It’s Not Over!

Mediators from Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity’s Mediation team spoke with the Short Corridor Collective, four representatives of the hunger strike leaders at Pelican Bay and confirmed the leaders have accepted an offer from the CDCR.

When this news was announced at a vigil in Oakland last night, one family member responded: “I’m not going to believe it until my son tells me so.” She will be seeing him at Pelican Bay this weekend.

According to family members and friends of prisoners, as well as the CDCR, hunger strikers continue to refuse food across CA– in at least CCI Tehachapi, Corcoran and Calipatria. It is unclear how long they will continue, if they are aware of the agreement or even believe given the misinformation CDCR has been circulating. As families and friends gear up for another round of weekend visits, we will have more information as to whether hunger strikers will continue protesting CDCR’s policies and conditions in the coming days.

The leaders confirmed CDCR’s announcement that immediate changes in SHU policy are the opportunity for some educational programs, provision of all-weather caps (beanies) and wall calendars. More substantially, the leaders explained the CDCR has agreed to investigate changes to other policies including the gang validation and debriefing processes, and it is now up to supporters outside prison to make sure the CDCR upholds their promise.
Many supporters, as well as the Pelican Bay hunger strike leaders, see this as a victory. The leaders explained to the mediation team they are overwhelmed by the support and solidarity of family members, community members, organizations, and people across the world joining their fight for human rights, and cannot adequately express their appreciation. They also explained this is in no way over. Using a sports reference, the Short Corridor Collective insisted: “this is just the first quarter,” and what a start it has been.

The Pelican Bay Hunger Strike leaders also ask all supporters, including the mediation team to continue working together, to expand and to stay involved in making sure these demands are met fully, and that prisoners everywhere are recognized and treated as human beings.

The goal of the hunger strike was not to let prisoners starve, but was to expose the torturous conditions of imprisonment (especially Security Housing Units), to win the 5 core demands at Pelican Bay, to end long-term solitary confinement. This past week Secretary Cate began threatening to issue force-feeding orders, a process is both dangerous and painful. It’s important for those of us on the outside to recognize that the hunger strikers were faced with two choices: increased or intensified torture or death. In the end, these aren’t really choices at all. The leaders chose to live to fight for justice another day, and to grow and strengthen the tremendous support and collaborations they have started.

Some gains so far:

  • While the CDCR vigorously dehumanizes prisoners, and refused to negotiate, saying (“we don’t negotiate with prisoners”), they were effectively forced into offering an agreement to make changes;
  • this historic strike has demanded everyone who is against torture in any way to recognize prisoners as human beings, to act on their beliefs that no one should ever be tortured;
  • this historic hunger strike has widened and intensified international scrutiny into prison conditions and policies in California, and around the United States, as well as solidarity in intervening in CDCR “business as usual.” According to Terry Thorton, spokesperson for CDCR, this strike was “a major disruption to CDCR’s normal operations” (i.e. of control, isolation and torture);
  • this historic strike has (re)inspired prisoners to work together in struggling for their humanity to be recognized;
  • this historic strike has proven to family members, former prisoners, advocates, lawyers, faith-based and religious groups, medical professionals, and community members and organizations that we can and need to continue to work together better in the struggle to change the conditions we live in, and to transform the devastation and disappearance prisons cause in our communities
  • this historic strike has re-invigorated rigorous and collective prisoner-led resistance in the US.

Meanwhile, support for the hunger strike clearly needs to continue to grow. Events are still happening, including another mobilization to Sacramento to pressure Jerry Brown to take action regarding torturous conditions of CA’s prisons. (More details of this action coming soon. Click here to read a letter to Jerry Brown signed by organizations in support of the strike that will be delivered to Jerry Brown at the action on Monday, July 25) Family members also continue to meet with each other. In the Bay Area on Tuesday evening, a meeting will be held for family members to discuss how they want to move forward with this struggle. Click here for more details on events and actions

Also, a legislative hearing will be held on August 23rd in Sacramento investigating Pelican Bay’s SHU.

Please stay tuned for more information, and hear the prisoners call to continue working together to amplify their voices and to resist torture and imprisonment!

24 thoughts on “It’s Not Over!

