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.

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Calipatria shows the way: ASU prisoners win their demands while on hunger strike

Sept 29th 2013, in: SF Bay View
by Kendra Castaneda
When the California prisoner hunger strike began on July 8, 2013, CDCR officials were repeatedly quoted in the mainstream media telling the world that CDCR does not negotiate with prisoners. CDCR portrays the organizers as gang leaders – terrorists whose demands are unworthy of consideration.
Calipatria State Prison signBut on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013, the warden at Calipatria State Prison did negotiate with prisoners in the Administration Segregation Unit (ASU), a form of solitary confinement similar to the notorious SHUs (Security Housing Units). Those prisoners were hunger striking to have their own demands – unique to that institution – met while in solidarity with the five core demands made in 2011 and still to be negotiated.

On Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013, the warden at Calipatria State Prison did negotiate with prisoners in the Administration Segregation Unit.

The warden promised that day that the agreement they worked out would be put into writing and implemented. On Sunday, Aug. 18, the Calipatria ASU prisoners resumed eating on the condition that if the state did not negotiate with the main reps from Pelican Bay State Prison who wrote the five core demands for some type of change to end perpetual isolation, then the men at Calipatria ASU were going to resume their peaceful hunger strike on Monday, Aug. 26.
Below is a letter from the Calipatria ASU hunger strikers written Aug. 20, shortly after they temporarily ended their hunger strike on the 41st day:
“Greetings to all in solidarity,
“High salutes, best wishes to all of the men and women who supported this historic peaceful movement for human rights, hunger strike 2013!
“Here at Calipatria we are counted and remain determined to bring humane treatment even if it takes sacrifice. Our personal demands have been promised to be met within a month, by the start of September: expansion of canteen; SHU privileges: pictures, sweaters and shoes; pull-up bars; two packages a year; and installation of phones in ASU.
“For these reasons we have stopped after over a month – 41 days – of hunger striking in high hopes the five core demands will be met soon along with all the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective’s demands. Most important, if we see no attention is being given to the five core demands, the majority of like minds will resume hunger striking in solidarity.
“We men are ready to jump back into the hunger strike full throttle to stop the torture to all men and women through peaceful demonstration. Just because our own personal, superficial demands are being met does not mean we lose focus on the five core demands. All five are just, reasonable and most important.
“In the meantime, the real ‘worst of the worst,’ CDCR officials, have shown their true colors, calling this peaceful hunger strike a hostage situation. Also, CDCR’s notice they will not negotiate – does that mean they’d rather see humans die? Only because we won’t sit back and be tortured in silence? Let alone Short Corridor prisoners have been tortured for decades upon decades – all because we want human contact with our love ones?
“Who is really the ‘worst of the worst’ [a phrase officials often use to describe the people they condemn to solitary confinement torture]? Under CDCR, California is in violation of international laws and treaties and with United Nation agreements.

We men are ready to jump back into the hunger strike full throttle to stop the torture to all men and women through peaceful demonstration. Just because our own personal, superficial demands are being met does not mean we lose focus on the five core demands.

“Where is Jerry Brown? Is he another bought politician under the belt of CCPOA (California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the guards’ union, often called the most influential lobby in the state) for the money they donate to his campaign? They do donate millions to protect their job security by keeping governors in their pockets.
“CDCR wastes double or even more taxpayer money to warehouse humans in torture chambers called SHUs and ASUs rather than in general population. The purpose of solitary confinement is big profit only! No type of rehabilitation is provided, period!
“Therefore, we remain steadfast in solidarity for the end to long term isolation. Si se puede is our motivation chant!
“Thanks to all the loved ones, activists, gente at rallies and protests in the rain or sunshine. All that support carried and fed bodies while we hunger struck. Muchisimas gracias! Si se puede! We thank you all.
“Humbly in solidarity,
“ASU Calipatria”
On Monday, Aug. 26, Calipatria ASU voluntarily resumed their peaceful hunger strike in solidarity, refusing meals due to CDCR Sacramento’s failure to keep their word to negotiate the five core demands. Resuming their hunger strike debunked what CDCR officials had told the press: that the main reps forced others to starve. Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard wrote in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, “Hunger strike in California prisons is a gang power play”: “Don’t be fooled. Many of those participating in the hunger strike are under extreme pressure to do so from violent prison gangs, which called the strike in an attempt to restore their ability to terrorize fellow prisoners, prison staff and communities throughout California.”
Beard goes on to state: “Many say they want to resume eating but are afraid of the retaliation they will suffer at the hands of other inmates acting on orders from their gang leaders.”

