Prisoners Report on Conditions in

Pelican Bay State Prison - California

Can you do layout? Help out by laying out pamphlets and study packs to mail to prisoners. help out

www.prisoncensorship.info is a media institution run by the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons. Here we collect and publicize reports of conditions behind the bars in U.$. prisons. Information about these incidents rarely makes it out of the prison, and when it does it is extremely rare that the reports are taken seriously and published. This historical record is important for documenting patterns of abuse, and also for informing people on the streets about what goes on behind the bars.

We hope this information will inspire people to take action and join the fight against the criminal injustice system. While we may not be able to immediately impact this particular instance of abuse, we can work to fundamentally change the system that permits and perpetuates it. The criminal injustice system is intimately tied up with imperialism, and serves as a tool of social control on the homeland, particularly targeting oppressed nations.

[Campaigns] [Organizing] [United Front] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 22]
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No Real Change, Hunger Strike Continues

Pelican Bay Food Strike - Isolation Sucks

On September 26, prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison will resume their indefinite hunger strike after 2 months of hiatus, during which they negotiated with the state. The strike began on July 1, sweeping across California, and was put on hold by organizers on July 21, after 3 full weeks of fasting. Multiple prisoner negotiators from Pelican Bay have confirmed that Scott Kernan of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) promised the 5 demands would be met, but that they needed 2 to 3 weeks to comply. That window of time has long since passed, and comrades are gearing up for what promises to be a longer stretch with no food.

In a statement from one strike leader announcing the September 26 restart, he stated:

I appreciate the time and love you all have given to us and you can believe that we will not yield until justice is achieved. We went into this trying to save lives, if possible, but we see now that there will have to be casualties on our side and we all know that power concedes to no one without demands.(1)

On August 23, state legislator Tom Ammiano headed a hearing on conditions in California's SHUs and on the validation process that gets people placed there. It echoed previous hearings that did not stop torture in the SHU. He promised he would push the issue further than it has gone in the past, but like the reforms given by the CDCR, this is too little too late as comrades who have faced decades in these torture cells take this struggle to the next level.

The Truth About the Negotiations

The strike didn't end over some beanies and calendars. Letters that came from the leaders after the message was sent that the strike ended were very clear that they were only giving the state time to meet their demands before they would restart the food strike. Those in D-Corridor and other SHU prisoners aren't done yet.

The initial story that came out of limited communications between the inside and outside negotiation teams was that the strike had ended, period, in return for beanies, calendars, proctored exams and a promise to investigate the major complaints of the strikers. The extreme limits put on the outside negotiation team, who were only granted access to the strikers on a couple brief occasions, allowed the state to control how the negotiations were portrayed. As a result, many across the state were let down by the misleading reports that first came out, because the strikers had pledged to strike until all 5 demands were met.

It has since come to light that Scott Kernan circulated a fake version of the five demands,(2) and that prisoners received notices that they had broken the rules by organizing against the abuse that they face and that they will face "progressive discipline" in the future for similar actions. The latter contradicts CDCR Spokeswoman Terry Thorton who stated on record, "There are no punitive measures for inmates refusing to eat."(3) In typical repressive fashion, the state responds to complaints of torture committed by state employees with outlawing any form of protest by the victims. It just goes to show that their efforts to maintain "security" have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with social control.

It's also important to note that the best public offer coming from the state right now is that they might move away from gang affiliation charges and focus on actual rule violations as justification for throwing someone into a torture chamber. Within U.$. prisons the First Amendment is generally ignored and any form of expression or organizing not sanctioned by the state is considered against the rules. But even this reform has been on the table for a long time with no action. According to the 2004 Castillo court decision, which took 8 years to litigate, the CDCR committed to providing logical justification that evidence used to put someone into SHU was criminal in nature. Yet nothing has changed, as the lead attorney on the case, Charles Carbone, asserted at the August 23 hearing.

As Carbone pointed out, with exasperation, we already went through the whole song and dance of having hearings around the SHU with Senator Gloria Romero and the United Front to Abolish the SHU years ago. Another testifier at this year's hearing made testimony in the 70s and 80s about the detrimental effects of isolation, but they still went on to build Pelican Bay State Prison. It is clear that the state sees the SHU as an important tool of social control and cares nothing for the destruction they cause to oppressed people.

