Update from Menard hunger strikers: We need outside support, force feeding threatened

Reblogged from: SF Bay View
Jan. 21, 2014

The following information is drawn from letters received from prisoners in Administrative Detention at Menard Correctional Center in Menard, Illinois, and compiled by attorney Alice Lynd.

Jan. 21, 2014 – On Jan. 15, 2014, approximately 25 prisoners in Administrative Detention at Menard Correctional Center went on hunger strike. Officers shook down their cells and took any food they found. The hunger strikers were sent to see medical staff and charged $5 for medical treatment.

On the way back from seeing medical staff, one prisoner (said to be Armando Valazquez) was pushed onto the stairs while in handcuffs by two officers. Those officers then kicked and stomped on his back, picked him up and then slammed his face into the plexiglass window on a door. One officer was sent home early that day. Prisoner Velazquez was moved to the Health Care Unit and the prisoners have not seen him since.

The hunger strikers have been told the prison administration is working on obtaining a preliminary injunction to force feed them. They expect to continue the hunger strike even if they are force fed.

“We need as much outside support as possible,” the prisoners say.

Please call or email:

Attorney Alice Lynd can be reached at salynd @ aol.com.

Menard prisoners’ demands

In a letter to Illinois Department of Corrections Director Salvador A. Godinez, Alan Mills of Uptown People’s Law Center in Chicago writes that prisoners formerly housed at Tamms and now in Administrative Detention at Menard in the High Security Unit, or HSU, “have contacted our office regarding both the process by which they were placed in this unit and the conditions of their confinement in the unit.

“They have advised us that due to the lack of response from anyone within the Department regarding their informal complaints and formal grievances they will begin an indefinite hunger strike today, Jan. 15.

“The men have forwarded the following demands to us in the hopes that we can facilitate resolution of the issues:

  1. A hearing upon arrival and rationale for placement, as well as the written rules and regulations regarding their classification;
  2. Quarterly meaningful reviews of continued placement;
  3. Timely written responses to grievances in compliance with the departmental directives;
  4. The ability to have reasonable access to cleaning supplies for their personal cells;
  5. The common areas to be cleaned and sanitized (i.e., showers) and the vermin and rodent infestation eliminated;
  6. Adequate heat and hot water in cells and common areas;
  7. The ability to purchase basic commissary items (i.e., thermal clothing, shoes etc.), pursuant to departmental regulations;
  8. Access to individual razors and nail clippers held by departmental staff;
  9. Timely addressed medical treatment (i.e., physical, mental and dental ailments); and
  10. Adequate access to legal property boxes and the law library.”

Alan Mills can be reached at Uptown People’s Law Center, 4415 North Sheridan, Chicago IL 60640, (775) 769-1411, www.uplcchicago.org.

Please grant the requests of California SHU-prisoners in CSP-Corcoran-SHU 4B-1L-C Section and 4B Facility

To be delivered to: Connie Gipson, Warden, Michael Stainer, Cherita Wofford, Ombudsman, and Sara Malone, Ombudsman


Petition Statement

These requests to the warden are basic, modest  and do-able, all pertaining to local issues like food, cleaning of the unit, visiting, and tv-access paid for by the prisoners themselves.

Petition Background

This petition asks you to review and respond to a few simple requests that prisoners in Corcoran-SHU have asked us to negotiate for on their behalf:

See the added list of 13 items, all very logical and humane, modest, none are undoable or unreasonable. They wrote these requests in a letter they sent you more than a month ago (around September/October 2013), to which you have yet to respond.

Some of these demands were negotiated successfully at Calipatria ASU. For instance, on the Memorandum of Sept 3rd 2013, the warden of Cal stated: “expanded the Canteen list effective September 2013…” Also: “two phones are installed in A5 pending activation.”

13 Local Requests of 4B-1L-C Section and 4B Facility, CSP-Corcoran-SHU

To: The Warden, Mrs Connie Gipson
Facility Captain
cc: Ombudsman Cherita Wofford, Sara Malone

1) Visiting
We are requesting that visiting be increased to 2 1/2 hours, and 3 1/2 hours for visitors who travel 100 miles or more.

2) Additional TV-stations
We are requesting that the administration add eight (8) additional stations to the basic package made available to us.
We are requesting that a contract with a cable service provider (such as Direct TV) be established with money from the Inmate Welfare Fund.

