Solidarity Event with CA Prisoner Hunger Strike Every Thursday on Arcata Plaza, "5PM FOR THE 5 DEMANDS!"
In Solidarity with the current California Prisoner Hunger Strike which resumed on July 8, 2013, Peoples' Action for Rights and Community and Redwood Curtain CopWatch invites you to visit the weekly informational demonstration on the Arcata Plaza, “5PM for the 5 Demands.”
Why does the US put so many people behind bars and what lies behind California's new push for leniency?
People and Power last Modified: 01 Nov 2012 14:40
By filmmakers Michael Montgomery and Monica Lam
The US locks up more people than any other country in the world, spending over $80billion each year to keep some two million prisoners behind bars. Over the past three decades, tough sentencing laws have contributed to a doubling of the country's prison population, with laws commonly known as 'three strikes and you're out' mandating life sentences for a wide range of crimes.
But a clear sign that Americans are rethinking crime and punishment is a voter's initiative on California's November ballot called Proposition 36 that seeks to reform the state's three-strikes law. Some 27 states have three-strikes laws patterned after California's version, which was one of the first to be enacted in the country.
Since it was passed in 1994, nearly 9,000 felons have been convicted in California under the law.
One of them is Norman Williams, a 49-year-old African-American man who was a crack addict living on the streets. He was convicted of burglarising an empty home and later stealing an armload of tools from an art studio. His third strike: filching a jack from a tow truck in Long Beach. His fate sealed under California's three-strikes law, Williams was sent to a maximum security prison [for a life sentence] alongside murderers, rapists and other violent criminals.
"I never wanted to do my whole life in prison. Nobody wants to be caged like that," Williams says.
Williams was lucky. After 13 years behind bars, his case was reviewed by a judge and he was released. He is one of about two dozen 'three strikers' who have won sentence reductions through the work of a Stanford University law clinic founded by Michael Romano. In Williams' case, the prosecutor actually agreed that the original sentence was too harsh. An idea emerged from Romano's work: Why not draft a ballot initiative to ensure that sentences like Williams' will not be repeated?
"When people originally passed the three-strikes law in 1994 the campaigns were about keeping serious and violent murderers, child molesters in prison for the rest of their lives," Romano says. "I think that's what people want and are kind of shocked to hear that people have been sentenced to life for petty theft."
IT'S BEEN SEVEN MONTHS since I've been inside a prison cell. Now I'm back, sort of. The experience is eerily like my dreams, where I am a prisoner in another man's cell. Like the cell I go back to in my sleep, this one is built for solitary confinement. I'm taking intermittent, heaving breaths, like I can't get enough air. This still happens to me from time to time, especially in tight spaces. At a little over 11 by 7 feet, this cell is smaller than any I've ever inhabited. You can't pace in it.
Like in my dreams, I case the space for the means of staying sane. Is there a TV to watch, a book to read, a round object to toss? The pathetic artifacts of this inmate's life remind me of objects that were once everything to me: a stack of books, a handmade chessboard, a few scattered pieces of artwork taped to the concrete, a family photo, large manila envelopes full of letters. I know that these things are his world.
"So when you're in Iran and in solitary confinement," asks my guide, Lieutenant Chris Acosta, "was it different?" His tone makes clear that he believes an Iranian prison to be a bad place.
He's right about that. After being apprehended on the Iran-Iraq border, Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal, and I were held in Evin Prison's isolation ward for political prisoners. Sarah remained there for 13 months, Josh and I for 26 months. We were held incommunicado. We never knew when, or if, we would get out. We didn't go to trial for two years. When we did we had no way to speak to a lawyer and no means of contesting the charges against us, which included espionage. The alleged evidence the court held was "confidential."
What I want to tell Acosta is that no part of my experience—not the uncertainty of when I would be free again, not the tortured screams of other prisoners—was worse than the four months I spent in solitary confinement. What would he say if I told him I needed human contact so badly that I woke every morning hoping to be interrogated? Would he believe that I once yearned to be sat down in a padded, soundproof room, blindfolded, and questioned, just so I could talk to somebody?
