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.

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G. N. Saibaba: The Biggest “little man” in the Country Today

Sanhati, April 8, 2015

saibaba

[Sanhati’s Editorial Note: In view of G. N. Saibaba’s continued incarceration, we are reprinting this article which was written by P K Vijayan in June 2014 and originally appeared in the Economic and Political Weekly.]

I want to tell you a story, of a little man, if I can; his name was – well, his name – we will come to it shortly. This little man was born into a wretchedly poor peasant family that lived on the outskirts of a little known village, with the out-castes and untouchables. This little man’s father had chosen to live with the marginal and the excluded, as a mark of solidarity with them – and this was motivated simply by an instinctive sense of justice, since the little man’s father was not even literate, let alone politically educated.

So the little man grew up amongst the sweepers and the scavengers, with hunger and deprivation as bosom companions to him and his siblings. Then, when he was barely five years old, he was afflicted with polio in both his legs, as a result of which he almost died from lack of medical facilities. But the little man’s father managed to stave off his death, by running from pillar to post, from every doctor to every dispensary that held out hope, till the fast-spreading disease was finally checked; nevertheless, the little man lost the use of both his legs completely from the disease.

This did not deter the little man or his father. He was enrolled in a mission school, where he learned to read and write and consumed everything he read with rapacious delight. Reading by the light of street lamps, dragging himself on his elbows and hands on the dirt roads of his village, from home to school, eating one meal in two days sometimes, the little man delighted in the world of books, and forgot about his own deprived and depraved one, for the hours that he was lost in them. The father meanwhile, took the little man wherever he could, showing him as much of the world as he could from the handlebars of his bicycle, obdurately refusing to accept that his son’s condition would limit his mobility. The little man thus grew up with a deep wanderlust and an indomitable will to overcome the limitations of his condition.

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Why solitary confinement is a form of modern-day torture

by Molly Crabapple

Commentary from fusion.net:

As of 2013, there were 80,000 men and women in solitary confinement in the United States, some of them as young as 14 years old. In this illustrated op-ed video, artist Molly Crabapple explains the psychological and physical trauma suffered by those forced to spend 22-24 hours a day alone — sometimes for arbitrary reasons, like reading the wrong book, or having the wrong tattoo — in a grey, concrete box. (According to the U.N. 15 days in solitary is torture.) “There is no limit to how long someone can be held in solitary confinement,” says Crabappple. “And very little evidence is needed to justify holding a person in solitary indefinitely.”

“Black Panther Political Prisoner Herman Wallace’s Conviction Overturned: Immediate Release Ordered”

Breaking News!  —  Tuesday, October 1, 2013

http://angola3news.blogspot.com/2013/10/herman-wallaces-conviction-overturned.html


Read today’s court ruling here.
Miraculous news this morning! Judge Jackson has overturned Herman’s conviction, granting him full habeas relief based on the systematic exclusion of women from the jury in violation of the 14th Amendment.

Even more astonishingly, the Judge clearly orders that “the State immediately release Mr. Wallace from custody.”  No application for bail is required, and the State is given 30 days to notify Herman if they plan to re-indict him. Continue reading

As Bradley Manning faces sentencing for exposing war crimes…..

Statement by Julian Assange on behalf of WikiLeaks:

Today Bradley Manning reportedly made a statement of remorse in a sentencing hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland. Manning’s statement comes towards the end of a court martial trial pursued with unprecedented prosecutorial zeal.

Since his arrest, Mr. Manning has been an emblem of courage and endurance in the face of adversity. He has resisted extraordinary pressure. He has been held in solitary confinement, stripped naked and subjected to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment by the United States government. His constitutional right to a speedy trial has been ignored. He has sat for three years in pretrial detention, while the government assembled 141 witnesses and withheld thousands of documents from his lawyers.

The government has denied him the right to conduct a basic whistleblower defense. It overcharged him until he faced over a century in prison and barred all but a handful of his witnesses. He was denied the right at trial to argue that no harm was caused by his alleged actions. His defence team was pre-emptively banned from describing his intent or showing that his actions harmed no one.

Despite these obstacles, Mr. Manning and his defense team have fought at every step. Last month, he was eventually convicted of charges carrying up to 90 years of prison time. The US government admitted that his actions did not physically harm a single person, and he was acquitted of “aiding the enemy.” His convictions solely relate to his alleged decision to inform the public of war crimes and systematic injustice. Continue reading

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

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