The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

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[Hunger Strike] [California State Prison, San Quentin] [California]
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San Quentin Hunger Strike Suspended

22 August 2013 — I write to inform you that our hunger strike (in this unit for death row) has officially been suspended. In good faith we'll allow the warden to fulfill his promises of productive and positive change. It is these changes that will eventually improve death row for the best. It is a start and the right steps towards changing this whole system for the best.

Although we may have suspended ours, many more continue to struggle to bring about change in their torture dungeons. And we shall not stop exposing this place for what it is. We shall not stop sharing our stories, our truths and helping others end their plight. The battle has just begun and this exposure, this movement has united us even more. It has unmasked our captors and brought many individuals to our aid who have helped change things already. And with each passing day many more join the movement.

I want to thank you for getting us this far. For making it possible to put enough pressure on the warden and his administration to come to terms with our demands. Without your help, we wouldn't have made it to this point. Thank you for all you've done and continue doing in helping to end these injustice and torture dungeons. We are only half the movement, while you're the other half. Together we will change this world for the best.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We commend our comrades at San Quentin for their perseverance in this hunger strike. We know, however, that the prisoncrats have a long history of false promises. This comrade is right that this battle has helped to build unity, education and gained more activists for the movement. These are real victories, regardless of the outcome of the warden's promises.

While we don't have the details on the promises made, another report claims that the only written agreement at the time was that searches would not be done outside if it is raining. This came from a report from a striker who passed out from liver failure, who reported others in San Quentin were also facing difficult health conditions due to lack of food.(1) We posted the full list of demands developed at San Quentin back in June.

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[Hunger Strike] [North Kern State Prison] [California]
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Transfers and Censorship Retaliation for Hunger Strikers

Here in the Ad-Seg unit at North Kern they've transferred a lot of us to A4 which is on the main level III yard, and half of the building is Ad-Seg, the other is orientation. All of us are on single cell status and validated members and associates of STG (Security Threat Group types) I & II but there's unity in here.

The hunger strike/work stoppage is over, and most if not all received 128 G chronos for participating. This will be used as validation points, but no one cares. We don't get our 10 hour a week for yard, no laundry exchange, or supplies being passed out, and our food is cold because they serve it on paper trays.

Our mail has to get rerouted from the other Ad-Seg unit and the IGI/ISU informed us that the SF Bayview, CA Prison Focus, The Rock, Revolution, Militant, PHSS, MIM(Prisons) and any of the literature that makes reference to our struggle behind these walls will be screened and withheld. I've been receiving mail that's 2.5 months old. We have a group 602 going around collecting signatures so we can show the yard captain we're not happy with this program we have here in the A4 location. Just yesterday they cell extracted someone and all of us above the incident on the top tier had pepper spray in our cells, because it came up through our cells, and the ventilating shaft.

This is all from the North Kern Grave Yard.

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[Hunger Strike] [New Jersey State Prison] [New Jersey] [ULK Issue 34]
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New Jersey June Protest Prelude to October

I'm writing to give you an update on the protest back in June. The protest in June was just the start. The real protest will jump off in October. The one in June went on for six days, not two. It was on for two days before the south and north compounds took part. We really wanted to go off with the July 8 one, but things here were getting so bad the prisoners just couldn't hold back any longer. By October all should be ready. If not, those that are prepared will be ready to share the understanding of what is going on so all the population will be on the same page. And everyone understands this is a peaceful protest, too much is just not right. I'm not the one doing the talking but I'm surely a part.


MIM(Prisons) adds: As another comrade from New Jersey reported: "Although nothing has changed as of the writing of this report, it is important to highlight that the level of unity achieved across nations and groups, the effective organization of the protest, and the fearful response by the state demonstrate the power of non-violent resistance in a corrections environment." We agree this unity is critical. We are seeing unity in resistance in prisons across the country. We need to take advantage of this opportunity to educate and build. As this prisoner points out, those who are ready for October in New Jersey will share information so that all the population will understand. We call on anti-imperialist comrades in prison to expand this education and take this opportunity to educate others about the nature of the injustice system and its role in imperialism in general. Protests to improve conditions are important, but they are just the start.

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[Control Units] [Hunger Strike] [Abuse] [ULK Issue 34]
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Force-Feeding Approved for CA Hunger Strikers

19 August 2013 - Today, a federal court approved the force-feeding of people who are on hunger strike in California prisons to protest torture in the form of long-term isolation and group punishment. The force-feeding itself is considered torture by many, including those who have been on hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay since February and have been suffering through force-feeding for months.

yasiin bey force-fed crying
For those interested in why it is considered torture, Yasiin Bey bravely provided the world with a video of what that is like (click picture).

