On the Mass Political Movement Inside US Prisons

Pelican Bay Hunger Strike: Four years and still fighting

July 14, 2015, SF Bayview Newspaper

by Claude Marks and Isaac Ontiveros

Four years ago prisoners in California – led by those in the control units of Pelican Bay – organized a hunger strike to demand an end to the torturous conditions of solitary confinement. Two more strikes would follow, with over 30,000 prisoners taking united action in the summer of 2013 – both in isolation and in general population in nearly every California prison.

“Will You Stand Up and Let Your Voice Be Heard July 8th 2013?” – Art: Michael D. Russell

The strikes reflected significant shifts in political consciousness among prisoners and their loved ones. The violence of imprisonment was further exposed by demands and heightened organization from within the cages. Prisoner-led collective actions as well as growing public support dramatically have changed the political landscape.

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

Strategizing To Defeat Control Unit Prisons And Solitary Confinement

By Angola 3 News, 15 February, 2013

Out of Control:  A Fifteen Year Battle Against Control Unit Prisons, by Nancy Kurshan

Out of Control: A Fifteen Year Battle Against Control Unit Prisons, by Nancy Kurshan

–An interview with author/activist Nancy Kurshan

Author and longtime activist Nancy Kurshan’s new book, entitled Out of Control: A Fifteen Year Battle Against Control Unit Prisons , has just been released by the Freedom Archives . Kurshan’s book documents the work of The Committee to End the Marion Lockdown (CEML), which she co-founded in 1985 as a response to the lockdown at the federal prison in Marion, Illinois. It quickly turned into a broader campaign against control unit prisons and human rights violations in US prisons that lasted fifteen years, until 2000. The following excerpt from Out of Control details CEML’s origins:

I had been living in Chicago for about a year when I heard the news that two guards had been killed by two prisoners in the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, 350 miles south of Chicago. Although it was an isolated incident with no associated riot conditions, the prison was immediately placed on lockdown status, and the authorities seized on the opportunity to violently repress the entire prison population. For two years, from 1983 to 1985, all of the 350 men imprisoned there were subjected to brutal, dehumanizing conditions. All work programs were shut down, as were educational activities and religious services.

During the initial stage of this lockdown, 60 guards equipped with riot gear, much of it shipped in from other prisons, systematically beat approximately 100 handcuffed and defenseless prisoners. Guards also subjected some prisoners to forced finger probes of the rectum. Random beatings and rectal probes continued through the two-year lockdown. Despite clear evidence of physical and psychological brutality at the hands of the guards, Congress and the courts refused to intervene to stop the lockdown…

…Although the terrible conditions at the prison were striking, what drew us to Marion in particular was the history of struggle of the prisoners and their allies on the outside. When the infamous Alcatraz was closed in 1962, Marion Federal Penitentiary was opened and became the new Alcatraz, the end of the line for the “worst of the worst.”

In 1972 there was a prisoner’s peaceful work stoppage at Marion led by Puerto Rican Nationalist Rafael Cancel Miranda. In response to this peaceful work stoppage, the authorities placed a section of the prison under lockdown, thus creating the first “control unit,” essentially a prison within a prison, amplifying the use of isolation as a form of control, previously used only for a selected prisoner. That was 1972.

At this time, in 1985, after two years of lockdown, they converted the whole prison into a control unit. Importantly, because Marion in 1985 was “the end of the line,” the only “Level 6” federal prison, there were disproportionate numbers of political prisoners—those who were incarcerated for their political beliefs and actions. These included people such as Native American Leonard Peltier who had spent years there until recently, and now (in 1985) Black Panthers Sundiata Acoli and Sekou Odinga , Puerto Rican independentista Oscar López Rivera , and white revolutionary Bill Dunne . These were people we knew or identified with, activists of the 1960s and 1970s incarcerated for their political activities. Marion, like its predecessor Alcatraz and its successor ADX Florence, was clearly a destination point for political prisoners. Continue reading

US: Former Political Prisoners support current prisoners’ move to end racial/factional fights

San Quentin 3 declare solidarity with prisoners’ agreement to end hostilities

Source: San Francisco Bayview, December 1, 2012

by Sundiata Tate, Bato Talamantez and Giappa Johnson – three of the San Quentin 6

We strongly support the statement issued by the Pelican Bay prison Short Corridor Collective calling for the end of racial and factional hostilities inside California prisons and in county jails. We believe that this along with our struggle for human rights is a most righteous cause which will have a tremendous impact on changing the perception that the Security Housing Units (SHUs) house only the worst of the worst.

[Photo: Sundiata Tate, Bato Talamantez and Giappa Johnson attend Geronimo Day, marking the 40th anniversary of Comrade George Jackson’s assassination at San Quentin Prison, on Aug. 21, 1971. The commemoration, which drew a large crowd, was held at Eastside Arts Alliance, Oakland, on Aug. 21, 2011. After 40 years of solidarity and struggle, they say, la luta continua. – Photo: Sue Acevedo]

The truth is that the SHUs are filled with those who have transformed themselves into socially conscious men and women who desire to live more productive and constructive lives while working to bring an end to their tortuous living conditions. These comrades who have issued the agreement to end hostilities demonstrate their commitment to changing not only their conditions but themselves. Furthermore, they seek to change how prisoners are treated and how prisons are currently run.

