Hunger striker dies mysteriously at Calipatria, family reports funeral is Tuesday, Nov. 22, in Oakland

UPDATE: Jermarcus, brother of Hozel Blanchard, saw this article and reports that services will be held Tuesday, Nov. 22, 11 a.m., at the Miraculous Word Christian Center, 2723 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. He adds that the family seeks “any information or advice you can provide for us to get justice for my brother. We also have an email set up solely for this purpose: hozelblanchard@gmail.com. Any information would be greatly appreciated … to get to the bottom of this tragedy.”

by Yolanda Moore

I need help. I recently read a news article regarding “Prisoner Hunger Strike Now in 11th Day” (an excerpt is printed below) dated Oct. 9, 2011.

It is with a heavy heart that I would like to inform you of the passing of Mr. Hozel Blanchard. Hozel is the father of my 23-year-old daughter, Morgan Blanchard. He was a native of Oakland, Calif. Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011, I was notified via a brief telephone call that my daughter’s father, Mr. Hozel Blanchard, had died while incarcerated at Calipatria State Prison. We received a phone call advising us of his passing, but no information letting us know what happened.

Hozel had explained to us in his letters that he was a part of the hunger strike, and his reasons for doing so were because of false accusations, resulting in two recent additional charges that were recently filed against him. Hozel has been in prison for the past 17 years. We have important information about the circumstances and events leading up to his death in letters he wrote. This information needs to be shared.

Hozel feared for his life and made sure that he got word to us that he no longer felt safe. He wrote a letter advising us that he had petitioned the California Supreme Court – not once, but twice – asking for an emergency appeal. He advised us of the case numbers and dates.

He basically explained to us that his life was in jeopardy and he feared for his life. The family of Mr. Hozel Blanchard would like your assistance in finding out what happened to him, and to make sure that his story is told and he did not die in vain. My family is devastated and needs to know what happened to him under these inhumane circumstances.

Hozel Blanchard feared for his life. His family would like your assistance in finding out what happened to him and to make sure that his story is told and he did not die in vain.

We are desperate for help and/or advice as to who would be best to shed light on this tragedy. My family appreciates and needs any assistance you can provide. The family of Mr. Hozel Blanchard would like to find out what happened to him and to make sure that his story is told and he did not die in vain.

I too am a native of Oakland but currently reside in Atlanta, Georgia. I visit the Bay frequently, as my family ties are deeply rooted here. I will be in Oakland next week. Hozel’s funeral services are Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011.

How you can help

This message was posted online HERE, but Yolanda Moore’s contact information was not included. Kendra Castaneda, whose message follows, wants to share her information with Yolanda so his family can learn the truth about the death of Hozel Blanchard.

If you know how to reach Yolanda Moore, please ask her to contact Kendra at kendracastaneda55@gmail.com. Please also ask her to contact the Bay View with the time and place of the funeral so that can be posted. The Bay View can be reached at (415) 671-0789 or editor@sfbayview.com.

Was Hozel Blanchard’s death really a suicide?

by Kendra Castaneda

I have personally received letters from the men at Calipatria ASU (administrative segregation unit) who were in cells around Hozel Blanchard. The prison is saying he died on Nov. 9, but the men are saying he died on Nov. 8.

The men explained that the death of Blanchard, who was housed in a single cell, no. 159, in the ASU unit at Calipatria State Prison, was called a suicide by the prison guards as a “cover-up.” The cellmates surrounding a few cells down from no. 159 say they witnessed the correctional officers never calling for help, never sending out the alarm by using the “help” button they have in the segregation units and leaving inmate Blanchard’s cell as if nothing was happening.

They also explained to me that the inmates witnessed the correctional officers telling the sergeant that they called for help but no one came, which the men say is a lie. If anyone wants to get the full story, we just gotta listen to the men who watched what happened.

Because inmate Blanchard was in a single cell and the men are extremely isolated there, the men say it is easy to cover up a death as if nothing happened. The men also state since the hunger strike and since they have been trying to get their voices heard about their extremely inhumane conditions, the officers have been walking around “taunting” them and “threatening” them as if they will kill them, because the officers are blaming the inmates for “messing everything up” by getting their voices heard that they need help.

There has been more than one inmate – besides the previous letters from Blanchard to his family – that explained this and how inmates are fearing for their lives. They say it’s gotten so much worse within that segregation unit to where now the inmates say that Blanchard’s death was a “cover-up.”

Can anyone please contact Yolanda Moore? We need to get in touch with her. She and her daughter need to know what the men in the ASU unit are saying about his death and what really happened.

It wasn’t a suicide. His funeral services are on Saturday, but we have yet to find out the family contacts or where the funeral service will be located so we can post it for whoever wants to attend in Oakland. This NEEDS to get known and we need to make known what is going on since the hunger strikes happened. Men are being killed by the guards at Calipatria State Prison.

It wasn’t a suicide. Men are being killed by the guards at Calipatria State Prison.

This needs to get out because the retaliation from the hunger strike has not stopped at Calipatria. I’ve been trying to advocate for all inmates, but Calipatria ASU is so horrible and they always get brushed under the rug as if nothing is happening.

