Hunger Strike at Texas Detention Center Swells Into the Hundreds

This comes from the RH Reality Check Reporter

by Kanya D’Almeida, Race and Justice Reporter, RH Reality Check
November 2, 2015

The number of hunger strikers at a Texas immigrant detention facility has swelled to almost 500 since last Wednesday, an Austin-based advocacy group revealed in a phone call with RH Reality Check.

When news of the protest action broke on October 28, about 27 women at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, 35 miles east of Austin, were reportedly refusing their meals.

While grievances ranged from abusive treatment by guards to a lack of medical care, the women, hailing primarily from Central America, were unanimous in their one demand: immediate release.

The strike snowballed over the weekend, according to Grassroots Leadership, an organization that forms part of a larger umbrella group known as Texans United for Families (TUFF).

 

Read the rest here.

Update: Prisoners’ Hunger Strike Suspended; Solidarity and Action Needed for Struggle to Come

An update from the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, Samidoun, on the hunger strike that was supposed to take place from today:

Header from SamidounPalestinian prisoners in Israeli jails announced today, 11 August, that hundreds of prisoners affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who had planned to launch a hunger strike today, are suspending their planned strike after a concession from Israeli prison administration cancelling the order banning family visits for imprisoned Palestinian leader and PFLP General Secretary Ahmad Sa’adat. The Palestinian prisoners are still calling for action – click here to find out what you can do.

The PFLP prisoners issued a statement noting that the struggle of the prisoners is far from over, and that they along with all other Palestinian factions inside the prison are engaged in united planning for the next steps of struggle:

Following the announcement of the planned hunger strike to begin today, the Israeli Prison Service was forced to rescind the order prohibiting imprisoned PFLP General Secretary, Comrade Ahmad Sa’adat from family visits. The first visit with his family will take place this month and the next in September, and there is a final agreement with the comrades in the PFLP’s prison branch to cancel this order on a permanent basis.

The PFLP branch in the prisons of the occupation emphasizes that the struggle inside the prisons is continuing and escalating, and that it is working in coordination with all Palestinian factions in the prisons, uniting all Palestinian prisoners, for the next stages of struggle to secure all of our demands and improve the circumstances of life for the prisoners. Therefore, the prison branch of the PFLP has suspended its decision to go on hunger strike as one faction, and will join together with the entire Palestinian prisoners’ national movement in the protest steps to come.

The struggle of Palestinian prisoners remains critical and international action is necessary. This concession was only attained because of the willingness of Palestinian prisoners to put their bodies on the line to confront injustice, and because of the eyes of the Palestinian people and the world on the struggle of the prisoners. Today, the united prisoners’ movement is escalating its struggle and calling for action, solidarity organizing and escalation of boycott to achieve its goals.

In particular, the situation of Palestinian lawyer and hunger striker, Muhammad Allan, 31, held in administrative detention without charge or trial since November 2014 is particularly critical and demands international action and solidarity. Allan has been on hunger strike for 56 days and is shackled hand and foot to his hospital bed in Barzilai hospital. He is being threatened with force-feeding – cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment amounting to torture – and becoming the first victim of the new force-feeding law passed by the Knesset last month, condemned by UN officials, the Israeli Medical Association, the World Health Organization and human rights advocates. His medical situation is dire, and international action can help to not only save his life but gain his freedom and that of his fellow over 5750 Palestinians in Israeli jails.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network notes that Palestinian prisoners’ organizations are working together to determine the next phase of struggle. The Israeli prison administration and occupation forces exert great efforts to divide Palestinian prisoners and their demands from one another by targeting particular Palestinian political factions – first one, then another. In light of this situation, Palestinian prisoners know that united action is always the most effective means of struggle. We also must stay on high alert, as we – and the prisoners’ movement – are well aware that Israeli occupation forces routinely violate the agreements obtained through Palestinian prisoners’ struggle. Sudden changes in the situation and the dynamics inside the prisons due to Israeli attacks and violations of prisoners’ rights should be expected – and we must be prepared to mobilize and respond accordingly.

The Palestinian prisoners’ movement is acutely aware of its conditions within the prisons of the occupation; every day, they live in confrontation with an occupier which routinely violates their rights, and yet they continue to organize and struggle. Our task must be not only to amplify their voice but to build a loud, broad and strong movement to achieve the just demands of the prisoners; their liberation; and the cause for which they struggle – the liberation of Palestine.

Take Action today for Palestinian prisoners!

Read here how you can help.

