As California Prisoner Hunger Strike Reaches Critical Moment, Families and Advocates Return to Capitol, Demand Action from State Government

August 14, 2013

Press Contact: Azadeh Zohrabi, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, Ph:  310-612-9706

the mock "SHU" solitary confinement cell at the State Capitol

The mock “SHU” solitary confinement cell at the State Capitol

Oakland—All eyes are on California, as prisoners across the state’s vast prison system hit their 38th day of hunger strike in protest of the torturous conditions of solitary confinement.  Prisoners’ loved ones and supporters joined 100 people on the steps of the state capitol Wednesday afternoon to demand swift and resolute action from California decision makers.  Activists also set up a life-sized replica of a Security Housing Unit (SHU) cell, encouraging the governor, legislators, and members of the public to experience for just a few minutes what thousands of California prisons live through, many for decades.

Irene Huerta’s husband has been in solitary for 28 years and is currently on hunger strike.  Huerta is part of a mediation team that is trying to keep channels of communication open between strikers and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), with hopes of reaching an end to the strike.  “It is important for us to be here today.  It is day 38 and our loved ones could die soon if no one steps up to do anything,” says Huerta.  She joins many others in condemning the CDCR’s continued attacks on strikers, along with Governor Brown’s total silence on the entire issue.  “For Brown to say nothing at all, at such a critical moment, that is a slap in the face.  To say anything at all, even to speak against the strike, that’s one thing.  But to remain silent when people’s lives are on the line and their families are worried sick? There is nothing worse.” Continue reading

California: Some inmates continue prison hunger strike, advocates say

By Mary Slosson

LOS ANGELES | Fri Oct 14, 2011

(Reuters) – A day after California prison officials declared a 3-week-old hunger strike by thousands of convicts over, an inmate advocacy group said on Friday that at least 150 prisoners were still refusing to eat.

The protest began at Pelican Bay State Prison in Northern California and spread to at least 4,000 inmates in seven other facilities at its height late last month, with prisoners demanding an end to what they called inhumane treatment.

Many of the grievances focused on the prison system’s use of solitary confinement to enforce discipline and for what inmates say is a means of coercing them to “rat out” prison gang members.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced on Thursday the hunger strike had ended after prison officials agreed to review procedures by which certain convicts are classified as too dangerous for the general inmate population.

But inmate representatives later said that as of Friday 150 convicts were continuing their protest at two prisons because conditions in which they are held remained unaddressed.

“We know that there are people still going at Calipatria (State Prison) and Salinas Valley (State Prison),” said Isaac Ontiveros, a spokesman for the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition. “They have been clear that they are willing to keep going at great peril to their own health.” 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.

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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).