Testimony on Solitary, the Routine of Torture: “SACRAMENTO: ABOLISH THE SHU TODAY!”

“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”  ― Nelson Mandela


Video of the Joint Informational Hearing on Segregation Policies in California Prisons in the California Legislature on October 9, 2013.

California Prisoners’ Supporters: “Outrage Over CDCR Force Feeding Plans”

For Immediate Release—August 19, 2013

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

Oakland—Supporters of prisoners who are on the 43rd day of hunger strike are expressing outrage at an order signed today by a federal judge allowing strikers to be force fed, disregarding international human rights principles.

“CDCR justifies asking for the order to force feed by claiming that the widespread hunger strike is ‘orchestrated’ by gangs, that the massive participation and support for the demands is coerced and that prisoners have signed ‘do not resuscitate’ directives under duress,” according to Claude Marks of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition. “This order violates all international laws and standards and gives the medical director of each prison authority to violate human rights laws instead of reasonably negotiating with prisoners.” Thousand of prisoners have united to challenge the torture of prolonged isolation, demanding an accountable process to challenge the gang validations that have kept them in security housing for decades.

Continues Marks, “”This approach, much like Guantanamo, sets the US apart from all related international human rights standards.”

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What Will It Take to Free Our Political Prisoners?

July 16, 2013

By Liz Derias

The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), a revolutionary organization based in the u.s. that fights to uphold the self-determination and the human rights of Black people in the world, has been working to free political prisoners for over three decades. The organization has actively worked on the cases of Assata Shakur, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Geronimo ji Jaga Pratt, the San Francisco 8 (SF8), the MOVE 9, the Cuban 5, and more. Additionally, MXGM has worked with the founding Black August Organizing Committee of California to popularize Black August, a month of commemoration and action in support of political prisoners.

Through the heed of political prisoners Assata Shakur and Nehanda Abiodun, MXGM has also taken a lead in inspiring and mobilizing the Hip Hop generation to take action in support of political prisoners, particularly through the annual Black August Concert, which has featured artists such as Talib Kweli, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Erykah Badu, Dead Prez, and others. MXGM works with other leading organizations that have championed action to free political prisoners, such as the National Black United Fund, the Prisoners of Consciousness Committee, the Nation of Islam, and numerous support committees around the world.black august

This article will describe the history and current context of political prisoners in the u.s., the conditions for them while incarcerated, and the organizing strategies employed by MXGM over the years to free them.

The Legacy of COINTELPRO

We cannot discuss the case of political prisoners in the u.s. without having an understanding of COINTELPRO. COINTELPRO, or the Counter Intelligence Program, was the federal government’s secret program during the 1950s-1970s used against many forces of the Black Liberation movement, leftists, and political dissidents in the u.s., including the Chicano Nationalist Movement and the Puerto Rican Independence Movement. It was secret because it was illegal.

Under COINTELPRO, the FBI and local police forces assassinated, arrested, tortured, and framed hundreds of leftists, particularly Black leftists, who were considered to pose the greatest threat to the racist status quo of u.s. society. The tactics of COINTELPRO can be categorized in four main areas: infiltration of organizations, psychological warfare from the outside, harassment through the legal system, and extralegal force and violence, including extrajudicial killing and outright murder. The FBI’s stated motivation for the program was “protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order. Continue reading

The Five Most Important Demands from the California Prison Hunger Strike

Thousands-strong strike is the latest chapter in the state’s unfolding prison crisis

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-five-most-important-demands-from-the-california-prison-hunger-strike-20130716

July 16, 2013

For more than a week, the California prison system has been gripped by the largest hunger strike in its history. Today, campaigners say that some 12,000 inmates continue to refuse food in roughly two-thirds of the state’s 32 facilities. That’s down from the 30,000 who kicked off the strike, but still more than twice the number who participated in a similar action two years earlier.

The strike – which began with a group of men held in isolation in Pelican Bay State Prison before spreading across the state – was principally motivated by California’s aggressive use of solitary confinement. In many cases, the strikers’ demands are simple: one photo a year, one phone call per week, permission to use wall calendars.