An End to Solitary is Long Overdue

California’s Savage System of Confinement

Less than two weeks ago the United Nations Committee against Torture issued a report strongly criticizing the U.S. record on a number of issues, among them the extensive use of solitary confinement. While the U.S. uses long-term solitary more than any other country in the world, California uses it more than any other state. It’s one of the few places in the world where someone can be held indefinitely in solitary. This practice is designed to break the human spirit and is condemned as a form of torture under international law.

Despite these repeated condemnations by the U.N., the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is harshening rather than easing its policies, currently with three new sets of regulations. The administration’s iron-fisted strategy is emerging: project the appearance of a reforming system while extending its reach, and restrict the ability of prisoners and their loved ones to organize for their rights.

First, the CDCR has instituted a “Step Down Program” ostensibly to create a pathway out of indefinite solitary. However, the program actually widens the net of who can be considered a threat and therefore eligible for placement in solitary. Recently adopted regulations replace the old language of “gang” with “Security Threat Group” (STG) and the previous list of a dozen identified gangs is now replaced with a dizzying list of over 1500 STGs. Under these new regulations, even family members and others outside the prisons can be designated as part of an STG. Given the fact that indefinite solitary is used disproportionately against people of color – in Pelican Bay, 85% of those in isolation are Latino – the language used to justify placement in solitary eerily mirrors the rhetoric of the federal government and its permanent state of war against its declared enemies, all of whom are people of color.

The CDCR promulgated a second set of rule changes last summer with sweeping new “obscenity” regulations governing mail going both in and out of prisons. The original proposal was to explicitly ban any “publications that indicate an association with groups that are oppositional to authority and society,” yet after coming under heavy criticism, CDCR decided to mask its Orwellian motives by hiding behind the above mentioned language of STGs. This ominous language violates First Amendment rights, and reveals a broader agenda: to censor writings that educate the public about what is actually occurring inside the prisons, and to stifle the intellectual and political education and organizing of prisoners themselves.

A third element of CDCR’s strategy of containment is the implementation of highly intimidating visiting procedures designed to keep family members away from their loved ones. Draconian new visiting regulations authorize the use of dogs and electronic drug detectors to indiscriminately search visitors for contraband, even though both methods are notoriously unreliable. These procedures effectively criminalize family members and deter them from visiting, especially in a period of a growing family-led movement against solitary.

The three new policies are also intended to extend CDCR’s reach beyond the prison walls. As an organizer and family member of a prisoner, I’m censored when sending letters to my brother, Sitawa N. Jamaa, subjected to gratuitous and intimidating searches during visits, and susceptible to being labeled an STG associate. These are all ways that CDCR is trying to keep me from knowing how my brother and others are doing, and to repress my organizing.

Taken individually, these regulations may seem to address unrelated issues. But given they are all coming down simultaneously – just a year after the last of a series of historic hunger strikes by people in California prisons has given rise to the highest level of self-organization and empowerment among imprisoned people since the 1970s – these regulations are nothing less than a systematic attempt to silence and retaliate against prisoners’ growing resistance. Over 30,000 prisoners participated in 2013’s strike, some for 60 days, risking their health and lives for an end to indefinite solitary. Prisoners’ family members and loved ones also took up leadership roles in political organizing in unprecedented ways. The movement to abolish solitary continues to gain momentum around the country.

The hunger strikes were a significant part of an ongoing national sea change regarding the use of solitary, as states are waking up to its dangers. Illinois, Maine and Mississippi have closed or drastically downsized their solitary units without any loss of institutional safety. New York and Arizona were recently forced to reduce their use of isolation, with Colorado and New Jersey following suit.

Yet California steadfastly remains an outlier seemingly impervious to change, led by an administration that relies on tired rhetoric about “the worst of the worst” to justify torture. People locked up in California have a decades-long history of fighting for the rights and dignity of prisoners, affirming their humanity in the face of inhumane conditions and demanding change. The U.N. report calls on this government to “ban prison regimes of solitary confinement such as those in super-maximum security detention facilities.” It’s time for California to listen.

Marie Levin is the sister of Sitawa N. Jamaa, a prisoner in solitary confinement at Tehachapi. She is a member of California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) and Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS).

Mohamed Shehk is the Media and Communications Director of Critical Resistance, and also contributed to this piece.

Largest hunger strike in history: California prisoners speak out on first anniversary

This is from the SF BayView, July 7th 2014.
[Note by CAPW: Not only do we commemorate the first anniversary of the largest hunger strike, but also the third anniversary of the first hungerstrike in 2011, that commenced on July 1st 2011]

One year ago, on July 8, 2013, 30,000 California prisoners initiated the largest hunger strike the world has ever seen. Sixty days later, 40 prisoners, who had eaten nothing in all that time, agreed to suspend the strike when state legislators promised to hold hearings on ending solitary confinement, the heart of their demands.

