If you haven’t heard yet about the massive hunger strike in California’s isolation units, read up on what it’s all about below, as reprinted from the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity blog. It was planned for months in advance by people imprisoned at Pelican Bay, and thousands of others imprisoned around California have joined in. At least 400 at Pelican Bay have gone without food for 3 weeks now, and many are willing to die for what is right: basic demands including access to sunlight, nutritious food, and humane medical care. Dozens of health care workers wrote a letter responding to reports that hunger strikers have been denied treatment that they had been receiving before the strike and that prison officials have not followed their own medical policy to care for prisoners refusing food.
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Prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison (California) are on an indefinite hunger strike that began on July 1, 2011 to protest the cruel, inhumane and tortuous conditions of their imprisonment.
At least 6,600 prisoners across the state of CA have joined them in solidarity with their demands.
The hunger strike has been organized by prisoners in an inspiring show of unity across prison-manufactured racial and geographical lines.
The changes the prisoners are demanding are standards in other Supermax prisons (eg, Federal Florence, Colorado, and Ohio), which supports the prisoners’ position that CDCR’s claim of such demands being a threat to safety and security are exaggerations.The hunger strikers** have developed these five, straight-forward core demands:
1. End Group Punishment & Administrative Abuse – This is in response to PBSP’s application of “group punishment” as a means to address individual inmates rule violations. This includes the administration’s abusive, pretextual use of “safety and concern” to justify what are unnecessary punitive acts. This policy has been applied in the context of justifying indefinite SHU status, and progressively restricting our programming and privileges.
2. Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria –
- Perceived gang membership is one of the leading reasons for placement in solitary confinement.
- The practice of “debriefing,” or offering up information about fellow prisoners particularly regarding gang status, is often demanded in return for better food or release from the SHU. Debriefing puts the safety of prisoners and their families at risk, because they are then viewed as “snitches.”
- The validation procedure used by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) employs such criteria as tattoos, readings materials, and associations with other prisoners (which can amount to as little as greeting) to identify gang members.
- Many prisoners report that they are validated as gang members with evidence that is clearly false or using procedures that do not follow the Castillo v. Alameida settlement which restricted the use of photographs to prove association.
3. Comply with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 Recommendations Regarding an End to Long-Term Solitary Confinement – CDCR shall implement the findings and recommendations of the US commission on safety and abuse in America’s prisons final 2006 report regarding CDCR SHU facilities as follows:
- End Conditions of Isolation (p. 14) Ensure that prisoners in SHU and Ad-Seg (Administrative Segregation) have regular meaningful contact and freedom from extreme physical deprivations that are known to cause lasting harm. (pp. 52-57)
- Make Segregation a Last Resort (p. 14). Create a more productive form of confinement in the areas of allowing inmates in SHU and Ad-Seg [Administrative Segregation] the opportunity to engage in meaningful self-help treatment, work, education, religious, and other productive activities relating to having a sense of being a part of the community.
- End Long-Term Solitary Confinement. Release inmates to general prison population who have been warehoused indefinitely in SHU for the last 10 to 40 years (and counting).
- Provide SHU Inmates Immediate Meaningful Access to: i) adequate natural sunlight ii) quality health care and treatment, including the mandate of transferring all PBSP- SHU inmates with chronic health care problems to the New Folsom Medical SHU facility.
4. Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food – cease the practice of denying adequate food, and provide a wholesome nutritional meals including special diet meals, and allow inmates to purchase additional vitamin supplements.
- PBSP staff must cease their use of food as a tool to punish SHU inmates.
- Provide a sergeant/lieutenant to independently observe the serving of each meal, and ensure each tray has the complete issue of food on it.
- Feed the inmates whose job it is to serve SHU meals with meals that are separate from the pans of food sent from kitchen for SHU meals.
5. Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates.
- Expand visiting regarding amount of time and adding one day per week.
- Allow one photo per year.
- Allow a weekly phone call.
- Allow Two (2) annual packages per year. A 30 lb. package based on “item” weight and not packaging and box weight.
- Expand canteen and package items allowed. Allow us to have the items in their original packaging [the cost for cosmetics, stationary, envelopes, should not count towards the max draw limit]
- More TV channels.
- Allow TV/Radio combinations, or TV and small battery operated radio
- Allow Hobby Craft Items – art paper, colored pens, small pieces of colored pencils, watercolors, chalk, etc.
- Allow sweat suits and watch caps.
- Allow wall calendars.
- Install pull-up/dip bars on SHU yards.
- Allow correspondence courses that require proctored exams.
Sitawa N. Jamaa (s/n R.N. Dewberry)
…and all other similarly situated prisoners