Reaching at least 6,600 prisoners across 13 prisons, this massive and inspiring act of solidarity and people power across prison-manufactured & exacerbated racial and geographic lines has dumb-founded the CDCR.
While the daily numbers of hunger strikers fluctuates, the CDCR is certainly under-estimating how many people inside prison are participating in and supporting this strike.
In the first days of the strike, the CDCR said “less than two dozen prisoners” were hunger striking, but then were forced to admit at least 6,600 prisoners were participating in the strike. Now the CDCR has publicly announced that four prisons continue to strike. Advocates are currently aware of hunger strikers at Pelican Bay, Corcoran, Tehachapi, Folsom and Calipatria. Supporters also know that prisoners at Valley State Prison for Women, Centinela, San Quentin, and RJ Donovan have also been participating in the strike, and may still be refusing food. It is safe to assume the CDCR is still dramatically under-counting participation.
According to the Federal Receiver’s office, only 38 prisoners at Calipatria are refusing food, 20 days into the hunger strike. However, according to family members and friends of prisoners, hunger strikers at Calipatria say there at more than 300 prisoners at Calipatria still on hunger strike.
A close friend of a Calipatria hunger-striker told Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity: “Based on communicating with my best friend who is a hunger striker, I’m 100% sure at least 300 prisoners are still supporting each other and going strong, refusing food and demanding the CDCR change conditions of solitary confinement and policies around gang validation.” She continues to explain: “Calipatria is very south in CA, near the US Mexico-border, and like all prisons, has a long-history of corruption, guard-instigated violence, and a severe lack of constructive programming for prisoners. It is incredibly hot down there. It is 110 degrees outside prison. Imagine how much hotter it is in a concrete cell, and imagine not eating anything for weeks in that heat.”
In order to break the strike and dwindle support for it, the CDCR has:
- enticed prisoners into not fasting before the strike began by releasing a “4th of July Menu,” including food that prisoners have never seen before in prison
- continuously down-played participation and support in regards to numbers
- has been withholding information in regards to prisoners’ medical status and other details on the strike from press, media, advocates, family members and prisoners
- guards marched down prison halls announcing the strike was over and the demands were met
- not followed medical protocol, including distributing prescribed medication
- told the Federal Receiver’s office all prisoners were refusing medical care, therefore the Federal Receiver’s office does not need to follow protocol and weigh prisoners or do medical examinations until later
- denounced family members, friends, prisoners, and lawyers speaking out about the urgent medical crisis as prisoners experience symptoms of severe dehydration due to no food for weeks and torturous conditions
- said the strike is led by vicious gang members to justify torture and discourage wide-range support
- hanging up and/or disconnecting when supporters call-in urging the CDCR to negotiate
- claiming they cannot implement the changes asked for in the demands, when they are basic standards even in other Supermax prisons Pelican Bay was modeled after
- thrown hunger striking prisoners not yet in the SHU and Ad-Seg units into solitary confinement as punishment for supporting the strike
- transferred hunger strikers to other prisons–we’ve heard from the Receiver’s Office of hunger strikers being transferred from Pelican Bay to Corcoran, and Corcoran to Pelican Bay
- continuing to deny mail, the primary source of much needed human contact
- and many more tactics we have yet to hear due to extreme isolation and surveillance
Despite these attempts, the hunger strike led by prisoners to change prison conditions and outside support for this courageous action has only grown.Thousands of people worldwide are supporting the strike by calling the CDCR and legislators to negotiate with the prisoners immediately, in good faith, before people die and medical conditions get even worse.
Supporters have also been holding demonstrations and rallies, often outside of prisons and jails, to draw attention to the prevalence of policing and imprisonment in their communities, particularly working-class and communities of color, as well as the prioritization of policing and imprisonment at the expense of the much-needed social services and resources for the same communities people are taken away from when locked up in prison.
Whitney Walton, a member of the Stop The Injunctions Coalition in Oakland, which is fighting the legalization of racial profiling through “gang injunctions” says: “I’m supporting the hunger strike because policing and labeling individuals as ‘gang’ members, or neighborhoods as ‘gang zones’ is directly connected to ‘gang validation’ that occurs in prisons. Both are tactics used to criminalize, dehumanize, and isolate members of our communities.”
This hunger strike certainly is “rolling” and strike participation in the way of refusing food will continue to fluctuate in regards to numbers. Without a doubt, this struggle will continue until the prisoner’s demands are met, and prisoners are recognized as human beings.