Hundreds braved blistering heat to rally outside Corcoran State Prison, where hundreds were on hunger strike, on July 13, 2013. Spirits were lifted as the supporters shouted loud enough to be heard inside. The 2013 strike made headlines around the world, and support rallies were held as far away as Philadelphia, Mexico City and Berlin. – Photo: Malaika Kambon

Hundreds braved blistering heat to rally outside Corcoran State Prison, where hundreds were on hunger strike, on July 13, 2013. Spirits were lifted as the supporters shouted loud enough to be heard inside. The 2013 strike made headlines around the world, and support rallies were held as far away as Philadelphia, Mexico City and Berlin. – Photo: Malaika Kambon

The 2013 hunger strike followed two in 2011 in which participation peaked at 6,600 and 12,000. In the interim, effective October 2012, the hunger strike leaders, representing all racial groups, issued the historic Agreement to End Hostilities, which has held with few exceptions throughout the California prison system ever since.

These statements, most by hunger strike participants, arrived in time for the July 8 anniversary, and more will be added as they arrive.

We the people

by Mutope Duguma (James Crawford)
What we learned this far in our protracted struggle is that We the People are the vanguard. We the People have to demand what we want for ourselves. No government, no power, no authority and no one should be able to trample over the People without the People rising up and saying, “Under no circumstances do We the People accept this in our home.”
We the People reject torture of human beings,
We the People reject mass incarceration of our sons and daughters,
We the People reject police brutality,
We the People reject poverty,
We the People reject solitary confinement,
We the People reject Security Threat Groups and Step Down Programs,
We the People reject oppressive prison conditions
In solidarity.

We the People reject violence

Incarcerated artists rose to the occasion, encouraging participation inside and support outside. – Art: Michael D. Russell, C-90473, PBSP SHU, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532

Incarcerated artists rose to the occasion, encouraging participation inside and support outside. – Art: Michael D. Russell, C-90473, PBSP SHU, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532

Our unity is our strength. If we learn to cultivate our unity, we can begin to reshape this world – back into a world that reflects our humanity – because there is too much pain and suffering in the world today that only our unity will end. We’ve got to be unapologetic and always be dedicated and serious about the revolutionary change we seek.

Violence only perpetuates more violence inside of the vortex of violence, the senseless taking of lives, like a timeless hour clock that never ends, feeding on the very lives of our families and friends.
An end to all hostilities means peace amongst the oppressed, where our children can focus on school and living their lives peacefully, while they develop into strong young men and women.

An end to all hostilities means peace for the elderly and worrisome minds, where they can take peaceful walks during any time of day or night, sit out on their porches and watch the moon and stars in the sky.
An end to all hostilities means peace where young men and women can go into any neighborhood to socialize with fellow human beings without fear of being attacked or murdered.
An end to all hostilities means peace where all races in the free society can coexist without worrying that their race or class will be a hazard to them.

During our strikes to end all hostilities – July 1 to July 20, 2011; Sept. 26 to Oct. 14, 2011; and July 8 to Sept. 4, 2013 – we men and women got together and said enough already!
An end to all hostilities is solidarity.

Send our brother some love and light: Mutope Duguma, s/n James Crawford, D-05996, PBSP SHU, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532.

Weighing sacrifices against successes, the price was too high, but the struggle moves forward

by Antonio Guillen
Greetings to one and all,
It has been three years since the commencement of the first hunger strike.
As I look back over that time to weigh our sacrifices against our successes, I have to admit that the accomplishments we’ve achieved thus far do allow me to be somewhat optimistic about the future. I cannot help, however, but remain angered at the cost of human life and damaged health we suffered simply to enact change – the price was way too high!

Hunger strike street altar feat. Christian Gomez at 40th & Clarke, Oakland by Molly Batchelder

The hunger strikes claimed at least two lives, both at Corcoran State Prison: Christian Gomez in 2011 and Billy Sell in 2013. These memorials were set up at a street festival in Oakland. – Photos: Molly Batchelder
Hunger strike street altar feat. Billy Sell at 40th & Clarke, Oakland by Molly Batchelder

And, although our accomplishments appear promising, in no way am I suggesting that we’ve succeeded in our overall struggle, which is to end long term solitary confinement and to better the living conditions of all SHU facilities – we are on our path, though!

