Today marks day 10 of the hunger/work strike - only a few of us in the entire cell block of 50+ men [in one of the Pelican Bay Security Housing Units] are still on hunger strike. Most went 7 days and a few went a couple of days more and now we are down to a few.
The prison has been telling people who go out to medical etc. that "everybody is eating." One person was told "All of the short corridor is eating" and this was on the 4th day. Everyone knew it was bullshit. Then today on Democracy Now! we heard that many here are still striking.
Today is the 10th day and the prison has still not weighed us, they said all protocol is out the window and they are now going by what Sacramento says. Even while we listened to Democracy Now! in the middle of the program on the hunger strike the signal was mysteriously interrupted and switched over to classical music for the best part of the show when the people were speaking on our behalf but the part where the CDCR spokesman slandered us was played just fine.
Our current treatment shows that we receive our treatment ultimately from the state, the prison is just the arm or tentacle but the state makes the decisions even in regards to prisoners who are in torture kamps from California to Guantanamo and beyond.
I have gone ten days so far on hunger strike and refused a total of 30 meals and I have not been weighed, nor have I had my vitals checked, no blood pressure check nothing! These maggots run around giggling and acting like this means nothing, pigs, nurses all these employees act the same. I have seen more concern over commercials for a dog pound.
All this tells me that in any future hunger strikes, here in Pelican Bay or anywhere in prisons, people must not set a 3 day or 1 week date as many will only do the bare minimum. One needs to always set it as go as long as you possibly can! Because the state does not understand anything else, we must deepen our commitment for justice! Nothing else will get us to the victory lane.
To: Sheriff David O. Livingston, Under Sheriff Michael V. Casten and All Martinez Detention Facility Command Staff, Deputies and Officials
From: Pretrial Detainees, Inmates, Prisoners and Civil Commitments housed in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) in D-Module at Martinez Detention Facility
PLEASE TAKE NOTICE: On Monday 8 July 2013, detainees housed in Ad-Seg will actively be taking part in the hunger strike being implemented statewide by prisoners, inmates, detainees (etc.) confined under unconstitutional conditions in California state prisons and jails.
Martinez Detention Facility (MDF) Ad-Seg detainees support the core and supplemental demands of our partners in Pelican Bay Prison Ad-Seg/SHU programs and we join them in opposition of their, and ALL, unconstitutional conditions of confinement in all California state prisons and jails.
MDF Ad-Seg detainees hereby also provide notice of our own 5 Core Demands to stop unconstitutional conditions of confinement blatantly enforced here at MDF.
CORE DEMAND 1
MDF Ad-Seg detainees demand Sheriff/Jail officials immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice, and unofficial policy of placing detainees in Ad-Seg without any due process. Some detainees have been held in Ad-Seg indefinitely (over 5 years) without any notice, hearing or due process required by Constitutional Law. If a detainee submits a request or grievance on the issue, they receive a response from classification only stating "you are housed appropriately."
CORE DEMAND 2
MDF Ad-Seg detainees demand Sheriff/Jail officials immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice and unofficial policy of locking detainees in filthy cells with no windows or light controls for 48 hours (or more) before being allowed out of our cell for 1 hour to shower, groom, use phone, exercise and inadequately attempt to clean our cells.
Detainees request that they be allowed out of their cells for at least 1 hour daily in the morning, afternoon or evening and also be allowed to shave daily as state regulations require.
Incorporated within this demand, detainees also seek a provision for a daily opportunity to clean their cells. Currently detainees are only allowed (every 48 hours or longer) a broom, dust pan, and a mop. They are not provided with disinfectant, toilet bowl cleaner, rags, or any other cleaning supplies to adequately clean cells. Detainees must also keep trash (from 6 meals) in their cells for 48 hours or more.
CORE DEMAND 3
MDF Ad-Seg detainees demand Sheriff/Jail officials immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice and unofficial policy of daily holding medical and mental health appointments at the detainees' cell doors which allows all other detainees to hear the confidential medical/mental health issues. This is in violation of the "Medical Act and Privacy Rights." Detainees also seek the equal protection of a "TRIAGE" phone line as other MDF detainees on other modules are provided.
CORE DEMAND 4
MDF Ad-Seg detainees demand Sheriff/Jail officials immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice and unofficial policy of improperly housing inmates with mental health issues among the non-mental-health-status Ad-Seg detainees. Currently all Ad-Seg detainees are subject to the behaviors, problems, actions and disorders of the mental health status Ad-Seg inmates which include:
Loud yelling/banging all night, keeping detainees awake.
Getting feces and urine thrown under detainees doors.
Delusional actions/comments against or towards detainees.
Spitting through detainee doors or on glass.
Feces, urine, debris etc. in shower, hot water pot, on floor
Breaking and/or destroying hair clippers/shavers, preventing other detainees from using for court, visits, etc.
CORE DEMAND 5
MDF Ad-Seg detainees demand Sheriff/Jail officials immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice and unofficial policy of denying all MDF detainees access to pens to submit legal work to the courts, nor copying provisions for our writs and other valid legal documents to the court. Also, there is no readily continuous access to a pencil sharpener which is often broken, preventing detainees from writing legal documents and/or sending letters to family and friends for weeks.
There are many more unconstitutional conditions of confinement here at MDF. Those are 5 of the most egregious which we present as issues. Detainees will be hunger striking to correct, beginning Monday 8 July 2013.
Detainees peacefully and respectfully request that Contra Costa County Sheriff Office engage in swift and prompt actions to correct these unconstitutional conditions of confinement.