Scott Kernan was very clear at the hearing that the CDCR would continue with the debriefing process, using confidential informants, and that they will not allow prisoners to appeal secret evidence used against them. He also said gang validations will likely continue to bring indeterminate SHU sentences. Kernan did not stick around for the public comments, and remaining CDCR staff were not given an opportunity to respond when a public commenter asked when the 5 demands would be put down in writing, after Kernan promised it would only take 2 to 3 weeks.

Lessons in Organizing

Through this process we are all learning how to organize in our conditions and what limits we face.

One of the successes of the California hunger strike was the demonstration of United Front to the masses, which inspired many to the possibilities of prison-based organizing. We do not know the details of how groups coordinated on the inside around the strike, but we do know that many groups would not be willing to sacrifice their independence to others, and yet they worked together. This example should be followed by those on the outside. We need to recognize the strength that comes in uniting all who can be united at any given time on the most pressing issues that we face. Coalition organizing strategies have held back support by not allowing a diversity of voices to come out in unity in support of the hunger strike.

Having outside pressure during a food strike is crucial to ensuring that the state just does not let prisoners die, as they are more than willing to do if there isn't too much noise about it. Outside organizations also played an important role in spreading word about the hunger strike that was initiated by some of the most isolated people in the whole state. But, ultimately, the state controls our communication with prisoners. Despite all the work put in by the coalition to develop an outside negotiation team, the only role the state allowed them to play was to announce when the strike had ended and ensure that everyone knew to stop. The state realized that a memo from the CDCR was not going to be convincing. Other than this, the negotiation team was not allowed any access to the prisoner negotiators.

In ULK 21, we made it sound like the strike was over for beanies, calendars and proctors and some empty promises of change. This was the information coming from the outside negotiating team and the best information anyone seemed to have. Frustration with the outcome immediately started coming in and we fear that disillusionment may have followed. But this is what the SHU is designed for. This is why SHU inmates can't call people on the outside. This is why the press is not allowed in California prisons. Misinformation would be much harder to spread otherwise. So overcoming these barriers is part of what we need to learn here.

We need to learn to build protracted and sustainable battles. There are no quick fixes, and prisoners can't rely on the mainstream press or outside organizations to come in and rescue them. Recently, Pelican Bay censored MIM(Prisons)'s study pack on organizational structure. They recognize the importance of such information for prisoners to really get organized and exert their rights. As much as they want to label us a "security threat group" for doing it, MIM(Prisons) continues to struggle for our right to support prison-based organizing. For it is the prisoners who have the drive and determination to make the changes that need to be made to end this oppressive system.

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[Campaigns] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 22]
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La Huelga Continuá el 26 de Septiembre

El 26 de septiembre, los presos en Pelican Bay State Prison volverá a su huelga de hambre indefinida después de 2 meses de receso, durante el cual negoció con el Estado. La huelga se inició el 1 de julio, barriendo a través de California, y se dejó en suspenso por los organizadores el 21 de julio. Negociadores de presos múltiples de Pelican Bay han confirmado que Scott Kernan del Departamento de Correcciones y Rehabilitación de California (CDCR) prometió que las 5 demandas serían satisfechas, pero que necestiban 2-3 semanas par cumplir. Esta ventana de tiempo ha pasado hace tiempo, y los compañeros se están preparando para lo que promete ser un tramo más largo sin comida.

En el 23 de agosto, el legislador Tom Ammiano encabezó una audiencia sobre las condiciones de los SHU de California y el proceso de la validación que se coloca la gente allá. Se hizo un eco de audiencias previas que no paró la tortura en el SHU, pero prometió que empujara el tema más que había ido en el pasado.

La huelga no terminó sobre algunos gorritos y calendarios. Las cartas que vinieron de los líderes después de la mensaje que la huelga terminó eran muy claras que sólo daban el estado tiempo para cumplir con sus demandas antes de que recomenzarían la huelga de hambre.