As always, it’s of the upmost importance to acknowledge family and friends on the outside, who through your unwavering support have made it possible for us to be who we are today. Each of you, through your contributions and sacrifices, be they personal or collective, have helped pave the way for this struggle to move forward. And we on the inside will forever be grateful!
Power to the people.
Strength and respect,
Antonio Guillen

Send our brother some love and light: Antonio Guillen, P-81948, PBSP SHU, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532.

Work together to keep the pressure on

by Phil Fortman
July 8th is a date that made history around the world last year – 30,000 prisoners began a hunger strike in the state of California due to the inhumane conditions of solitary confinement.
The strike did not come about as a spur of the moment idea. No, these inhumane conditions have been worsening year after year, decade after decade until the outside and inside finally joined together in a movement for change.

This drawing, the icon for all three California hunger strikes recognized around the world, was contributed by the renowned prison artist Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, then held in solitary confinement in Virginia, now in Texas. – Art: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 1859887, Clements Unit, 9601 Spur 591, Amarillo TX 79107

This drawing, the icon for all three California hunger strikes recognized around the world, was contributed by the renowned prison artist Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, then held in solitary confinement in Virginia, now in Texas. – Art: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 1859887, Clements Unit, 9601 Spur 591, Amarillo TX 79107

The change started on July 1, 2011, and Sept. 26 of the same year, which set the course for the Big One – the one that got the attention of the world to show how prisoners are being treated, not only in California, but in most states of this country.

Speaking as one of the four main representatives for the prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU, I applaud us all, prisoners and advocates alike, those who participated in the hunger strike and worked so hard for our case.
Looking back on this year, I see progress being made toward closing these holes – not as fast as we’d like, but the crack has been formed. The light is now beginning to seep in upon these dark, dreary walls for once.
In order to widen the crack until these walls come crashing down, we need to work together to keep the pressure on and on. We, as prisoners inside these places, have been advocating an end to hostilities among us. This attitude, along with the continued help and support of you good folks out there, will hopefully bring about a more civilized society and for us to live in peace and harmony.
I thank us all.

Send our brother some love and light: Phil Fortman, B-03557, PBSP SHU, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532.

Women prisoners speak out on solitary and hunger strike anniversary

Solitary is torture. It humiliated me. They strip you of everything – I was only given a mumu and half a mattress. You are locked away with no answer. I was cold, tired and hungry. The other ladies in Ad Seg helped me out and also the ones on Death Row, which is right nearby, gave me stuff to survive.
The hunger strike last year was amazing. The guys went through hell, but it was so good for them to come together!
Send our sister some love and light: Alicia Zaragoza, X-07564, CCWF, P.O. Box 1508, Chowchilla, CA  93610.

Solitary confinement in all ways is cruel. If it is a form of abuse to keep a child locked away in a closet for long periods of time, then why is it not abuse to keep that same child, who is now a man, locked in a cell for years? Put yourself in their shoes! I supported the hunger strike.

Send our sister some love and light: Natalie De Mola, X-12907, CCWF, P.O. Box 1508, Chowchilla, CA 93610.

Calling for ABOLITION of solitary confinement

This was reblogged from the SF Bay View, March 5th, 2014
Written by Denise Mewbourne

For a little over a year I’ve had the great good fortune to be a participant in the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity (PHSS) coalition’s Human Rights Pen Pal program. Through this program I’ve been corresponding with several activists inside the SHUs, including several in the New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalist Think Tanks. It’s changed my outlook on life in a big way, to say the least.

As a hunger strike supporter on the outside (since 2011) who has never been incarcerated, I had very little understanding of the ongoing cruelty, dehumanization and torture that goes on in the California prison system. I know I will never fully understand what it means to endure that – unless I’m forced to – and I’m still regularly shocked when I hear of new and different atrocities from both incarcerated people and prison survivors.

What I do know is how much respect and admiration I have for the people I write to, the organizers and participants in the peaceful protests, whose very bodies are the battlefield – and who have the strength and strategic intelligence to meet the oppressors on that battlefield with a series of hunger strikes.

Read the rest here

From San Quentin Adjustment Center SHU: a prison within a prison

From a prisoner inside the San Quentin “Adjustment Center”:
Greetings:
 
We want to be counted amongst the thousands and also let the world know that death row has a S. H. U. and though the refuse to call it so, there’s ad-seg in here with us and everyone knows what the Adjustment Center is.  A S. H. U. is a prison within a prison and we’ve been left in here for decades.
 
However 80% of us are still on strike.  We lost 3 but they were older and they did enough by showing their solidarity. Everyone else is pushing forward.  (Keep in mind there’s only 102 people in this unit.)  
There’s 4 who are not only doing the hunger strike but are refusing water too!  They are on the critical list and my be going to an outside hospital soon.  Right now they’ve only mention taking them to be put on I. V.  We’ll find out on Monday because they keep saying they’re out of staff or some b.s. but those guys have gone without water for over 4 days now. 
 
