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Tag: Long-Term Solitary Confinement
Since some 30,000 California prisoners launched a hunger strike July 8 against the practice of long-term solitary confinement and other abuses, participants have faced punitive retaliation and censorship of newspapers and other media that backed their fight. Abuses continued after prisoners suspended the strike Sept. 5.
The movement is growing and we can’t let setbacks blind us from recognizing the progress that’s been made nor keep us from being inspired by that progress as we push the final distance towards the abolition of caging humans and the freeing of Albert Woodfox, the only member of the Angola 3 still in prison, and other political prisoners from decades in solitary.
It’s the ingenious design of prison to focus more on profit and perpetual imprisonment through antagonizing and framing inmates than on rehabilitation, human rights and community development. We get no second chances. African American youth like myself grew up in East Baltimore, never hearing about the tortuous prison structure, George Jackson, Angela Davis or Kwame Toure.
Merely days after the suspension of the historic California Prisoner Hunger Strike of 2013, which lasted an unprecedented 60 days and saw record prisoner support across the state, the task of tactical and strategic re-assessment is well underway. We are gearing up for the upcoming battles in our overall struggle to abolish the state’s practice of long-term solitary confinement in both the political and legal arenas.
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.
This morning we lost without a doubt the biggest, bravest and brashest personality in the political prisoner world. On Oct. 4, 2013, Herman Wallace, an icon of the modern prison reform movement and an innocent man, died a free man after spending an unimaginable 41 years in solitary confinement. Herman spent the last four decades of his life fighting against all that is unjust in the criminal justice system, making international the inhuman plight that is long term solitary confinement and struggling to prove that he was an innocent man.
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.
The reality right now is that Sen. Loni Hancock and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano have basically said that there has to be change. Now the people have to get behind these two politicians and make sure that they are empowered to make that change possible: Relieve prisoners of their on-going suffering inside these solitary confinement units that serve no purpose whatsoever.
I am very familiar with the serious medical issues involved with the long term and short term care of these SHU patients in solitary confinement that are both very deleterious to human health and not very visible to people who are not insiders and familiar with this environment at PBSP. Many of these issues have not penetrated the ongoing public discussion of the ongoing and created health care consequences of solitary confinement in the SHU at PBSP.
Representatives of the Short Corridor Collective at Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit have based their decision on a meeting with fellow prisoners at the prison, the growing international condemnation of California’s practice of solitary confinement, as well as the commitment of California Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committee Chairs Loni Hancock and Tom Ammiano to convene a series of hearings in response to the strikers’ demands that would “address the issues that have been raised to a point where they can no longer be ignored.”
California prisoner hunger strike advocates and supporters continue their efforts to compel state decision makers to negotiate with hunger strikers as they endure their 52nd day without food. Meanwhile, legal observers at Corcoran State Prison say that the 70 people still on strike at that facility are facing harsh retaliation by prison officials, including the denial of medical care and the confiscation of personal property.
As California legislators return to work this week, prisoner hunger strike family members, loved ones, advocates and supporters will gather at the Capitol to urge state decision makers to take swift and resolute action toward meeting the demands of the strikers. Waiting for the legislators on the Capitol’s south steps will be a life-sized mock Security Housing Unit (SHU) cell.
SHU prisoners in California are not allowed to call home. Lack of family phone calls is one of the reasons California’s SHU cells are characterized as solitary confinement – the harsh deprivation of family and social ties. CDCR has created the conditions that drive prisoners to desperation. It is horrifying to witness CDCR’s response to the current hunger strike: Crank up the cruelty and let them die.
Mediators working on behalf of California prisoners on hunger strike are calling for an independent investigation into the July 22 death of Billy “Guero” Sell, a prisoner held in solitary confinement at Corcoran State Prison and a participant in the three-week-long hunger strike that has shaken the California prison system. Sell’s death is being ruled a suicide by the CDCR. Medical professionals, religious leaders and prisoners’ families call upon Gov. Jerry Brown to enter into good faith negotiations with the hunger strikers.
We ask you, Gov. Brown, to set an example. In their time, the U.S. Army consigned the inhumane prison conditions at Dachau to the trash heap of history. The same thing should happen now to the unbearable prison conditions in the prisons of the United States – and especially the prisons in the State of California, which you govern.
We want to provide a brief update on our collective struggle to end the torture of long-term solitary confinement. On July 11, 2013, 14 of us here at Pelican Bay were placed in Administrative Segregation, where we are subjected to more torturous conditions than in the SHU. Despite this diabolical act on the part of the CDCR intended to break our resolve and hasten our deaths, we remain strong and united!
From Palestine to California, prisoners are organizing to end torture in prison and prison as a form of repression of popular movements and poor communities of color. Members of IJAN have been following and supporting the organizing of California prisoners, who are prepared to go on indefinite hunger strike starting July 8 to demand an end to long-term solitary confinement and other abuses.
Hundreds of people held in California prisons are expected to launch their third large-scale hunger strike in two years today. The current strike, announced by leaders at Pelican Bay State Prison on Feb. 14, is seen as a resumption of the large-scale strikes in June and September 2011, when thousands of prisoners across the state stopped eating for days or weeks in order to press for the five demands laid out by the strike organizers.
On Jan. 29, 2013, I wrote an article called “The Lying Game: CDCR, Inc.” I wrote this article because I wanted the public, our legal team and mediation team and anyone else who’s willing to listen to know that it is not the prisoners who are lying; instead, it is the prison officials at the very top who are doing all the lying. They lied to our representatives about promising to implement our Five Core Demands.
For the past two years we’ve heard the state claim it’s reforming its long term segregation policies and practices by implementing a Security Threat Group (STG) Step Down Program (SDP). Officials claim the program is a significant move towards a more behavior-based system, yet they remain extraordinarily vague about the “ultimate conclusion.” What exactly is “gang activity”?