  1. Hello- I heard from my friend Brian today, he lost 25 lbs, but is now eating. He told me some of the guys were indeed in very bad shape. If the CDCR says otherwise they are lying. These men suffered to get some attention on the abuse many have endured for years. My friend Brian has been in the SHU for 14 years. It’s so appalling I don’t even know where to begin. How ANY sane person, prison officials or otherwise can justify the blatant abuse these men are subject to is beyond me. Oh by the way, Brian is not a rapist or murderer. He was put in the SHU over an alleged gang allegation — one that was reversed on his direct appeal, but the CDCR still wouldn’t let him out without debriefing. How can one debrief when they don’t know anything? Snitch or else?? What kind of f-ed up system does this?? Is this America???
    I can only hope that the efforts of the prisoners and their supporters will raise awareness of the abuse taking place behind prison walls.

    • Betty I am so sorry for the suffering of your friend. Conditions in our prisons in California rival those of Stalinist Gulags and it is shocking when we realize what our country has become. We have Ronald Regan to thank in this state. He started it.

      • but don’t let the slippery liberals off the hook! here’s an example of prison politics. Former Governor Cuomo opposed the death penalty, consistently. Hooray for him. To bank his political fires and no appear sft on crime, he built 40,000 prison cells! Count em, 40,000! Mostly in Senate Republican strongholds in upstate New York. What is that? That is tit for tat in the political realm. Cool when the politicos do something, but we don’t have an awful lot of time to wait for change to happen. The Buffalo 9, fasting in solidarity with the Corcoran/Califpornia — wow pornia! nice typo, obscene fucking prison system ! — we are fired up, and continuing our protest, an open agenda, against executions, in support of NY’s Safe Parole Act (to get Lifers out who’ve done their 20, 30, 40 years. You guys out there helped wake us up. Let’s stay awake. For the people trapped inside…for the people outside…same people for the most part, just different sides of the wall.Peace.


  3. Pingback: Support Still Needed! | Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

  4. My friend was just validated this year after 13 years of being incarcerated. He is now facing an indeterminate SHU sentence. Reasons for the validation included a cultural drawing and the debriefing (snitching) of another inmate who also faced a SHU sentence unless he gave up names and doings (no kind of evidence to support this) . It’s an endless cycle. I hear and read these stories of 10 plus years of being in the SHU. There is suppose to be a 6 year max but CDCR does not care to follow up on this. I don’t want my friend to be in the SHU for decades. Prisons do not offer any form of rehabilitation. They are trying to psychologically mess these human beings up and turn prisons into insane asylums. So much abuse going on. It’s out in the open now. The worst type of criminals are the ones who wear uniforms and who in the public’s eyes are suppose to stand for justice and the politicians in their suits who know about this and do nothing. They are not asking for luxuries. They are asking for basic things and to abolish the debriefing (snitching) process. How can you accuse anybody of anything without any concrete proof? They faced being in a concrete hole themselves if they did not debrief (snitch) and broke under the pressure. At times even making things up. What a messed up prison system. Fund schools not prisons!

  5. This is great news, if true, and I love the analogy about it being only the first quarter. In time this may well be seen as the spark which revived and strengthened the beleaguered prison movement, inside and out. Our group of 9, including 3 ex-Lifers, will continue our chain-fast and seek more participation from locals and others. We each fast one day a week, and a good number of us picket the local jail every Wednesday evening between 5 and 6 p.m., and the issues are similiar in jails and prisons everywhere: abusive treatment, despairing conditions, disrespect of visitors, lack of programs and educational tools, and so on. We’re also planning an Attica 40th commemorative and/or March to Attica from Buffalo, a 40 mile trek. On the day Nelson Mandela was released some 20 years ago, his first public words to his supporters and the world were, “Intensify the struggle!” Words that should inform our stand and direction today. Alone, we’re done in; together and focussed, there’s a chance we’ll make a difference.