As for the rest this is our 13th day without and as of today the Warden hasn’t sat down with us nor has a meeting been set.  We have been scheduled to go to committee this Wednesday.  We’ll know more then and where they stand.  He still need to see we’re serious and believe me, I myself am.  I’ve set my mind to 30 days but with each passing day I become stronger and plan to go the distance like everyone else is.  We’re serious, focused, and committed.  
Thanks for your support, help, and for all the work you’ve been putting in.  Please send our thanks to everyone else for everything they are doing.  
Oh! we’ve only been weighed once.  We’ve been told they’ll be doing it every 7 days because there’s so many through out the prison.  Alright now, Geri, stay in touch  as I will and thank you once again for everything. Your support and solidarity has given us strength and nourished our starving bodies! Gracias.
 
P. S. Can you provide us with a list of lawyers or organizations that have lawyers who’ll represent us as negotiators and mediators to settle this strike?  Thanks.
 
Respectfully,
 
Carlos M. Argueta #F63367
C. S. P. – S. Q.  (3AC-15-N)
San Quentin, CA 94974

California has breached human rights of prisoners on hunger strike

Posted: 22 July 2013

‘Prisoners … should not be subjected to punitive measures for exercising their right to engage in peaceful protest’ – Angela Wright


The Californian prison authorities have breached international human rights obligations by taking punitive measures against prisoners on hunger strike, Amnesty International said today.

More than 1,000 inmates in prisons across California remain on hunger strike over conditions for thousands held in solitary confinement in the state’s prisons, with the protest entering its third week.

This is down from approximately 30,000 prisoners in more than 24 prisons who began their hunger strike on 8 July to protest against the state’s policy of long-term solitary confinement in so-called “Security Housing Units”.

On 11 July, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation threatened to take disciplinary action against all those participating in the hunger strike – a move which may extend their time in the secure units.

Hunger strike leaders have also been subjected to increased isolation, where they face harsher conditions and increased restrictions on communication with their lawyers.

A core group of hunger strikers in the north Californian Pelican Bay Security Housing Units claim the prison authorities have blasted cold air into their cells, as well as confiscated fluids, hygiene products and legal materials.

Last year Amnesty published a highly critical 58-page report on the units, describing the “shocking” conditions endured by more than 3,000 prisoners, including 78 people who had spent more than two decades in isolation units (see http://amn.st/12HjOav).

Amnesty International’s USA researcher Angela Wright said:

“Prolonged isolation under conditions which can only be described as cruel and inhumane treatment is prohibited under international law.

“It is unsurprising that prisoners in the SHU are protesting the conditions of their detention.
“Prisoners seeking an end to inhumane conditions should not be subjected to punitive measures for exercising their right to engage in peaceful protest. 

“Rather than punishing prisoners further with the threat of disciplinary action, the Department of Corrections should commit to meaningful reforms that will address the inhumanity of the state’s prison system.”

While California’s Department of Corrections has introduced changes to how individuals are assigned to the units, and how they can work their way out, Amnesty believes that these reforms do not go far enough.

Numerous studies have shown that being held under such harsh environmental conditions is detrimental to a prisoner’s psychological and physical health.

Prisoners held under these conditions are denied rehabilitative or educational programming, and have little or no social contact – including with family members. Most are eventually released back into mainstream society where the long-term effects of their confinement make reintegration harder.

Amnesty is urging California’s Department of Corrections to introduce long-overdue reforms to the secure units system to ensure that California’s treatment of prisoners does not violate its obligation under international human rights law to treat all prisoners humanely.
 

Solidarity with the 30,000 from across the world

Solidarity with the hunger strikers from across the world: 

“The policy of isolation exposes the ugly face of these false democracies that are guilty of occupation, tyranny and social repression…
I fought in a hunger strike for 66 consecutive days against the policy of administrative detention, my detention without charge or trial. I announce my full solidarity with my 30,000 oppressed brothers in the American prisons…” – Khader Adnan

From Ohio:
7-1-13 For Distribution:

Why should a prisoner in Ohio or Minnesota, or New Mexico, support California prisoners as they move into a crucial stage of struggle for their just do?

My humble opinion is: how could any prisoner think that these apartheid-style policies being used in California won’t come knocking in Florida, WV, Illinois, or any prison system, at any given time? Remember California is said to be a liberal (in terms of political policy) state. How many conservative governors are envious of such harsh prison policies right now?!

