Old Folsom prisoners hunger strike for their 8th Amendment right – freedom from cruel and unusual punishment

by Ann Garrison

KPFA Weekend News, broadcast May 27, 2017


“Administrative segregation” is prison bureaucratese for solitary confinement. On Thursday, prisoners in  solitary at California’s Old Folsom State Prison went on hunger strike for their Eighth Amendment right to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment. Anthony Estrada, a prisoner writing for the strikers in the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, wrote, “Prisoners in B4 ASU are forced to sit or stand idle in their cells or yard cages without meaningful exercise, education or rehabilitative programs.”

I spoke to Raquel Estrada, wife of Anthony Estrada, who elaborated on the conditions of her husband’s confinement.

On Thursday, prisoners in solitary at California’s Old Folsom State Prison went on hunger strike for their Eighth Amendment right to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment.

Raquel Estrada: They’re being denied adequate access to courts and legal assistance. They’re being denied meaningful education, like self-help courses and rehabilitative programs.

They’re being denied TVs. They’re saying that they don’t have any power outlets, which they do, but they just had them covered. So they’re only allowed to have a crank radio. And at the end of – I think about 30 days – the prison then will take away those crank radios. And if you don’t have a loved one or anyone to buy a crank radio for you, you don’t have anything. Pretty much you’re left in your cell with nothing.

They don’t have exercise equipment. They don’t have any pull-up bars out in the cages or anything. You just stand around – and the cages are pretty small.

The commissary – they take out all the packaging. The food gets stale. It has to be thrown out if you don’t eat your food right away,

The administration’s trying to tell them they can’t give them shorts or sweats because they might use that drawstring on the waistband to commit suicide.

Hunger-strike-rally-Oscar-Grant-Plaza-Cali-Dept-of-Corruption-Retribution-073013-by-Urszula-Wislanka-300x250, Old Folsom prisoners hunger strike for their 8th Amendment right – freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, Abolition Now!
A banner displayed at a rally in Oakland’s Oscar Grant Plaza on July 30, 2013, in the early weeks of the last and largest California hunger strike, calls out CDCR, officially the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Those hunger strikes made major progress, and it’s time for more improvements. – Photo: Urszula Wislanka

AG: In 2013, over 30,000 California prisoners went on strike to protest the same conditions, and lawyers for the prisoners filed a complaint alleging cruel and unusual punishment. That suit was settled in 2016 and a judge ordered the California Department of Corrections to make reforms which the Center for Constitutional Rights summarized in six points online. If I understand what your husband wrote in the Bay View, he’s saying that Old Folsom State Prison is willfully ignoring court orders and failing to make these reforms. Is that correct?

RE: Yes. No one, when they were doing that lawsuit, thought about adding the ASUs [Administrative Segregation Units] into that lawsuit. So that’s why Folsom refuses to do anything.

AG: Is that actually a legal exclusion because the lawsuit regarded something called “Segregated Housing Units [SHUS]”?

RE: Right, but the difference is, when you’re in the SHU, you stay there for years at a time, whereas in ASUs, it’s supposed to be short term housing. So they’re saying they don’t have to give them the property, the TVs or the hygiene stuff or anything because you’re gonna be leaving within three months top.

But that’s not what’s happening there. There’ve been prisoners there that’s been over a year, who are actually doing SHU terms in there. They [prison authorities] just don’t want to say that, but they’ve been there way past three months.

AG: The claim has not been made that that lawsuit – Ashker v. Brown – applied in this situation?

RE: It was supposed to apply because they’re being held there long term. It’s just Folsom is claiming that they’re only there for three months and under while they’re being placed in other prisons, but they’re there. And they’re saying they’re not starting their SHU terms, but they are.

AG: How long has your husband been in “ad seg”?

RE: He’s been there since Jan. 10 of this year, and he will be there until April of next year.

AG: And that was Raquel Estrada, wife of Anthony Estrada, one of the prisoners who have gone on hunger strike at Old Folsom State Prison. Anthony Estrada’s statement can be read on the website of the San Francisco Bay View, sfbayview.com.

In Berkeley, for Pacifica, KPFA Radio, I’m Ann Garrison.


This morning, the Bay View received this update from Raquel Estrada, wife of Old Folsom prisoner and hunger striker Anthony Estrada:

Hello, Good Morning,

I showed up at Old Folsom State Prison to see my husband today – Sunday, May 28 – but the prison authorities pulled me aside and told me that the visiting sergeant, Sgt. Valencia, wanted to speak with me. He told me that my husband was no longer there, that he was transferred to the state prison in Tracy. And that’s all he would tell me. The online inmate locator still says he’s at Old Folsom.

Another Old Folsom inmate called me yesterday on my husband’s behalf around 6 p.m. He told me the warden wanted my husband out of Old Folsom and wanted our visits suspended.

All of this seemed fishy. I didn’t believe they transferred him out, because they rarely transfer inmates on weekends, much less holiday weekends. However, I drove on to the state prison in Tracy, where authorities confirmed that he is there, once again in “ad seg,” which is really solitary confinement without any of the humane reforms won in Ashker v. Brown. – Raquel Estrada

Editor’s note: Raquel has heard from another prisoner at Folsom that the strike is continuing.

Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at anniegarrison@gmail.com. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.