California Prisoners Make Historic Call for Peace between Racial Groups in California Prisons & Jails

For Immediate Release—September 12, 2012

Press Contact:  Isaac Ontiveros, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, 510.444.0484

Oakland—Prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit (SHU) have announced a push to end all hostilities between racial groups within California’s prisons and jails. The handwritten announcement was sent to prison advocacy organizations. It is signed by several prisoners, identifying themselves as the PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective.   The Short Corridor refers to a section of Pelican Bay Prison’s notorious Security Housing Unit (SHU). Pelican Bay’s SHU was the point of origin for last year’s hunger strikes which rocked California’s prison system, at one point including the participation of nearly 12,000 prisoners in over 11 prisons throughout the state.

The statement calls for the cessation of all hostilities between groups to commence October 10, 2012, in all California prisons and county jails.   “This means that from this date on, all racial group hostilities need to be at an end,” the statement says. It also calls on prisoners throughout the state to set aside their differences and use diplomatic means to settle their disputes.   The Short Corridor Collective  states, “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.”  In the past, California prisoners have attempted to collaborate with the Department of Corrections to bring an end to the hostilities, but CDCR has been largely unresponsive to prisoners’ requests. The statement warns prisoners that  they expect prison officials to attempt to undermine this agreement.

“My long-time experience in urban peace issues, gang truces, prevention and intervention, is that when gang leaders and prisoners take full stock of the violence, and how they can contribute to the peace, such peace will be strong, lasting, and deep. I honor this effort as expressed in this statement,” says Luis J. Rodriguez, renowned violence intervention worker and award-winning author of Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.  Rodriguez has helped broker gang truces throughout the US as well as in other parts of the world. This spring, Rodriguez was involved in a historic truce between gangs in El Salvador leading to a 70% drop in violence in that country.  According to Rodriguez, “What is needed now—and where most peace efforts fail—is the meaningful and long-lasting support of society and government, in the form of  prison reform, training, education, drug and mental health treatment and proper health care. We need an end to repressive measures that only feed into the violence and traumas.”

Azadeh Zohrabi of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition sees the agreement as a positive development that stems from last year’s hunger strikes.  “While living through some of the worst conditions imaginable, the authors of this statement continue to work for change,” states Zohrabi. “While the prison administration drags its feet on even the most basic reforms, these guys are trying to build peace throughout the system.  That says a lot their humanity and hope.” Continue reading

Occupy movement stages day of protests at US prisons

Joined by the three hikers detained in Iran, activists point to overcrowding and inhumane conditions in US prison system

,guardian.co.uk, Monday 20 February 2012

Occupy4Prisoners protest outside San Quentin State Prison in California. Photograph: Beck Diefenbach/Reuters

Occupy demonstrators participated in a nationwide day of action to protest against the US prison system on Monday, with demonstrations carried out at over a dozen sites across the country, including prisons in California, Chicago, Denver and New York.

The call to protest was issued by activists with the Occupy Oakland movement and was co-ordinated to coincide with waves of prison hunger strikes that began at California’s Pelican Bay prison in July. Demonstrators denounced the use of restrictive isolation units as infringement upon fundamental human rights. The hunger strikes followed a US supreme court ruling in May which stated that overcrowding in the California prison system had led to “needless suffering and death.” The court ordered the state to reduce its overall prison population from 140,000 to 110,000, which still well-exceeds the state’s maximum prison capacity.

Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer – the American hikers who were held for over a year by Iranian authorities – took part in demonstrations outside San Quentin prison in Marin County, California. Addressing the crowd, Shourd described the psychological impact of solitary confinement, saying her 14 and a half months without human contact drove her to beat the walls of her cell until her knuckles bled. Shourd noted that Nelson Mandella described the two weeks he spent in solitary confinement as the most dehumanising experience he had ever been through.

“In Iran the first thing they do is put you in solitary,” Fattal added.

Bauer said “a prisoner’s greatest fear is being forgotten.” He described how hunger strikes became the hikers’ own “greatest weapon” in pushing their captors to heed their demands. According to Bauer, however, the most influential force for changing their quality of life while being held in Iran was the result of pressure applied by those outside the prison. It was for that fact, Bauer argued, that “this movement, this Occupy movement, needs to permeate the prisons.”

Occupy supporters are calling for a fundamental change in the US prison system, which today houses one quarter of the planet’s prisoners; more than 2.4 million people. As of 2005, roughly one quarter of those held in US prisons or jails had been convicted on a drug charge. Activists point out that in the past three decades the nation’s prison population has increased by more than 500%, with minorities comprising 60% of those incarcerated. The number of women locked up between 1997 and 2007 increased by 832%.

Demonstrators are broadly calling for the abolition of inhumane prison conditions, and the elimination of policies such as capital punishment, life sentences without the possibility of parole and so-called “three strikes, you’re out” laws. Continue reading

California Prison Officials offer hunger strikers retaliation and repression

Loved ones and human rights defenders rallied in Sacramento this week in solidarity with tortured California inmates

, 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. Continue reading

California Prison hunger strike ends after 20 days; advocates say strike raised awareness about prison conditions

Thadeus Greenson and Kaci Poor/The Times-Standard
07/22/2011

California prison officials and prison advocacy groups announced Thursday the end of a three-week hunger strike that saw thousands of inmates at more than a dozen institutions refuse meals.

Dorsey Nunn, a mediator between the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the striking prisoners, said he spoke with Pelican Bay State Prison inmates over the phone Thursday who confirmed the news.

”The choices they were confronted with were torture or death,” Nunn said. “Those really aren’t choices. I think they chose to live to fight (for) justice another day.”

The strike began July 1 with 11 inmates in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Secure Housing Units, where suspected gang members are held in near complete isolation, sometimes for years at a time. The group issued a list of five demands — seeking better living conditions and treatment — and was quickly joined by more than 6,500 inmates in 13 institutions throughout the state who began refusing meals.

According to CDCR Deputy Press Secretary Terry Thornton, the striking inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison resumed eating state-issued food Wednesday night after a CDCR executive visited the prison and provided clarification on proposed plans to review and change policies. Changes implemented to date, according to the release, include “providing cold-weather caps, wall calendars and some educational opportunities for SHU inmates.” Continue reading