Protesters Denounce Brutality in California Prisons
MIM Notes 174, November 15 1998
CORCORAN, CA - Over 400 protesters gathered in front of Corcoran State Prison on October 17th in order to protest the brutal treatment prisoners receive in California prisons, as well as the continued unjust expansion of prisons in California. The protesters shouted their defiance to the prison's warden and the local cops and guards who blockaded the road to the prison. Some of the marchers' placards denounced CA's "three strikes" law - one had a photo of a man and his daughter with the words "Larry Olin - Sentenced 25 years to life for two pairs of Levis." Others exposed the cruel and callous conditions in CA prisons, such as the poster which simply said "Alice Quihos was murdered by medical neglect."
Between 1988 and 1996 guards at Cocoran staged daily fights between prisoners, sometimes even betting on the outcome and reviewing the videotapes for their sick entertainment. Many prisoners were injured by the 37mm wooden bullets used to break up the fights, and seven were killed by guards. Public pressure forced the FBI and the state Attorney General to launch investigations of Corcoran, but - although the gladiator fights have stopped - little has changed at Corcoran, let alone the 32 other state prisons.
Speakers at the rally included anti-prisons activists and family members of prisoners. Bill Tate, the father of one of the prisoners executed by guards during the spate of "gladiator fights" at Corcoran, reminded the rallyists that his son's case has received exceptional attention, but there are many more prisoners tortured and killed in CA's prisons who do not receive media or bourgeois political attention. Indeed, a recent report by the LA Times reported that CA remains the only state to officially condone the use of deadly force to break up alleged prisoner fights, despite outrage over the incidents at Corcoran. Dozens of prisoners have been killed as a result.
A speaker from the HIV/AIDS in Prison Project explained that Corcoran - one of CA's three control units, and referred to by prisoners as "the hole" - was recently designated as CA's AIDS treatment center. Supposedly all HIV+ prisoners were transferred there. However, the conditions of all of these 230 prisoners now allegedly receiving "special medical care" have worsened, and dozens of HIV+ prisoners in CA still receive no treatment at all. The protest was a mix of electoral reformists, human rights groups, and people who, like MIM and RAIL, view prisons as a part of a larger system of national oppression and genocide. The majority of protesters and speakers did not have illusions about either of the two mainstream candidates for governor reforming CA prisons or the criminal "justice" system. Republican Dan Lundgren is a big supporter of the get-tough status quo, and, as one speaker pointed out, his Democratic opponent Gray Davis wants to lower the age at which a person can be sentenced to death by the criminal injustice system to 14.
Prisons are on the front lines of Amerika's war against its internal colonies, where men and wimmin are confined against their will - more and more often for "crimes" which their white counterparts get away with. Only by solving the broader problems of national oppression can the problem of brutality in Amerikan prisons be solved.
The protest was initiated by the California Prisons Focus, a single issue organization which grew out the movement against California's first modern control unit at Pelican Bay. California RAIL chapters organized a contingent to participate as part of their ongoing campaign to expose the evils of California prisons and in order to build support for Serve the People programs like the Free Books for Prisoners program. For more information about anti-prisons work RAIL and MIM are doing in CA, write to the Los Angeles address on page 2 or e-mail [email protected].
Note: LA Times, 18 Oct 98.
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