Necesitamos aprender construir las batallas prolongadas y sostenibles. No hay ningunos soluciones rápidos, y los presos no pueden fiar en la prensa y las organizaciones ajenos para salvarles. Recientemente, Pelican Bay censuró el paquete de estudiar de MIM(Prisons) sobre la estructura organizacional. Reconocen la importancia de tal información para los preso realmente organizarse y ejercer sus derechos. Por tanto que quieren clasificarnos como un grupo de amenaza a la seguridad por hacerlo, MIM(Prisons) continua luchar por nuestro derecho a apoyar a la organización basada en la prisión. Porque son los presos que tienen la motivación y la determinación hacer los cambios que deben hacerse para terminar este sistema opresivo.

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[Campaigns] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 22]
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Still Waiting for Promised Changes from Strike

And so we begin a trickle of improvements here in SHU. A couple of weeks ago we received a memorandum stating we can now purchase sweatshirts, sweatpants and shorts starting immediately. Also prisoners go to committee every six months and so on our next committee if we have gone one year without a writeup we can be approved to purchase colored pens, pastels, art paper and be able to take one photo a year. They have also placed a few different items on the canteen list.

These changes may seem trivial, and in a way they are, but I also see the impact they will have on prisoners mentally. I for one am an artist and I sit here thinking of the art I can create, the revolutionary art I can do with colored pens. I also understand what a photo will mean to my loved ones, yet all of this stuff is really superficial.

The demand with the most meat is that of dismantling the debriefing process, which, according to CDCR officials, is still being "looked at." Even if the other four demands are granted, it is not enough, as we would not be asking for art paper and beanies, had it not been for the Gestapo-like policy of debriefing. If the debriefing process were not in existence the majority of prisoners would not be validated as gang members and associates and the SHU would not exist as we currently know it!

The world has seen the unmasked villain and so the state of California got a nudge to make this 'problem' disappear. They look for what they can do to appease the public and the world, pacifying the prison population, while at the same time maintaining the stranglehold on the imprisoned oppressed nations and keeping the revolutionary prisoners sealed off and isolated from the prison masses out in general populations of other prisons. This is seen in their granting of other demands and not touching their sacred cow - the debriefing process.

I don't see prisoners (especially those in SHU) accepting to spend life in SHU with the debriefing process as it is even if the state gives us photos. Many prisoners do not even have any money on our books to buy sweats or pastels! Most don't have anybody to even send a photo to so what good is it to the indigent prisoner? This decision to grant some demands is devious in its agenda. To properly analyze this "development" we need to look at who this will benefit?

There are in prisons the haves and the have nots, we all know both segments. In prison parasitism is magnified a hundred times. There are conscious or more progressive prisoners who look out for the less fortunate prisoner no matter who it is, and there are others who will only talk to those who have things. The state officials understand this and have employed a means of divide and conquer. On the one hand you have prisoners who will benefit from these crumbs and will be satisfied with the crumbs, and then you have the have nots who see no improvement along with the conscious prisoner who understands that conditions of the SHU, i.e. no photos, no color pens, art supplies, etc, are "symptoms" of the problem but the main problem lies in the SHU itself! Because once you take the SHU out of the picture, or even the debriefing process, all the 'symptoms' such as lack of beanies and sunlight go away. The state understands this and after we gained world attention they gave in and gave us these crumbs but did not give in to the most important demand around the debriefing process.

This effort laid a foundation and opened up contacts for many prisoners and showed the power that comes from such resistance. The footprint has been set and so I'm sure that path will not be forgotten, time will tell if all the demands are met or not.

Real change will not come so long as the imperialists continue their rule. Only when socialism reaches these shores will we see SHU conditions abolished. We can protest today for these abuses and tomorrow new repressive shoots will sprout up and we will be protesting those and on and on. Yet these battles are essential as learning experience and uplifting the political consciousness of prisoners, as well as to develop a current of mutual respect and support between prisoners and activists out in public society, while bringing an even stronger United Front for future efforts. To many so-called activists, prisoners are the last people on their mind, and sadly some don't care what happens to prisoners or care that prisoners are tortured by Amerika. Yet when prisoners begin to struggle and show their humynity it brings many to the prisoners' plight who have previously stood on the sidelines when it came to prisoners' struggles. So as of now the most important of the strike demands, the dismantling of the debriefing process, is still up in the air. So prisoners learn from past efforts while grappling about the future, as we have no choice but to keep struggling against this torture.