We encourage all prisoners everywhere to better understand the vile system that has entrapped them, that works to break them down and defeat the struggle for self-respect, dignity and a “say” in prison conditions that affect us all. This is an unjust prison system that continues to punish and inflict cruelty and torture while at the same time vilifying prisoners as animals who are unfit for better treatment.

This is no place for human beings to be put in, and those who find themselves trapped in these places cannot remain silent. If you don’t holler loud enough, no one will hear you!

These comrades who have issued the agreement to end hostilities demonstrate their commitment to changing not only their conditions but themselves. Furthermore, they seek to change how prisoners are treated and how prisons are currently run. Continue reading

LA youth join call for end to hostilities

Los Angeles’ Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) is calling for a “parallel cease fire in the streets” to correspond to the End to Hostilities that has been called for by the Short Corridor Collective – a group of Pelican Bay hunger strike representatives who are living in that prison’s Security Housing Unit (SHU, or isolation unit).

The YJC will kick off its call for an end to hostilities on the streets with an event on Wednesday, October 10th at 10am outside the LA County Men’s Jail (450 Bauchet Street, Los Angeles, 90012).

Here’s more information from the YJC’s Facebook event:

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 prisoners, identifying themselves as the PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective. 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 or nearly 12,000 prisoners in over 11 prisons throughout the state. Continue reading

California Prisoners Hunger Strike resumes

[The historic California prisoners hunger strike continues on September 26, 2011, to press for relief from the oppressive and tortuous life-draining conditions and confinements in the “Security Housing Units.”  There has been no positive response by the prison officials, but they have come back with reprisals and threats of cancelling paroles, petty privileges, and job assignments.  (see the threatening letter from the CDCR, below). (note–CDCR has released sobering numbers on prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU:  Of the 1,111 people currently held in the SHU:  Over 513 have served 10 years or more in the SHU; Of those, 78 have been in the SHU for 20 years or more; 544 have been in the SHU more than 5 years, but fewer than 10 years).  — Frontlines ed.]
Gearing up for Round 2 of Hunger Strike

September 23, 2011

On Monday, September 26th, prisoners at both Pelican Bay & Calipatria will resume the hunger strike to stop the torturous conditions of Security Housing Units (SHUs).

Prisoners first went on hunger strike on July 1st for nearly four weeks, until the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) agreed to begin implementing some of the prisoners’ five core demands. The strike became one of the largest prison strikes in California history–stretching across a third of the California’s prisons (at least 13 State prisons), including more than 6,600 prisoners at its height. However, the CDCR’s response has been inadequate to say the least, giving prisoners & their families false hope of timely substantial change and an end to torture. For a detailed summary of the CDCR’s response to the strike, and why Pelican Bay prisoners are resuming it, read “Tortured SHU Prisoners Speak Out: The Struggle Continues.”

CDCR officials seem to be preemptively cracking down on prisoners in anticipation of the strike and have publicly said they were preparing to take harsh actions against strikers. Illustrating the CDCR’s hard-line stance, Undersecretary of Operations Scott Kernan said in a recent interview, “If there are other instances of hunger strikes, I don’t think the Department will approach it the same way this time around.”

  • Lawyers who have recently visited Pelican Bay have taken testimony from SHU prisoners who have been retaliated against by prison officials for their participation in this summer’s strike. “Prisoners are receiving serious disciplinary write-ups, usually reserved for serious rules violations, for things like talking in the library or not walking fast enough,” says Carol Strickman, a lawyer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, “It’s clear that prison officials are trying to intimidate these men and to make them ineligible for any privileges or changes that may be forced by the strike.”

It’s these sorts of responses from the CDCR & forms of retaliation that show us prisoners are not recognized & treated as human beings, are constantly abused & tortured by the CDCR, and that the CDCR has no intention of stopping this. The prisoners clearly have no other recourse but to risk their lives, again.

—————————————–

Hunger Strike Resumes in One Week!

September 19, 2011

Prisoners in the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit (SHU) will resume their hunger strike against torturous conditions of imprisonment next Monday, Sept. 26th 2011. Read Tortured SHU Prisoners Speak Out: The Struggle Continues for more details on why they are resuming the strike.

According to family members, prisoners at Calipatria State Prison will also resume the hunger strike on Sept. 26th in solidarity with the prisoners at Pelican Bay and also to expose the brutal conditions they are in at Calipatria, where hundreds of prisoners are labeled as gang members, validated and held in administrative segregation (AdSeg) units, waiting 3-4 years to be transferred to the Pelican Bay SHU indefinitely.

The Calipatria hunger strikers have a similar, separate list of demands from the strikers at Pelican Bay, including abolish the defriefing policy & modify active/inactive gang criteria and expanding canteen/package items & programs/privileges for validated/SHU status prisoners (such as art supplies, proctored exams for correspondence courses, P.I.A. soft shoes, yearly phone calls & two annual packages).