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Four years ago prisoners in California – led by those in the control units of Pelican Bay – organized a hunger strike to demand an end to the torturous conditions of solitary confinement. Two more strikes would follow, with over 30,000 prisoners taking united action in the summer of 2013 – both in isolation and in general population in nearly every California prison. Current prison organizing continues a historic legacy of struggle.
I am one of the hunger strike representatives from Pelican Bay State Prison. I along with my family are also part of the working class people of America. As a young boy, I’d watch my parents in their daily struggles. Even now, while I’m in prison, my wife and children are part of the daily grind that is the work force!
Tomorrow, California lawmakers will hold a hearing about the use of solitary confinement inside its state prison system. February marks seven months since people incarcerated throughout California embarked on the mass hunger strike that has drawn legislative attention to prison conditions. The CDCR released new proposed regulations around its gang policies, and it points to changes already made. Accounts from former hunger strikers suggest that change is slow in coming.
California’s use of indefinite solitary confinement and the devastating physical, mental and public health impacts of the notorious practice was at the center of today’s three hour hearing by a rare joint session of the California Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committees to address demands made by prisoners during this summer’s massive hunger strike, the largest in U.S. history.
Representatives of the Short Corridor Collective at Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit have based their decision on a meeting with fellow prisoners at the prison, the growing international condemnation of California’s practice of solitary confinement, as well as the commitment of California Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committee Chairs Loni Hancock and Tom Ammiano to convene a series of hearings in response to the strikers’ demands that would “address the issues that have been raised to a point where they can no longer be ignored.”
Today Sen. Loni Hancock and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano announced that they will hold public hearings on the conditions in California prisons that have led to the inmate hunger strike, now in its 54th day. They anticipate that hearings may begin as early as this fall and continue into next year. The two legislators, chairs of the Senate and Assembly Committees on Public Safety, urged an immediate end to the hunger strike so that energy and attention can be focused on the issues that have been raised.
California prisoner hunger strike advocates and supporters continue their efforts to compel state decision makers to negotiate with hunger strikers as they endure their 52nd day without food. Meanwhile, legal observers at Corcoran State Prison say that the 70 people still on strike at that facility are facing harsh retaliation by prison officials, including the denial of medical care and the confiscation of personal property.
As prisoners enter their 46th day of the massive California prison hunger strike, supporters continue to condemn Monday’s controversial court order that authorizes force feeding of strike participants and that disregards their medical wishes. The order has emboldened prisoners to continue their strike, while others have decided to rejoin the strike in response to the CDCR attack.
Supporters of prisoners who are on the 43rd day of a hunger strike are expressing outrage at an order signed today by a federal judge allowing strikers to be force fed, disregarding international human rights principles. Thousands of prisoners have united to challenge the torture of prolonged isolation, demanding an accountable process to challenge the gang validations that have kept them in security housing for decades. Gov. Jerry Brown stands silent but is presumably in agreement with the force-feeding strategy, which will prevent the strikers from becoming martyrs.
With the historic California prisoner hunger strike in its 37th day, supporters are outraged that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) continues to characterize the peaceful protest as a gang conspiracy, rather than negotiating with prisoners about their human rights demands.
Today marks one month for prisoners on hunger strike throughout the California prison system. Earlier today, the mediation team working on behalf of the strikers was able to speak to the prisoners at Pelican Bay who initially called for the strike. Just moments ago members of the mediation team issued the following statement:
Mediators working on behalf of California prison hunger strikers concluded their meeting with CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard on Friday, Aug. 2. The meeting comes on the heels of nearly 100 family members of hunger strikers visiting the Capitol Tuesday, where they presented a petition signed by over 70,000 people demanding negotiations with hunger strikers to Gov. Brown’s office.
California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano issued a statement Thursday urging CDCR to meet with prisoner hunger strike mediators and work toward meeting the prisoners’ demands. Prisoners throughout California have been on hunger strike for 25 days. Demonstrators demanded that the CDCR and governor negotiate with strikers immediately and end any and all retaliations against their protest.
Mediators working on behalf of California prisoners on hunger strike are calling for an independent investigation into the July 22 death of Billy “Guero” Sell, a prisoner held in solitary confinement at Corcoran State Prison and a participant in the three-week-long hunger strike that has shaken the California prison system. Sell’s death is being ruled a suicide by the CDCR. Medical professionals, religious leaders and prisoners’ families call upon Gov. Jerry Brown to enter into good faith negotiations with the hunger strikers.
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 on Monday, July 22. His death is being ruled a suicide by prison officials. Fellow prisoners have reported that Sell was participating in California’s massive statewide hunger strike – now in its 20th day. Advocates are outraged at Sell’s death, noting that it could have been prevented if CDCR had negotiated with strikers.
It is hot enough in Corcoran, California, to melt people. That being said, it still wasn’t hot enough to keep upwards of 400 people from braving 103-degree weather to mobilize and rally at Corcoran State Prison in support of over 30,000 prisoners on hunger strike in California. The immediate goal is to stop the cruelty and torture that being held in isolation represents. The long-range objective is liberation.
“We’ve tried everything at our disposal. A hunger strike is our last alternative. We can’t do this alone; we need you, the public, to support us by writing to the governor and other representatives. We need you to express to them that you do not want your tax dollars to be spent on unjust and inhumane policies, but to fund other things like your children’s education.”
Hundreds of people held in California prisons are expected to launch their third large-scale hunger strike in two years today. The current strike, announced by leaders at Pelican Bay State Prison on Feb. 14, is seen as a resumption of the large-scale strikes in June and September 2011, when thousands of prisoners across the state stopped eating for days or weeks in order to press for the five demands laid out by the strike organizers.
We are presently out of alternative options for achieving the long overdue reform to this system and, specifically, an end to state-sanctioned torture, and now we have to put our lives on the line via indefinite hunger strike to force CDCR to do what’s right. We are certain that we will prevail … the only questions being: How many will die starvation-related deaths before state officials sign the agreement?
“Sleep deprivation has many significant psychological consequences, including irritability and impairment of the ability to make rational decisions,” says Dr. Terry Kupers, a clinical psychiatrist and an expert on forensic mental health. “Because of the harm it causes, sleep deprivation has been described as torture by organizations such as Amnesty International.”