On Monday, Aug. 26, Calipatria ASU voluntarily resumed their peaceful hunger strike in solidarity, refusing meals due to CDCR Sacramento’s failure to keep their word to negotiate the five core demands.

Calipatria ASU prisoners know the inhumane conditions those in the SHUs endure because they too live in horrific conditions daily with no rehabilitation in solitary confinement, and Calipatria is known for corruption at the hands of the prison guards, so why would these men have to be forced to starve themselves when they are being tortured too?
How is it that 30,000 prisoners – men, women and youth – throughout the state of California at numerous prisons refused meals on July 8, 2013, in peaceful protest to stop their inhumane conditions and torture in solitary confinement under CDCR, but on Sept. 5, when the strike was suspended, it was CDCR stating that only fewer than 100 prisoners were hunger striking?
That would mean what Beard told the Los Angeles Times about this hunger strike being a “gang power play” is not accurate, and Beard stating, “Many say they want to resume eating but are afraid of the retaliation they will suffer at the hands of other inmates acting on orders from their gang leaders,” is inaccurate as well. If the hunger strike was a gang power play that started with 30,000 participants and was suspended when fewer than 100 were still starving themselves, what happened to the other 29,900 prisoners throughout the state who resumed eating? How come they were not retaliated against as Beard predicted?

Why would these men have to be forced to starve themselves when they are being tortured too?

What Beard told the Los Angeles Times was a way to cover up the inhumane conditions these prisoners face daily for years, for decades upon decades, entombed within concrete walls in a dungeon. The only way for these human beings’ voices to be heard was to starve themselves to expose these CDCR officials, who claim rehabilitation but practice torture.
In the Aug. 19 Los Angeles Times article by Paige St. John, “Calipatria prison hunger strikers resume eating, get more calls, cable,” CDCR put its spin on the successful negotiations between the Calipatria warden and the ASU prisoners: “California prison officials insisted the expanded privileges at Calipatria State Prison, near the Mexico border, did not signal a willingness to negotiate with inmates.
“’The warden at CAL did not “reach an agreement” with the hunger strikers,’ said department spokesman Jeffrey Callison. ‘The warden simply informed the inmates that local issues would be discussed only after they ceased their involvement in this disturbance.’”
Contrary to what Callison told the LA Times, the Calipatria warden did negotiate with the men in ASU and verbally met their demands BEFORE they suspended their hunger strike. The demands were not met as a reward for abandoning the strike. Once their own unique demands had been promised, the men chose to temporarily suspend their strike to regain some of their strength but promised to resume it on Aug. 26 if the five core demands had not also been negotiated. They made good on that promise.
On Sept. 3, while the men in Calipatria ASU were again on hunger strike, an official memo was issued regarding Calipatria ASU living conditions in response to the ASU hunger strikers humane demands:
Calipatria memo granting demands 090313
Note: A5 is another segregation unit.
While CDCR officials publicly deny that the prisoners were hunger striking for better conditions, the warden at Calipatria issued and signed a memo during the hunger strike stating they are addressing the concerns about such issues as the cleanliness of their pods and showers. That memo confirms that Calipatria State Prison ASU prisoners have issues concerning cleanliness.
The fact that Calipatria ASU prisoners were indeed hunger striking on Sept. 3, the date of the memo, is proven by the medical receiver’s office daily updates reporting that some of those prisoners were receiving IV fluids due to starvation.
One statement in the memo, however, needs to be addressed and corrected: The Security Threat Group (STG) Pilot Program does not satisfy the five core demands, as the second paragraph implies. The warden’s statement, which must have been approved by CDCR, repeats similar assertions made throughout the strike. Here are the five core demands; compare them to the Security Threat Group (STG) Pilot Program and decide for yourself.
The original five core demands:
  1. Replace group punishment with individual accountability.
  2. Abolish the debriefing policy, and modify active/inactive gang status criteria.
  3. Comply with the U.S. 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 indefinite SHU status inmates.
Inside Calipatria ASU video frame 0211 by KMYA Titan TV, web

The dungeon known as Calipatria ASU – Photo: KMYA Titan TV

The equivalency CDCR claims between the five core demands and the STG Pilot Program should be debated during the upcoming legislative hearings to be held beginning in October.

