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It’s Not Over!

July 22, 2011


Mediators from Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity’s Mediation team spoke with the Short Corridor Collective, four representatives of the hunger strike leaders at Pelican Bay and confirmed the leaders have accepted an offer from the CDCR.

When this news was announced at a vigil in Oakland last night, one family member responded: “I’m not going to believe it until my son tells me so.” She will be seeing him at Pelican Bay this weekend.

According to family members and friends of prisoners, as well as the CDCR, hunger strikers continue to refuse food across CA– in at least CCI Tehachapi, Corcoran and Calipatria. It is unclear how long they will continue, if they are aware of the agreement or even believe given the misinformation CDCR has been circulating. As families and friends gear up for another round of weekend visits, we will have more information as to whether hunger strikers will continue protesting CDCR’s policies and conditions in the coming days.

The leaders confirmed CDCR’s announcement that immediate changes in SHU policy are the opportunity for some educational programs, provision of all-weather caps (beanies) and wall calendars. More substantially, the leaders explained the CDCR has agreed to investigate changes to other policies including the gang validation and debriefing processes, and it is now up to supporters outside prison to make sure the CDCR upholds their promise.
Many supporters, as well as the Pelican Bay hunger strike leaders, see this as a victory. The leaders explained to the mediation team they are overwhelmed by the support and solidarity of family members, community members, organizations, and people across the world joining their fight for human rights, and cannot adequately express their appreciation. They also explained this is in no way over. Using a sports reference, the Short Corridor Collective insisted: “this is just the first quarter,” and what a start it has been.

The Pelican Bay Hunger Strike leaders also ask all supporters, including the mediation team to continue working together, to expand and to stay involved in making sure these demands are met fully, and that prisoners everywhere are recognized and treated as human beings.

The goal of the hunger strike was not to let prisoners starve, but was to expose the torturous conditions of imprisonment (especially Security Housing Units), to win the 5 core demands at Pelican Bay, to end long-term solitary confinement. This past week Secretary Cate began threatening to issue force-feeding orders, a process is both dangerous and painful. It’s important for those of us on the outside to recognize that the hunger strikers were faced with two choices: increased or intensified torture or death. In the end, these aren’t really choices at all. The leaders chose to live to fight for justice another day, and to grow and strengthen the tremendous support and collaborations they have started.

Some gains so far:

  • While the CDCR vigorously dehumanizes prisoners, and refused to negotiate, saying (“we don’t negotiate with prisoners”), they were effectively forced into offering an agreement to make changes;
  • this historic strike has demanded everyone who is against torture in any way to recognize prisoners as human beings, to act on their beliefs that no one should ever be tortured;
  • this historic hunger strike has widened and intensified international scrutiny into prison conditions and policies in California, and around the United States, as well as solidarity in intervening in CDCR “business as usual.” According to Terry Thorton, spokesperson for CDCR, this strike was “a major disruption to CDCR’s normal operations” (i.e. of control, isolation and torture);
  • this historic strike has (re)inspired prisoners to work together in struggling for their humanity to be recognized;
  • this historic strike has proven to family members, former prisoners, advocates, lawyers, faith-based and religious groups, medical professionals, and community members and organizations that we can and need to continue to work together better in the struggle to change the conditions we live in, and to transform the devastation and disappearance prisons cause in our communities
  • this historic strike has re-invigorated rigorous and collective prisoner-led resistance in the US.

Meanwhile, support for the hunger strike clearly needs to continue to grow. Events are still happening, including another mobilization to Sacramento to pressure Jerry Brown to take action regarding torturous conditions of CA’s prisons. (More details of this action coming soon. Click here to read a letter to Jerry Brown signed by organizations in support of the strike that will be delivered to Jerry Brown at the action on Monday, July 25) Family members also continue to meet with each other. In the Bay Area on Tuesday evening, a meeting will be held for family members to discuss how they want to move forward with this struggle. Click here for more details on events and actions

Also, a legislative hearing will be held on August 23rd in Sacramento investigating Pelican Bay’s SHU.

Please stay tuned for more information, and hear the prisoners call to continue working together to amplify their voices and to resist torture and imprisonment!


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