- MDF Hunger Strike Representative
MIM(Prisons) responds: While we support the hunger strike going on in Martinez Detention Facility, we would like to warn against creating unnecessary divisions between prisoners. We have reported in the past that mental health status is greatly exacerbated by the conditions of imprisonment generally, and especially of long-term isolation. Often times these prisoners are put in isolation (or even imprisoned in the first place) because of their disruptive behavior stemming from their mental illness, which does nothing to improve their condition.
Not only does imprisonment worsen the condition of those who already suffer from mental illness, but it can, and does, induce mental illness in people who would otherwise not suffer from delusions, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, sensitivity to light, noise, and touch, suicidal thoughts, etc. It is well documented,(1) and MIM(Prisons) has witnessed first hand, that the state uses long-term isolation as a tactic to specifically wreck the mental health of prisoners who are engaged in political work and organizing.
While we understand the impact that this disruptive behavior has on this contributor's ability to sleep and focus, we worry that a demand to send mentally ill prisoners "away" would lead to further isolation and deterioration.
Mental illness isn't caused by inadequacies within individuals, but is instead a symptom of all the irreconcilable contradictions in our society. Mental illness has systemic roots. Therefore, all short-term solutions to help people with mental illness in this country are just bandaids on gaping wounds. Reported in Serve the People: Observations on Medicine in the People's Republic of China, a book by Victor and Ruth Sidel, all mental health conditions in communist China under Mao were cured except for some extreme cases of schizophrenia, and those who had previously been suffering became productive members of society. Reasons for this turnaround include not only relief from stressors which had previously led people to mental illness — severe gender oppression, inability to survive or thrive, etc. — but also a flood of resources dedicated to mental health research and application which hadn't been possible before when society was organized based on the profit motive.
Around 1971, the Sidels wrote,
The methods currently being used to treat mental illness are collective help, self-reliance, drug therapy, acupuncture, "heart-to-heart talks," follow-up care, community ethos, productive labor, the teachings of Mao Tse-tung, and "revolutionary optimism."
They go on to explain in detail what each of these methods consists of.
Similar to how feudalism in pre-liberation China led many wimmin to suicide, it is clear that most mental illness is a direct result of our capitalist and imperialist society. The most stark example of this being the post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by at least 20% of U.$. veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars.(2) Hearing any account from a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, you can see that a large contributing factor to the PTSD is the unjust nature of these wars; killing for no reason. In People's War, the cause is just (self-defense) and the aim isn't to murder and intimidate, but to liberate the most oppressed and create a better world for everyone. That is quite a contrast.
We know it is difficult to organize in Ad-Seg, and we know it is especially difficult to organize with people who are in the middle of full-blown mental illness. But we still encourage our comrades to look for ways for prisoners to come together against their common enemy and to fight on behalf of the common good of all prisoners and oppressed people generally. A more progressive demand than number 4 above would be an end to solitary confinement for all prisoners. For more on our perspective on mental health, see Under Lock & Key 15 or MIM Theory 9: Psychology & Imperialism.
The last week has seen unprecedented participation in the campaign to end torture in the form of long-term isolation in U.$. prisons. California is ground zero, where the state has reported at least 30,000 (20% of the prison population) in two-thirds of the state's prisons have participated in the strike and over 12,400 refused 9 consecutive meals. They said 2,300 skipped work or prison classes on July 8.(1) While we don't have much info on actions in other states, solidarity statements have been circulating from prisoners around the country. Meanwhile, street activism in the urban centers of the state have been hard to avoid, as have reports on Pacifica radio. Public officials, religious leaders, Palestinian political prisoners(2), a labor union and many humyn rights groups have championed the cause. To mark week 2, activists are trying to get 30,000 on the outside to call governor Jerry Brown to demand that California prisons abide by international law and stop this brutal treatment of prisoners.
Not everyone is in support of the strike. In typical pig fashion, Amerikkkans are flooding mainstream reporting of the strike with comments condemning the prisoners to suffer and die. One comrade in the Pelican Bay State Prison Short Corridor, where the thrust for recent resistance originated, reported guards saying,
"The bosses are redirecting us because of y'all's hunger strike and work stoppage and making us stay extra hours, so you guys have nothing coming!"(3)
The official word from CDCR is similarly discouraging. In an interview, spokespersyn Terry Thornton asserted that the CDCR does not believe that they are using solitary confinement. This conflicts with our surveys of prisoners, who report over 14,000 being held in conditions of long-term isolation in California. When asked about the debriefing process Thornton dis-ingeniously asserted that "none of these units are used for punishment." The CDCR also feels that "these reforms [the step down program] address every single demand made in 2011."(4) It seems the CDCR is the only entity to believe such nonsense.
Below are some other early reports we've received so far as we are going to print.
From a statement from another Pelican Bay comrade:
...As I prepare for this peaceful protest I know that I am forced to deprive my body of sustenance and endure possible harm, but this is necessary. It is as necessary as someone anywhere in the Third World who steps on the battlefield in order to fight the super parasite. This persyn does this because if this persyn don't do it no one else will. Yes there is support out in society from so many who see our oppression as the oppression of many throughout the world who stand with us, but any sort of change will ultimately come from prisoners ourselves who must raise awareness to the shameful conditions we face...
and more recently,
Today is the third day of the strike and everyone in my pod are participating for various different reasons. The morale and spirts are strong, i feel a little light-headed but i'm as determined asever and will continue. From what we gather we will start getting weighed in the next couple of days and we also expect our property to be inventoried. We hear on the loud speaker about "staff training" so e expect harrassment. Today we were asked, "Do you have food? Are you willing to relinquish it?" and told, "If it's found tomorrow you will not be counted as being on a hunger strike no more."