We were told that this was supposed to have occurred well over a year ago. By contracting with a cable service provider it would improve the quality of the picture on several stations (channels: 2 (PBS), 6 (NBC), 8 (My TV), 5 (CW). The picture is, always, so bad that they cannot be watched.
We would like to request that the following stations be added to the basic package: …

3) Packages
Policy changes to the title 15 now allow those of us in segregated housing to be issued clothing items, a bowl and tumbler, as well as religious items.

We are requesting that we be allowed, consistent with the new rules and regulations:
one (1) special purchase, “non-food”-package per year.

In the alternative we are requesting that the Administration establish a “grace period,” and in this grace period allow us to receive one (1) special purchase “non-food”-package.

4) Food
While the CDCR policy does require that we be provided with a “heart-healthy diet,” we are not. The quality of the food is so bad that on more than one occasion the food during the evening meals has been referred to as “looking like brains.”

In the alternative, if the administration will not require that changes be made in the quality and quantity of the meals, then we are requesting that we be provided the opportunity to order two (2) annual food packages a year.

We are also requesting that the administration include in the lunches more variety. Processed lunched meat and peanut butter are all that we are issued. The only fruit that we receive are one (1) apple or banana. The apple and banana are routinely rotten / overripe.

Canned fruit, peaches, pineapples, pears can be provided and are available.

Tuna fish, cheese and meat spreads can be provided instead of the processed meat is that we are routinely given. It has been established that processed foods do contribute to increased health risks. (see for instance: Harvard School of Public Health: “Beyond Willpower: Diet Quality and Quantity Matter”, page visited on 12/2/13).

5) Yard
Rarely do we receive our ten (10) hours of yard per week, as policy requires.
One reason for this is because the concrete yards in this building are not used.
If two (2) cells are allowed out to the concrete yard, three (3) times a day, it would go a long way toward our having an opportunity to receive our ten (10) hours of yard per week.

Even on those occasions in which regular yard is not allowed, the concrete yards can be.

This has been done over the years on the 4B-yard. And was being done in this building, briefly, last year.

6) Additional canteen items.
Particularly in light of the food department’s failure to provide us with a heart-healthy diet, as well as a diet that lacks any qualitative or quantitative value, we are requesting that additional canteen items, similar to those items that were on the canteen list previously (tuna, chicken breast).
And that chili-flavored soup be included on the canteen list.
And that one other or additional cold cereal be included on the canteen list.

7) Showers.
Presently, the showers are only cleaned three (3) times a week. We are requesting that an additional shower cleaner be allowed to come out so as to ensure that the showers will be cleaned six (6) days a week, as they should be.

8) Telephone calls.
We are requesting that one (1) non-emergency phone call per month be allowed for all SHU prisoners.

9) TV accessories.
We are requesting allowance of TV-accessories that are approved for privilege group D (earphones, headphone extension, splitters, RCA signal amplifiers).

10) Cleaning.
We are requesting authorizing , in addition to the showers to be cleaned six (6) days a week, that the section be cleaned three (3) days a week (swept, mopped, as well as cell fronts, stairs and rails, and holding cages inside of section).

11) Step Down Program
We request to have the time in the Step Down Program reduced.

12) Step 3
We request STEP 3 for prisoners who are validated as STG1 member or associate, and who has been housed in solitary confinement for a minimum of five (5) years.

13) Contact Visits.
We request contact visits pursuant to paragraph 3334 (K) of the Title 15.

We have been told on several occasions that each of the approved vendors (Walkenhorst’s, Access, Union Supply and Golden State Packages) have been contacted and informed that we are allowed to purchase and possess additional personal property items as well as religious items. However, only one of the vendors, Golden State Packages, will send all of the items. None of the other vendors have been notified of any changes.

Also, we are no longer allowed to receive tennis shoes. This prison has reneged on this altogether. They have told us that the vendors would be contacted over the past two (2) years.

In closing, we would like to thank you for your patience and understanding in this matter. And hope that we might hear from you in an effort to resolve this.

Respectfully,
On behalf of 4B 1L-C-Section, and 4B Facility. 

Pelican Bay prisoner representatives meet with top Corrections staff

by Arturo Castellanos
From: SF Bay View, Oct. 20th 2013

Oct. 2, 2013 – This is a short update from the four principle SHU reps here at Pelican Bay State Prison to inform you that Mr. Michael Stainer [director of the Division of Adult Institutions], kept his word and arrived here on Sept. 25 and 26 with Mr. Ralph Diaz [warden at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison (SATF) at Corcoran] and Mr. George Giurbino [retired director of the Division of Adult Institutions]. We went through all 40 supplemental demands as well as some aspects of the step-down program, where we also gave them written suggestions on loading up each step with real meaningful incentives.

  

Although they were adamant on not rescinding or reducing any RVRs [Rules Violation Reports] for participating in the hunger strikes, they were forthcoming in other areas. For example, there will be additional allowed personal property items in SHU. The memos on those and other supplemental demands will be out soon and placed in the new CDCR DOM [Department Operations Manual] Article 43 as soon as possible.

Those memos should be more specific so prison staff and prisoners will know what kind and size of the items is or is not allowed so the same problems from the June 5 memos won’t re-occur. On other issues, it will take time for them to investigate and confirm or not on what we argued regarding those, and on still others, like not rescinding the RVRs, they clearly stated “no,” which we prefer to a vague answer that only will string us along. But over all, the meetings were positive and productive.

With all the above and the promises of future meetings in person or by phone conference with Mr. Stainer or his staff regarding any updates on the above and step-down program and the first Senate-Assembly hearings this month in Los Angeles, as we explained to Mr. Stainer, as long as we continue to see forward progress, we do not foresee that the other 16 reps and prisons will want to resume the hunger strike anytime in the near future.

They also granted and reinstated our monthly meetings with this administration and the new warden, Mr. Ron Barnes, to deal with any new or pending issues at the institutional level. These meetings are vital to deal with any new issues and prevent future problems or having to file a lot of unnecessary 602 appeals. We are not MAC [Men’s Advisory Council] members, and if the same has not been put in place in your SHU prison – including women – then you need to sweat your warden about it asap.

They also granted and reinstated our monthly meetings with this administration and the new warden, Mr. Ron Barnes, to deal with any new or pending issues at the institutional level. These meetings are vital.


Finally, if any of you on PBSP GP [General Population] or any prison have gone through the potty watch be sure you contact the Prison Law Office but address your letters Attn: Sara Norman [Prison Law Office, 1917 Fifth St., Berkeley CA 94710]. She’s an attorney there. She came up asking for names and information on this but we only see some of you laying on cold concrete as we walk by those nasty-ass holding cells. So it’s very important that you get at her asap to stop this torture.

We stopped them from using the tubes. Now we need to stop the further torture of having nowhere to sit or lay down other than cold nasty concrete and taking craps out there in the open. This is wrong! And it needs to be stopped now!

Prison Law Office is asking for names and information on potty watch, but we only see some of you laying on cold concrete as we walk by those nasty-ass holding cells. So it’s very important that you get at them with your information on actually going through it  so they can stop this torture.


On this issue, Mr. Stainer explained that x-rays are no longer an option and potty watch is not supposed to be torture. We explained that even those who are not found to be carrying anything and are innocent, because x-rays are no longer an option, are forced to go through this humiliating and torturous experience for two to three days or longer, until after they have three bowel movements. Before, they could just prove they’re innocent by an x-ray.

They have agreed to investigate our allegations, but your information on actually going through it is more important, so Ms. Norman and her office can actually file something on it to stop it!

That’s it for now. Expect more future updates from me and the other reps as time goes by. Always in solidarity.

D Facility Visiting Room

Oct. 16, 2013 – This is to notify Warden Barnes and the budget associate warden for SHU of another issue that will be brought up and discussed at the next monthly meeting between the SHU reps and PBSP administration.

CDCR Sacramento officials provided the funds to reopen D Facility SHU visiting room to provide “extended visits” (see Supplemental Demand No. 4). However, PBSP officials just opened half and are only using that half for “overflow visiting” and the other half continues to be used for law library access during weekdays. This is not acceptable.

That visiting room half has to be used for extended visits and overflow, and the only way – as we reps have repeatedly advised this administration and Sacramento – that our family members will all receive extended visits is if this administration changes the schedule from three time slots to two time slots, with D Facility in the first slot and C Facility in the second slot, where all visits are a solid three hours long during the weekends and holidays. This could even work using C Facility and just half of D Facility visiting rooms.

The second option is that all of D Facility visiting room be opened, not just half, where all C Facility prisoners go to the C Facility visiting room and all D Facility prisoners go to the D Facility visiting room – i.e., the short corridor during the first slot and the long corridor during the second slot – thus giving everyone a solid three hour long visit and providing plenty of room for any overflow problems.

Exaggerated administration responses

First and more importantly, the D Facility visiting room was built to solely be used for D Facility visiting – regular and legal visiting – not to be converted into a law library or recreational book library. Now, so far, this administration has reopened just one half of our D Facility visiting room.

But in doing so, they also punished us by claiming they had to remove all the recreational reading books and take them to the B Facility general population library. So now we have NO recreational library at this time where SHU prisoners can order reading books (see also our Supplemental Demand No. 8).

When the administration reopened half of our D Facility visiting room, they also punished us by claiming they had to remove all the recreational reading books.


Second, the administration has not put any effort into resolving this, other than give excuses why they don’t wish to change anything – like, if they reopen all of D Facility visiting room they won’t have anywhere to put the law library. These excuses are old ones. In fact, in the past, we gave the administration a suggestion to solve this problem:

Since the law library mainly consists of multiple computers containing all the legal books on discs, they have enough computers to place one in each of the 22 SHU units’ dry cells in front of each unit control officer and run law library all day in each unit using just that unit’s officers to escort prisoners to and from those dry cells and back to their unit section.

A new suggestion, since the administration has not responded to the suggestion above, is that there is plenty of room in the SHU to move both the law library and the recreational library. For example, both C and D Facilities presently have a lot of space available between the back of each main corridor control booth and the visiting rooms. Right now it’s even being used as a partial storage area.

There is plenty of room in the SHU to move both the law library and the recreational library out of the D Facility visiting room, which was built to solely be used for D Facility visiting.


These available spaces can easily be utilized as both law library and recreational library where six-10 modified cages with the computers can be constructed and installed in those spaces to be used for law library access. Shelves can also be constructed or moved from the present library and placed in those spaces for law books, legal forms, copy machines and even for recreational books.

In fact, these spaces are so big that even with all those mentioned cages, shelves etc., there will still be plenty of room for staff desks and a walkway in between to provide access to the visiting area from SHU. So all the present excuses for not re-opening all of D Facility visiting rooms are unfounded and it appears that on this issue, the old CDCR game of delay and excuse is being played here.

In closing, the above problem of our family members barely receiving a 90-minute visit, if they’re lucky, has greatly affected those relations over the two decades plus since this prison was opened, especially those who must travel very great distances.

The problem of our family members barely receiving a 90-minute visit, if they’re lucky, has greatly affected family relations over the two decades plus since this prison was opened, especially those who must travel very great distances.

So, our advice to this administration is to find somewhere to permanently move the law library and recreational library and re-open all of D Facility visiting room and change the present three visiting slots to two visiting slots as soon as possible, because on this issue, there is no in-between and we as SHU reps promise you that this will continue to be one of our main issues until it’s permanently fixed.

Arturo Castellanos is one of the four main SHU reps writing on behalf of all 20 reps and all SHU prisoners and their family members.

Send our brother some love and light: Arturo Castellanos, C-12275, PBSP SHU D1-121, Crescent City, CA 95532.

Demands from the San Quentin State Prison Adjustment Center

From: SF Bay View:

June 10, 2013

Open letter to the Director of CDCR, the Warden of San Quentin Prison and the Captain of the Adjustment Center

San Quentin top officials have concocted and enacted an exclusive code of regulations called the IP 608 Condemned Manual, which mandates that Death Row prisoners are under the control of the warden of San Quentin Prison. Therefore, after years of the abuse of authority by Adjustment Center (A/C) committee members and unit staff and after years of filing 602s that fall on deaf ears here in the A/C, all the way up the chain of command to Sacramento, a collective group of Death Row prisoners in the A/C will be joining in the statewide non-violent, peaceful hunger strike in July 2013 to demand that the warden of San Quentin use his power of authority to bring about positive change to prisoners housed in the A/C SHU.

For years, Grade B A/C prisoners have been told Grade B is not a punishment; it’s just a “program” different from Grade A. So the warden should be able to use his power of authority to order the following immediate changes without delay:

1. The warden should immediately implement a “behavior based program” that amends the current criteria that permit a condemned prisoner to be eligible for Grade A privileges and be removed from the punitive punishment of Grade B status, basing this program on a condemned prisoner’s current good behavior and disciplinary free conduct regardless of a prisoner’s alleged gang status or validation and eliminating the under-the-table and vague indeterminate status in the A/C. The warden must order the immediate release of A/C prisoners who are not validated as alleged gang members and associates and have remained disciplinary free for years.

2. The warden must order the A/C committee to stop the controversial and unfair classification practices of using illegal inmate informants and anonymous informants and the so-called roster list of names to label prisoners gang members and associates and to stop the illegal and vague “mandatory debriefing” and vague validation process. San Quentin officials must put in place a set of standards and safeguards to protect a prisoner’s right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment

Any information used in A/C committee decisions must be first-hand information and must be corroborated by three different independent sources;

A/C committee must state on the record why such information is indicative of gang activity and state on the record what California laws are being broken;

Any information used against a prisoner must be provided to the prisoner and all copies of documents, such as 1030s and 128s, and debriefing reports placed in a prisoner’s C-file must be immediately disclosed to the prisoner so he will have ample time and opportunity to contest and challenge any allegations in writing through administrative 602s and legal redress to confront his accuser or confidential source.

3. The warden must

(a) order the end of the administrative segregation of condemned prisoners to segregated yards that have been designed to label a condemned prisoner unjustly,

(b) order an end to the constant use of bogus confidential inmate informants and bogus 1030 disclosure forms to deny A/C prisoners access to Grade A status and access to the A/C group yards, and

(c) order that all four group yards in the A/C be labeled “re-integrated yard 1, 2, 3 and 4” and remove the racist yard labels of “Southern/White and Northern/Black” that A/C staff and committee have used for decades to instigate racial division and segregation among prisoners of different races who would like to program and co-exist on a group yard together. Every A/C prisoner should be given group yard unless the prisoner chooses to stay in a walk-alone cage.
The warden must order that all walk-alone cages have roof coverings like the cages in East Block and Carson Sections, and add a dip bar in each cage for exercise.

4. The warden should cease all group punishment tactics. Group punishments and lockdowns were designed for large-scale riots, not for alleged isolated incidents. The warden should cease the unlawful use of the interview/interrogation process and never allow the vicious attack and assault on prisoners by A/C staff just because a prisoner invokes his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and refuses to answer questions during an interview/interrogation. This illegal policy of forced interrogations makes no sense because if staff utilize chemical agents on a prisoner, which have proven to be lethal, and attack him and then drag the prisoner into an interview/interrogation room, he will say, “I have nothing to say,” and take the Fifth. Or the prisoner might give a statement based on his fear and the fact he was brutally attacked, in which case the information would be deemed “given under duress and torture, therefore unreliable.” So the use of violence on prisoners, particularly on prisoners of color, is just an excuse and a blatant act of the worst kind of torture and racially motivated retaliation. Also, the administration should cease passing out “interview questionnaires” to prisoners after an alleged isolated incident because the informants read these questionnaires and re-word them and use them as first-hand information when the informants did not get the information from a prisoner but directly from a prison official. Simply put, these forms describing the incident are only done so rat inmates can exploit these incidents for gain by giving staff bogus and false statements to be used on 1030 disclosure forms and be rewarded by obtaining Grade A and other privileges and favors.

5. The warden should order the end to the degrading policy of stripping out A/C prisoners outside during yard recall, violating Title 15, Section 3287(4)(8), which partly states that “all such inspections shall be conducted in a professional manner which avoids embarrassment or indignity to the inmate. Whenever possible, unclothed body inspections of inmates shall be conducted outside the view of others.” Stripping out in the cold and rain is inhumane, and it’s time for this policy to stop. The warden should allow A/C prisoners to wear tennis shoes or state shoes on all escorts, especially in the rain, to visits and medical escorts, and put an end to the “shower shoes only” policy and allow A/C prisoners to be fully dressed in state blues when going to the law library.

6. The warden should order that the third watch sergeant return the scheduling of A/C prisoners for SHU law library to the SHU law librarian clerk and start utilizing all available SHU law holding cells so Death Row prisoners can do important research at least three to four times a month. A lot of prisoners are being denied access to SHU law library on a regular basis. The third watch sergeant should be ordered by the warden to end the practice of putting dinner food on paper trays to sit on the bed in the cell while prisoners are at law library as this practice is unsanitary and eating cold food is unhealthy.

7. The warden should order the end of excessive use of property restrictions. No other CDCR prison in the state of California uses property restriction as a punishment and it’s only done in extreme cases. Title 15 mandates no longer than 90 days. The excessive use of property restriction punishment in the A/C is based on nothing more than A/C committee members’ abuse of power and authority and is never based on a prisoner’s behavior.

8. The warden of San Quentin should use the power of his authority to expand A/C Grade B privileges for prisoners housed in the A/C through no fault of their own and who have remained disciplinary free for years.
– Allow contact visits with family, friends and attorneys, or allow 2½-hour non-contact visits in Booths A-l, A-2 and A-3 in the visiting room.
– Allow two phone calls per month.
– Allow hobby and educational programs for the A/C.
– Allow more educational channels like the Discovery Channel, the History Channel and National Geographic.
– Allow $110.00 canteen draw a month.
– Allow four food packages a year or two food packages and two nutritional packages of vitamin supplements and protein meal supplements from approved vendors.
– Allow A/C prisoners to participate in the food charity drives.
– Allow 10-book limit in cell, not to include any legal or religious books.
– Allow A/C prisoners to purchase white boxer underwear, T-shirts, socks and thermals from approved vendors at least four times a year (each quarter).
– Allow clear headphones, non-clear earbuds and headphone extension for TVs and radios or leave speakers connected in TVs and radios.

Order the return of exercise equipment on the group yards, return the basketball court and the pull up bars, and add dip bars and a table and provide group yard activity items such as basketballs, handballs, board games and cards.

9. The warden should order that all medical chronos issued and approved by the chief medical doctor be honored and order all A/C staff not to interfere with the medical needs of prisoners. Custody staff should have no say-so in medical needs of prisoners. If the medical needs of a prisoner cannot be met in the A/C, then the prisoner should be housed in a unit where his medical needs can be accommodated. The A/C unit staff must not be permitted to impose unjust punishments upon prisoners who have a proven need for medical appliances. When it is deemed medically imperative for modified cuffs, staff puts the prisoner on leg restraints claiming “safety and security,” when in fact it is an attempt to discourage prisoners from seeking medical appliances by punishing them with unnecessary, painful, degrading and excessive mechanical restraints.

10. Order the Institutional Gang Investigation (IGI) unit to stop the harassment of interfering with A/C prisoners’ mail. Incoming mail has been denied and held by IGI under the excuse of “promoting gang activity” with no further explanation of exactly what constitutes “promoting gang activity”! Many times incoming mail takes anywhere from 20 to 40 days from the postmarked date on the letter to reach prisoners in the A/C. Legal mail has been taking far too long to reach A/C prisoners, and it should be passed out with regular mail call at 3 p.m. so that prisoners can have plenty of time to respond to their attorneys by the 9 p.m. mail pick-up.

All of these issues are fair and reasonable and create no serious threats to the safety and security of the A/C but can only create a more positive and productive environment in the A/C for prisoners who have been put in a punishment situation with no disciplinary write-ups for years. We ask that the warden of San Quentin and the captain of the A/C look into these issues as soon as possible.

Thank you.

Main A/C Representatives: Smokey Fuiava, E-35592, 2AC56; Richard Penunuri, T-06637, 3AC55; Billy Johnson, F-35047, 2AC51; Todd Givens, V-42482, 3AC52; Marco Antonio Topete, AK-7990, 1AC12; Cuitlatuac Rivera, T-35975, 2AC67

Body of Representatives: Bobby Lopez, K-76100,1AC16; Reynaldo Ayala, E-10000, 2AC59; James Trujeque, K-76701, 3AC13; Mike Lamb, G-30969, 2AC1; Hector Ayala, E-38703, 3AC4; Marty Drews, C-88058, 3AC2

Press Release: Ohio State Penitentiary Hunger Strike Demands

March 132th, 2013

Contact: Ben Turk
Phone: 614-704-4699
Ohio State Penitentiary Hunger Strike Demands

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013, Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP)- Cornelius “Soja” Harris’ second hunger strike reaches 24 days. Less than a week after Soja suspended his 38 day hunger strike, he resumed refusing food. He is ready to come back off hunger strike if five simple demands are met.

He initially suspended the hunger strike he started on January 4th, with assurances from OSP Warden David Bobby that his missing property would be returned or replaced and that an institutional inspector to interview him. A few days later correctional officers at OSP interfered with a scheduled visit from Soja’s partner and threatened to destroy more of his property. On return from that visit, they refused to give Soja his morning meal. This harassment combined with the fact that Warden David Bobby had not taken action on his assurances prompted Soja to go back on hunger strike.

Soja states that he is willing to come off this hunger strike if five simple demands are met.

1. Return or reimburse for property guards destroyed during Soja’s first hunger strike.

2. Immediate transfer from segregation back to Sojas regular cell.
3. Lift restrictions from petty and fabricated conduct reports filed against Soja in retaliation for his hunger strike and the success at his trial.
4. End to harassment from Correctional Officers.
5. Opportunity to call outside supporters to make up for visits that guards cancelled or interfered with.
After missing 21 consecutive meals, the Warden authorized to send Soja to segregation. On his previous hunger strike, Soja was transferred to the infirmary. Officials claim that he was sent to segregation to monitor his food intake, but Soja believes this is actually punishment. Other prisoners in segregation are given 3 meals a day and could easily pass food to a hunger striker. Soja just endured a genuine 38 day hunger strike, with medical monitoring, so they should know he is not one to fake it. Segregation is punishment because it is loud all day and night from prisoners arguing, kicking doors and shouting at guards. Every other day someone floods their cell with toilet water, which runs under the door of other cells, so prisoners in segregation are constantly cleaning up toilet water, urine and excrement.
Death threats and harassment, including sexual harassment from guards is also common and ongoing. In a letter to supporters, Soja stated: “These cowards… want you crawling on your knees, weak and broken, they don’t want you standing strong, head up with no fear.” Soja has been refused access to the shower and his one hour of rec time out of his cell, without cause or explanation, on numerous occasions.

On March 3rd, Soja was put in a visiting booth with a broken lighting fixture and dirty glass, conditions which made it impossible for his visitor to see past the glare on bulletproof glass separating them. Another visit was denied altogether when Soja insisted that supervisors prevent the guards from again destroying his property while he was out of his cell. Soja has filed complaints for each of these incidents, with no remedy.

Since this harassment began the guards have also filed many petty conduct reports against Soja, resulting in increased regulations and limitations on his movement. Warden Bobby refuses to answer questions about Mr Harris’ situation. Central office also refuses to say anything about Soja’s case in particular other than to insist that the standard procedure for hunger striking prisoners is being followed. That procedure includes regular interviews and monitoring of the prisoner’s health.
According to Soja the bare minimum of that routine is being followed. Warden Bobby and Deputy Warden Remmich come through on their routine rounds, but they are casual and uninterested in his hunger strike. They don’t respond to complaints about harassment, and have threatened to send him out of state.
Soja also asked to “please give my thanks to all of those who supported me and my situation on the blogs and other communication lines.” He says he is “at the end of my patience… I don’t have too much left. Patience has it’s limits, take it too far and its cowardice.”

He has written an extensive statement, which he is hesitant to send out through the OSP mail room because guards may destroy it.

Supporters can call OSP Warden David Bobby at 330-743-0700 and demand that he meet with Mr Harris (institution #525-945) and discuss his reasonable demands. People can also call central office at 614-752-1159 and request that institutional inspectors review the Warden’s inability to control his correctional officers and compliance with procedures regarding hunger striking prisoners.

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Red Onion Prisoners Unite in a Hunger Strike Protesting Abuse

PLEASE SUPPORT, UPDATES AT http://virginiaprisonstrike.blogspot.com/

Red Onion Prisoners Unite in a Hunger Strike Protesting Abuse

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—MAY 21, 2012

Press Contacts: Solidarity with Virginia Prison Hunger Strikers

John Tuzcu /216.533.9925 / vasolidarity@gmail.com
Adwoa Masozi / 973.494.4266 / vasolidarity@gmail.com

What: Press Conference
When: 11 AM
Where: VA Department of Corrections, 6900 Atmore Dr. Richmond VA (at the DOC sign on the corner of Atmore and Wyck St.)

