As released yesterday, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity has confirmed that at least 6,000 California prisoners in jails, General Population, Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg/ASU) and Security Housing Units (SHUs) are hunger striking for the human rights of California’s SHU-status prisoners. We have confirmed prisoners are striking at Pelican Bay, Calipatria, CCI Tehachapi, Centinela, Corcoran, Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, and West Valley Detention Center.
The California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) has not released the total number of prisons, or which prisons prisoners are striking at. The CDCR withheld accurate numbers for several days after the first round of the strike in July until we pressured reporters to investigate and force the CDCR to release information. We know the CDCR is not releasing accurate numbers, and that many more prisoners are participating and supporting the strike in various ways.
The CDCR has also upped retaliation on the strike by deeming the entire strike a prison “disturbance” under Title 15. The CDCR has delivered memos to prisoners at each state prison threatening that any participation or support for the hunger strike will result in disciplinary actions, such as placement in Ad-Seg/ASU or SHUs (for prisoners currently in General Population), increased destructive cell searches, removal of canteen items, and worse. We know that a number of prisoners lost their jobs as added punishment for supporting the strike in July.
The spreading strike and overwhelming international support for it demonstrate the seriousness of torture throughout the prison industrial complex. It is no coincidence that the first round of the hunger strike followed the US Supreme Court’s finding that CA’s prison system is in violation of the 8th Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. Not surprisingly, the CDCR is criminalizing the strike and insisting that the hunger strikers are violent gang members that deserve to be tortured. Meanwhile, we face similar struggles against criminalization outside prison, as cities across CA are stepping up suppression policing tactics, such as gang injunctions, youth curfews and loitering ordinances, inevitably sweeping more people from working class communities of color into prison.
On top of all of that, the state’s realignment plan gives us a huge opportunity to get people out of prison but also adds the threat of unprecedented jail construction to this landscape.
Given this “perfect storm,” we can and must connect our struggles and continue to vigorously defend our communities and unleash our will to resist and organize.