San Quentin update:
The San Quentin death row SHU (or Adjustment Center) always has it's 102 cells filled and there is always a higher percentage of Blacks and Latinos than whites or other nationalities. At least 25 are on hunger strike. We are filing group appeals. I for one will not be giving in to the pigs no matter what, and thank you for all the help.
from Corcoran State Prison:
I am participating in the ongoing demonstration with full intentions of ending this extreme corrupt treatment that we are constantly subjected to.
There are many around me who plan on making our voices heard. There is word of COs and medical staff who intend to disregard the proper procedure. That and the health of my associates is what I intend on recording step by step, making it public.
This struggle is for just cause and is intended to bring our humanitarian needs up to standard. We all know the system is blind to righteous modernism and will continue to end our lives as quick as it is to step on a bug. We must unite to bring back peace and order.
I submit this with the utmost admiration and respect, we look forward to all input and assistance.
Folsom State Prison:
Everyone who's aware of New and Old Folsom's history would be aware of the fact that there was once a time when the men behind these walls would stand together in solidarity if there was an occasion we were experiencing a common transgression brought on by prison administration. That era in solidarity has been dead for some time at New Folsom, but on July 8, 2013, it was as if that moment finally arrived. All affiliates, and races, once again at New Folsom on every yard, and every building, stood together in solidarity for a common cause! All prisoners at New Folsom once again joined together July 8 of this year to begin the "2013 Hunger/Work strike", all except for the prisoners who never stood for nothing a day in their life. Prisoners everywhere should only hope that this new change will be the beginning of a new era at a once vibrant, political shifting institution, and no matter what, July 8, 2013 will be remembered in history as "The Rise Again of a Once Political Empire."
Day 1 at Pleasant Valley State Prison:
I want to report that over here on A-yard at Pleasant Valley there is only one participant, me. And from what I'm finding out through the channels is that there is a good handful more doing their thing on the other yards. I don't know exact count, but B yard, I'm told, has about 7 or 8.
We are SNY. And I want to express to the comrades that this classification carries no weight or import when it comes to these acts of unity. One sergeant came to my door this morning and asked me why I was participating. After I told him he said "But you're SNY - that's active stuff going on." He even stated that he's going to submit a psych referral because it's odd that out of all 5 housing units, there is only me. I'm not tooting my own horn, I just want it known that although we're few, nevertheless we are here!
I only have one request: that there be direct correspondence with the known participants of this action, updates so that we are constantly aware of any progress or changes or news that is of substance and import to what's happening.
This morning they walked me to the clinic to take my vitals, check my weight, etc. As we know I'll be going every day. Hopefully others will come aboard, especially those I've been "witnessing" to. Hopefully they'll see my example.
Day 4 at Calipatria State Prison:
This is the fourth day of our hunger strike/work stoppage here in Calipatria mainline. Almost the whole yard participated. A couple of prisoners in my building headed off to work to go and do the pigs' bidding and undermine our efforts. However, the show of solidarity between all races is encouraging, especially between Blacks and Mexicans.
As you know there's a long history of conflict between these two groups in California prisons. Only a week after I got to this prison, less than a year ago, there was a racial riot between the two. Now they're standing together in righteous protest.
Before this began, CDCR officials started circulating their threats by way of an "Advisement of Expectations" outlining their latest repressive policies which aim to expand validation, making it extremely easy to target just about any prisoner for long-term isolation. When I read this document it was obvious that this was all an attempt to break our solidarity with prisoners in the SHU.
CDCR hopes to divide prisoners in the SHU by allowing some to escape those torture chambers while making it clear that it has no intention of even considering others for release. They also hoped to paralyze mainline prisoners with fear by letting us know that they can snatch any one of us off the line at any time and throw us in the SHU for the next five years. Needless to say, this hasn't worked. Our level of consciousness and commitment has been growing here in the mainline with every hunger strike.
MIM(Prisons) number one priority in supporting the current actions in California will be to provide regular updates to prisoners as we did in the previous waves of action. Meanwhile we encourage our outside readers and supporters to make phone calls, write letters and spread our articles on this important struggle.
9 July 2013 - Yesterday the third in a series of hunger strikes in California prisons began after months of preparation and many more months of attempts to negotiate with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to meet basic humyn rights. According to the CDCR, around 30,000 prisoners refused food on the first day, indicating this will likely be the largest show of unity in action that California prisoners have ever made. That's about 20% of the state prison population and is more than twice the number of people that the CDCR reported participating in the second round of the hunger strike in 2011, demonstrating the success of the last two years of campaigning around the mutual interests of prisoners in demanding humane conditions.
According to the LA Times:
Inmates in two-thirds of the state's 33 prisons, and at all four out-of-state private prisons, refused both breakfast and lunch on Monday, said corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton. In addition, 2,300 prisoners failed to go to work or attend their prison classes, either refusing or in some cases saying they were sick.(1)
We expect the numbers not going to work to increase, as a diversity of tactics was promoted depending on one's situation, with indefinite hunger strike being taken up by the most dedicated and most abused prisoners. While the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective has pledged to strike until their original five core demands are met, the last year has allowed prisoners to adapt the demands to address the most pressing concerns where they are at.
While we have no official reports yet, comrades in other states have also pledged to participate in the demonstration. We will post those reports as they come in.
