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Under Lock & Key

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Hunger Strike Report from PBSP

I am one of the hunger strike representatives for the "northern" Mexicans. I just read your Under Lock & Key 22 and thought it was well written and very informative. Included here is an update on our situation here.

On September 29, 15 of the representatives were moved from the SHU and placed in administrative segregation (Ad-Seg). We still have not received any paperwork explaining why. But the acting chief Deputy Warden Cook came through and told us that we're here because we've been "identified as leaders of the hunger strike." He also said that we'd be receiving some kind of "incident packet." I'm assuming this is a 115 rule violation report. This whole action, being placed in Ad-Seg, and the issuance of an incident packet, is in direct contradiction to CDCR spokeswoman Terry Thorton's statement: "there are no punitive measures for inmates refusing to eat." And we believe this is an act of retaliation for our peaceful protest.

Upon being rehoused, we were unable to bring any personal property with us. No addresses of family, friends or outside supporters, no personal hygiene, no legal material. (On October 6 we were issued some legal materials but not all of what everyone needed.) We were told that all our property was taken out of our SHU cells and stored in the SHU Property room where it is being searched.

Warden Lewis came through and told us that "as soon as you eat, I'll move you back to SHU." He also said, because we're on hunger strike we have "no program coming." That means no visits, no yard time, no law library and most likely no canteen. On the canteen, all of us ordered hygiene and stationary products, as we could not bring any with us. Some of us ordered beverages too (i.e. coffee, tea or coco) as we are on a solid food hunger strike only. While we do have access to a paging system with the law library where we can put in a request for a case or statue and they'll send it to us, we have no access to certain materials that are only available at the law library itself. Several of us have active cases and this puts us at a serious disadvantage.

The cells are really cold (not sure if this is from lack of food). I'm usually fully dressed with a t-shirt wrapped around my head and a beanie on top of that and a sheet or blanket wrapped around my shoulders. Maintenance came through to check the air blowing out of the vents and slowed them down some (they were blowing kind of hard), but it's still cold. Especially the outside wall. It's sapping much of my strength.

The design of this Ad-Seg makes it difficult to get the attention of the control officer. In fact, it states in the orientation packet "due to the physical design and distance within this building, the control officer may not hear you. It is recommended that you communicate with the floor officers, and utilize request for interview forms whenever possible." (Inmate Orientation Document, Administrative Segregation unit stand alone (ASU-1) Revised: Oct, 21, 2009) The cells have solid doors so it makes it difficult for us to hear a prisoner in the next cell. Our concern here is if someone falls out we may not be able to hear him. And, if we do, we may not be able to contact anyone for help. So, the question begs, if PBSP/CDCR are aware of this then why would they put us back here in our weakened condition?!

It took PBSP eight days to come and check our weight. According to CDCR policy dealing with hunger strikes, they were supposed to come and check our weight and vitals after 9 missed meals (3 days). (Health Care Services - Chapter 22). The reason why this is important, to have our weight checked as soon as possible, is because in most cases this becomes our starting point. Any weight we lost prior to being weighed (in my case, 18 pounds) may not be documented. CDCR can then manipulate these facts to make it appear like we haven't lost that much weight. Recently, a registered nurse told us that as of September 29th a new policy was implemented regarding "mass" hunger strikes. Three days after we started, none of us has seen it yet.

Recently we were informed that two of our primary attorneys assisting in the meditations with CDCR were banned from visiting us (Carol Strickman and Marilyn McMahon). CDCR is claiming they are under investigation for assisting in a "mass disturbance." No doubt they will be cleared of these accusations. It's just another way of CDCR flexing it's muscle to intimidate our outside supporters.

Post Script: On October 11 we did receive our canteen, hygiene and stationary products only, no beverages. [This was similar to the practice in Corcoran SHU where comrades were denied liquids and electrolytes.]

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