Still Hungry for Human Rights

As we wrap up 2013, we reflect on the amazing work that has taken place this year in the movement to end torture and abuse in California prisons. Since 2011, our coalition has been at the forefront of the solidarity movement to support the courageous hunger strikers. These prisoners endured a series of hunger strikes in protest of the intolerable practice of long term solitary confinement in California.

Looking Back: Highlights from 2013

Over 30,000 prisoners refused food this year in the largest prisoner protest in history. Their protest resulted in unprecedented media coverage, a visit to California by Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, a promise by legislators to take action on the issues addressed in the 5 Demands, and the strengthening of their own resolve and solidarity. But the struggle is far from over.

This year, our coalition launched the Stop the Torture Campaign, a Human Rights Pen Pal Program and an Emergency Response Network. We mobilized thousands of people nationwide to support the 5 demands when the prisoners began their third hunger strike. We participated in outreach and public education by participating in events like the screening of Herman’s House at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary and the UC Student Association Lobbying Conference. We held an art show in San Francisco featuring work from dozens of artists in the SHU.

 The hunger strike was suspended by strikers in September after 60 long days when legislators vowed to hold hearings and address long term solitary confinement. The first legislative hearing was on October 9th. Our coalition affiliates organized rides, speakers and hundreds of people to rally at the state capitol and pack the hearing room.

Marie Levin emceeing the rally before the the Joint Legislative Hearing on the SHU. October 9, 2013. Sacramento, California

Marie Levin emceeing the rally before the the Joint Legislative Hearing on the SHU. October 9, 2013. Sacramento, California

Looking Forward: Your Support Matters!

The next hearing is scheduled for February 11th in Sacramento. We need your support to seize this opportunity to make an impression on the legislators and the world, show the urgency of the situation, and make an impact for our people in the SHU.

In addition, our coalition will continue to engage in our day to day work including prison visits, public education, pen pal program, monthly newsletters and advocacy letters.

Our goal is to raise $5,000 to support this work

$200.00 covers the cost for legal visits with 15-20 people

$100.00 covers the cost of printing our monthly newsletter for prisoners

$75.00 covers the cost of mailing our monthly newsletter to prisoners

Any amount you can give is a tremendous help. Thanks for your generosity.

Click HERE to donate online. Please indicate that the donation is for PHSS under “Special Instructions”

Tax deductible contributions can be mailed to:

Checks to: California Prison Focus for PHSS

1904 Franklin St. Suite 507, Oakland, Ca. 94612

Day 44 – Statement from Mediation Team

Hunger Strikers, Gavin Newsom’s Citizenville and the Frontline

Years ago a defense attorney, who was contemplating acceptance of her first death row client, talked to me about how hard it would be to keep this person from ending up in San Quentin’s Death Chamber. But she was anxious to take on the task. I asked her why? She simply and eloquently explained that in every society there must be people who are willing to stand in the way of those who abuse the power they have over individuals under their control. If there is no one there to point out that abuse, to push back against those powerful forces, the abuse will spread and deepen and will become unstoppable.

On Day 44 of the prisoner hunger strike, we are watching a real-life display of that lawyer’s philosophy—prisoners are starving themselves to disrupt the abuse of power displayed by the CDCR’s inhumane policies and practices involving indeterminate solitary confinement.

They have put themselves on the frontline of protest to demand to be treated like human beings.

Meanwhile, not long ago some of the family members of the hunger strikers attempted to meet with Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom about these important matters. At the time, Newsom was temporarily serving as Acting Governor while Jerry Brown was traveling out of the country. The meeting never happened: Acting Governor Newsom said he would not have any more to say about the prisoner hunger strike than the Governor had to say about it, which, thus far, has been nothing helpful.  Well, pretty much nothing at all.

Ironically, the Lieutenant Governor recently released a book he authored called Citizenville. His promotional email states that “Citizenville shows how we can make government as useful and engaging as your iPhone.” He adds: “I talked to technology pioneers, entrepreneurs, and social media stars for Citizenville to come up with clear steps we can take to reshape our government and engage ordinary citizens.”

