California Prison Hunger Strike Continues – Despite Media and State Reports to the Contrary

by on July 16, 2011 · 13 comments

in California, Civil Rights, Popular

Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers Reject Proposal: The Strike Continues!

See their demands listed below

By prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity / From Inside Prison, Outside Prison /July 16, 2011

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.

Given how basic the strikers’ demands are, it is immoral that the CDCR would insult these men with such poor faith proposal,” state mediator Dorsey Nunn.

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.


Join a conference call to hear direct updates, and to strategize effective ways to support the strike and the prisoners in winning their demands!


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).

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

RB July 16, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Perhaps, the situation could be decided by a third party group.
Let a group of victims of the inmates crimes decide if the inmates are being treated unfairly.


betty July 17, 2011 at 9:16 am

dont be such an ass… a lot of these prisoners were wrongfully convicted as well as treated to a “kangaroo court” once inside.


RB July 17, 2011 at 10:27 am

Yeah, its well documented that many inmates claim they are innocent so it must be true. Perhaps, all the rape victims made their stories up and those killed really shot themselves. And no, no, no there is really no crime and only inmate victims in this State.

Note; How can we expect California inmates to be adequately care for at $50,000 a year? Why don’t we respect the cultural diversity that gang membership provides?


OB Joe July 17, 2011 at 11:21 am

RB – somewhere along your life span, you missed out on some love, dude. You are so full of hatred and spite that it’s tying your emotions down so low that you can’t even raise your head. I feel sorry for you. You rely on every lie that the mass media have spewed forth on every group of citizens that are not on your level. Your reliance on mass stereo-types is disturbing. I’ve seen your comments for a while now and there’s NEVER an ounce of COMPASSION for anyone … but yourself. Try crawling out of your shell. Try having a little human respect for your fellow humans. Try it … you might like it.


RB July 17, 2011 at 12:03 pm

My love, compassion and concern for others is directed at the victims of crimes.
You also might try love and compassion for victims rather than those who volunteer for prison by their actions.


OB Joe July 17, 2011 at 12:50 pm

RB – you say that your compassion and concern is directed at victims, but it just is not true. I’ve observed your comments for a while now and have held my breath, but no longer. All your comments are in favor of the rich and powerful, you continue to consistently diss efforts against nukes, for the environment, against the corporations, for teachers, as your previous comments have not shown any compassion for the Wisconsin public workers – victimized by the crimes of Gov Walker et tal, nor for our local San Diego workers, or for young women, or for immigrants, or …. the list is too long.


RB July 17, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Most of the victims of crime, of rape, of murder, of robbery are the poor, the minorities, and are not rich. Your hatred of the rich blinds you of who are the victims of these inmates.


Molly July 17, 2011 at 11:26 am

RB – you are so warped, I’m actually surprized the editors here allow you space to dawdle your sniveling.


The (Now) Bearded OBecian July 18, 2011 at 11:20 am

I guess what would really throw everyone for a loop on this thread is if a Kenneth Lay-type were one of the strikers. Would he be shown as much compassion as a rapist/murderer etc?


Barbara Latham July 16, 2011 at 4:36 pm

I once worked for a company that sold food to the California prisons. The types & quality of food was remarkable and the cuts and quantities of beef were astounding. Now maybe this was diverted to the wardens. I don’t know. I do know these people are felons who have done harm to us. Yet they are served food, have their laundry done and get to watch color TV. (I can’t even afford TV.) Because I’m on SS, I’m not sure I’ll get even an inadequate meal at the end of the month. And I’ve never done anything more illegal than get a parking ticket. If these guys are overcrowded, you’d think they’d welcome a while in isolation.


OB Joe July 16, 2011 at 6:24 pm

RB and Barbara – your compassion for your fellow human is astounding. Do either of you think of yourselves as Christians?Yes, these people have committed crimes, and are paying their dues. But now they’re being tortured by our state government.

RB, we have laws and common decency to figure out if people are being treated. Have you missed the news about how the Calif prisons have been ordered to release or move people because of the illegal medical treatment system inside the prisons.

Barbara, you “once worded for a company that sold food to Calif prisons.” Like, was it this century? Where was it? Which company? Which prisons? This one experience puts you in such a place that you don’t even appreciate what your state government is doing.


betty July 17, 2011 at 9:17 am

keep up the good work Joe… some people think all prisoners are jeffrey dahmer.


Stephen Burgoyne Coulson July 17, 2011 at 5:05 am

Barbara Latham, you are aiming your complaints in the wrong direction. Instead of complaining about the criminals who are fighting for their rights (and many of them are petty criminals caught up in the stupid ‘tough on crime” politics of “three strikes”) you should be fighting the criminals who are currently trying to steal what is left of your social security. Those are the people who are going to harm you, not some dumb kid who got picked up with pot three times.


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