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I begin this six-month update on the activities of CDCR and the CCPOA with my utmost thankfulness and respect for the San Francisco Bay View. I thank your staff and readers for continuing to shine a bright light on the injustices that occur daily behind enemy lines, as it pertains to human beings who are marginalized as prisoners, defined as slaves by the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but yet full citizens of this country! I have now been housed in Pelican Bay Level II SHU for six months, and the situation has not progressed but has rapidly deteriorated.
Written Nov. 14, 2013 – The 80-mile drive from Eureka to Crescent City, Calif., must be one of the most beautiful stretches of highway in the world, with magnificent forests of spruce and redwood to the east and breathtaking vistas of the Pacific Ocean to the west. I’m on my way to Crescent City to visit Hugo Pinell, the only member of the San Quentin 6 – the famous trial that grew out of the murder of George Jackson – still imprisoned.
On Jan. 29, 2015, my travels began with a wakeup call at 2:30 a.m. I was told by the first watch unit officer to be ready in 30 minutes. Myself and a total of 17 prisoners were all rounded up like chattel slaves and placed in the SHU’s C-Facility visiting room holding cells ‘til we boarded the bus at 6 a.m. In hitting the highway, my sensibilities immediately went through the whirlwind cycle of “shock and awe” via the vivid reminder of what freedom used to entail.
One year ago on July 8, 30,000 California prisoners refused meals and work assignments, beginning a 60-day hunger strike with the core demand of ending the state’s use of indefinite solitary confinement. This was the largest hunger strike in U.S. history, and it presented the deepest challenge yet to solitary by bringing national and international attention to a practice that has long been condemned by human rights groups as torture.
Following a mass hunger strike by prisoners in California last year, some state legislators promised to reform the use of Security Housing Units (SHU). This week, Assembly Bill 1652, passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee. It now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. If the bill becomes law, prisoners would only be sent to SHU for specific serious rules violations that come with determinate SHU sentences.
Mail to the Bay View from the hunger strikers has been very sparse since the strike began with 30,000 participants on July 8. Prison officials may be holding their letters as they did during the 2011 hunger strikes. But yesterday and today the mail brought a postcard and several letters from Bay View subscribers in the Pelican Bay SHU (security housing unit), where these historic hunger strikes originated.
The only defense that can protect the people is to assemble the power of the people. We are our only defense. We have suffered enough injustice at the hands of a very evil system – CDCr and PBSP – and it is time that we prisoners express that pain and suffering by all means at our disposal, because CDCr and PBSP are censoring SF Bay View in order to censor prisoners, because we are exposing cruel and unusual treatment of prisoners. We collectively commend and value the courage and commitment as well as the principled stand that the SF Bay View is taking to speak truth to power.
As the renewed prisoner hunger strike enters its second week, the federal receiver’s office reports that at least 12,000 prisoners were participating during the first week. Family members of striking SHU prisoners reported that their visits this weekend were denied by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which is threatening participants with disciplinary action and banning two lawyers who represent the strikers. “Historically, prison officials have used extreme measures, including physical violence to break strikes,” says Dorsey Nunn, a member of the mediation team working on behalf of the strikers.
This spring, the news started going around that a hunger strike was being planned in the Security Housing Unit at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP). Prisoners at the SHU had apparently united across racial lines and promised to hungerstrike to the death if need be, starting on July 1.
Denise, Marilyn, Anna and I, with Harriett at the wheel, left West Oakland BART in the second carpool wave for Sacramento Tuesday, Aug. 23, at 9:30 a.m. to attend a pre-rally for the historic California Assembly Hearing on Solitary Confinement.
Support for the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike is strong and expanding as people inside and outside prison all over the world are connecting the Pelican Bay hunger strike to local struggles against powerlessness and inequality.
The New Orleans Saints won Super Bowl 44. I can’t believe I’m even typing the words. Four and a half years ago, after the levees broke, the concern was not whether there would be a Saints, but whether there would even be a New Orleans.