We recently created a petition addressed to Governor Scott:
The families and friends of Florida prisoners petition for a state investigation of the Keefe commissary network contract with the FDOC. In this economy and in fairness, the people of Florida deserve a new contract that makes canteen prices more affordable or reasonable. (see www.tampabay.com/news/kickback/155046)
Keefe is one of the biggest if not the biggest prison and jail commissary vendors in the United States. Revenues from canteen operation for fiscal year 2009-2010 were $30,973,262. The prices prisoners are being charged are higher than prices for the same items sold in the free world. There are several vendors who bid for the FDOC contract who would offer a wider variety of available items at almost a 60% decrease of what Keefe presently charges. One has to "wonder" why were these other vendors not given the contract?
Keefe's sneak attack on snacks continue to prey on the families and friends of Florida prisoners who for the most part provides financial support to the prison population to spend on canteen. With the economy in recession it is doubtful prisoners families and friends are going to be able to spend more money.
Keefe, which is based out of St. Louis, MO, latest price increase has lead to more thefts, robberies and violence in Florida's prisons. Governor Scott, you can stop Keefe's price gouging with just one phone call, we urge you to be that champion of the fairness and justice that you promised all Floridians during your campaign by making that call.
CLASS="no-indent">MIM(Prisons) responds: We printed an article about Keefe back in 2009 with similar complaints from a prisoner in Pennsylvania. We don't hold out much hope that Governor Scott is going to turn his back on the capitalists to help out prisoners and their families, but the exposure of Keefe and education about the corruption in the criminal injustice system and its role in making lots of companies (and their employees) rich, is a valuable educational and organizing tool.
Also at issue here is the right to healthy and adequate food. Vending machine food is always going to more expensive and less nutritional. All pisoners should be provided with adequate, fresh food, so that supplementary snacks are a luxury.
In recent months the idea of developing a collective health campaign has been tossed around within United Struggle from Within in California. This was to build on and expand on the long-standing agreement to end hostilities by developing more peaceful activities that would help prisoners see each others' commonality. It also came in response to the proposed new Security Threat Group policies that greatly expand repression in California prisons and serve to isolate and divide.
"Exercise is another aspect that needs to be taken seriously by all revolutionaries, exercise is so important that the state has targeted it and labels it STG activity. They will validate you and send you to solitary confinement for decades for doing push ups with a comrade. This is how much they see exercise as a threat, because it strengthens us as humyn beings and it is a weapon we use to combat the effects of prison life. The state seeks to strip us of any forms of resistance, anything we draw strength from hinders their project of instilling a sense of helplessness in all prisoners so that we go along with their oppression and never dare to resist the oppressor.
As revolutionary prisoners we need to develop methods of exercise to keep our bodies in top shape. This helps us not only physically, but science tells us that there is a connection between our physical health and our mental health. Exercise prevents not only disease but also depression, stress, anxiety and anger. Our world in these dungeons is filled with all this negativity which harms us just like the bullets and batons even though we often cannot see this damage in its physical form but we react to it in negative ways, so exercise helps us keep this stuff in check. These emotions will not go away but exercise helps us better deal with them without them overpowering our lives.
A good exercise regime is from forty five minutes to an hour, this is usually done from four to six days a week. I have found burpies and calisthenics to be the most fulfilling. Our bodies need to sweat in order to flush out the toxins and many times push ups just won't do it. California prisons no longer have weights so in the holes and SHUs people mostly do burpies. This tradition, which many Cali prisoners are not aware of, came from George Jackson and his comrades who developed exercise regimes utilizing burpies and calisthenics. At the time, in the 60s and 70s, prisoners were not exercising in this way as these were military style exercise regimes. Comrade George was a step ahead in identifying the inter-connection between a strong body and mind. The early 80s saw Chicano prisoners from Northern Cali develop this same exercise regime, and the late 90s saw Chicano prisoners from Southern Cali along with white prisoners soon follow this tradition that started with Black prisoners. This is good that prisoners exercise, it is a positive thing, but now the state is using it against us so we must find ways to combat this.
One way to fight the STG labeling of exercise is for all prisoners to work out together. If all prisoners work out at once it can no longer be seen as STG activity. I believe this is a positive step forward for a united front, however I don't think the state will thus be prevented from labeling group exercise STG activity, just as all prisoners of all nationalities participate in hunger strikes yet it is still seen as STG activity. But prisoners working out together would also be an unprecedented step forward. Since most group exercise are done in the hole and most holes consist of cages side-by-side, I can see a future exercise regime consisting of each cage calling out an exercise, regardless of what nation or sub-group one belongs to, and everyone exercising together. In the SHU we can't see no one, as everyone is in an individual cell. Some people work out and some don't so this is a little more difficult. If you find yourself in a hole and people are in individual cages, one is free to jump in and participate with those exercising but the ideal is to have everyone participate. This is something to work on and begin discussing, by working out together it does not mean we are one car, it does not mean you're joining another nation or LO, it's simply exercise. If we can starve together why not sweat together?
Today's prisons are no longer like the prisons of our grandfathers, conditions have changed and we must find ways to change with these times. If we are to ever regain things like trailer visits for lifers, weights, parole dates for lifers, and all the rest, we must be more in sync. If we want the 'end to hostilities' to really last than we need to do more, we need to implement methods which reinforce such policies as an 'End to Hostilities' and group exercise involving all nationalities and subgroups reinforce this."
Some righteous comrades in Calipatria State Prison took up the task of developing exercise programs that included all prisoners. They ended up receiving rules violations, as one comrade reported:
"The correctional sergeant who wrote up the rules violation report doesn't even bother to check to see if we're all in fact 'Southern' Hispanics, she just makes a blanket accusation and the Disciplinary Hearing Officer who heard the rules violation report takes the sergeant's report at face value and finds us all guilty. We are appealing our write-ups, but this is what can happen if others follow the tactical advice given in the USW Health Campaign letter."
This is a fair warning, but this is true for anyone who tries to stand up for prisoners' rights from behind bars. Even doing so from the outside results in repression in the form of censorship, and occasionally worse. So we do not put forth these ideas lightly and this is just one tactic. But it is in line with our strategic goal, which is currently to develop peace between different groups within the prison populations. Without pushing towards that goal, conditions for prisoners will only continue to worsen.
The people oppressing others for exercising are state employees who are supposed to be accountable to the law. Every issue of Under Lock & Key contains just a few examples of the illegal and unjust things that they are doing. The potential for abuse in prisons is well-known and it is a struggle to hold the abusers accountable. Our struggle right now is often just to get these people to follow their own laws, which forbid torture and cruel and unusual punishment, and their own mandates which claim to promote rehabilitation.
It is our job as an independent advocate for prisoners of the United $tates to challenge the legitimacy and legality of new policies that restrict the rights of prisoners. With the current trajectory in the CDCR, it seems that anyone who isn't sitting in their room by themselves watching TV will soon be considered a security threat. This department of "Corrections and Rehabilitation" is more and more becoming an Orwellian nightmare. Despite what they may think, everything they say or do is not state-sanctioned. Of course, we also know that much of what they do that is state-sanctions still is not right in the eyes of the oppressed masses and all who believe in justice.
This controversy regarding exercise is just one petty example of what we are trying to prevent with the draft goals that MIM(Prisons) published leading up to the demonstrations in July. The final point of that list is:
"no punishment for affiliation with a gang, security threat group, or other organization - in other words a complete end to the gang validation system that punishes people (currently puts people in the SHU for an indeterminate amount of time) based on their affiliation and/or ideology without having broken any rules or laws"
The idea that exercising can be against the rules or laws is just plain unacceptable. The same is true for any action that a prisoner takes to improve the health of hself or others around h. We continue to promote these tactics of the USW Health Campaign as part of the larger effort to maintain the end to hostilities among groups of prisoners.
The end to hostilities is at the heart of this stage of our work. It is what we have been promoting with the United Front for Peace in Prisons, which was based in our assessment that the principal contradiction our movement faces today is internal to the prisoner population itself. It would be virtually impossible to progress without resolving that contradiction. At the same time, breaking down these barriers requires uniting around common concerns as prisoners in California have been doing for the last couple years. The effort for peace and the effort for humyn rights in prisons reinforce each other.
We've just received word from Pelican Bay affirming the plan to go without food or work until the five core demands are met. Many within Corcoran have asserted their plan to participate again. And San Quentin's Adjustment Center has organized their own list of demands and will be participating in full this time around. Some populations facing less harsh conditions are opting to just stop work until the demands are met. Last time many prisons participated to varying degrees, and we expect similar support this time around. But comrades should think strategically about where they are based. You probably know by now whether there is a base for indefinite striking where you are. Such a path should not be taken lightly. The prisoners in Guantanamo Bay have passed day 150 on their strike and they have not gotten anything from the state but force-feeding and abuse in response. While the response to a hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay is likely to be different from a response to a strike in California, any hunger strike will have to last a long time and gain a lot of public support to get the desired results.
Consider what results are possible where you are. Solidarity fasting for shorter periods can serve as agitational work to build unity and awareness. But we need to work on more long-term projects as well, like the health programs suggested here that can build solidarity in action at a basic level. It is not a crime to support each other in pursuing healthy lifestyles in a very unhealthy environment. And there are many other programs that can be developed around education, literacy and study groups and whatever other needs the people have where you are. Now is the time to do it, while spirits are rising and prisoners are looking for a way to be involved.
As always, let us know what is going on where you are. We will send you updates as we get information. So stay in touch and take care of each other.
Below is the statement from the four main representatives of the Short Corridor Collective as reported by the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition:
The principal prisoner representatives from the PBSP SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement does hereby present public notice that our nonviolent peaceful protest of our subjection to decades of indefinite state-sanctioned torture, via long term solitary confinement will resume on July 8, 2013, consisting of a hunger strike/work stoppage of indefinite duration until CDCR signs a legally binding agreement meeting our demands, the heart of which mandates an end to long-term solitary confinement (as well as additional major reforms). Our decision does not come lightly. For the past (2) years we've patiently kept an open dialogue with state officials, attempting to hold them to their promise to implement meaningful reforms, responsive to our demands. For the past seven months we have repeatedly pointed out CDCR's failure to honor their word — and we have explained in detail the ways in which they've acted in bad faith and what they need to do to avoid the resumption of our protest action.
On June 19, 2013, we participated in a mediation session ordered by the Judge in our class action lawsuit, which unfortunately did not result in CDCR officials agreeing to settle the case on acceptable terms. While the mediation process will likely continue, it is clear to us that we must be prepared to renew our political non-violent protest on July 8th to stop torture in the SHUs and Ad-Segs of CDCR.
Thus we are presently out of alternative options for achieving the long overdue reform to this system and, specifically, an end to state-sanctioned torture, and now we have to put our lives on the line via indefinite hunger strike to force CDCR to do what's right.
We are certain that we will prevail.... the only questions being: How many will die starvation-related deaths before state officials sign the agreement?