RICHMOND – On Tuesday May 22 as many as 45 prisoners at Red Onion State Prison, comprising at least 2 segregation pods, will enter the first day of a hunger strike protesting deplorable conditions in the prison and ongoing abuses by prison staff. For the men participating in the strike this is their only recourse to get Red Onion warden Randy Mathena to officially recognize their grievances and make immediate changes to food, sanitation and basic living conditions at the prison.

Supporters from DC and Virginia along with prisoner family members will hold a press conference at 11 AM in front of the VA Department of Corrections, in Richmond at 6900 Atmore Dr., to urge Warden Mathena, the Virginia Department of Corrections under Harold Clarke, Governor Bob McDonell, state Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb and other state and congressional legislators to act on behalf of justice and human rights. ­­

A statement released by one of the hunger strike representatives said, “We’re tired of being treated like animals. There are only two classes at this prison: the oppressor and the oppressed. We, the oppressed, despite divisions of sexual preference, gang affiliation, race and religion, are coming together. We are rival gang members but now are united as revolutionaries.”

Some of the prisoner’s demands include the right to have fully cooked meals, the right to clean cells, the right to be notified of the purpose and duration of their detention in segregation, and a call for the end to indefinite segregation. Red Onion has been repeatedly criticized since it opened in 1998. A 1999 Human Rights Watch report on Red Onion concluded that the “Virginia Department of Corrections has failed to embrace basic tenets of sound correctional practice and laws protecting inmates from abusive, degrading or cruel treatment.”

After exhausting legal and administrative channels, prisoners are holding this hunger strike to bring these abusive prison conditions to light. This action comes at a time when many are speaking out against the expanding prison system in the United States in an effort to uphold their human dignity and basic human rights.

Letters signed by residents in Congressional District 9 will be delivered to the Senators office later in the week and concerned citizens from across Virginia and the nation will be pressuring the Virginia DOC to meet the prisoner’s demands.

Ten Demands of ROSP Hunger Strikers

We (Prisoners at Red Onion State Prison) demand the right to an adequate standard of living while in the custody of the state!

1. We demand fully cooked food, and access to a better quality of fresh fruit and vegetables. In addition, we demand increased portions on our trays, which allows us to meet our basic nutritional needs as defined by VDOC regulations.

2. We demand that every prisoner at ROSP have unrestricted access to complaint and grievance forms and other paperwork we may request.

3. We demand better communication between prisoners and higher- ranking guards. Presently higher-ranking guards invariably take the lower-ranking guards’ side in disputes between guards and prisoners, forcing the prisoner to act out in order to be heard. We demand that higher- ranking guards take prisoner complaints and grievances into consideration without prejudice.

4. We demand an end to torture in the form of indefinite segregation through the implementation of a fair and transparent process whereby prisoners can earn the right to be released from segregation. We demand that prison officials completely adhere to the security point system, insuring that prisoners are transferred to institutions that correspond with their particular security level.

5. We demand the right to an adequate standard of living, including access to quality materials that we may use to clean our own cells. Presently, we are forced to clean our entire cell, including the inside of our toilets, with a single sponge and our bare hands. This is unsanitary and promotes the spread of disease-carrying bacteria.

6. We demand the right to have 3rd party neutral observers visit and document the condition of the prisons to ensure an end to the corruption amongst prison officials and widespread human rights abuses of prisoners. Internal Affairs and Prison Administrator’s monitoring of prison conditions have not alleviated the dangerous circumstances we are living under while in custody of the state which include, but are not limited to: the threat of undue physical aggression by guards, sexual abuse and retaliatory measures, which violate prison policies and our human rights.

7. We demand to be informed of any and all changes to VDOC/IOP policies as soon as these changes are made.

8. We demand the right to adequate medical care. Our right to medical care is guaranteed under the eight amendment of the constitution, and thus the deliberate indifference of prison officials to our medical needs constitutes a violation of our constitutional rights. In particular, the toothpaste we are forced to purchase in the prison is a danger to our dental health and causes widespread gum disease and associated illnesses.

9. We demand our right as enumerated through VDOC policy, to a monthly haircut. Presently, we have been denied haircuts for nearly three months. We also demand to have our razors changed out on a weekly basis. The current practice of changing out the razors every three weeks leaves prisoners exposed to the risk of dangerous infections and injury.

10. We demand that there be no reprisals for any of the participants in the Hunger Strike. We are simply organizing in the interest of more humane living conditions.