The decision in California came shortly after we posted a report from a comrade who was denied liquid supplements and collapsed on July 21 in Corcoran State Prison. Many others have collapsed since then, and the state's behavior has made it clear that the health of prisoners has not been a concern of theirs. They apply very strict rules to how they count people as being on "hunger strike," knowing that strikers depend on the state to report their numbers to the public, forcing them to abide by these rules that don't allow for any electrolytes.

The state has consistently used health care as a weapon to manipulate prisoners into submission, rather than act as the custodians of health and safety that they claim to be. Now that strikers are approaching life-threatening conditions, the CDCR is acting to prevent them from exercising one of the strongest forms of protest that they have from within these isolation cells. The attention given to the situation inside California prisons right now is already unprecedented and they fear that if more prisoners die they may lose their power to torture prisoners in the future. The torture is important to them because it is what they believe to be their best tool to prevent the oppressed from fighting their oppression (the injustice system's true purpose). The ongoing hunger strike, decades in the making, has begun to turn the tables on that idea though.

This recent report asserts that 70 of 130 prisoners currently on hunger strike have been going since July 8, 2013. There are a number of groups of prisoners in California who are ready to restart hunger strike in support of the 70 (or more) who are in it for the long haul as the struggle heightens.

In the months leading up to July 8, there was some debate about the return to the hunger strike tactic, particularly as previous attempts were aborted prematurely without any changes from the state. But those first two strikes resonated among the oppressed across the country, and particularly in California where 30,000 prisoners stood up against long-term isolation on July 8, 2013. As we approach 50 days on strike, and repeated assertions from participants that they will not stop for mere promises this time, this struggle is approaching a crucial point. To date, control units have been a fairly effective tool of repression. But if oppression breeds resistance, then even these tools of total control can be overcome. At no other point have we been closer to that goal than we are right now. Those who have and will give their lives for this struggle must not die in vain. Those 30,000 plus prisoners who supported this campaign must take every opportunity over the coming months to build, educate and organize to prepare for the next phase of this struggle. A failure to seize this moment in the prison movement will mean much more suffering for the imprisoned lumpen in the decades to come.

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[Hunger Strike] [Calipatria State Prison] [California]
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Calipatria Hunger Strikers United for Week Long Protest

I'm writing to report on the hunger strike from Calipatria State Prison. Everyone here on the facility showed their support. Not all of us agreed on the tactics that some chose to pursue but nonetheless we all participated. Some people refused to go to work while others chose only not to accept food. Everyone who chose not to go to work received write ups (CDCR 115) for refusing to work and participation in security threat group (STG) activity. So now those people have STG points against them. Some guys were trying to force everyone not to work but calmer heads prevailed and they allowed people to make the choice themselves.

Out of the 850 prisoners on this yard, at least 700 participated. It only lasted for a week. The staff passed out a flyer on what can happen medically to a person who goes without food for long periods of time. They sent the nurse from door to door asking if people were alright but it didn't get to the point where they had to start weighing people.

A lot of questions are now being asked like what did that accomplish? Although we had a high level of participation we had no one to actually explain what the strike was for or what are the goals we are trying to accomplish. Most guys just get involved because they were told to. The people who are socially conscious and politically conscious didn't want to speak up for fear of being labeled as inciting the strike which will land you in the SHU. A lot of guys who have been down for 30 years have been broken and refuse to stand up to the administration.

All in all we here at Calipatria showed our support until next time.


MIM(Prisons) responds:First let us recognize what this comrade said about prisoners receiving STG points against them for a peaceful refusal to eat or go to work. This is what the CDCR is using to label people a Security Threat Group member and put them in torture units for years or even decades - the main thing that the strike is protesting in the first place! Such outrageous injustice should fuel the struggle for basic humyn rights in Calipatria.

Second, let's acknowledge the amazing accomplishment of having 700 out 850 prisoners participate in a united action that was part of a planned strategic approach towards change in the interests of all prisoners. This is historic, and it is happening all over California!

That said, the masses are correct to ask, "What did this accomplish?"
This report exposes the importance of building political consciousness and educating our comrades behind bars both before and during protest actions. We must build leadership to ensure that the political message of these protests is effectively conveyed, both to those participating and to the target of our protests.