I urge all of you in every prison and your able-bodied supporters (each of you can ask one of your friends, supporters outside who are in good health) to support this July 8th hunger strike in some form, but don’t wait till this kind of policy pays you a visit…

Remember Lucasville

Greg Curry (Ohio State Penitentiary)
————-
Nora’s blog – Electronic Intifada
Prisoner solidarity from Palestine to Pelican Bay
Via: ElectronicIntifada, July 8 2013

Persons incarcerated in Pelican Bay prison in northern California are preparing to go on a mass hunger strike starting today, 8 July, demanding the end of human rights violations including long-term solitary confinement.
Palestine activism groups are also launching days of action in support of the US hunger strikers in California, strengthening solidarity between Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli prisons who are calling for an end to the similar methods of mass incarceration, abuse and torture inflicted upon them.

This is not the first time prisoners inside California’s Pelican Bay will go on hunger strike to demand the end of abuses. In July 2011, approximately 6,000 prisoners across twelve prisons in California took part in a three-week mass hunger strike that was launched by persons imprisoned inside Pelican Bay. The California Department of Corrections (CDC) pledged to implement reforms, and the hunger strike ended.

But later that year — after the CDC failed to change their treatment of prisoners — another hunger strike was launched by prisoners across the state. This time, 12,000 persons took part in the mass hunger strike, which lasted from 26 September to 13 October 2011. Again, prisoners in Pelican Bay say that the state promised but ultimately failed to change their policies.

Today, Truthout published a testimonial by Richard Wembe Johnson, who is imprisoned in long-term solitary confinement at Pelican Bay. Johnson is a plaintiff in a lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights to challenge such practices.

Persons inside solitary confinement units are isolated for at least 22.5 hours a day “in cramped, concrete, windowless cells,” Truthout writes. “They are denied telephone calls, contact visits, any kind of programming, adequate food and, often, medical care. Nearly 750 of these men have been held under these conditions for more than a decade, dozens for over 20 years.”

In his brief testimonial, Richard Wembe Johnson writes that being in long-term solitary confinement has made him feel he could “descend into madness.” He adds:

It is a challenge each day just to remain sane. I experience a wide and shifting range of emotions, including depression, hopelessness, antipathy, anxiety and humiliation, and I have chronic insomnia. It is difficult even to concentrate from moment to moment; my thoughts are mixed and perplexing, even in my sleep (when I am able to sleep at all).
Under no circumstance should anyone be treated like this. We are human and should not forfeit basic human rights because we are in prison.  Of course everyone should be held accountable for their actions. However, punishment for a crime should never amount to torture. What’s more, [security housing unit] confinement is additional punishment, on top of imprisonment, not for any crime or violation of prison rules, but for unsubstantiated claims that we have associated with gang members.

Core demands

Representatives from inside Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit (SHU) have initiated this latest call for a mass hunger strike and have notified California’s Governor, Jerry Brown, that such a protest will take place beginning today.
The prisoners’ core demands include:

  1. End group punishment & administrative abuse
  2. Abolish the debriefing policy, and modify active/inactive gang status criteria
  3. Comply with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 recommendations regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement
  4. Provide adequate and nutritious food
  5. Expand and provide constructive programming and privileges for those living in the SHU

In addition to the five core demands as laid out in the original 2011 protest, the prisoners have also presented forty supplemental demands that “are part of and/or related to our five core demands.”
They state in a press release posted on the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity website:

Governor Jerry Brown; CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard; and all other parties of interest,

In response to CDCR’s failure to meet our 2011 Five (5) Core Demands, the [Pelican Bay Stae Prison – Security Housing Unit] Short Corridor Representatives respectfully present this notice of, and basis for, our individualized, collectively agreed upon, decision to resume our nonviolent peaceful protest action on July 08, 2013.

The upcoming peaceful protest will be a combined Hunger Strike – Work Stoppage action. Once initiated, this protest will continue indefinitely—until all Five (5) Core Demands are fully met.

From Pelican Bay to Palestine

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoners’ Solidarity Network issued a call of solidarity with the US prisoners in Pelican Bay, and offered ways to take action.
Samidoun states:

[W]ithout progress over almost two years, the prisoners in California are launching their strike again. Prisoners continue to be sentenced to lifetimes in solitary confinement because they are labelled “gang affiliated” over such matters as tattoos, cultural art, or reading material. Youth prisoners in Washington have also announced their intention to join the strike.

