he would be found by a guard hanging, in his letter he talks about the pain he was in because of NOT eating. I called Mr Brown’s office and they told me I can file a complaint against the prison if I feel this is a injustice case. I then asked what their plans are going to be to stop this from happening again and I was told they have no comments. I would love to be able to talk to some of the inmates that knew Billy well. I am planning on getting this story out there for everyone to see. Thank you for your support and time. Plz contact me @ tschurg0914@gmail.com

    Reply
  10. Tina Schooner

    I am Billy family, I have been reading many things about his death and the one thing that hurts me most is the prison is trying to say Billy wasn’t a part of the hunger strike. Billy wrote me a letter dated July 19th just 3 days before he would be found by a guard hanging, in his letter he talks about the pain he was in because of NOT eating. I called Mr Brown’s office and they told me I can file a complaint against the prison if I feel this is a injustice case. I then asked what their plans are going to be to stop this from happening again and I was told they have no comments. I would love to be able to talk to some of the inmates that knew Billy well. I am planning on getting this story out there for everyone to see. Thank you for your support and time. Plz contact me @ tschurg0914@gmail.com

    Reply

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