Of course, the application of leadership in such closely monitored conditions should be done cautiously as the comrades in Calipatria did. Materials like Under Lock & Key can be tools for spreading education and providing leadership. But even then we face censorship, and prisoners get written up just for possessing literature, which presumably was given to them by prison mail staff in the first place. The solutions to this are tactical questions that should be part of the sum up of the experiences in California prisons this summer. As the masses are struggling for answers, now is the time to step in and have these discussions however you can in your locality. What is the opinion of the actions? What do people think should have been done differently? How did leadership fail, and how could you build differently in the future? If you come up with universal conclusions send them to us to share, however as conditions vary over time and place, most of these conversations should be applied locally.

On the large scale we can make a few points. First, the strike was about ending conditions of torture in California prisons, in particular in the long-term isolation units (SHU, ASU, etc.). And the strike continues with almost 300 people having not eaten for over 40 days according to the CDCR, and an unknown number of others still participating who are not being counted. So the struggle continues there.

If comrades in Calipatria are asking what their one-week actions accomplished, we encourage them to look back at the agreement to end hostilities and the United Front for Peace in Prisons statement on page 2 of Under Lock & Key that were used to form a basis for the massive support seen this time around. The goals of these projects are to unite prisoners around their mutual interests as prisoners and prevent the state from pitting them against each other as a form of social control. We hope that comrades in Calipatria were inspired by the tremendous level of solidarity this author reports on. There are many ways to build on this unity through things such as study groups, health campaigns, literacy programs, and other forms of mutual support. In our own work we model such programs after the Black Panthers and Chinese Serve the People Programs, which had the purpose of providing for survival needs pending revolution.

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[Hunger Strike] [California State Prison, Corcoran] [California]
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Medical Neglect as Another Hunger Striker Goes Down

On July 19th I was escorted to the medical clinic to request liquid nutrients, vitamins and proper directions on the re-feeding process after hunger strike. I was denied all requests. I was specifically told by nursing staff that CDCR officials have told all medical staff not to intervene in the on-goings of hunger strike patients until otherwise directed. I continued to request said items during daily nurse/medical rounds for the days leading up to July 21st only to be denied with some sort of unprofessional response.

On July 21, during my allotted rec time my body shut down. I fell, hitting my head on the concrete and knocking myself unconscious for at least two minutes. I was brought to the emergency prison hospital and once again provided with inadequate medical care. After blood/urine/vitals samples and testing I was told there was the possibility of death if I were to continue hunger strike for 24 hours. I obviously requested liquid nutrients/vitamins/etc. And I was denied. I was told by the doctor that CDCR officials are not letting med staff intervene in hunger strike participants and was told to go back to cell with no medical help.

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[Hunger Strike] [Mental Health] [Martinez Detention Facility - Contra Costa County Jail] [California] [ULK Issue 34]
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Debating Mental Health Treatment in Ad-Seg

[In response to the article MIM(Prisons) printed about the Martinez hunger strike demands, calling on prisoners there not to isolate the "mental health" prisoners from the "non-mental health" prisoners, we received the following update and clarification.]

Maybe we were not clear on the housing of mental health prisoners here in Ad-Seg. Our point is that there is an entire module for mental health prisoners where they can get help for their issues with trained staff. There is no mental health staff stationed in Ad-Seg, and no groups or therapy for prisoners. Bottom line is, mental health prisoners should not be housed in Ad-Seg on the whims of classification unit. Yes these guys are a headache to have in Ad-Seg, but more importantly they receive no help and deteriorate further by being warehoused in Ad-Seg. We are not trying to cause division in the prison population.

There are 53 inmates housed in Ad-Seg here. 13 prisoners did a 24 hour support strike while 5 of us continued for 6 to 12 days. We continue to support all those still on strike. Our strike is suspended, not stopped. If we do not continue to move forward in our demands or we come to a place in time when it is warranted, then we will continue our strike.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This letter addresses our criticism of the demand by MDF prisoners to "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" as unnecessarily divisive. The original demand complained of the disruptive behaviors from the mental health prisoners but did not mention the lack of treatment options for these individuals. If conditions are better in the mental health module, it would be an improvement for these individuals to escape Ad-Seg and be placed there. However, the "treatment" for people with mental health problems in the United $tates is, at best, a targeting of the symptoms, and at worst leaves people either physically or medically restrained in a drug-induced stupor.

Mental illness in prisoners can often be linked to the conditions in which they are housed, especially long-term isolation. So we are naturally skeptical of any treatment offered by those same captors who insist on locking people up in conditions that induce the health problems in the first place. But we appreciate the additional explanation that the MDF prisoners did not intend the demand for mental health prisoners to be divisive but rather targeted treatment for these individuals. We hope they will consider carefully the wording of such demands in the future.

