Prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison (Crescent City, California) will begin an indefinite hunger strike July 1, 2011 to protest the cruel and inhumane conditions of their imprisonment.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
has been found guilty of constitutional rights violations by federal courts, and its practice of long-term isolation, particularly at Pelican Bay, has been identified by human rights monitors as constituting a form of psychological torture.
The lives of the prisoners who say they are going to participate in the strike are at great risk.
A coalition of grassroots human rights activist groups across California – "Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity"– believes the prisoners' demands are reasonable and urges more people to call on Governor Jerry Brown, CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate, and Pelican Bay Warden Greg Lewis to meet the prisoners' demands and avert the necessity of the hunger strike. The prisoners' have developed five core demands which you can learn about here: www.prisons.org, or are summarized at the bottom of this e-mail.
To show support for the prisoners you can sign an on-line petition at: www.change.org/petitions/support-prisoners-on-hunger-strike-at-pelican-bay-state-prison.
Please join us (Bar None) on Friday, July 8, from 5 -7 pm (one week into the strike) for a rally in front of the Humboldt County Courthouse in Eureka to show support for the striking prisoners and to press state and prison officials to meet their five core demands.
Anyone who has a loved one behind bars, or is concerned about human rights violations in prison, is invited to join the rally. Please wear orange, the color of prison clothes, to show solidarity with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) prisoners and others who have experienced human rights violations while incarcerated.
Organizations across the United States and in Canada will also rally in solidarity with the prisoners during the strike. *
We also invite you to join us Wednesday, July 6 to make signs and silkscreen t-shirts to wear at the rally. We will also have more information about the conditions at the SHU at Pelican Bay and the demands of the prisoners for people who would like to have a more in depth conversation prior to the rally. We will be meeting at a house in Arcata from 6-9 pm. The apartment is a bit difficult to find, so Call to let us know if you want to come and we will get you directions. Bring a t-shirt to silkscreen and some food to share.
For more information about the rally on July 8, or the coalition that is supporting the strikers, please contact Jessica Whatcott at 707-826-1517 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Briefly the five core demands of the prisoners are:
1. Eliminate group punishments.
Instead, practice individual accountability. When an individual prisoner breaks a rule, the prison often punishes a whole group of prisoners of the same race. This policy has been applied to keep prisoners in the SHU indefinitely and to make conditions increasingly harsh.
2. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria.
With false or highly dubious evidence, prisoners are accused of being active or inactive members of prison gangs, and are then sent to long-term isolation (SHU). They can escape these tortuous conditions only if they "debrief," or provide information on gang activity. Debriefing produces false information (wrongly landing other prisoners in the SHU, in an endless cycle) and can endanger the lives of debriefing prisoners and their families.
3. Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement.
This bi-partisan commission specifically recommended to "make segregation a last resort" and "end conditions of isolation."
Yet as of May 18, 2011, California kept 3,259 prisoners in SHUs and hundreds more in Administrative Segregation waiting for a SHU cell to open up. Some prisoners have been kept in isolation cells with no human contact, no exposure to natural sunlight and other sensory deprivation for more than 30 years.
4. Provide adequate food.
Prisoners report unsanitary conditions and small quantities of food that do not conform to prison regulations. There is no accountability or independent quality control of meals.
5. Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates.
The hunger strikers are pressing for opportunities “to engage in self-help treatment, education, religious and other productive activities..." Currently these opportunities are routinely denied, even if the prisoners want to pay for correspondence courses themselves. All of the “privileges” asked for, including one phone call per week, and permission to have sweat suits and watch caps, mentioned in the demands are already allowed at other so-called “super maximum” prisons.
***Info on Actions, throughout North America, in Solidarity with the prisoners who plan to hunger strike can be found here: http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/take-action/demonstrations-actions-events-in-the-us-canada/
You can organize solidarity actions where you live too.