The fact is that 30,000 men, women and youth of all races went on a peaceful hunger strike in unity for all or part of 60 days, risking their lives to make their voices heard protesting their inhumane conditions. Why wouldn’t society believe them over state officials who repeatedly prove they are not credible?
If Calipatria State Prison can peacefully negotiate humane demands with prisoners in segregation, then I believe ALL California prisoners, especially those in the Pelican Bay State Prison SHU, need to be negotiated with, and CDCR needs to meet the prisoners’ demands – the five core demands – once and for all. These are human beings held in a system that’s supposed to rehabilitate. Let’s not forgot that.
Kendra Castaneda is a writer and prisoner human rights activist. She can be reached atkendracastaneda99@gmail.com.

Families of CA prisoners – statement on suspension of hunger strike

From: CA Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement: CFASC
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 5, 2013
As family members and leaders of the California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement (CFASC) organization, the Hunger Strike Mediation Team and the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, we feel that the almost 60 day hunger strike was a huge sacrifice on the part of the prisoners. We can’t imagine what their bodies have endured these past 60 days and we are very glad that it’s over and that there were no lives lost.
At the same time, we know and are prepared for the greater challenges that lie ahead. To ensure that the prisoners, our loved ones, never need endure such suffering again we will continue in our work to bring an end to such inhumane conditions.  As members of CFASC, ourselves and many family members are ready to continue and remain in the forefront to bring an end to the use of long term solitary confinement.
We are very proud of our family members and loved ones that were willing to make such a sacrifice which has gained international attention and we are honored to be part of such a historical movement.
Irene Huerta, CFASC, wife of Gabriel Huerta, PB Short Corridor Representative
Dolores Canales,CFASC mother of PB SHU prisoner 

Statement Suspending the Third Hunger Strike

Posted on September 5, 2013

Greetings of Solidarity and Respect!

The PBSP-SHU, Short Corridor Collective Representatives hereby serve notice upon all concerned parties of interest that after nine weeks we have collectively decided to suspend our third hunger strike action on September 5, 2013.

To be clear, our Peaceful Protest of Resistance to our continuous subjection to decades of systemic state sanctioned torture via the system’s solitary confinement units is far from over. Our decision to suspend our third hunger strike in two years does not come lightly. This decision is especially difficult considering that most of our demands have not been met (despite nearly universal agreement that they are reasonable). The core group of prisoners has been, and remains 100% committed to seeing this protracted struggle for real reform through to a complete victory, even if it requires us to make the ultimate sacrifice.  With that said, we clarify this point by stating prisoner deaths are not the objective, we recognize such sacrifice is at times the only means to an end of fascist oppression.

Our goal remains: force the powers that be to end their torture policies and practices in which serious physical and psychological harm is inflicted on tens of thousands of prisoners as well as our loved ones outside.  We also call for ending the related practices of using prisoners to promote the agenda of the police state by seeking to greatly expand the numbers of the working class poor warehoused in prisons, and particularly those of us held in solitary, based on psychological/social manipulation, and divisive tactics keeping prisoners fighting amongst each other. Those in power promote mass warehousing to justify more guards, more tax dollars for “security”, and spend mere pennies for rehabilitation — all of which demonstrates a failed penal system, high recidivism, and ultimately compromising public safety.  The State of California’s $9.1 billion annual CDCR budget is the epitome of a failed and fraudulent state agency that diabolically and systemically deprives thousands of their human rights and dignity. Allowing this agency to act with impunity has to stop! And it will.

With that said, and in response to much sincere urging of loved ones, supporters, our attorneys and current and former state legislators, Tom Ammiano, Loni Hancock, and Tom Hayden, for whom we have the upmost respect, we decided to suspend our hunger strike.  We are especially grateful to Senator Hancock and Assembly Member Ammiano for their courageous decision to challenge Governor Brown and the CDCR for their policies of prolonged solitary confinement and inhumane conditions. We are certain that they will continue their fight for our cause, including holding legislative hearings and the drafting legislation responsive to our demands on prison conditions and sentencing laws. We are also proceeding with our class action civil suit against the CDCR.