Over 2 million people are imprisoned in the US and over 60 percent of those people are people of color, subject to a distinctly racialized system that routinely criminalizes youth of color, in sharp contrast to the crime rate, which has fallen while imprisonment has risen. Mass incarceration is deeply racialized, as 1/3 of young Black men are in the criminal justice system. The US holds 25 percent of the world’s prisoners with 5 percent of the world’s population, and prisoner resistance and political action has been sharply repressed.

As we stand against apartheid, racism, and Zionism in Palestine, we stand against racism and oppression in the US and around the world. Solitary confinement is a mechanism of torture, from Palestine to Pelican Bay to Guantanamo, and we stand in solidarity with the courageous prisoners who challenge isolation and oppression. The US is Israel’s key international supporter, ally, and economic/military supplier, and maintains regimes of mass imprisonment for social control both in occupied Palestine and in its own prisons.
Take action and sign the Pledge of Resistance with the California Hunger Strikers.

The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) also issued a call of support and solidarity with hunger strikers from California to Palestine.
IJAN states:

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.

Both Israel and the US use policing, imprisonment (and especially solitary confinement), and surveillance as tools of political repression—often sharing technology and training. In the US, the prison industrial complex plays a central role in American racism—harassing and incarcerating Black and Brown youth, brutalizing Black and Brown bodies, and devastating communities of color.

Israel plays a significant role in the training of police forces in the United States and elsewhere in population control and Israel and the US share technologies and strategies of surveillance and repression across borders (for more information on Israel’s Worldwide Role in Repression follow this link).

As people who support the liberation of all peoples, and oppose all forms of racism, it is imperative that we stand behind striking prisoners, who are willing to risk their lives organizing for their rights and dignity.

… People who stand up to organize events on the Day of Action (or any other date) are asked to act in true solidarity by following these guidelines from the Coalition based on communication with the prisoners:

  1. Support the prisoners by advocating for the Five Core Demands rather than agitating for other goals or our own demands
  2. Remember that the prisoners chose a “nonviolent peaceful protest” and plan your solidarity actions with that spirit in mind
  3. Honor the strikers, their loved ones, supporters, and the larger community of prisoner-rights and anti-prison organizations by refusing to claim leadership of the solidarity campaign

Palestinian prisoners still on hunger strike

Addameer, the Palestinian prisoners’ advocacy organization based in the occupied West Bank, reported on 18 June that:

Individual hunger strikes of Palestinian political prisoners have escalated dramatically since the beginning of 2013, with over 33 prisoners engaging in hunger strikes for various reasons.
This week, Addameer has confirmed that four new prisoners have started hunger strikes. Currently, there are 13 prisoners on hunger strike in the Occupation’s prisons, the highest number of individual hunger strikers in over a year.

In a summary of their latest quarterly report, which came out last week, Addameer stated that:

Key issues this quarter were the Israel Prison Services’ (IPS) continued medical negligence, use of isolation, increase in raids, the military court’s use of Article 186 of Military Order 1651, detention and torture of child prisoners under the age of 16 and increased detention of journalists, Jerusalemites and human rights defenders.

Addameer maintains that increased international pressure and forceful actions must be taken to oblige Israel to act within international law parameters until the imminent abolition of the military prison system.

Yasiin Bey demonstrates Guantanamo force-feeding

In related news, more than 100 detainees languishing inside the Guantanamo Bay prison continue their hunger strike protest against the Obama administration’s ongoing policies of indefinite detention, the UK Guardian reports, adding:

More than 40 of them are being force-fed. A leaked document sets out the military instructions, or standard operating procedure, for force-feeding detainees.

Hip hop artist and activist Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, recently elected to experience force-feeding under the same conditions in which detainees at Guantanamo are being subjected. He filmed the shocking procedure in a four-minute video produced by the human rights organization Reprieve.
The Guardian adds in a related article:

The four-minute video, directed by Bafta award-winning filmmaker Asif Kapadia, seeks to reconstruct the specific force-feeding instructions set out in standard operating guidelines from Guantánamo leaked to al-Jazeera. It shows a plastic tube being inserted through Bey’s nostril into his stomach. The “Medical Management Standard Operating Procedure” document leaked from the detention camp defines a hunger striker as a detainee who has missed at least nine consecutive meals or whose weight has fallen to less than 85 percent of his ideal body weight.

You can watch the incredibly disturbing — but important — video here.

Californian prisoners prepare for hunger strike

Reblogged from the Irish Times:

Californian prisoners prepare for hunger strike
Inmates say California’s crowded, dangerous jails violate their rights. What effect might protests have?

Peadar King, June 20, 2013

Of the 10.1 million people held in penal institutions across the world, 2.29 million are held in the US. Of those, 80 per cent are poor, more than 60 per cent are members of racial minorities and more than 50 per cent have mental-health problems.