  6. Pingback: CA Prisoner Hunger Strike: Support Still Needed « Denver Anarchist Black Cross

  7. I am so happy of this news. I agree this is only the beginning. I am all for the long hall to end isolation, mass imprisonment, and for those on the outside invisible punishment …


  8. Pingback: Pelican Bay Prison Hunger Strike Only Kind of Over. Support Still Needed! | VivirLatino

  9. This poem was written about 8 years ago. It was inspired by the many youngsters 18 – 23 I encountered who were being “Struck-Out,” or were facing ridiculous amounts of time. In my mind they were still kids facing serious adult time and I internalized the injustice being perpetrated against them.
    You need to believe in Ghosts
    For surely they do exist
    And though you isolated them and attempted to destroy their spirits.
    You know not what you’ve done
    Nor what you do…
    Those you’ve stigmatized and made scapegoats
    as violent, blood-thirsty gang-members will eventually return home, remembering what you’ve done to them
    Asking questions and seeking explanations
    that can only be answered by You…!
    You have exploited their realities
    and benefitted from their pains, suffering, and sorrows
    You declared yourselves leaders in the fight against
    crime and War On Drugs
    Used the opportunity to advance your political careers and personal status
    You cannot deny it. There’s nothing you can say…
    However, in your quest to distinguish yourselves
    You reacted and enacted excessive and unjust laws that were misused
    They were designed to permanently remove them from their homes and families
    To “Strike-Them-Out” foolishly believing your problems were solved
    And everyone can feel safe because they are out of your way…

    They never really had equal access
    To the opportunities enjoyed by others
    These opportunities would have improved their chances of living “normal” lives
    The fallacy of the American Dream was missed by them
    And was unlikely from the start…
    They grew up in a culture of poverty and hopelessness
    In dysfunctional families without positive role models to follow
    Their realities a reflection of the dysfunctional society that created them
    Their afflictions, addictions, and contradictions considered a threat
    And their quest for sustenance, survival, and dignity made them like Tin-Men without hearts…
    You created and nurtured consecutive generations of Predators
    Whose lifestyles forced them to follow their instincts in search of prey…
    But their attitudes, actions, and behaviors are deemed anti-social and intolerable
    So you removed them from their communities and “Struck-Them-Out”
    But this must end. There must be a better way…
    You foolishly believed their invisibility had silenced them
    And that their isolation would destroy their spirits which was your mistake
    Because their defiant spirits
    Only grow stronger
    No matter what You Do…!
    BecauseTheir numbers, legacies,, followers, and admirers continue to grow
    This is an unfortunate and undeniable fact
    So you need to BEWARE of what You’ve done to them
    For they will inevitably return like menancing “Ghosts”
    By Ramon Armijo, posted here by Carmen Peralez

    • kudos to Ramon Armijo. editorial poetics (or poems with a message) are not easy, but this is good stuff.

  10. My son is in the S.H.U. at Pelican Bay and has been there since 2006, about 5 yrs now, and says he has to do the rest of his time there until he comes out, I never questioned this until now, my son was only 17 yrs, when he went to jail for a crime, I do not believe he committed, yet he will not admit that to me. He was 18 yrs old when he was sentenced to 13yrs and he should’ve been coming home already, but when he was sent to Calipatria, something happened there and he was sent to Pelican Bay to finish the rest of his time and was added more time to his sentence, and will have to finish his time there.
    I have not seen my son since Summer of 2006, and he has not said anything to me about the strike.
    I am hurting inside just thinking of what he may be going through, Please listen to our cry for help, and make this madness come to an end, I would love to be able to see my son come out of prison the way without harm. My son is not a violent person, and has studied inside the S.H.U. through correspondence to get his G.E.D., which he accomplished, and would like the opportunity to get some college courses through correspondence, that will help him be a productive member of society when he is released from prison.
    I plead with you once again, please help those behind those walls who cannot speak out for themselves.
    Carmen Peralez

    • Carmen, you are not alone, nor your son, none of us who stand in solidarity with each other as brothers and sisters need ever feel alone, nor fearful of the oppressors. The Attica Uprising almost 40 years ago means many things to many people, and although it ended tragically with the state slaugthering prisoners and guards the message was clear: the men were not breaking out of Attica but out of the mental and emotional chains that brought and held them down there, and breaking through the deep isolation that was typical back then. And in that small window of rebellion the Attica Brothers spoke freely to the world, and their list of demands reflected the chronic and cruel conditions and treatment they were being forced to endure. Attica means fighting back. The 3-week strike at Pelican Bay, Corcoran, and other prisons, and involvement of family and advocates, is a hopeful and positive sign. Let’s keep the fires lit.

  11. Pingback: CA Prisoner Hunger Strike: Support Still Needed « Internationalist Prison Books Collective

  12. Pingback: Prison Hunger Strike: The Struggle Continues – Ella Baker Center Blog

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