Support grows for California prisoners’ hunger strike

From: Workers World

By Sharon Danann
Published Jul 13, 2011

Even California prison authorities acknowledge that 6,600 prisoners were participating in the hunger strike called by inmates in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit over the “Fourth of July” weekend. (Los Angeles Times, July 9) Pelican Bay is California’s supermax prison. The prisoners in the SHU are in solitary confinement, some for decades.

(Photo: Cleveland activists hold informational picket
and leafleting July 9 in solidarity with
California prisoners. WW photo: Susan Schnur)

More than one-third of California’s 33 prisons had inmates refusing food, many of whom are also in SHUs. There is widespread support for the hunger strikers’ demands for such basic human rights as an end to collective punishment and to long-term isolation, adequate food and a phone call a week.

Support for the hunger strike spread worldwide. On July 3 in Perth, Australia, as part of a celebration of Aboriginal survival, the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee held an action in solidarity with the hunger strike. On July 4 activists in Kingston, Ontario, unfurled a huge banner saying “Collins Bay to Pelican Bay, Solidarity for Prisoners on Strike.” Inmates in Collins Bay Federal Penitentiary there started a work stoppage June 28 to address the issues of overcrowding and prison conditions.

Dancers from Danza Mexica Cuauhtemoc in Los Angeles performed ceremonial dances in front of Pelican Bay prison on July 4. Supporters held rallies in cities in the U.S. and Canada almost daily from July 1 to July 9, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and Eureka, Calif.; Seattle; Harrisonburg and Blacksburg, Va.; Cleveland; New York; Montreal and Toronto.

Activists in Montreal are hosting a “Contractor Crawl” to “discover some of Montreal’s prison contractors on July 16. On July 23 there is a rally at Ohio State Penitentiary at 2 p.m., followed by a program on torture in today’s prisons at 4:30, both in Youngstown. For more information contact

Solidarity from behind the walls

In the supermax unit at OSP, prisoners went on a 36-hour solidarity hunger strike from July 1 to July 2. Among these was Imam Siddique Abdullah Hasan, one of three OSP prisoners who were able to improve the terms of their confinement through a hunger strike in January of this year. All three were sentenced to death as the result of their alleged roles in the 1993 prison uprising in Lucasville, Ohio.

In his solidarity message to the California prisoners entitled “United We Stand,” Imam Hasan proclaimed,

“Their injustices have been going on for far too long. … Twenty-five years is too long for human beings to be subjected to the cruel terms and dictates of their oppressors.”

Lucasville uprising hunger striker Jason Robb wrote,

“I can fully understand and respect the path [the Pelican Bay hunger strikers] chose. They have made a decision that is not easy at best, but men must stand as men or be subject to being treated as less.”

The third Lucasville uprising hunger striker, Bomani Shakur, posted in his “Letter of Support” at

“In a country that incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country in the world (over 2.6 million men and women behind bars), human rights violations are inevitable, and it falls to those of us who must suffer through the experience to stand up and speak truth to power, for as Frederick Douglass suggested: ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand.’ In the days to come, the men at Pelican Bay will need each and every one of us to support them, to stand with them as they seek to bring their situation to a tolerable level.”

For the complete list of hunger strike demands, a link to an electronic petition, up-to-date event information, and what you can do to help, visit

Danann is a member of the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network and visits prisoners in OSP, Ohio’s supermax prison.

Women-Prisoners to Embark on Hunger Strike in the Country of Georgia

Turkish Weekly and Georgia Times, March 10, 2011

Human rights defender Eka Beselia informed the media that the Georgian women-prisoners are going to embark on hunger strike because of unbearable conditions in prisons, – GHN reports.

Eka Beselia underlined that women-prisoners demand attention to their problems. “They often sleep right on the cold floor. They cannot practice proper hygiene; they are kept under inhuman conditions”, – Beselia says.

Beselia remarked that the penitentiary system is practically unavailable for monitoring.

The human rights defender says that it is not only women-prisoners who are kept in tough conditions. There have been recorded many facts of torture. For instance, an invalid with a second degree of disablement has been recently beaten for trying to protect his rights.

Human right defenders complain that the state does not respond to the violation of the prisoners’ rights.

Group of formerly incarcerated people visit area, discuss prison reform

By Scott Johnson • March 3, 2011
Montgomery Advertiser:

They have turned around their own lives, and now they want to turn around the direction of the U.S. prison system.

That is part of the message being presented by a group of formerly incarcerated people from across the country that employs the slogan “serving our country after serving our time.”

Dubbed the Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People Movement, the group met Monday through Wednesday in Montgomery and Selma.

It is the first time the group has gathered in one location, and the choice of Montgomery and Selma was no accident.

“It is like our path was cut in the civil rights movement, and we are just bringing it back where it started,” said Dorsey Nunn, a rights advocate and former inmate from San Francisco who helped organize the meeting.

The group met Monday in Montgomery to discuss strategy.

Members marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on Tuesday and met with state leaders at the State House on Wednesday.

The Rev. Kenneth Glasgow of Dothan helped organize the gathering. Glasgow is the founder of The Ordinary People Society, an out reach group for inmates and former inmates.

Glasgow said group members Wednesday spoke with legislators, Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb and Gov. Robert Bentley.

Glasgow said the formerly incarcerated bring a valuable voice to discussions about prison reform.

“When they use us (as a re source), they are talking to experts by experience — those who have been there, done that,” Glasgow said.

Group members emphasize their focus on public service, and they visited an alternative school in Selma on Tuesday as part of a gang- prevention effort.

Glasgow said the group also plans to work with victim rights groups to help make amends for crimes.

They also, however, hope to change some public policy and reform the way the nation’s prison systems operate.

To stress the importance of their cause, members point to issues such as the cost of prison overcrowding and how barriers to re-entering society might make felons more likely to return to crime.

Susan Burton created A New Way of Life, a Los Angeles re-entry program, in 1998. She said her drug and alcohol addictions led to six trips to prison, with her last release in 1996.

Burton said the time has come for like-minded people to unite on the issue of prison reform.

“We have no other way to go but to get together and figure it out,” said Burton, who was named a CNN “Top 10 Hero” for 2010.

Glasgow said he and Nunn have worked for a long time to organize such a gathering.

“It has been a vision for years,” said Glasgow, founder of The Ordinary People Society.

Malik Aziz, founder of the National Exhoodus Council, said the group wants to be an active partner with law enforcement without alienating those who still are incarcerated.

“We want to be a community partner — a legitimate, recognized partner (with law enforcement). We won’t be an informer. That is not what our relation with the police is,” said Aziz, a former gang leader from Philadelphia.

Many of the group members talked about the large numbers of prisoners being released back into society.

More than 700,000 prisoners have been released from state and federal custody each year from 2005 to 2009, the most recent year for which the U.S. Department of Justice has gathered statistics.

Many of those people will return to poor economic conditions on top of the barriers to their re-integration into society, said Eddie Ellis of New York.

“There’s been no real discussion of what to do with those people,” said Ellis, co-founder of the Center for Nu Leadership on Urban Solutions at the City University of New York’s Medgar Evers College.

Gabriel Sayegh, New York director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said prison reform is a non-partisan issue.

Sayegh pointed out that critics on both sides of the political aisle have called for prison reform, including Newt Gingrich and the conservative group Right on Crime.

“There is widespread recognition that what we’ve got has failed,” said Sayegh, who was part of a group of sup porters who joined the gathering but are not formerly incarcerated.

The Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit organization with a stated goal of ending the War on Drugs, helped fund the gathering.

Nunn said the three-day gathering was a success be cause it was the first time it has happened.

He said the next one will be in Los Angeles and will be even bigger as group members recruit other activists.

“It will be double or triple the size of the people we had here,” Nunn said.

Christmas at Guantánamo

By: Andy Worthington, taken from his weblog


Ten days ago, when I traveled to Sheffield with my friend, the former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes, for a screening of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (which I co-directed with Polly Nash), I asked Omar what Guantánamo was like at Christmas, as I knew that he had spent five Christmases imprisoned in Guantánamo, and I thought it might make an interesting article for Christmas this year.

In fact, there was little to report. The authorities, it seems, made some effort on this great Christian holy day, but the prisoners, for the most part, were in no mood to accept one day of charity when the rest of the year was so devoid of Christian charity.
Instead, I thought I’d take this opportunity to remind readers who may be searching the Internet because they need a break from eating and drinking, or because they want to get away from their families for a while, or because the TV is so relentlessly pointless, or because they don’t celebrate Christmas, about some of the 174 men still held in Guantánamo, for whom concern is particularly appropriate right now, as, between them, the Obama administration and Congress seem to have ensured that the majority of them will be spending many more Christmases at Guantánamo.

My first thoughts were for prisoners I have written about recently — in particular, Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, cleared for release in 2007 but still held; Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian, also cleared for release in 2007, who is terrified of being forcibly repatriated; and Fayiz al-Kandari, a Kuwaiti who lost his habeas petition in September, but who appears, by any objective measure, to be an innocent man.
I encourage readers to visit this page for information about how to write to the British and American governments about Shaker Aamer, to visit this page for information about the latest attempts by Ahmed Belbacha’s lawyers to prevent his involuntary repatriation, and to visit this page to sign a petition asking Attorney General Eric Holder to return Fayiz al-Kandari to Kuwait (or just sign the petition here).
However, in thinking about all the prisoners still held, I was also reminded of one particular prisoner whose story I have not written about for many months, but who is in desperate need of help. That man is Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a 34-year old Yemeni prisoner who won his habeas corpus petition on July 21 this year, but is still held, even though it became apparent during his hearing that the Bush administration had cleared him for release from Guantánamo in 2007, and even though one of his lawyers, David Remes, explained after the ruling, “This is a mentally disturbed man who has said from the beginning that he went to Afghanistan seeking medical care because he was too poor to pay for it. Finally, a court has recognized that he’s been telling the truth, and ordered his release.”

Read the rest here.