Death row prisoners in the Adjustment Center (AC) unit at San Quentin State Prison are organized and united in planning and executing a hunger strike this summer of 2013 to protest inhumane conditions of isolation and long-term confinement of prisoners in the AC. We are also protesting:
The lack of law library access, exercise and yard equipment
The unfair administration and classification committee practices
The controversial and unfair practice of using inmate informants, anonymous informants and confidential information to retain prisoners in the AC for years
The unlawful and under-the-table use of labeling a prisoner as an alleged prison gang member, associate or affiliate confirmation and documents (such as 1030s, 128 A/B, staff information) to hold them in the AC as "grade B" prisoners yet treating them as SHU/Ad-Seg Grade D prisoners for an indeterminate amount of time
The unlawful practice of group punishment tactics and lockdowns
The unlawful practice of "interviewing"/forced interrogation
The illegal use and excessive practice of property restriction or property control
The degrading practice and policy of "shower shoes only," stripping prisoners at yard in front of everyone, and not allowing prisoner to be fully dressed in state blues when going to law library
The denial of religious, hobby craft, library books and educational programs or materials
The unlawful practice of withholding, censoring, denying and returning prisoners' mail without notification or legitimate reasons to do so
The denial of contact visits, phone calls, participation in food charity drives, nutritional items, honoring medical chronos and legal materials when prisoners haven't done anything to merit exclusion
Lastly the excessive abuse of power and authority by the warden, his administration and staff to do as they wish with SHU/Ad-Seg prisoners in the AC.
In spite of the ongoing negotiations between the Pelican Bay Human Rights movement and top CDCR administrators, the San Quentin administration is resisting any attempt to improve the plight of death row prisoners housed in the AC. Ignoring Title 15, California's Code of Regulation for all California state prisoners, San Quentin top officials have concocted and enacted an exclusive code of regulations called the OP608 which mandates that death row prisoners are under the control of the Warden of San Quentin. It is this illegal and repressive code of regulations that AC death row prisoners are vigorously challenging as well.
The AC is a prison within a prison, housing 102 prisoners with over 90% of them being condemned prisoners. Many of us have been housed here since our arrival into the prison system as condemned men. The majority haven't had a disciplinary infraction, and those who have exceeded the time limitations triple the maximum set to be served for them. It's a punishment unit and a psychological torture dungeon. We hardly ever leave the unit unless it is to see a medical specialist. We eat and shit in our cells. We're kept confined to our cells 22-24 hours a day, only to come out to yard, which is held 3 times a week for 2-3 hours, showers, which are done 3 times a week, medical sick call, and visiting.
Visits are conducted behind a dirty plexiglass window, through a 25-year-old 2-way intercom that interferes with and shares everyone's conversations, leading everyone to shout over one another for an hour.
Prisoners here are constantly deprived, harassed, ridiculed, psychologically tortured and have our only form of communication (mail) withheld for weeks or months, both incoming and outgoing. Often times we will learn of the death/passing of a family member or friend 3 months after the fact, not allowing us to send our condolences or what we would like to have shared in our absence at their burials, causing our family and friends to worry about us, not allowing us to pay our last respects to our dearly departed. This treatment is used to intimidate and break a prisoner's spirit, in order to have us submit and fabricate information on fellow prisoners for their release from this torturous dungeon and gain better privileges.
Our hunger strike begins July 2013 in solidarity with the national strike this summer. Our demands are fair, reasonable, and create no serious threat to the safety and security of the AC. They are all within the power and authority of the San Quentin warden to order as immediate changes without delay. These changes will create a more positive and productive environment by ensuring that prisoners be treated fairly and with human dignity.
We ask you for your support as we place our health, bodies and lives on the line in order to bring about a positive change peacefully. None of us want to die, but due to our deteriorating circumstances, having been sentenced to death and now the administration unjustly sentencing us all to an unlawful indeterminate SHU/"grade B" program, we are already suffering psychologically torturous death in the AC. Their abuse of power and authority has left us with no alternative but to place what we value most at stake, our lives, for positive change and human dignity. We would truly appreciate and welcome your support. Your help will give us strength and will nourish our starving bodies.
Here's what you can do to support us. Write letters of support to the following addresses saying you support the Death Row Adjustment Center strikers and demand an end to the inhumane isolation and the depriving program. Ask that they honor our demands swiftly.
Warden San Quentin State Prison San Quentin, CA 94964
Internal Affairs CDCR 10111 Old Placerville Rd, Ste 2000 Sacramento, CA 95827
CDCR Office of the Ombudsman 1515 S Street, Room 311 South Sacramento, CA 95811
The California State Senate Research Team Attn: Senator Darrell Steinberg Room 205 State Capitol Sacramento, CA 94248
Tell them to do their job and file a motion to Judge Henderson to make sure the Inspector General and the prison medical overseer/monitor is here at SQSP from July 1 until the conclusion of the hunger strike. They should be here to make sure there's no abuse, that no medical records or weight scale tampering is conducted by medical or prison staff and no retaliation is conducted by the administration or any of the hunger strike participants.
Open letter to the Director of CDCR, the Warden of San Quentin Prison and the Captain of the Adjustment Center
San Quentin top officials have concocted and enacted an exclusive code of regulations called the IP 608 Condemned Manual, which mandates that Death Row prisoners are under the control of the warden of San Quentin Prison. Therefore, after years of the abuse of authority by Adjustment Center (A/C) committee members and unit staff and after years of filing 602s that fall on deaf ears here in the A/C, all the way up the chain of command to Sacramento, a collective group of Death Row prisoners in the A/C will be joining in the statewide non-violent, peaceful hunger strike in July 2013 to demand that the warden of San Quentin use his power of authority to bring about positive change to prisoners housed in the A/C SHU.