Perhaps the “usefulness” of government as depicted in Newsom’s marketing material for his book would be better measured by him and Governor Brown agreeing to talk to the hunger-striking prisoners themselves. The two elected officials could learn of some meaningful fixes to CDCR policies and practices that would do more than merely “engage ordinary citizens,” such talks could actually save lives—those of the protestors as well as those prisoners who are being made morose or insane or both by indeterminate solitary confinement for decades.

 On behalf of the Mediation Team,
Barbara Becnel 510-325-6336 

Hunger Strike Mediation Team
Dr. Ronald Ahnen, California Prison Focus and St. Mary’s College of California
Barbara Becnel, Occupy4Prisoners.org
Dolores Canales, California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement
Irene Huerta, California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement
Laura Magnani, American Friends Service Committee
Marilyn McMahon, California Prison Focus
Carol Strickman, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children
Azadeh Zohrabi, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children

California Prisoner Hunger Strike Begins

Who:  Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition
What:  California Prisoners Begin 3rd Peaceful Hunger Strike and Work Actions
When: Monday, July 8, 2013, 11am
Where: Elihu Harris CA State Office Building, 1515 Clay St, Oakland, CA

Oakland—Family members, advocates, and lawyers will announce their support for the peaceful hunger strike and job actions beginning today throughout the California prisons starting on Monday July 8.   Prisoners have been clear since January that they are willing to starve themselves unless the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) agrees to negotiate honestly about their demands.

On June 20, prisoners being held in solitary confinement at the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit describe their actions:

The principal prisoner representatives from the PBSP SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement do 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 today, 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?

The world is watching!”

While the CDCR has claimed to have made reforms to its SHU system—how a prisoner ends up in the solitary units, for how long, and how they can go about getting released into the general population—prisoners’ rights advocates and family members point out that the CDCR has potentially broadened the use of solitary confinement, and that conditions in the SHUs continue to constitute grave human rights violations.  The California prison system currently holds over 10,000 prisoners in solitary confinement units, with dozens having spent more than 20 years each in isolation. Conditions in Pelican Bay State Prison’s SHU sparked massive waves of hunger strikes in 2011 that saw the participation of 12,000 prisoners in at least a third of California’s 33 prisons.

 

Demands Spread Across California Prison System!

When prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit declared their Peaceful Protest  would  resume July 8th 2013, if their demands weren’t met by the CDCR and Governor of California, they also encouraged their fellow prisoners to take up peaceful actions wherever they were, and to include demands of their own.  Click here to see how the demands have spread!

June 20 Statement From Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective!

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. Continue reading

WHY CALIFORNIA’S NEW SOLITARY CONFINEMENT POLICY IS A HUMAN RIGHTS DISASTER

ImageIn 2011, thousands of California state prisoners engaged in a hunger strike to end long term solitary confinement and to demand changes to the way that prisoners are assigned to these torturous units, known as SHUs (security housing units).  The corrections department (CDCR) agreed to make changes, which it rolled out in November, 2012.  CDCR’s public relations strategy is to persuade lawmakers, judges and the general public that its new program is a vast improvement .  However, the new program keeps most of the objectionable elements of the old program and adds some new elements which make it even worse. Continue reading

San Quentin Prisoners Vow to Join Strike and Make Demands of Their Own

Demands from the San Quentin State Prison Adjustment Center June 10, 2013

http://sfbayview.com/2013/demands-from-the-san-quentin-state-prison-adjustment-center/

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.

Continue reading

Please Donate to Support our Solidarity Work for the Upcoming Hunger Strike

ImageOn July 13, 2013 the coalition of organizations working in solidarity with the protesters is planning a state-wide mobilization to Corcoran State Prison, which isolates over 1,600 people in solitary confinement. We must take this movement to the prison gates and show Jerry Brown and the Department of Corrections that we support the prisoners and demand that Jerry Brown meet with the representatives immediately to negotiate the end of the strike.

 We need your support now more than ever!  Please consider making a donation to our coalition so that we can continue to fight for the human rights of people in extreme isolation in California prisons.  Donations can be made online at www.prisons.org.

And please continue reading for information on other ways to support the July 13th Mobilization. Continue reading