Deborah Dupre, Human Rights Examiner
October 7, 2011
Historical peaceful protest by 12000 California prisoners prompts officials to begin freezing them in small concrete cells
On Day 12 of the resumed historical peaceful Pelican Bay Prison Hunger strike, it has become apparent to human rights advocates with the major group supporting the inmates interviewed by CNN that numbers of strikers began dropping this week, from 12,000 refusing food, after the CDCR intensified retaliation against them, such as air conditioning the small concrete cells at 50 degrees. The hunger strike representatives at Pelican Bay who had been kept in D Corridor of the Security Housing Unit were moved to Administrative Segregation at Pelican Bay while at least one inmate on strike who was denied medications has suffered a heart attack.
“We are hoping that this widespread participation will push (prison officials) to negotiate and honor the basic demands of the people locked behind those walls,” said Isaac Ontiveros, a spokesman for Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity told CNN Tuesday afternoon.
“You have people in there that have been in solitary confinement for 20 years. They just want to change their conditions.”
Lawyers finally able to have one visit last week, after some lawyers of the prisoners’ mediation team have been banned, report that California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has the air conditioning on high in 50 degree weather.
“Advocates have significant concerns about some of the measures that the CDCR is implementing in response to the strike. ‘Prisoners are being denied both family and legal visits, they are receiving serious rules violations and their mail is being stopped,’ says Carol Strickman, a legal representative of Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition.
“CDCR is clearly trying to further isolate the hunger strikers in the hopes of breaking the strike,” she said.
According to advocates for the prisoners, the hunger strike representatives continue to be willing to risk their lives to win the five demands, each of which reflect a basic human right.
Medical conditions are worsening for strikers throughout the state.
“We’ve received reports that after 12 days of no food, prisoners are once again losing severe weight and fainting. One hunger striker at Pelican Bay was denied his medication and consequently suffered a heart attack and is now is an outside hospital in Oregon,” stated an advocate, refraining from identification on the Prisoner Hunger Strike website.
Other reports indicate that striking prisoners are being moved.
“We don’t know if they are being removed from their cells to some other location or transferred. It’s really terrifying that your loved one could be taken away like that for participating in a peaceful protest,’ said Irma Hedlin, who has family members in Pelican Bay SHU.
Approximately 12000 prisoners across California last week resumed the hunger strike they had started in July when 7,000 prisoners refused food, some for over a month, in America’s largest peaceful prisoner protest in history. The prisoners were protesting SHU (solitary confinement cell) conditions at Pelican Bay and other prisons where several thousand prisoners are held in isolation, confined to windowless cells over 22 hours a day, with minimal human contact and no work, recreational or educational programs – rehabilitation.
These conditions cause mental illness according to research.
Amnesty International has called for swift implementation of reforms to California Security Housing Units as the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike continues.
” Amnesty International is concerned by reports that the California corrections department is treating the current hunger strike as an “organized disturbance” and disciplining those who participate. Such disciplinary action reportedly includes removing prisoners in the general population who support the strike to solitary confinement in Administrative Segregation units. The organization has written to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to urge that prisoners seeking humane conditions are not subjected to punitive measures.” (Amnesty International)
While mainstream media continues an almost complete blackout about the historical event of thousands of America’s so-called “worst of the worst” holding peaceful protest against inhumane conditions, family and community members continue supporting the hunger strikers with rallies, community events, neighborhood candlelight vigils, publicizing the courageous action inside prison and building pressure on representatives to intervene in the CDCR’s handling of the strike.
A White House petition begins, “The United States is the only country that uses solitary confinement in prisons in the manner that it does.”
Amid America’s most pressing and well-hidden human rights abuse, over 100,000 people in the United States are held in small solitary confinement cells, some for life, a form of torture, while some experience even worse torture.
Learn more by doing: Families of SHU prisoners are calling for supporters everywhere to hold mass vigils in support of the hunger strikers on Thursday nights. If you can organize a vigil in your community, please email email@example.com.