The fact is that Governor Brown and CDCR Secretary Beard have responded to our third peaceful action with typical denials and falsehoods, claiming solitary confinement does not exist and justifying the continuation of their indefinite torture regime by vilifying the peaceful protest representatives. They also obtained the support of the medical receiver (Kelso) and Prison Law Office attorney (Spector—who is supposed to represent prisoners interests, and instead has become an agent for the state) to perpetuate their lie to the public and to the federal court — that prisoners participating in the hunger strike have been coerced — in order to obtain the August 19, 2013 force feeding order.

We have deemed it to be in the best interest of our cause to suspend our hunger strike action until further notice.
We urge people to remember that we began our present resistance with our unprecedented collective and peaceful actions (in tandem with the legislative process) back in early 2010, when we created and distributed a “Formal Complaint” for the purpose of educating the public and bringing widespread attention to our torturous conditions.

After much dialogue and consideration, this led us to our first and second hunger strike actions in 2011, during which a combined number of 6,500 and 12,000 prisoners participated. We succeeded in gaining worldwide attention and support resulting in some minor changes by the CDCR concerning SHU programming and privileges. They also claimed to make major changes to policies regarding gang validation and indefinite SHU confinement by creating the STG/SDP Pilot Program. They released a few hundred prisoners from SHU/AD SEG to general population in the prison.  But in truth, this is all part of a sham to claim the pilot program works and was a weak attempt to have our class action dismissed. It didn’t work.
In response we respectfully made clear that CDCR’s STG-SDP was not responsive to our demand for the end to long term isolation and solitary confinement and thus unacceptable.  (See: AGREEMENT TO END HOSTILITIES)

Our supporting points fell on deaf ears, leading to our January 2013 notice of intent to resume our hunger strike on July 8, 2013 if our demands were not met.  We also included Forty Supplemental Demands.
In early July, CDCR produced several memos notifying prisoners of an increase in privileges and property items, which are notably responsive to a few of our demands, while the majority of our demands were unresolved, leading to our third hunger strike, in which 30,000 prisoners participated and resulted in greater worldwide exposure, support and condemnation of the CDCR!

From our perspective, we’ve gained a lot of positive ground towards achieving our goals.  However, there’s still much to be done.  Our resistance will continue to build and grow until we have won our human rights.

Respectfully,

For the Prisoner Class Human Rights Movement

Todd Ashker, C58191, D1-119
Arturo Castellanos, C17275, D1-121
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C35671, D1-117
Antonio Guillen, P81948, D2-106

And the Representatives Body:

Danny Troxell, B76578, D1-120
George Franco, D46556, D4-217
Ronnie Yandell, V27927, D4-215
Paul Redd, B72683, D2-117
James Baridi Williamson, D-34288. D4-107
Alfred Sandoval, D61000, D4-214
Louis Powell, B59864, D1-104
Alex Yrigollen, H32421, D2-204
Gabriel Huerta, C80766, D3-222
Frank Clement, D07919, D3-116
Raymond Chavo Perez, K12922, D1-219
James Mario Perez, B48186, D3-124

Link to original

Article on SF Bay View on the suspension of the 2013 hunger strike
Article on Alternet about the suspension of the 2013 hunger strike

