October 3, 2011
CDCR Bars Family Member Visits
Press Contact: Jay Donahue
Oakland – As the renewed prisoner hunger strike enters it’s second week, the federal receiver’s office released information that at least 12,000 prisoners were participating during the first week. Prisoners are continuing a hunger strike that they temporarily suspend in July. Originating from Security Housing Units (SHUs) and Administrative Segregation Units (Ad-Seg) across the California, prisoners held at Pelican Bay State Prison, Calipatria, Centinela, Corcoran, Ironwood, Kern Valley, North Kern, Salinas Valley, California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, Pleasant Valley State Prison, San Quentin as well as West Valley Detention Center in San Bernadino County are currently participating. Over 3,000 California prisoners held in out-of-state facilities in Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma have also refused food.
“This is the largest prisoner strike of any kind in recent US history,” says Ron Ahnen of California Prison Focus, “The fact that so many prisoners are participating highlights the extreme conditions in all of California’s prisons as well as the historic opportunity the state has been given to make substantial changes to SHU and Ad-Seg policies.”
Family members of striking SHU prisoners reported that their visits this weekend were denied by the Califonia Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) who cited security concerns. “A number of family members received notice that they were not going to be allowed to see their loved ones as long as the strike continues,” says Dolores Canales who has a son in the Pelican Bay SHU, “Denying visits only heightens the isolation that the prisoners and family members experience, especially at this critical time.”
Advocates and lawyers have expressed concern that banning visits, along with other tactics including the possibility of violence on the part of CDCR are being used in attempt to break the strike. “Historically, prison officials have used extreme measures, including physical violence to break strikes,” says Dorsey Nunn, executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and a member of the mediation team working on behalf of the strikers. “As this peaceful protest continues, it’s essential for lawmakers and the media to monitor the actions of CDCR. The department should not be allowed to use underhanded methods to resolve the strike.” Late last week two of the mediation team’s lawyers were banned from CDCR facilities with the prison administration citing unaimed “security threats.”
The prisoners resumed their hunger strike on September 26 after the CDCR failed to address demands made when prisoners animally went on strike for almost the entire month of July. They have also reported heightened levels of intimidation and retaliation from prison officials since July. Prisoners are deadening changes to long-term solitary confinement, gang validation and debriefing processes, and other conditions in the state’s Security Housing Units as well as in other parts of the prison system. Representatives of the hunger strikers have indicated that this may be a rolling strike, with prisoners coming on and off strike periodically, allowing for the possibility of a protracted struggle. Activists and family members internationally are planning protests in support of the hunger strikers in the coming weeks. For continued updates and more information, please visit www.prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com