For years, Grade B A/C prisoners have been told Grade B is not a punishment; it's just a "program" different from Grade A. So the warden should be able to use his power of authority to order the following immediate changes without delay:
The warden should immediately implement a "behavior based program" that amends the current criteria that permit a condemned prisoner to be eligible for Grade A privileges and be removed from the punitive punishment of Grade B status, basing this program on a condemned prisoner's current good behavior and disciplinary free conduct regardless of a prisoner's alleged gang status or validation and eliminating the under-the-table and vague indeterminate status in the A/C. The warden must order the immediate release of A/C prisoners who are not validated as alleged gang members and associates and have remained disciplinary free for years.
The warden must order the A/C committee to stop the controversial and unfair classification practices of using illegal inmate informants and anonymous informants and the so-called roster list of names to label prisoners gang members and associates and to stop the illegal and vague "mandatory debriefing" and vague validation process. San Quentin officials must put in place a set of standards and safeguards to protect a prisoner's right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment
Any information used in A/C committee decisions must be first-hand information and must be corroborated by three different independent sources;
A/C committee must state on the record why such information is indicative of gang activity and state on the record what California laws are being broken;
Any information used against a prisoner must be provided to the prisoner and all copies of documents, such as 1030s and 128s, and debriefing reports placed in a prisoner's C-file must be immediately disclosed to the prisoner so he will have ample time and opportunity to contest and challenge any allegations in writing through administrative 602s and legal redress to confront his accuser or confidential source.
The warden must (a) order the end of the administrative segregation of condemned prisoners to segregated yards that have been designed to label a condemned prisoner unjustly, (b) order an end to the constant use of bogus confidential inmate informants and bogus 1030 disclosure forms to deny A/C prisoners access to Grade A status and access to the A/C group yards, and (c) order that all four group yards in the A/C be labeled "re-integrated yard 1, 2, 3 and 4" and remove the racist yard labels of "Southern/White and Northern/Black" that A/C staff and committee have used for decades to instigate racial division and segregation among prisoners of different races who would like to program and co-exist on a group yard together. Every A/C prisoner should be given group yard unless the prisoner chooses to stay in a walk-alone cage. The warden must order that all walk-alone cages have roof coverings like the cages in East Block and Carson Sections, and add a dip bar in each cage for exercise.
The warden should cease all group punishment tactics. Group punishments and lockdowns were designed for large-scale riots, not for alleged isolated incidents. The warden should cease the unlawful use of the interview/interrogation process and never allow the vicious attack and assault on prisoners by A/C staff just because a prisoner invokes his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and refuses to answer questions during an interview/interrogation. This illegal policy of forced interrogations makes no sense because if staff utilize chemical agents on a prisoner, which have proven to be lethal, and attack him and then drag the prisoner into an interview/interrogation room, he will say, "I have nothing to say," and take the Fifth. Or the prisoner might give a statement based on his fear and the fact he was brutally attacked, in which case the information would be deemed "given under duress and torture, therefore unreliable." So the use of violence on prisoners, particularly on prisoners of color, is just an excuse and a blatant act of the worst kind of torture and racially motivated retaliation. Also, the administration should cease passing out "interview questionnaires" to prisoners after an alleged isolated incident because the informants read these questionnaires and re-word them and use them as first-hand information when the informants did not get the information from a prisoner but directly from a prison official. Simply put, these forms describing the incident are only done so rat inmates can exploit these incidents for gain by giving staff bogus and false statements to be used on 1030 disclosure forms and be rewarded by obtaining Grade A and other privileges and favors.
The warden should order the end to the degrading policy of stripping out A/C prisoners outside during yard recall, violating Title 15, Section 3287(4)(8), which partly states that "all such inspections shall be conducted in a professional manner which avoids embarrassment or indignity to the inmate. Whenever possible, unclothed body inspections of inmates shall be conducted outside the view of others." Stripping out in the cold and rain is inhumane, and it's time for this policy to stop. The warden should allow A/C prisoners to wear tennis shoes or state shoes on all escorts, especially in the rain, to visits and medical escorts, and put an end to the "shower shoes only" policy and allow A/C prisoners to be fully dressed in state blues when going to the law library.
The warden should order that the third watch sergeant return the scheduling of A/C prisoners for SHU law library to the SHU law librarian clerk and start utilizing all available SHU law holding cells so Death Row prisoners can do important research at least three to four times a month. A lot of prisoners are being denied access to SHU law library on a regular basis. The third watch sergeant should be ordered by the warden to end the practice of putting dinner food on paper trays to sit on the bed in the cell while prisoners are at law library as this practice is unsanitary and eating cold food is unhealthy.
The warden should order the end of excessive use of property restrictions. No other CDCR prison in the state of California uses property restriction as a punishment and it's only done in extreme cases. Title 15 mandates no longer than 90 days. The excessive use of property restriction punishment in the A/C is based on nothing more than A/C committee members' abuse of power and authority and is never based on a prisoner's behavior.
The warden of San Quentin should use the power of his authority to expand A/C Grade B privileges for prisoners housed in the A/C through no fault of their own and who have remained disciplinary free for years.
Allow contact visits with family, friends and attorneys, or allow 2.5-hour non-contact visits in Booths A-l, A-2 and A-3 in the visiting room.
Allow two phone calls per month.
Allow hobby and educational programs for the A/C.
Allow more educational channels like the Discovery Channel, the History Channel and National Geographic.
Allow $110.00 canteen draw a month.
Allow four food packages a year or two food packages and two nutritional packages of vitamin supplements and protein meal supplements from approved vendors.
Allow A/C prisoners to participate in the food charity drives.
Allow 10-book limit in cell, not to include any legal or religious books.
