See their demands listed below
On Friday, July 15th, leaders of the Pelican Bay hunger strike unanimously rejected a proposal from the California Department of Corrections and Rehab (CDCR) to end the strike. In response to the prisoners’ five, straightforward demands, the CDCR distributed a vaguely worded document stating that it would “effect a comprehensive assessment of its existing policy and procedure” about the secure housing units (SHUs). The document gave no indication if any changes would be made at all.
While the CDCR has claimed that there is no medical crisis, mediators report that the principal hunger strikers have lost 25-35 pounds each and have underlying medical conditions of concern. Despite the promises from the federal Receiver overseeing the CDCR, no one has received salt tablets or vitamins.
The hunger strike is now in its third week and shows no signs of weakening. In fact, the settlement document distributed last night to all hunger strikers at Pelican Bay prison, resulted in some people who have gone off the strike to resume refusing food. Hundreds of prisoners at Pelican Bay remain on strike, with thousands more participating throughout the CA’s 33 prisons. Advocates and strike leaders dismiss the false claims that the strike is being orchestrate by prison gangs. (Click here for a clip from a legal visit with hunger strikers, explaining why prisoners are doing this hunger strike)
(Here is a report from SignOnSanDiego about the hunger strike supposedly “winding down”.)
International solidarity with the striking prisoners also continue to mount with demonstrations and messages emerging from the US, Canada, Turkey and Australia. According to mediation team Laura Magnani, “From day one. the CDCR has demonstrated it’s inability to resolve this situation. We call on Gov. Brown to step in and negotiate in good faith to bring this situation to a just resolution.” Strike supporters plan to flood the Governor’s office with phone calls and emails, echoing the striker’s demands.
The challenge for supporters outside of prison is to match the courage of the hunger strikers, and to effectively pressure the CDCR to immediately negotiate on the standards all negotiations follow: with the prisoners in good faith, addressing all of the demands, and with the prisoner-approved outside mediation team.
It is still important to continue calling in and writing letters to Sec. Cate.
We also need to intensify pressure on all elected officials, from Governor Brown to local state representatives, to get involved in this struggle–urge them to make sure the CDCR negotiates with the prisoners, urge them to visit Pelican Bay and demand to see the prisoners. We can also be targeting press and media to do the same.
MOBILIZE to SACRAMENTO: MON, July 18th from 1-4pm. Demonstration outside CDCR Headquarters. 1515 S. St.
*FOR SUPPORTER EVERYWHERE:
Join a conference call to hear direct updates, and to strategize effective ways to support the strike and the prisoners in winning their demands!
NATIONAL HUNGER STRIKE SOLIDARITY CONFERENCE CALL:
Monday, July 18th: 6 pm EDT/ 5 pm CDT/ 4pm MDT/ 3 pm PDT
Toll-Free Call In Number: 1(800) 920-7487
Participant Code: 62435226
Overview and Demands of Hunger Strikers
Prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison (California) began an indefinite hunger strike on July 1, 2011 to protest the cruel and inhumane conditions of their imprisonment. The hunger strike was organized by prisoners in an unusual show of racial unity. The hunger strikers developed five core demands. Briefly they are:
1. Eliminate group punishments. Instead, practice individual accountability. When an individual prisoner breaks a rule, the prison often punishes a whole group of prisoners of the same race. This policy has been applied to keep prisoners in the SHU indefinitely and to make conditions increasingly harsh.
2. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria. Prisoners are accused of being active or inactive participants of prison gangs using false or highly dubious evidence, and are then sent to longterm isolation (SHU). They can escape these tortuous conditions only if they “debrief,” that is, provide information on gang activity. Debriefing produces false information (wrongly landing other prisoners in SHU, in an endless cycle) and can endanger the lives of debriefing prisoners and their families.
3. Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to longterm solitary confinement. This bipartisan commission specifically recommended to “make segregation a last resort” and “end conditions of isolation.” Yet as of May 18, 2011, California kept 3,259 prisoners in SHUs and hundreds more in Administrative Segregation waiting for a SHU cell to open up. Some prisoners have been kept in isolation for more than thirty years.
4. Provide adequate food. Prisoners report unsanitary conditions and small quantities of food that do not conform to prison regulations. There is no accountability or independent quality control of meals.
5. Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates. The hunger strikers are pressing for opportunities “to engage in self-help treatment, education, religious and other productive activities…” Currently these opportunities are routinely denied, even if the prisoners want to pay for correspondence courses themselves. Examples of privileges the prisoners want are: one phone call per week, and permission to have sweatsuits and watch caps. (Often warm clothing is denied, though the cells and exercise cage can be bitterly cold.) All of the privileges mentioned in the demands are already allowed at other SuperMax prisons (in the federal prison system and other states).