“The prisoners are not on a suicide mission,” says Roger White, campaign director of a Bay Area coalition called Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity. “If they didn’t have hope that things could change and that CDCR [the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] could actually implement the demands, they wouldn’t be striking.”

In 2011, a United Nations torture rapporteur called for an absolute and international ban on indefinite and prolonged solitary confinement, arguing that just a few a days locked up alone in a cell has been shown to produce lifelong mental health problems. In California, hundreds of Pelican Bay prisoners have spent a decade or more in solitary confinement – some for as many as 20 or 30 years. Continue reading

Solidarity Network: “ALL OUT FOR CALIFORNIA PRISONER HUNGER STRIKE 2013″

California prisoners started a hunger strike and work actions today for basic human rights.
Support their demands – join us for a demonstration at Corcoran Saturday – July 13th!
Check out this new video!

Edited by Lucas Guilkey & Nicole Deane
Music: Fatgums ‘Kill the Vultures” & The Coup ‘My Favorite Mutiny’
 Published on Jul 8, 2013

JULY 13TH RALLY AT CORCORAN

SIGN THE PLEDGE OF RESISTANCE and become part of the EMERGENCY RESPONSE NETWORK

SIGN THE PETITION TO GOVERNOR BROWN

MORE INFORMATION: http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com

In 2011, over 12,000 prisoners and their family and community members participated in statewide hunger strikes protesting the inhumane conditions in California’s Security Housing Units (SHU or solitary confinement). California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation promised meaningful reform as a result of those protests, but nothing meaningful has reached the people living in these cages. Prisoners have announced another hunger strike will begin July 8th because of CDCR’s failure to fulfill that promise. Continue reading

California prison officials say 30,000 inmates refuse meals

By Paige St. John, Los Angeles Times, July 8, 2013

California officials Monday said 30,000 inmates refused meals at the start of what could be the largest prison protest in state history.

Inmates in two-thirds of the state’s 33 prisons, and at all four out-of-state private prisons, refused both breakfast and lunch on Monday, said corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton. In addition, 2,300 prisoners failed to go to work or attend their prison classes, either refusing or in some cases saying they were sick.

The corrections department will not acknowledge a hunger strike until inmates have missed nine consecutive meals. Even so, Thornton said, Monday’s numbers are far larger than those California saw two years earlier during a series of hunger strikes that drew international attention.

Continue reading

Guantánamo Bay hunger strike prompts arrival of medical back-up

US military confirms presence of 40-strong team as 21 of 100 detainees refusing food are approved for force-feeding

in New York
guardian.co.uk, Monday 29 April 2013

Detention center at Guantanamo Bay

[A US military guard carries shackles at the US detention center in Guantánamo Bay.
Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images]

 

A 40-strong medical back-up team has arrived at Guantánamo Bay, as the number of inmates taking part in a hunger strike continues to rise, the US military has confirmed. By Monday, 100 detainees were refusing food, with 21 having been approved for force-feeding.

Authorities said that the “influx” of medical reinforcements had been weeks in the planning. But the news will fuel speculation that the condition of hunger-striking prisoners at Guantánamo Bay is deteriorating. Shaker Aamer, the last British resident being kept at the centre, told his lawyer earlier this month that authorities will soon see fatalities as a result of the current action.

“I cannot give you numbers and names, but people are dying here,” said Aamer, who is refusing food.

The action is a protest against conditions at the centre, as well as the indefinite nature of the remaining prisoners’ confinement. Aamer has been cleared for release twice, but is still behind bars after 11 years. He has never been charged or faced trial but the US refuses to allow him to return to the UK, despite official protests by the British government.

Of the 166 detainees left at Guantánamo, almost two-thirds are on hunger-strike. Five of those approved by guards to be subjected to force-feeding are in hospital. Continue reading

Hunger Striking at Guantanamo & the Abusive Use of Forced Feeding

By Thursday April 18, 2013

[Photo on Flickr by JTF-GTMO]

Guantánamo Bay prisoners have been on a hunger strike for over two months. Some of them have, in that period, been subject to forced feeding by medical staff in the prison. But, a new report that examines the United States government’s recent history of torture and abuse of detainees in the global war on terrorism highlights hunger strikes in the prison camps and recommends that forced feeding come to an end because it is abuse.

The report comes from a “Task Force on Detainee Treatment” formed by The Constitution Project, which describes itself as “a national watchdog group that advances bipartisan, consensus based solutions to some of most difficult constitutional challenges of our time.” The co-chair of the “Task Force” was Asa Hutchinson, a Republican who worked in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush. James R. Jones, who helped President Bill Clinton pass the North-American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), was the other co-chair.

The Task Force took two years to develop a report on “the past and current treatment of suspected terrorists detained by the US government” during the administrations of President Bill Clinton, President Bush and President Barack Obama.

During a press conference on the report on April 16, Dr. Gerald Thomson, a professor of medicine emeritus at Columbia University and former president of the American College of Physicians, stated, according to “Democracy Now!”:

We do not believe that force-feeding should be an approach to the hunger strike. If you can imagine being a detainee and using refusal to eat as a form of protest, and then you are forced to eat, forced physically to eat by being strapped into a specially made chair, and restrained—having restraints put on your limbs, your arms, your legs, your body, your head, so that you cannot move, having a tube inserted into your throat that extends into your stomach, and you’re trying to resist that with the only muscles that are free in your throat—pain, discomfort, obviously. But in addition to that, food is then forced, in a liquid form, into your stomach. You’re kept in the chair for at least two hours, usually more than two hours, to prevent you from vomiting and undermining the force-feeding. You can’t go to the bathroom during that time. Your dignity is taken away. The World Medical Association and international officials have clearly identified that process as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. And whatever the—given the level of brutality, it could extend to torture.

Hunger strikes have been taking place at Guantánamo since right after it opened. The report notes, “The first reported incidents of detainees being force-fed occurred in May 2002, after 60 or 70 days of hunger strikes.” A major hunger strike took place in the summer of 2005. By September, 131 prisoners were being denied food.

“In October 2005, prison officials told a delegation of visiting medical organizations that 25 prisoners were currently on a hunger strike, 22 of whom were being fed by nasogastric tube,” according to the Task Force’s report. Prisoners’ lawyers “filed motions asking federal courts to stop the involuntaryfeeding, which they claimed was carried out in a punitive, brutal fashion.” The prisoners alleged that “excessively large feeding tubes” were being inserted through prisoners’ noses and were causing “bleeding, vomiting and loss of consciousness in some cases.” 

Political Prisoner News: Naxal prisoners in India on Hunger Strike

[Amid estimates of 100,000 political prisoners in India, and an additional 70,000 Kashmiri political prisoners, ongoing waves of the prison movement across India is rarely reported.  Here, an incident this week broke into the news. -- Frontlines ed.]

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Naxal prisoners on hunger strike

April 6, 2013, Times of India

NAGPUR: Around 49 Naxals, lodged in Nagpur Central Jail, would observe a day’s hunger strike on Saturday. The prisoners have decided to participate in the hunger strike to protest thrashing of another Naxal inmate Anil Gawande by jail officials. Gawande was manhandled by the officials for refusing a body search.

Gawade and two others, after returning from Gadchiroli following their hearing, were told by the jail authorities to go for a body search before entering the jail premises. While two others allowed, Gawade disagreed to disrobe before the jail officials who wanted to conduct a thorough search. Sources informed that the enraged jail officials badly thrashed Gawade who was later admitted in the prison hospital with injuries.

After learning about Gawade, the other Naxal prisoners, including 10 women, decided to observe a hunger strike.

Thousands of Palestinian prisoners launch hunger strike protesting death of prisoner

4,500 Prisoners Refuse Food, Launch 3-Day Hunger Strike in Israeli Jails

On Wednesday 3rd April, around 4,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails sent back their food this morning as part of a protest launched following the death of their fellow prisoner, Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, who suffered from cancer.

Palestinian prisoners also launched a three-day hunger strike following the death of 64-year-old Abu Hamdiyeh, who was serving a life term in Israeli prison.

An autopsy of Abu Hamdiyeh’s body was scheduled to take place Wednesday at the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir in Tel Aviv in the presence of a Palestinian observer. The body will then be transferred to the Palestinian Authority for burial.

Abu Hamdiyeh’s funeral was scheduled to take place Thursday in his hometown of Hebron.

Palestinian protesters hold up photos of Maisara Abu Hamdiyeh, a prisoner who died of cancer while in an Israeli jail.

Palestinian protesters hold up photos of Maisara Abu Hamdiyeh, a prisoner who died of cancer while in an Israeli jail.

Protests immediately erupted in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and in Israeli prisons on Tuesday over his death. More protests are expected to break out at his funeral in Hebron on Thursday.

Protestors and the Palestinian Authority (PA) blamed on Israel for medical negligence and bare Israeli authorities the full responsibility for Abu Hamdiyeh’s death. Abu Hamdiyeh was claimed a hero and a martyr. 

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Jail death sparks Palestinian protests

Jerusalem (CNN), April 3rd, 2013— A well-known Palestinian prisoner died of cancer in Israeli custody on Tuesday, sparking outrage among Palestinian groups who accuse Israel of denying him treatment.

Maysara Abu Hamdiya, 64, a retired Palestinian general, had been in Israeli prisons since 2002 and was serving a life sentence for alleged involvement in an attempt to bomb a Jerusalem cafe. He died Tuesday morning in an Israeli hospital after being admitted last week because of his deteriorating health, according to the Palestinian Authority’s Government Media Center. Continue reading

Last UK resident in Guantanamo joins hunger strike

Shaker-300x288A British resident who has been held by the US without charge or trial for over eleven years has joined the hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay.

Shaker Aamer (46) from South London, whose wife and four children are all British citizens, told his lawyer on 29 March that he had lost over 30 pounds since joining the strike.

Lawyers for the Guantanamo inmates estimate around ¾ of the 166 men still held there have joined the hunger strike, although the US military claims the number is lower.

In a legal declaration filed by his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, Mr Aamer also details how he has been subjected to sleep deprivation and violent procedures known as “Forcible Cell Extractions” while attempting to pray, in response to his hunger strike. These procedures are “excruciatingly painful,” particularly because of his long-term back injuries originally caused by mistreatment by the US in Bagram Air Force Base, Afghanistan.

Mr Aamer is protesting his ongoing detention, despite having long been cleared for release by the US authorities and never having been charged or tried with any crime during his eleven year ordeal.  Mr Aamer continues to be held despite British Foreign Secretary William Hague’s public calls for his release. Continue reading

West Bank protesters rally for release of deteriorating prisoners

19 February, 2013

Palestinians throw stones towards Israeli troops during clashes that broke out after a rally in the West Bank city of Hebron to show solidarity with prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails February 18, 2013. (Reuters / Ammar Awad)

[Palestinians throw stones towards Israeli troops during clashes that broke out after a rally in the West Bank city of Hebron to show solidarity with prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails February 18, 2013. (Reuters / Ammar Awad)]

Thousands demonstrated in Palestine’s two largest cities in support of hunger strikers in Israeli jails. Protesters called on the EU to take action to demand better treatment of the weakening prisoners and back their release.

­More than 1,000 people rioted in the West Bank’s two largest cities on Monday to collectively demonstrate their support for the four long-term hunger strikers imprisoned in Israel’s jails. Public anger has heightened over the uncertainty of the prisoners’ fates, and people took to the streets to both show their support and demand that the international community step in.

The protests flared in both Nablus in the north and Hebron in the south, prompting clashes with the army. Over 1,000 people gathered in Nablus, with a further 1,500 demonstrating in central Hebron. Palestinian youths also blocked the entrance to the UN offices in Ramallah, 10km north of Jerusalem. However, Palestinian police prevented them from entering the building, according to AFP correspondents. Continue reading

10,000 More Prisoners To Join The Kurdish Hunger Strikes In Turkey

Turkish riot police fire water and tear gas as they clash with Kurdish demonstrators during a protest in support of a hunger strike movement by Kurdish prisoners, on November 4, 2012, in Istanbul (AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)

By Kurd Net, Ekurd.net, 06 November, 2012

ANKARA— Shortly after the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) announced that thousands of more prisoners were to join a collective hunger strike, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç made an open call to all prisoners to end the strike.

On Sunday BDP deputy Sabahat Tuncel said 10,000 more prisoners currently held in the country’s prisons for various crimes, including membership in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Iranian offshoot, the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), would join the hunger strike on Monday.

