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Tag: Long-Term Solitary Confinement
Prisoners in the state of Washington will go on strike on July 8, 2013, refusing to work on that day. Some prisoners in Washington, including some in juvenile facilities, have vowed to join the nonviolent strike. The strike’s aim is two-fold: to show support for the hunger strikers in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to join California prisoners in protesting long-term solitary confinement and other human rights abuses in U.S. prisons.
We are presently out of alternative options for achieving the long overdue reform to this system and, specifically, an end to state-sanctioned torture, and now we have to put our lives on the line via indefinite hunger strike to force CDCR to do what’s right. We are certain that we will prevail … the only questions being: How many will die starvation-related deaths before state officials sign the agreement?
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.
Fascist repression can only flourish when the voices of its victims have been brutally silenced and isolated within the concrete confines of a man-made construct where the scrutiny of the media cannot transcend the walls. But contrary to the fascist intent, the voices of resistance reverberated within the depths of this concrete hell as New Afrikan revolutionary prisoners since our arrival have refused to remain silent and have waged a continuous campaign to put an end to this racial injustice. And for over 20 years the San Francisco Bay View has played a critical role in allowing our voices to be heard.
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.
I am not one prone to fits of temper. But a few days ago I almost lost it. My outrage was prompted by witnessing the steady deterioration of another prisoner, resulting from particularly acute mental torture inflicted in Oregon’s Disciplinary Segregation Units, which duplicate almost exactly conditions of torture practiced at Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary that were outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1800s.
Beginning with a rally held on the capitol steps, it was an emotional day for many, especially for family members of those suffering in the SHUs and prison survivors. The voices of those in the SHU were powerfully present, both in stories told by family members as well as statements they had sent for the occasion. The hearing provided an opportunity for legislators to hear representatives of CDCR present their new policies and weigh the truth of their claims. At the end there was a scant 20 minutes for public input.
The following assessment is far from being complete; it is a brief analysis compelled by a question an activist posed to me: How does sensory deprivation (S.D.) impact the psyche of those prisoners who have been subjected to long-term solitary confinement? Actually, this text is but a modified letter that I wrote in response to the above question.
On Monday, Feb. 25, the California Assembly’s Public Safety Committee, chaired by Assembly Member Tom Ammiano, held a hearing on the state’s Security Housing Units (SHUs). The hearing comes 18 months after the committee held a similar hearing prompted by a three-week long hunger strike in June 2011 that involved thousands of California prisoners across the state. Monday’s hearing focused on the implementation of new CDCR policies and considerations of their appropriateness.
Prisoners of varying racial and ethnic backgrounds and ideological and political persuasions have forged a united front – best reflected by the Short Corridor Collective confined in Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit – around common goals and interests of ameliorating the tortuous concrete conditions inherent to long-term solitary confinement.
The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, which is torture, which is us prisoners being held in solitary confinement indefinitely, without ever breaking a prison rule or state or federal law, anywhere from 10 to 40 years, under conditions of sensory deprivation, isolation, etc., etc. The fact that solitary confinement is torture is recognized by the U.N. – but not by the U.S., yet.
What are the effects of long-term incarceration on prisoners? In a country where mass incarceration has become the norm, what responsibilities do the state and the community have to prisoners and to protecting some of their most basic freedoms – access to health and freedom from torture being chief among them?
For the past 40 years, prisoners have been removed off general population due to being validated as alleged prison gang members or associates. This is the sole reason for our placement: not behavior. CDCr started this indefinite lockup in the mid- to late 70s and soon realized that there was an economic incentive for labeling prisoners as a threat to the safety and security of the institution.
The new “Security Threat Group Prevention, Identification, and Management Strategy” will instigate new and more aggressive attacks against prisoners and their families, friends, associates and communities, who are already being victimized by our institutionalized racist system and the prison industrial complex. It is just one of their many policies to persecute prisoners incarcerated in solitary confinement units.
Yesterday I wrote about the ACLU’s efforts to ensure that the U.S. government is properly engaged at a U.N. meeting in Buenos Aires on uniform rules for the treatment of prisoners. Now that the meeting is underway, it appears that the U.S. delegation is playing a constructive role – but we’ve still got work to do.
As can be seen from the LSPC report, “Cage within a Cage: A Report on Indeterminate SHU Confinement and Conditions,” CDCR’s torture has reached beyond just the targeted California indeterminate SHU class imprisoned person and extends into the families and communities as well.
Political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal shares some thoughts on the hunger strike at Pelican Bay State Prison and one of the strikers' demands: sunlight.
Support for the hunger strike grows with solidarity actions across the U.S. and Canada this past weekend. A series of noise demonstrations outside jails, detention centers and prisons occurred internationally in St. Louis, New York City, Oakland, Los Angeles, Montreal and Kitchener, Ontario.
Ask anyone who has ever been on a hunger strike; the process of intentionally starving oneself is a very painful ordeal. And yet, there are places on this planet where the idea of death is preferable to continuing down a path that offers no hope or relief from suffering. I live in such a place; I know.
This is a call for all prisoners in security housing units, administrative segregation, and general populations, as well as the free oppressed and non-oppressed people, to support the indefinite July 1 peaceful hunger strike in protest of the violation of our civil and human rights here at Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit.