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.