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During the National Prison Strike, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS) inspired incarcerated and outside activists across the country. Activists on the outside were inspired by prisoners’ leadership on the inside, their ability to work effectively through limited communication and under the threat of retaliation. After the strike, incarcerated people were even more inspired by the activism that happened across the country on the inside. Prisoners from each corner of the country are realizing the power that they have to influence positive changes in their environments.
Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS) is currently continuing to focus energy on supporting strikers who’re suffering retaliation, raising awareness of those who continue to strike and educating policymakers of strikers’ demands. These will be our primary focuses in this season. Action points: Print and distribute Issue No. 6 of Solid Black Fist. Support prisoners still striking, raise awareness that the National Prison Strike continues in Ohio and California. Circulate the online petition to Congress demanding prisoners’ basic human rights needs be met.
The National Prison Strike flooded the media and transformed the national narrative surrounding prisoners’ human rights. While the symbolic end date of the national prison strike passed on Sunday’s 45th anniversary of the Attica Uprising, prisoners take the lead in determining whether to continue striking depending on their individual circumstances at their institutions: some extending the call, others placing a new date on their call and even striking indefinitely.
On May 16, inmates at Old Folsom State Prison made contact with the outside world to announce that they will begin a hunger strike on May 25 in response to ongoing mistreatment, dehumanization and unbearable living conditions at Old Folsom. When incarcerated people take action to fight for their dignity, their rights and their lives, those of us on the outside must answer with solidarity. Our support is crucial in getting their demands met and minimizing retaliation against them. We must let these brave individuals know that we have their backs, and that they will not be forgotten.
On June 10, Wisconsin prisoners held in long term solitary confinement at Waupun Correctional Institution started a “food refusal campaign.” They wish to bring the horror of administrative confinement (AC) to the public’s attention and end this torturous practice. Solitary confinement for more than 15 days has been deemed “torture” by the United Nations, but in Wisconsin, the Department of Corrections has held many prisoners in isolation for decades.
The CDCR is proposing new regulations on “security threat groups” or “gangs,” which will be implemented after a regular public hearing, to be held on April 3. The Step Down Program, which CDCR has been executing as a pilot program, is apparently being added to CDCR’s vast number of regulations. The implementation of the official Step Down Program comes while a second legislative hearing on Feb. 11 has been organized.
When the California prisoner hunger strike began, CDCR officials were repeatedly quoted telling the world that CDCR does not negotiate with prisoners. CDCR portrays the organizers as gang leaders – terrorists whose demands are unworthy of consideration. But on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013, the warden at Calipatria State Prison did negotiate with prisoners in the Administration Segregation Unit.
As a member of the Mediation Team, never did I think I would be a part of a Hunger Strike that would enter into its 50th day. Never did I think that I would be denied access to the face to face meetings that have taken place within the CDCR because I am a family member. And never did I think that CDCR would refuse on all grounds to meet even the most reasonable demands of the prisoners.
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.
On July 25, a prisoner on hunger strike at the Doña Juana Penitentiary in Colombia died after having been refused medical treatment by his guards. He had been experiencing chest pains and asking to see a doctor, but his request was ignored. Soon the prisoner was dead from a heart attack. The next morning, 18 of the hunger strikers sewed their mouths shut in protest, and the hunger strike has risen to 176 participants.
On the first day of the latest round of the epic hunger and work strike called by prisoners in California’s most notorious prison, the Security Housing Unit – or SHU – at Pelican Bay State Prison, Los Angeles Times staff writer Paige St. John, who specializes in prison news, wrote in part: “California officials Monday said 30,000 inmates refused meals at the start of what could be the largest prison protest in state history."
It’s vital that the End to Hostilities holds for all races and groups. We call on prisoners nationwide to draft up their own demands, tailored to their own individual institutional needs, to be served on CDCR and their prison wardens – I would get started on them now. We are giving CDCR a deadline to meet all of the demands, or else we are going to resume our peaceful hunger strike and work stoppage starting on July 8, 2013. All U.S. prisoners are asked to pick up the flag of solidarity and join us.