Around 700 Kurdish prisoners began the hunger strike on September 12, with a host of demands including the release of the Kurdish (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan and demanding the right to receive an education in their mother tongue, Kurdish, and the right to address courts in Kurdish.

Protest in support of Kurdish hunger strikers in Berlin. Image by Thomas Rossi Rassloff via Flickr

Tuncel said on Sunday during a press conference she called after attending an Istanbul demonstration by pro-BDP protestors in support of prisoners on hunger strike, “Ten thousand more prisoners are going to join the hunger strike on Monday [Nov. 5] without a time limit or the possibility of backpedaling [before their demands are met by the government].” Continue reading

Turkish Police Use Tear-Gas Against Protesting Mothers

Written by Ruwayda Mustafah Rabar

5 November 2012

Kurdish political prisoners have reached their 55th day of hunger strike. There are hundreds of political prisoners on hunger strike in Turkey, and this has led to solidarity protests throughout Europe, and in particular within Turkey. Earlier yesterday [November 4, 2012], the mothers of some of the political prisoners staged a sit-in, and were met with tear-gas [1], as well as water canisters was sprayed directly on them. Turkish mainstream media and governmental ministers remain oblivious to unfolding anger by Kurdish people, and their disregard for a political settlement of Turkey’s Kurdish question has made the situation worse. Continue reading

Hunger Strike: The Irish Experience

by DENIS O’HEARN

When people ask me, “what is the most important thing you learned about Bobby Sands?” I tell them one simple thing. The most important thing about Bobby Sands is not how he died on hunger strike, it is how he lived.

New York – Bıa news agency, 5 November 2012

The hunger strikes of 1980/1981, in which ten men including Bobby Sands died, are the most famous use of that political weapon. Yet hunger striking has a long history in Irish political culture. It is said that the ancient Celts practiced a form of hunger strike called Troscadh or Cealachan, where someone who had been wronged by a man of wealth fasted on his doorstep. Some historians claim that this was a death fast, which usually achieved justice because of the shame one would incur from allowing someone to die on their doorstep. Others say it was a token act that was never carried out to the death – it was simply meant to publicly shame the offender. In any case, both forms of protest have been used quite regularly as a political weapon in modern Ireland.

The history of Irish resistance to British colonialism is full of heroes who died on hunger strike. Some of the best-known include Thomas Ashe, a veteran of the 1916 “Easter Rising”, who died after he was force-fed by the British in Dublin’s Mountjoy Jail. In 1920, three men including the mayor of Cork City Terence MacSwiney died on hunger strike in England’s Brixton Prison. In October 1923 two men died when up to 8,000 IRA prisoners went on hunger strike to protest their imprisonment by the new “Irish Free State” (formed after the partition of Ireland in 1921). Three men died on hunger strike against the Irish government in the 1940s. After the IRA was reformed in the 1970s, hunger strikes became common once again. IRA man Michael Gaughan died after being force-fed in a British prison in 1974. And Frank Stagg died in a British jail after a 62-day hunger strike in 1976.

Unlike in Turkey, the Irish make no distinction between a “hunger strike” and a “death fast,” although many hunger strikes have started without the intention of anyone dying. In 1972, IRA prisoners successfully won status as political prisoners after a hunger strike in which no one died. They were then moved to Long Kesh prison camp, where they lived in dormitory-style huts and self-organized their education (including guerrilla training), work (including cooperative handicrafts production), recreation, and attempts to escape and rejoin the conflict. The prisoners used their relative freedom to raise their collective and individual consciousness about their struggle against British occupation of Ireland. They read international revolutionaries like Che Guevara and Irish socialists such as James Connolly. This was, in turn, a foundation for rebuilding the IRA on a basis that included a less hierarchical and more participative structure, with a higher emphasis on community politics as a part of armed struggle.

As the IRA rebuilt their organization in prison the British government also changed strategy. The main pillar of the new strategy was a “conveyor belt” of security operations that included widespread arrests of young Catholic males, heavy interrogation including torture, and juryless courts in which a single judge pronounced guilt often on the sole basis of verbal or written statements under interrogation. Continue reading