Allow A/C prisoners to purchase white boxer underwear, T-shirts, socks and thermals from approved vendors at least four times a year (each quarter).
Allow clear headphones, non-clear earbuds and headphone extension for TVs and radios or leave speakers connected in TVs and radios.
Order the return of exercise equipment on the group yards, return the basketball court and the pull up bars, and add dip bars and a table and provide group yard activity items such as basketballs, handballs, board games and cards.
The warden should order that all medical chronos issued and approved by the chief medical doctor be honored and order all A/C staff not to interfere with the medical needs of prisoners. Custody staff should have no say-so in medical needs of prisoners. If the medical needs of a prisoner cannot be met in the A/C, then the prisoner should be housed in a unit where his medical needs can be accommodated. The A/C unit staff must not be permitted to impose unjust punishments upon prisoners who have a proven need for medical appliances. When it is deemed medically imperative for modified cuffs, staff puts the prisoner on leg restraints claiming "safety and security," when in fact it is an attempt to discourage prisoners from seeking medical appliances by punishing them with unnecessary, painful, degrading and excessive mechanical restraints.
Order the Institutional Gang Investigation (IGI) unit to stop the harassment of interfering with A/C prisoners' mail. Incoming mail has been denied and held by IGI under the excuse of "promoting gang activity" with no further explanation of exactly what constitutes "promoting gang activity"! Many times incoming mail takes anywhere from 20 to 40 days from the postmarked date on the letter to reach prisoners in the A/C. Legal mail has been taking far too long to reach A/C prisoners, and it should be passed out with regular mail call at 3 p.m. so that prisoners can have plenty of time to respond to their attorneys by the 9 p.m. mail pick-up.
All of these issues are fair and reasonable and create no serious threats to the safety and security of the A/C but can only create a more positive and productive environment in the A/C for prisoners who have been put in a punishment situation with no disciplinary write-ups for years. We ask that the warden of San Quentin and the captain of the A/C look into these issues as soon as possible.
Main A/C Representatives: Smokey Fuiava, E-35592, 2AC56; Richard Penunuri, T-06637, 3AC55; Billy Johnson, F-35047, 2AC51; Todd Givens, V-42482, 3AC52; Marco Antonio Topete, AK-7990, 1AC12; Cuitlatuac Rivera, T-35975, 2AC67 Body of Representatives: Bobby Lopez, K-76100,1AC16; Reynaldo Ayala, E-10000, 2AC59; James Trujeque, K-76701, 3AC13; Mike Lamb, G-30969, 2AC1; Hector Ayala, E-38703, 3AC4; Marty Drews, C-88058, 3AC2
First I got a response from the third level (Sacramento), J.D. Lozano (chief), saying they received my complaint. I had checked 3 boxes in the petition for: 1) screening out appeals to delay, 2) detaching documents and refusing to process 602 due to missing documents, and 3) using dishonesty to screen out 602s. In fact one 602 filed kept getting sent back for 3 months until I had to water it down!
A while later I was interviewed by a Lt. E. Noyce. Word is he was a former IGI (Institutional Gang Investigation). Well at first he asked me about the grievance petition: where did I get this "form" and did I make it. He had never seen it before so it astounded him that a prisoner could get something like this. After this he went on a tirade saying the people who sent me this are making money and I should have sent this petition to the institution appeal coordinator instead of Internal Affairs, and how I should just ask staff to "solve" the problem. That is the problem, but he's too deep in oppression to care. Finally he told me I am not a lawyer.
When I was returned to my cell I wrote to internal affairs again but this time I put it on an Inmate 22 Request Form. This way I can have a copy of what was said and if they didn't act I could move forward with 'legal' action. Always leave a paper trail!
I wrote internal affairs and told them that Lt E. Noyce had intimidated me, chilled my right to redress or file a grievance and I'd like to talk to someone from internal affairs. Days passed by and I was approached by a Sgt. and asked if I'd like to add anything to my "citizen complaint." I told him that everything's on the paper.
So to wrap this up the petition seems to rattle some piggy nerves. I recommend it to be used when applicable. And at least here in Tehachapi we're getting responses now.
MIM(Prisons) responds: It is interesting that the interview of the prisoner included a criticism of him for not being a lawyer. That's the point of the grievance petition: it makes these battles accessible to prisoners who don't need to know the details of the law. This is a key contribution that jailhouse lawyers participating in the Prisoners Legal Clinic can make to United Struggle from Within organizing work. If there is no petition for your state, write to us to get a sample that you can customize for use there.
We know these individual battles to address grievances will only gain small victories, at best. But the fight to improve conditions for prisoners, especially conditions that impede prisoner's ability to organize and educate themselves and others, is a critical part of building the anti-imperialist movement. Through campaigns like this one we plug new comrades into broader education and ultimately build communist leaders.
I'm writing to let you know that I used the petition that you sent me. I sent it to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Board, on a Grievance Step I, and attached 50 signatures to it. About 80 to 100 prisoners wanted to sign, but due to the fear of retaliation and abusive and frivolous disciplinary cases they did not all sign. But these 50 prisoners signed voluntarily and have all had problems with the grievance department for lack of responses by the grievance investigator. If I am put in lockup for retaliation I am going to be happy because I tried.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Inspired by the California petition for the proper handling of grievances, comrades in Texas made a petition specific to their state. Our ability to fairly have our grievances handled is directly related to preventing arbitrary repression for people who stand up for their rights or attempt to do something positive. To get a copy of the Texas petition, or one for your state, write to MIM(Prisons). If we do not yet have a petition for your state, we will send you a generic one and you can do the legal research to customize it.