Statement to the Streets and All Youth Lock-ups
Last summer, people held in the SHU - Security Housing Unit - at Pelican Bay State Prison declared a hunger strike to protest the cruel and inhumane conditions inside. The hunger strikespread to more than 7,000 people locked up in California prisons. People from all "sides" - blacks,whites, Asians, Surenos and Nortenos put all politics behind and came together to demand their human rights.
On this day, October 10, 2012, the men in the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay are againleading all of us. They have called for "an end to all hostilities" within our state's prisons and jails. After doing so much time, the men in the Pelican Bay SHU have realized that they are being recycled over and over through the same dead-end system. For all of us, there must be a cut off point - a time at which we stop participating in our own destruction.
As young people who have experienced bloodshed on the streets of Los Angeles, and the violence and humiliation within juvenile halls, Probation camps and Division of Juvenile Justice Youth Prisons, we are also calling for an end to the war between the youth.
Agreement to End Hostilities
August 12, 2012
To whom it may concern and all California Prisoners:
Greetings from the entire PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Hunger Strike Representatives. We are hereby presenting this mutual agreement on behalf of all racial groups here in the PBSP-SHU Corridor. Wherein, we have arrived at a mutual agreement concerning the following points:
1. If we really want to bring about substantive meaningful changes to the CDCR system in a manner beneficial to all solid individuals, who have never been broken by CDCR’s torture tactics intended to coerce one to become a state informant via debriefing, that now is the time to for us to collectively seize this moment in time, and put an end to more than 20-30 years of hostilities between our racial groups.
2. Therefore, beginning on October 10, 2012, all hostilities between our racial groups… in SHU, Ad-Seg, General Population, and County Jails, will officially cease. This means that from this date on, all racial group hostilities need to be at an end… and if personal issues arise between individuals, people need to do all they can to exhaust all diplomatic means to settle such disputes; do not allow personal, individual issues to escalate into racial group issues!!
(Telephone press briefing held on May 31, 2012)
by BILL QUIGLEY Feb 23, 2012
By William Fisher The Public Record Jan 5th, 2012
What you may not know is that the US also tops the charts in the numbers of youth offenders serving life without parole sentences in adult US prisons. The score? The world: 0; the US: 2,570.
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” – Frederick Douglass
Six thousand six hundred California prisoners participated in a 3-week-long hunger strike in July, seeking relief from unjust and inhumane conditions. In the face of California Department of Corrections (CDC) officials failing to honor settlement negotiations, the hunger strike resumed on September 26th, with nearly 12,000 prisoners participating in thirteen of that state’s prisons.
It is a truism that oppression breeds resistance. Indeed, the U.S. Declaration of Independence enshrines the right and duty of the oppressed to resist their oppression.
"My brother has been in Pelican Bay SHU for the last ten years. I'm here today to be the voice, not only for him, but for all of the prisoners who are suffering in the SHU and for all of the prisons in California. There are a lot of questions that I want answered. I want to know what our elected officials are going to do to change what's being done? Why is it 30 days later and still nothing has been done when the CDC agreed to part of the prisoners' demands? I want to know why my brother is tortured on a daily basis year after year. Why is he not fed correctly and why is he so pale and skinny? Why does my mom have to cry every time she goes to see him? Seeing everybody that has come out today just lights my fire, because I know that I am not alone and I can let him know that he is not alone."
(part 1 of 2)
Support the Prisoner Hunger Strike -
Demand an End to Torture
by Isaac Ontiveros, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity
Numbers released by the federal receiver’s office show that on September 28th, nearly 12,000 prisoners were on hunger strike, including California prisoners who are housed in out of state prisons in Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma. This historic and unprecedented number shows the strength and resolve of the prisoners to win their 5 core demands and is a serious challenge to the power of the California prison system and to the Prison Industrial Complex in general.