Building a Movement to End Solitary Confinement, Against Imprisonment
After hunger strike leaders reached an agreement last week with the CDCR to end the hunger strike that swept across California’s prison system, prisoners have started to transition to eating food again. However this transition is both brutal and confusing.
After not eating for four weeks, it is very hard to begin eating solid food again right away, so many prisoners are in need of more medical care than the prisons can provide. Medical staff at the prisons were already overwhelmed by general conditions of overcrowding in the state’s prisons, and even further overwhelmed by this massive protest. While the medical staff supposedly need to follow certain protocols assisting hunger strikers’ transition to eating solid food, provision of basic medical care is exhausted, unreliable and ineffective.
Family members and supporters are anxiously waiting confirmation on whether or not prisoners are continuing the strike at other prisons. When the hunger strike spread to at least 13 prisons, and at least 6,600 people across the state were participating, it was clear that prisoners joining were doing so in solidarity with the demands from Pelican Bay due to the brutal conditions they are held in resembling the conditions of Pelican Bay. For instance, prisoners at Calipatria have explained that they joined the hunger strike specifically in protest of the torturous formal and informal policies of group punishment, gang validation and debriefing–practices also imposed at Calipatria. Prisoners at Calipatria are now transitioning to eating food again, according to family members of prisoners participating in the hunger strike.
There has been some mention of prisoners at Corcoran and Tehachapi continuing the strike to expose specific issues at these particular institutions, but supporters do not have confirmation, such as how many prisoners are still refusing food and for what specific reasons or demands [In the early days of the hunger strike, prisoners at the SHU in Corcoran released this statement explaining why they were in solidarity with the demands from Pelican Bay, but we have not heard of other specifics beside medical updates since]
Outside community organizations that correspond with prisoners are scurrying to send in updates on the strike and confirming the agreement between the strike leaders at Pelican Bay and the CDCR, but since the CDCR relies heavily on denying mail as a tool of isolation and political repression, supporters are unsure if their messages are getting through.
As mentioned yesterday, the hunger strike leaders at Pelican Bay released a written statement providing some explanation for their reasoning behind accepting the CDCR’s deal. Their concerns include not wanting fellow prisoners to die. At least 17 hunger strikers at Pelican Bay, including 3 of the 11 leaders, were transferred to Corcoran for supposed medical reasons, however the CDCR failed to mention that Corcoran got clearance to begin forced-feeding days before hunger strike leaders accepted the CDCR’s offer, a clear threat of what could happen to the leadership and their comrades if they did not agree to the CDCR’s terms.
While the concessions may seem too small to claim a victory, it’s important for people outside prison to understand the weight for prisoners who have been held in the SHU for decades of now being able to stay a little warmer, and to be able to keep track of time since they have no windows and the fluorescent lights are on 24 hours of every day. More so, worldwide support and momentous courage of thousands of prisoners to risk their lives effectively pressured the CDCR to sit at the same table and look prisoners in the face and offer a deal, after refusing to negotiate for weeks and insisting prisoners are less-than human.
Yesterday, dozens of supporters gathered on a continental conference call in support of the hunger strike, and discussed how to move forward now and keep pressure on the CDCR to implement the necessary changes brought to the world’s attention by the strike.
One focus of the conference call became mobilizing for the legislative hearings on August 23rd, a hearing on the SHU at Pelican Bay that will be held by the Public Safety Committee of the CA State Assembly in Sacramento. Many supporters are focusing on coordinating (inter)national days of action leading up to the legislative hearing periodically throughout the next few weeks. If you are interested in coordinating an action in a city or town near you in coordination with events in other cities, please contact us and we’ll get you in touch with other supporters organizing days of action. Read notes from the conference call here.
World Can’t Wait is calling for an International Day of Action on Monday, August 1st. Click here for more information.
As we work to consolidate a growing movement against solitary confinement, torture and all violence, we need to support all prisoners and political leaders locked up in prisons, jails and detention centers internationally. In the next few days, make sure to support Leonard Peltier, who has been locked up for more than 30 years and is currently in solitary confinement in Pennsylvania, by calling and emailing prison officials and demand that Leonard Peltier be immediately released from solitary and returned to the general population at USP-Lewisburg. Click here for contact information