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Fahd Ghazy is a Yemeni national who has been detained at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, since February 2002 when he was only 17 years old. One of the last remaining prisoners to have been detained as a juvenile, Fahd was cleared for transfer by President Bush in 2007 and again by the Obama administration in 2009. Now 30 years old, he has spent over one-third of his life in Guantánamo without charge. He is represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights.
On June 2, a federal judge allowed hundreds of California prisoners to join a lawsuit challenging prolonged solitary confinement in California prisons when she granted the case class action status. Class certification allows the case to include all prisoners who are serving indefinite SHU terms as a result of gang validation who have not been placed in a new step-down program.
“My talk with Maroon today was very moving. There are no words to adequately convey the significance of his release to the general population for him and his family. This is a significant victory for a growing people’s movement against solitary confinement and the human rights violations inherent in mass incarceration. If we continue to work hard and support one another in this movement, these victories could very well become a habit.”
The Free Russell Maroon Shoatz website describes him this way: “Russell Maroon Shoatz is a dedicated community activist, founding member of the Black Unity Council, former member of the Black Panther Party and soldier in the Black Liberation Army. He is serving multiple life sentences as a U.S.-held prisoner of war.” Shoatz has been locked in solitary confinement at various state prisons for the past 22 years, 28 of the past 30 years.
On Sept. 26, lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) urged a federal judge to grant class action status to a lawsuit challenging prolonged solitary confinement in California prisons. The case, Ashker v. Brown, was filed on behalf of 10 prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison who have spent over 10 years, and as many as 29 years, in solitary confinement.
Eight years after Katrina, nearly a 100,000 people never got back to New Orleans, the city remains incredibly poor, jobs and income vary dramatically by race, rents are up, public transportation is down, traditional public housing is gone, life expectancy differs dramatically by race and place, and most public education has been converted into charter schools.
Should the Commission grant this request for a hearing, we will provide the Commission with testimony from prisoners, as well as oral presentations by family members of prisoners, advocates and lawyers. We would ask that the Commission recommend to the United States government and the state of California that they immediately take all measures necessary to address grave violations of human rights in the prison system.
Unjustified imprisonment and torturous living conditions have prisoners hunger striking all over the world. Many people who read the Bay View on the regular are aware of the California prison hunger strike, which has been going on for over a month now and started with over 30,000 prisoners statewide participating. But many know nothing about another prison hunger strike that is going on simultaneously on a U.S. military base in Cuba.
Prisoners in California have entered their 10th day of a statewide hunger strike to fight back against what they call inhumane conditions. The prisoners’ demands include a call for adequate and nutritious food, an end to group punishment, and stopping long-term solitary confinement where more than 3,000 prisoners are held in the isolation with no human contact and no windows – some of them for more than a decade.
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 are grateful for your support of our peaceful protest against the state-sanctioned torture that happens not only here at Pelican Bay but in prisons everywhere. We have taken up this hunger strike and work stoppage, which has included 30,000 prisoners in California so far, not only to improve our own conditions but also as an act of solidarity with all prisoners and oppressed people around the world.
I have not hugged my brother Ronnie in over two decades. He has been in solitary confinement in the Pelican Bay SHU since 1990. Ronnie could have been home 17 years ago; he has been eligible for parole since 1996. But, in a waking nightmare, prisoners are routinely told they’ll never make parole while in the SHU – but getting out of the SHU is virtually impossible.
If the intention of the prison system is rehabilitation so when prisoners are released they do not return, then we surely must object to solitary confinement. If we believe in basic human rights and dignity for all human beings, then we surely must object to solitary confinement. If we object to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, we surely must object to solitary confinement in the U.S.
Family members, advocates, lawyers, activists and others from across California will travel to Sacramento on Monday to speak out against the state prison system’s continued use of solitary confinement. Hundreds are expected to gather for a rally outside the Capitol Building and will then attend a California State Assembly Public Safety Committee oversight hearing, convened to review the CDCR’s “revised regulations” of its notorious SHUs. Rally starts 11:30 Capitol West Side.
Civil rights attorney and political prisoner Lynne Stewart needs help. She fought breast cancer two years ago, apparently successfully, but now the cancer is spreading. Her condition is treatable. But authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received expert medical attention before.
Though we have yet to obtain our Five Core Demands, no one can deny how much we have achieved since our initial July 1, 2011, hunger strike. For the most part our movement for human rights has made much progress, but patience is required, for we are engaged in a protracted struggle that demands our resilience.
We received your appeal calling for urgent support of the Center for Constitutional Rights. The appeal, regrettably, omits mention of Lynne Stewart, who is serving currently 10 years in a federal prison for her role in defending Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman as co-counsel for the defense with former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and renowned civil liberties counsel Abdeen Jabara.
An estimated 80,000 men, women and even children are being held in solitary confinement on any given day in U.S. prisons. If the struggle to end inhumane treatment inside prisons is to become anything more than a largely apolitical movement for so-called “civil rights,” it must put two long-ignored points back on the agenda: race and revolution.
AB 1270, legislation that would increase transparency and media access to California’s notorious state prison system, is currently facing opposition in the Senate Appropriations Committee. CDCR is formally opposing the bill, citing cost as their main concern. There are two ways that you can help: Attend a Lobby Day on Aug. 9 or phone committee members from home before Aug. 13.
Today, residents throughout the state celebrate as AB1270, a bill to lift the media access ban in California prisons, passed the Senate Committee on Public Safety in a 4-2 vote. Since 1996, media have been prohibited from choosing their interview subjects inside prisons, and nine versions of this bill have been vetoed by three different governors.