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[Control Units] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California]
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Running Out of Space for Falsely Validated SHU Prisoners

I am currently serving an indeterminate SHU term here at the infamous Pelican Bay. All the SHU space is full here yet they continue to send prisoners to their torture compound. To make room for the growing number of (unjustly) validated prisoners B-4 mainline has been manipulated to accommodate them. And B-5 A section now houses Administrative Segregation(ASU) overflow.

This leaves me and others like me (with long SHU terms) to merely exist in ASU, a concrete soul snatcha. The powers that be will tell some of us that we're property housed due to lack of bed space. According to their rules SHU prisoners are allowed one appliance. Everyone knows TVs can be poisonous but they can come in handy during situations like this. Never the less death island (ASU) does not issue out appliances (per chapter 5, article 43 ASU IMs are allowed an appliance). Pelican Bay ASU is one of the last ASUs not to be modified to support electric appliances. Without hesitation I continue to put pen to paper in an attempt to slay Goliath by making him play by house rules.

The saga continues here at Skeleton Bay where double standards are eroding the conditions of professionalism amongst staff, which is worn on the population's face. Prisoners are eroding mentally, physically and spiritually from the elements of sucka punch justice applied by the powers that be. It is unexplainable to me why we all are not fifty pounds lighter. When the strike was announced, all of us here in ASU had all the motivation in the world to go in hard on that. Due to lack of communication, the foundation of structure and organization were unapproachable, resulting in the scrambling for excuses and loopholes not to stand up and be accounted for.

MIM(Prisons), asante for allowing me the time and space to exhale. By the way I would also like to congratulate you on your coverage and support of the hunger strike. Also, what you're doing with the Peace Summit is active! I'm working on something as we speak. It would be a shame if I didn't get in on that. Major props to MIM(Prisons), ULK, United Front and all the dedicated women and men at the MIM(Prisons) fam. I build on every issue of ULK then spread the wealth.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We have a few things to add to this useful account of the situation with SHU in Pelican Bay. First, we hope this comrade and others, who are stuck in their cells 24/7 make good use of their time and read and study! There is a lot that can be done. TVs should not be necessary if you have books and pen and paper. Let us know if you need something to study, and write articles about what's going on like this comrade did. Second, we need our comrades in this situation to start the educating of others now, so that next time there is a mass action in the prisons we can count on everyone to understand the importance of participating. Share Under Lock & Key, start study groups, and get organizing!

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[Campaigns] [Political Repression] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California]
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CDCR Lies About Punishing Hunger Strikers

"What you and I need to do is learn to forget our differences... We have a common oppressor, a common exploiter, and a common discriminator... Once we all realize that we have a common enemy, then we unite on the basis of what we have in common." - Malcolm X

It is a historical truth that repression breeds resistance, which is why we prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison's (PBSP) Security Housing Units (SHUs) and Communications Management Units (CMUs) took the initiative to come together, and go on a hunger strike in order to say to our oppressors that "20-plus years of state-sponsored torture and persecution in which our human rights have been routinely violated, for no other reason than to keep us prisoners confined in their mad scientist-like torture chambers as alleged prison gang members is enough!!!"

But as we all know, repression evolves and develops in cycles. So on 2 August 2011 PBSP and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officials threatened all hunger strike participants with punitive retaliatory measures, for the sole act of our hunger strike participation. This happened in spite of the fact that we have a human right to peacefully protest any unjust laws, as warranted to us in the First Amendment of the U.$. Constitution. An unjust law is no law at all! The unjust laws in this case are the ones legalizing the indefinite housing of us prisoners in solitary confinement (SHU/CMU).