Across the US almost seven million people are in prison, on probation, on parole or in county jails. The numbers represent a 379 per cent increase from 1980, when the number was not quite two million.

Children are not immune from imprisonment. There are 250,000 children in adult jails and prisons across the US, some as young as eight and nine, of whom 3,000 have been sentenced to life without parole. Of these, 74 per cent are African-American or Latino.

In prison they are 10 times more likely to be sexually and physically abused than are adult prisoners. Many of these adults and young people did not have proper legal representation at the time of their trials despite the 1963 US supreme court ruling in the Gideon v Wainwright case that entitles all defendants to legal counsel irrespective of income.

Even in the US California stands out. Recent decades have seen rapid growth in the state’s prison population – greater than the combined numbers of France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Norway – although the state’s overall population is just a fifth of those countries’.

The current controversy relates not to the number of prisoners in California but to the conditions in which they are held. Despite a flurry of prison construction in the 1980s that increased the number of penal institutions from 12 to 33, in 2006 its prison population of 172,000 was 200 per cent above design capacity.
And although the supreme court has ordered the state to bring its prisoner population into line with capacity, the state has failed to do so.

The supreme court is not alone is its dissatisfaction with how prisoners are being treated; the prisoners don’t like it either. There were two hunger strikes in 2011: the first involved 6,600 prisoners; the second 11,898 prisoners. Now prisoners are set for a repeat strike, with July 8th as the target date.

Although the prisoners have five demands, life in “secure housing units” and the extensive use of solitary confinement are at the heart of the dispute. About 10,000 prisoners are held in solitary confinement in California at any one time. Some have been in solitary for up to 40 years, and the average time is seven and a half years.

Pelican Bay State Prison, a supermax, or super-maximum-security jail, holds 1,111 prisoners in isolation. There, in an area designed to minimise human contact and reduce visual stimulation, the windowless units in which the prisoners spend 23 hours a day measure 11ft by 7ft. They are fed through a hatch. For an hour a day they can exercise alone in what is referred to as a “dog run” – an open-air cell measuring 16ft by 25ft.

In 2012 Amnesty International accused California of abusing prisoners’ rights. In August 2011 Juan Mendez, the UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, concluded that even 15 days in solitary confinement constitutes torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and 15 days is the limit after which irreversible harmful psychological effects can occur.

Read the rest here 

Prisoners in CA prepare for peaceful protests starting on 7/8, other States’ Prisoners join in Solidarity: WA, LA, OH…

In Louisiana State Prison, Angola, LA, a few prisoners on solitary confinement have announced to their freinds they will fast for the first week of the July 8th 2013 California hunter strike in solidarity.

In Ohio State Penitentiary, a supermax housing amongst others prisoners who were condemned to death and who were given a life sentence following the Lucasville 1993 prison disturbance under very suspicious circumstances, some prisoners have also announced to friends they will fast in solidarity for the first few days. 

This following story comes from the SF Bay View, and shows prisoners from WA in solidarity with those in CA who are being held under extreme and neverending circumstances.

Prisoners in Washington State to join July 8 strike called by California prisoners

From: SF Bay View, June 26, 2013

by Diana George, Free Us All Coalition

Seattle, Washington (June 26, 2013) – 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.

  

The Washington prison strike on July 8 will coincide with hunger strikes and work stoppages at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California, and at least four other prisons in California. The California prisoners’ demands include an end to long-term solitary confinement and to such practices as “gang debriefing.”

To gain release from solitary confinement, California prisoners are pressured to “debrief,” denouncing fellow prisoners as gang members, who are then punished with solitary confinement. Some California prisoners have been held in isolation for more than 30 years; the strike’s aim is to end this torture.

The California prison strikes will be the third such strike to occur in the last three years. On July, 1, 2011, 6,600 prisoners in the state of California went on a nonviolent hunger strike that began in Pelican Bay State Prison and spread to other facilities in the state. Later that year, their demands still unmet, nearly 12,000 California prisoners resumed the hunger strike in September and October 2011.

This year’s call for a strike includes nonviolent work stoppage by prisoners in the general population, alongside the hunger strikes of those prisoners in solitary confinement. In California, as in Washington, work stoppages are slated to include all work, including tasks essential to the day-to-day functioning of the prisons, increasing the strike’s impact.

Diana George of the Free Us All Coalition in Washington can be reached at diana.george@gmail.com. To learn more, she recommends http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/ and http://solitarywatch.com/2013/06/01/gao-report-questions-widespread-use-of-solitary-confinement-in-federal-prisons/.