Hunger strike in 8th week: Don’t let them die

Hunger strike in 8th week: Don’t let them die
SF BayView, September 1, 2013 by Ikemba Mutulu (Marritte Funches)
Off top, salute to my rilla ones out in them streets and the prisons, comrades unknown but most appreciated. Your recognition of our human and civil rights has been beautiful to see. We are truly grateful. The work you are doing for prison and judicial reform is vital to the future generations and promises of what this world can be.
The genius being repressed inside some of these cells, the humanity often hanging by a thread, but still alive, is worth it. It’s worth standing in the cold to protest this torture; it’s worth leaving your comfort zone to voice your opinion, educate your friends and the strangers you meet.
The men and women participating in this hunger strike, risking death, are in the last years of continued torture. Some are in prison because they fought on the front lines for you – your freedom, your right to vote, your civil rights and equality – now labeled criminals, written out of history, locked in a dungeon for decades. They sacrificed for you.
Without their contributions, there would be no Black president, Black billionaires or any of these so-called symbols of progress. And there are thousands of others – like myself – rescued from our designed ignorance through the teachings and love of these brilliant men and women, all of us suffering the same tortures. Not because we were gangsters or thugs. Our punishment is for picking up the torch, so those who make it out can join you, shoulder to shoulder in the struggle.
The state relies on its prisons to shut us up, keep the poor politically inept, breed racial hatred and dismay, keep the middle class in check and fund this fundamentally flawed and increasingly militarized system of corruption, where not only their killer cops can murder us with impunity. Now it seems so can any so-called law-abiding middle class citizen with a gun.
The state will not “give” us anything. It’s important people understand prisons are the ultimate symbol of oppression. The state tries to discredit the organizers of this hunger strike with all manner of lies and defamatory comments.
But the very fact these men and women refuse to surrender their beliefs or to inform on their friends is a direct contradiction of the state’s mischaracterizations. These are men and women of principle who have given everything to the struggle.
True, some of us are reformed gangsters, thugs etc., but whatever the state says, we are all human beings and without your full support these men WILL die because these pork chop state officials will not make any meaningful changes until several of the men and women starve to death – or until YOU make such a showing that it can’t be ignored.
So get on your computers, saturate those government leaders with letters and emails demanding an immediate end to the political crucifixion and torture, the indefinite isolation, denial of meaningful programs and the criminalization of our own efforts to educate and organize ourselves on a positive path inside the prisons.
Demand an end to the legalized slavery of prisoners. How slavery, in any shape or form, can still be on the books in America, I don’t know. But there it is, in the 13th Amendment. The concessions of Abraham Lincoln to the Confederate slave masters, allowing them to keep a workforce of slaves – free labor through incarceration – is still being enforced until this day and taking good jobs away from you.
Pull out your picket signs and bullhorns, protest in front of the TV stations, government offices, city jails and county lock-ups. Keep it in the new and on the minds of the people every day.
Prisons do not stop crime. An equal distribution of wealth, resources, education, housing and medical care, solving the real social ills of a profit-driven society – that is what stops crime.
We all know someone affected by this corrupt judicial prison system. Support hunger strikers. DON’T LET THEM DIE.

Send our brother some love and light: Marritte Funches, 155850, 3C/2-15, P.O. Box 6000, Sterling, CO 80751.

Joint statement of California Conference of Catholic Bishops concerning the current prisoner hunger strike and state policies on prisoner isolation

CA BISHOPS ISSUE STATEMENT ON PRISON HUNGER STRIKE AND ISOLATION POLICIES

Bishops offer to serve on any oversight committee convened to investigate alleged human rights violations and propose corrective measures.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Debbie McDermott,  916-313-4015
Thursday, August 29, 2013                                                                                                                        
SACRAMENTO –The following joint statement was issued today on behalf California Conference of Catholic Bishops concerning the current prisoner hunger strike and state policies on prisoner isolation.  Please attribute to the “California Conference of Catholic Bishops.”

“Today marks Day 52 of the California prisoner hunger strike.  We, the California Conference of Catholic Bishops, once again extend our offer to Gov. Brown and Dr. Jeffrey Beard, Secretary of the Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), to assist in the resolution of this urgent life threatening situation. We offer to serve Gov. Brown and Dr. Beard on any outside oversight committee that may be convened to investigate any alleged human rights violations in the California’s prisons in order to propose the necessary corrective measures.

“As the U.S. Catholic Bishops wrote in their pastoral letter, Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice (dated November 15, 2000),  ‘We oppose the increasing use of isolation units, especially in the absence of due process and the monitoring and professional assessment of the effects of such confinement on the mental health of inmates.’  No one affected by crime is helped when a human being is subjected to this inhumane form of punishment. The California Catholic Bishops have voiced concerns and have been in dialogue with the CDCR for 12 years on the very issues being surfaced now.

“We stand opposed to any form of unjust, inhumane treatment. While it may be that isolation mitigates gang activity, placing humans in isolation in a Secure Housing Unit (SHU) has no restorative or rehabilitative purpose.  It is not a sustainable solution to legitimate security concerns.  Some of the men on this hunger strike have been in isolation for up to 35 years with very minimal human contact. International human rights standards consider more than 15 days in isolation to be torture.