The only reason this particular death got out was because the family spoke up, reaching out to the internet for answers and help. I know of two other deaths in the July hunger strike at Calipatria that were covered up already. It has been a struggle trying to get someone to listen because Calipatria is not a SHU unit.

I have been pushing for people to just listen to the men. If they would just listen to the inmates a little bit more, they will receive the most accurate information on what’s really going on. It’s the inmates’ voices and experiences we need to listen to because a lot of other organizations or newspapers sugarcoat the actual truth.

I really hope the family of Hozel Blanchard reads the Bay View and contacts someone because they need to know what’s going on in Calipatria and we can help them with the missing pieces relating to their loved one’s recent death.

Background information

Prisoner hunger strike now in 11th day

This is the story Yolanda Moore read. – ed.

Revolution, Oct. 9 (excerpt) – A family member with a loved one in Calipatria State Prison writes that she can “confirm from numerous letters I have received within the last few days from Calipatria men” that “there are MORE than the 63 inmates [officially reported] currently on hunger strike in Calipatria. It’s close to 150.”

She goes on to describe the situation:

“The men at Calipatria segregation are also being denied medical treatment, being denied medication, and Calipatria administration staff is threatening the medical staff that they will lose their jobs if they help inmates.

“Men are falling to the ground as other men are screaming and calling out ‘MAN DOWN’ and their yells and screams are ignored by staff. Therefore there could be men already dead in segregation, but medical is not allowed to help them.

Men are falling to the ground as other men are screaming and calling out ‘MAN DOWN’ and their yells and screams are ignored by staff. Therefore there could be men already dead in segregation, but medical is not allowed to help them.

“I can confirm this is what has been written since Day 8 of the hunger strike at Calipatria State Prison. The men are going until they die, they have said. It hurts so much because my loved one is one of those men in there.”

On Oct. 2, the hunger strikers at Calipatria issued the following statement:

“From Calipatria ASU: SOLIDARITY IN PROTEST:

“We are currently housed in Calipatria State Prison, in Southern California, where hundreds of men are going on Day 8 of a ‘solid food hunger strike’ in protest of the cruel and unusual punishment and the abuse of authority this prison has been doing.

“For over 20 years, CDCR (California Department of Corrections and – so-called – Rehabilitation) has been targeting all races amongst its prison population and handing out ‘indeterminate sentences’ in segregation like it’s the thing to do. This means that we’re being placed in solitary confinement against our will – secluded from the world: isolation. We are labeled as validated gang members who are alleged to have ties with prison gangs.

“CDCR has their institutional gang investigators (IGI) determine whether a person’s a ‘validated gang member’ or not. They have been known to be conspiring with one another and fabricating evidence to falsely prove a validation. Their main sources are debriefers (snitches) who will sell out their own mother if they had to. Once validated, one can only find their way out of this ‘torturous and inhumane’ act of punishment by breaking people down by giving us three options – ‘parole, debrief or DIE.’

“It costs taxpayers $56,000 to house an individual in segregation annually and there’s over 3,000 ‘clients’ confined in isolation. Do the math. What we have here is CDCR’s vague and misconstrued justification of their interpretation of their policies. Their objective to validating us as ‘prison gang members’ isn’t to protect the general population, but rather to insure and guarantee that Hotel California’s Segregation Units have no vacancies so CDCR can keep those fat checks rolling in.

Their objective to validating us as ‘prison gang members’ isn’t to protect the general population, but rather to insure and guarantee that Hotel California’s Segregation Units have no vacancies so CDCR can keep those fat checks rolling in.

“Like we mentioned in the beginning, we write this with inspiration from reading about the men and women standing up in unity to peacefully protest for what they believe in. As the world revolves, so does the generation of human rights. It doesn’t always take war to get your point across, which is why we stand strong in solidarity on this hunger strike.

“We have three options … and if our voices aren’t heard, the third option will be the likely one.

“Respectfully, Fellow hunger strikers at Calipatria State Prison ASU, Oct. 2, 2011”

Prisoners at Calipatria call off strike

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, Oct. 15, 2011 – Prisoners at Calipatria State Prison have decided to temporarily end their hunger strike to regain strength. Hunger strikers were subject to extreme retaliation at the hands of Warden Leland McEwen and guards, including withholding water and vitamins. Reports from prisoners indicated that many men were collapsing in their cells and that the guards were doing nothing when alerted. A family member said that the infirmary there was full and that prisoners needing medical care were being transferred to Centinela.

It is becoming apparent that Calipatria is basically used as a stepping stone to Pelican Bay or other California SHUs. A majority of the men held there have been validated as gang members and have effectively been given SHU status. Some spend as long as four years in solitary confinement, awaiting transfer. Calipatria has virtually no programming for prisoners, and prisoners frequently have nothing in their cells to enrich their days. The prison has prohibited radios and television, which violates CDCR policy. The hunger strikers have added these items to their demands.

As prisoners throughout California continue their struggle for human rights and against torture, we must keep up the pressure on Gov. Jerry Brown and the CDCR, as the five core demands have only been minimally addressed.