We prisoners were issued the following CDC 128-B Chrono that states:

The California Code of Regulations, Title 15, identifies that leading and/or participating in a strike, disturbance, or work stoppage is a violation of the Director's rules. On or about July 1, 2011 you were identified as having participated in a statewide hunger strike event along with in excess of 6000 other CDCR inmates in support of perceived overly harsh SHU housing issues originating from within the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison. This activity created a non-violent significant disruption to institutional healthcare services and Department of Corrections programming and operations throughout the state, which included Pelican Bay State Prison, where you were assigned during your participation in this event. Your behavior and actions were out of compliance with the Director's rules, and this documentation is intended to record your actions; and advise that progressive discipline will be taken in the future for any reoccurrence of this type of behavior. Date: 08/02/11. From: K. Welch, Correctional Officer.

However, this CDC 128-B Chrono is contradicted by an article that appeared in The Daily Triplicate newspaper during the month of June 2011, that was entitled "Pelican Bay Hunger Strike in the Offing. Some Inmates May Stop Eating Friday" by Anthony Skeens. Within the article, CDCR Spokeswoman Terry Thorton stated, "There are no punitive measures for inmates refusing to eat."(1) The struggle continues!

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[Education] [Campaigns] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California]
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PBSP Hunger Strike Update - Education Needed

Time is Knowledge

To update you on the hunger strike issue, the progress of negotiations are not complete as far as what we hope in regards to the prisoncrats demonstrating a sense of humanity. The struggle is never about seeking more than necessary. It's bad enough as it is that, for the most part, prisoners in the short corridor are already doing life sentences handed down by the courts. The opportunity to change this depressive life style will afford us the means and the will to reach out to the prison populace and help channel backwards thinking into more progressive and firm social-consciousness and to establish MIM study groups with the sole intent of elevating the level of consciousness.

The California prison system in many ways is behind the times in relation to other prison systems in this country. Being concerned about the materialistic aspects of life, subordinated to sub-survival rather than political consciousness. The coming together of the most oppressed, repressed and suppressed klass of prisoners has established a progressive precedent in hopes of changing the dynamics of the prison klass and all its ills. This is the real fear of the prisoncrats: social and political conscious! We cannot afford complacency, militants wither away like the wind. The struggle is a long haul and having the equipment is about fortitude.

The SHU is specifically assigned to minimize our effectiveness in reaching the bulk of the prison klass, no one should fear genuine and proper education, like Malcolm said: "it's the passport to the future."


MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade that the Pelican Bay Food Strike was a good step forward in establishing unity in struggle for the common goal of raising conditions of prisoners. We need to take advantage of this opening and stand firm in demands for change. The other vital piece to advancing unity among the oppressed imprisoned population is through ongoing education and political struggle. For it is through struggle and study that greater unity is reached. We need to be honest about where we agree and where we disagree, while focusing on how we can work together when we agree on important things. Then future actions will be even stronger and inspire the masses even more through unity in action. These are the two aspects of developing point 2 of the United Front for Peace in Prisons Statement of Principles.

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[Spanish] [Campaigns] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 22]
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CDCR da Palabrería, La Huelga se Extiende

Tres semanas dentro de la huelga, CDCR ha dado su repuesta oficial lo que se puede resumir, "La vamos a investigar." El 15 de Julio CDCR les hace una propuesta a los huelguistas de Pelican Bay que termine la huelga sin prometer cambios. Los presos rechazaron la oferta y continuaron con el hambre, que calificaron de "humo y espejos" y de "insultar". (1) Estas personas están dispuestos a morir por los derechos fundamentales que ha sido negado durante años, décadas, para muchos, y CDCR llega a la mesa con nada

Nuestras preguntas han recibido las mismas repuesta del Director sobre, "Operando en acuerdo completo de la ley . . . mientras proveyendo por el tratamiento humano y ético de todos los prisioneros." Aun más indignante, el Director afirma que CDCR proveen, "la capacidad de hacer programas con todo seguridad y participar en su rehabilitación." ¡La huelga está ocurriendo porque no hay programas ni rehabilitación!

Los que están en contacto con los huelguistas nos informan que algunos en Pelican Bay quien habían dejado el ayuno han regresado a la huelga en repuesta a la negligencia de CDCR. También hemos recibido palabra de 4 camaradas que están en el Instituto para Hombres de California en Chino que ellos acaban de comenzar una huelga de hambre en solidaridad después de recibir noticias desde MIM(Prisons).