In the short term, we know that capitalism will continue to produce new cases of mental illness which can not be successfully treated until we address the problems of a society that generates these illnesses. We look to China under Mao for an example of successful treatment of mental health conditions by addressing both the immediate problems and the systemic roots of these conditions.

Meanwhile, the comrades in Martinez are not the only ones on suspended hunger strike. A number of comrades have reported a willingness to restart in support of the five core demands as the struggle heightens.

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[Hunger Strike] [California State Prison, San Quentin] [California]
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Hunger Strike Day 23 Report from San Quentin

On 7/30/13 (day 23 of the hunger strike) at approximately 1pm, prisoners on my tier began alerting adjustment center custody staff that one of the hunger strike participants was unresponsive. Prisoners kept yelling "man down, man down!" and banging on their doors until a goon squad was formed. One member of that goon squad was Officer Persaud, who sarcastically ordered the semi-conscious man down to come to the door and cuff up. During this potentially life threatening delay, the man down actually found strength to get his hands behind his back and through the solid door's food port. The prisoner reports he was then held by his wrists and then by the cuff chain as a mechanical issue getting the cell door to open ensued. Ultimately Persaud let go of the cuff chain and the prisoner then explains he fell face first into the concrete floor. The door was finally opened and the goon squad stormed in as if pouncing, ordering the prisoner to stand up.

The same day a second man down situation followed, with a similar response. Custody staff are expressing blatant resentment and disrespect toward participants in the hunger strike. It is my suggestion to those pigs that if their current job is not to their liking they should go back to "Bob's Burgers" or convince their torture unit overlords to grant the reasonable requests for basic human needs set for in the open letter, instead of throwing vigilante green wall style shit fits.

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[Organizing] [Hunger Strike] [Upstate Correctional Facility] [Auburn Correctional Facility] [New York] [ULK Issue 34]
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New York Prisoners Strike, Support California Struggle

16 July 2013 - I would like the brothers in the struggle to be aware that their movement is being felt all the way on the east coast. As you are aware I was last at Auburn Korrectional Facility. I was put in the box and given a 180 day sentence for rallying 22 other komrades on this end to go on a food strike in support of our brothers out west. It got so bad that 8 of us were held in the kamp's hospital and a court order was given to force feed us. I just got out of the hospital yesterday and I have restarted my strike along with the other 7 brothers I spoke of.

The pigs have violated our property and they have destroyed our books, including my Afrikana, Assata, and my Black's laws dictionary that my dad bought for me before he died. To make things even worse they destroyed my pictures, including a lot of my parents who are both in the essence now. I don't have any family outside these walls, so my komrads (and a deep seeded hatred of how these pink pigs treat us) are all I have.

I wanted you to print this in your next issue because I know how them brothers are struggling and they may think that they are in it by themselves. But I want them to know that they have some real militant brothers who have lost a lot now to join them in their struggle. There are only 7 others with me out of the 22 of us who put this thing into effect over here. The rest of my komrades have been scattered in other koncentration kamps. New York State has about 65 prisons from maximum security, which we are in, to minimums. What I do know is that we are on watch and soon will be whisked away where these pigs will fill us up intravenously so they can say they care. But we will continue our movement on y'all behalf until we hear or read that y'all have received the basic necessities in which you are fighting for.


MIM(Prisons) adds: While they are no doubt facing significant repression and conditions that merit struggle in New York, these comrades have stepped up to fight on behalf of the hunger striking prisoners in California. This prisoner and his comrades demonstrate the important principals of unity and self-sacrifice that are so critical to building the communist movement. While we frequently appeal to prisoners' self-interest in calling them to action, when this self-interest in aligned with the interests of the anti-imperialist movement, ultimately communists will act without regard for self-interest, in the service of the oppressed.

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[Organizing] [Hunger Strike] [California Correctional Institution] [California]
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CCI Prisoners Hunger Striking for Long Haul

29 July 2013 - On July 8th the hunger strike went as planned and continued until Friday. On Saturday 7/13 prisoners ate and also on Sunday. However, again on 7/15/13 some resumed the hunger strike [at California Correctional Instiution].

Medical personnel are coming by to check on us here hunger striking. We are not getting our weight taken nor blood pressure. Medical staff are just asking us if we're ok. A memo was given out before the strike saying we are able to get 2 appliances, a typewriter and other various items: shorts, bowl, tumbler, unlimited soups in canteen. But this stuff cannot be realized or verified as I haven't seen anybody get a lot of soups, radio/typewriter or cup and bowl.

No prison official has come by to ask of what's going on or what, although a C/O came by and asked if we are hunger striking and if so what for. I haven't heard of anyone going to medical so far. Mail is going slow and only about a couple pieces a section are getting passed out.

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