“Our prayers and concern go out to the men involved in this hunger strike and their families. Our prayers and concern also go out to all who are affected by the criminal justice system: prison leadership, staff, correctional officers and administrators; as well as to crime victims and their families, who have endured the pain and suffering of criminal violence.  We offer our assistance to state officials to resolve this terrible situation.”

(Eds: The California Catholic Conference is the public advocacy office of the Bishops of California. Representing the Archbishops of Los Angeles and San Francisco, and the Bishops of Fresno, Monterey, Oakland, Orange, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Jose, Santa Rosa and Stockton, it is the official voice of the 10 million Catholics and their many parishes, schools, universities, social service agencies in California.)
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CA Senator Hancock and Assemblymember Ammiano Promise Hearings in Response to Prisoner Hunger Strike

Press Release from Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition:

Press Contacts:
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition
Azadeh Zohrabi, 310 612 9706
Isaac Ontiveros, 510 517 6612

Oakland—As prisoners’ endure their 54th day without food, California state senator Loni Hancock and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano issued a statement today where they vowed to hold hearings in response to the hunger strike.

“The issues raised by the hunger strike are real – concerns about the use and conditions of solitary confinement in California’s prisons – are real and can no longer be ignored,” Senator Hancock and Assemblymember Ammiano said in a joint statement. Assemblymember Ammiano said further, “The Courts have made clear that the hunger strikers have legitimate issues of policy and practice that must be reviewed. The Legislature has a critical role in considering and acting on their concerns. We cannot sit by and watch our state pour money into a system that the US. Supreme Court has declared does not provide constitutionally acceptable conditions of confinement and that statistics show has failed to increase public safety.”

“We appreciate Senator Hancock and Assemblymember Ammiano’s promises to take action. Ultimately it is up to the hunger strikers’ themselves as to when and how they will end their protest. But as their advocates on the outside, we feel positive about today’s developments,” said Dolores Canales, who is a member of the strikers’ mediation team and whose son is in Pelican Bay.

Hancock and Ammiano’s statement represents the strongest steps forward in addressing the prisoners’ peaceful protest, and advocates and lawyers representing the strikers say they are eager to communicate this development to the prisoners. “The prisoners on strike have always been clear that there is a viable pathway toward resolving the crisis created by the CDCR,” Said Anne Weills, a civil rights attorney representing some of the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay. “I look forward to talking to hunger strike representatives at Pelican Bay to get their thoughtful input around the Senator Hancock and Assemblymember Ammiano’s proposal.”

As advocates work to communicate with prisoners on strike around this development, they are also encouraging a cautious attitude. “The strike is not over yet and it is still at a very dangerous moment given that we are entering a long weekend where people have gone 54 days without eating,” said Marie Levin, whose brother is one of the 4 remain strike representatives locked in Administrative Segregation at Pelican Bay. “We hope that the CDCR will not act to disrupt this potentially positive development by spreading false information to strikers or continuing to retaliate against their peaceful protest.”

Lawyers visited New Folsom Prison north of Sacramento yesterday where they discovered nearly 80 Pelican Bay strikers had been relocated. They reported that health conditions are poor but that many are still on strike. Some prisoners that had come off strike have resumed the protest due to mistreatment at that facility. Lawyers also reported that other prisoners at New Folsom also joined the protest when they learned of the mistreatment of their fellow prisoners from Pelican Bay.

Concern for the strikers and condemnation of the CDCR is spreading internationally. Earlier today Tessa Murphy, Campaigner on the USA at Amnesty International said,“it’s nothing short of appalling that instead of dealing with the complaints, California’s prison authorities have chosen to threaten inmates with force-feeding and disciplinary measures, and have moved some to other facilities.” Meanwhile the California Conference of Catholic Bishops, said they would “again extend our offer to Gov. Brown and Dr. Jeffrey Beard, Secretary of the Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), to assist in the resolution of this urgent life threatening situation. We offer to serve Gov. Brown and Dr. Beard on any outside oversight committee that may be convened to investigate any alleged human rights violations in the California’s prisons in order to propose the necessary corrective measures.”

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