Otros reportes recibidos recientemente incluyen uno en lo que United Struggle from Within organizó camaradas en Kern Valley State Prison por una huelga de hambre de 24 horas en solidaridad. En High Desert State Prison, donde los marranos servían doble porciones de comida para impedir una huelga, unos cuantos camaradas rehusaron la comida desde el primer de julio hasta el tercero. Secciones enteros de California State Prison - Corcoran todavía están de huelga y los médicos están viniendo regularmente para pesar los prisioneros.


notas:
1. California Prison Focus

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[Campaigns] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California]
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Pelican Bay Prisoners End Strike

California Prison Focus reported this evening (July 21, 2011) that CDCR claims that the hunger strike in Pelican Bay has ended are true. They report they stopped "in exchange for a major policy review of SHU housing conditions, gang validation process, and debriefing process." While our experience of reviews within the department are universally that nothing happens, the leaders of the strike have nonetheless achieved a great victory in uniting prisoners across California and beyond for the just demands of the oppressed. This is a struggle to learn from and build on.

Presumably prisoners at other prisons (such as Chino, Calipatria, Corcoran,
Tehachapi, Folsom, Vally State Prison for Women, San Quentin) are still on food strike unaware of the agreement.

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[Abuse] [Campaigns] [Control Units] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California]
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More Appeals Sent to CDCR, Protest in Sacramento

MIM(Prisons) sent another stack of letters in support of the prisoners on hunger strike across California to the so-called Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation with the cover letter below. There will also be a demonstration in support of the prisoners' demand outside of the CDCR office today:

Monday, July 18th
1-4PM
Demonstration outside CDCR Headquarters. 1515 S. St. in Sacramento, CA


Warden Greg Lewis

Pelican Bay State Prison

P.O. Box 7000

Crescent City, CA 95531-7000

18 July 2011

Dear Warden Lewis,

Two weeks ago we sent dozens of letters from residents of California who are concerned for the welfare of the prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison. As the conditions outlined by the prisoners have still not been addressed by the CDCR we are sending additional letters of support (see enclosed). We are all aware that the conditions of many prisoners are becoming critical and we urge you to take immediate action to remedy the conditions. The conditions addressed by the prisoners demands are in no way conducive to rehabilitation and no one should have to die for these basic requests.

We have also forwarded copies of these letters to CDCR Internal Affairs and CDCR Office of the Ombudsman.

Sincerely,
MIM Distributors

P.O. Box 40799

San Francisco, CA 94140

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[Campaigns] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 21]
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CDCR Gives Lipservice, Food Strike Spreads

Three weeks into the California Food Strike the CDCR has given it's official response, which can be summed up as "We'll look into it." On July 15, the CDCR made a proposal to the strikers at Pelican Bay to end the strike without promising any changes. The prisoners declined the offer and continued to fast, calling it "smoke and mirrors" and "insulting."(1) These guys are willing to die for basic rights they've been denied for years, decades for many, and CDCR comes to the table with nothing.

Our inquiries received similar canned responses from the Warden about "operating in full accordance to [all] law... while providing for the ethical, humane treatment of all prisoners." Even more outrageously, he claims they provide "the ability to safely program and actively participate in their rehabilitation." The strike is on because there are no programs or rehabilitation!

Those in close contact with the striking prisoners report that some in Pelican Bay who had stopped fasting have returned to the strike in response to the CDCR's negligence.(1) We've also received word from 4 comrades in the California Institution for Men in Chino that they have just begun a hunger strike in solidarity after getting news from MIM(Prisons).

Other recently received reports include that United Struggle from Within organized comrades in Kern Valley State Prison for a 24 hour food strike in solidarity. In High Desert State Prison, where the pigs were serving double the normal amount of food to prevent a hunger strike, a number of comrades didn't eat from July 1 thru 3rd. Whole sections of California State Prison - Corcoran are still on strike and doctors are coming in regularly to weigh the prisoners.

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