Mass Hunger Strike in California

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[Organizing] [California State Prison, Los Angeles County] [California] [ULK Issue 16]
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Mass Hunger Strike in California

On July 27, 2010 a mass hunger strike took place at California State Prison - Los Angeles County (CSP-LAC) in which close to, if not well over 1000 prisoners participated. This mass hunger strike was successfully organized directly under the noses of pigs and their collaborators. The purpose of this strike was to protest and call attention to another of the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation's (CDCR) oppressive and unconstitutionally sponsored pilot-programs in which prisoners are being forced to endure an average of 23 hours a day, seven days a week, confined in closed quarters.(1)

Whispers and murmurs were heard and acknowledged within certain circles concerning the impending hunger strike the week before-hand, however nothing was certain, or set in stone with regard to the actual date and time of the scheduled event outside of the strike organizers. Willing participants were advised not to exit their cells for either breakfast or dinner services during the period of no less than 24 hours in advance of the strike. This tactic of putting people up on game solely on a need-to-know basis was done specifically with the purpose of minimizing leaks and to prevent information from reaching prison administrators' ears. The strike was originally intended to last for a minimum of 72 hours. This was because it takes a minimum of 72 hours before CDCR officials in Sacramento must be notified by prison officials of the ongoing hunger strike. Only then are prison doctors required by Title 15 regulations to begin the tedious and time consuming work of weighing strike participants and giving medical exams.

Building 3 on facility C was the first housing unit to initiate the protest as they are the first building to walk to chow. Other buildings were instructed to immediately follow suit whether they then walked to chow or got cell-fed. The quiet was eerie as well as defiantly deafening as cell after cell refused to step out for feeding. Only then did it become immediately apparent to the pigs that something was up. The yard was immediately put on lockdown as pigs scrambled to find out exactly what was happening. All so-called MAC reps(2) were ordered to report to the facility program office in order to speak to the Sergeant, Lieutenant and Captain.

Conditions Leading to Strike

As I stated during the beginning of this article, this hunger strike was the result of C-facilities' administrators, the prison warden, and quite possibly Sacramento officials' direct refusal to allot prisoners here the required minimum of hours per Title 15 regulations of physical exercise outside of our cells. The California Code of Regulations explicitly states that inmates who are to be considered security threats to their institution are to be allotted no less than one hour a day, five days a week (Monday thru Friday) of physical exercise outside of their cells. This info can be found in CDCR Title 15, 3322, Length of Confinement (a), 3331 conditions of detention (h) avid 3343 Conditions of Segregated Housing (h). The above mentioned regulations are designated for prisoners being forced to participate in said programs. However, C-facility prisoners at CSP-LAC are not considered safety and security threats, but instead are designated general population per the Title 15. Therefore the question to be begged here is, why are general population prisoners being subjected to such long and concurrent periods of time inside of our cells without meaningful physical exercise? General population prisoners must be given a minimum of ten hours of P.E. outside of our cells Mon - Fri according to old Title 15 regulations, however the CDCR has conveniently wiped this regulation from the Title 15 in order to get away with violating constitutionally upheld decisions.

This is a question which has continually been asked at this gulag since this yard officially opened back in September of 2009. Pigs and officials alike have stated that the yard program will improve once the yard officially opens, or that they're currently "working on it". However, the real reason that there is no yard here is quite simply that they just don't want to run it. Period.

Back in January 25, 2009, then-Captain Fortson released an ill-devised memo in an attempt to quell the prison masses' demands for yard. In this memo Fortson stated that "no more than 100 IM's on each side (as per safety ratio) and that all buildings will have yard 2x per week."

First of all, there is no way in hell that they can adequately provide physical exercise for all 1000+ prisoners when the yard is kept to a maximum capacity of 100 prisoners at a time, or 200 prisoners even, as of late. Also, with all the bullshit that goes on around here as well as the purposely delayed and cancellations of program, it is simply impossible for prisoners to receive anywhere near the ten hour minimum or five hour minimum for that matter of required physical exercise outside of our cells. This isn't rocket science people, and it isn't incompetence either. It is an arbitrary application of the safety & security doctrine. Why? Because in his ill-devised memo which will come back to bite CSP-LAC officials in the ass, the good Captain does not elaborate on this "safety ratio." And why does he not? Because there is no safety ratio, only a failed attempt to dupe the prisoners into buying the illegitimacy of their own oppression.

Finally, prisoners here got tired of patiently waiting to be given the right to exit their cells for meaningful physical exercise, so we decided to do something about it.

How it Went Down

Now, according to the so-called MAC reps who met with the facility heads immediately following the hunger strike, the administration stated that we'd certainly "gotten their attention." They were then given the captain's "word" that he would look into the issues and that things would change. However, if the MAC reps wanted the honor of an audience with the warden then they'd have to instruct all prisoners participating in the strike to give up the struggle. This was complete and total bullshit as it was obvious to anyone with half a brain that the pigs only wanted us to break it down and stop striking. This point was made very clear by a tiny minority within the organizers and insiders. They advised the MAC reps not to break it down, but instead to go around and tell everybody to keep striking. Unfortunately, perhaps out of real stupidity or just plain cowardice, the Executive Body MAC reps capitulated and went around telling people to end the hunger strike after a measly six and a half hours. Any continued act of resistance to the administration in the form of the hunger strike, or any other means by isolated individuals would've been futile as the vast majority of the population had already ceased. The damage was done.

Among the organizers and insiders there was a small minority who were against this mass action at this time, not only because they didn't believe that the objective conditions were entirely conducive for such measures as today's prisoner is programed to be docile and take a lot of crap, but also because they foresaw precisely the type of capitulation that ended up taking place. Furthermore, this small minority gathered that if indeed some organizers were hell-bent on kicking off this hunger strike then they might as well go one step further and instead call for a mass sit down and follow it with a hunger strike, as this would cause more havoc and confusion to the pigs, plus, they'd have to immediately justify their secondary response to Sacramento, as opposed to the 72 hour hunger strike requirement. It is the small minority's belief that this would have been the correct approach. Unfortunately, the majority of the organizers won out with their idea. Disappointed but still determined to at the very least help organize the strike, solely for solidarity purposes, the small minority encouraged others to join in. Of course there is much more to this story, but due to security purposes it will remain confidential.

In the end as a result of the strike we are now on lockdown. Also, the Executive Body MAC reps were almost all sent to the hole for suspicion of being the organizers and leaders of the strike. This is of course ridiculous as we all know that MAC really stands for Man-Against-Convict. And so now we await to see what happens in light of these events. Will the administration keep their word? Highly unlikely. While the Executive Body rots in the hole, the real leadership is still on the loose in the population, like fish blending into the sea. Prison administrators are confused if they believe they can organize and keep us in check in a top down structure with their MAC reps. Instead we organize from the bottom up, from the masses to the masses.

If nothing else readers of this article should take away one thing, there are no rights, only power struggles.

Notes:
(1) The one hour per day outside the cell is typically spent as follows: 15-20 minutes allotted to and from the dining hall for AM feeding, 15-20 minutes to and from the dining hall for PM feeding with the occasional five or ten minute delay, alarms, etc. In fact, when not on lockdown or "modified program" we in the general population receive an average of 2-3 hours of meaningful P.E. with recreational and exercise equipment, once a week.
(2)MAC Rep stands for "Mens Advisory Council." These MAC reps are voted into their positions by the population and are expected to voice prisoners concerns to administration. However, their real purpose as far as the administration is concerned is to keep the population under firm control and subservient.

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