Mediators who met with hunger strike representatives at Pelican Bay, one of whom had been transferred to Corcoran due to the strike, confirm that prisoners there have decided to stop their hunger strike after nearly 3 weeks. The prisoners have cited a memo from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) detailing a comprehensive review of every Security Housing Unit (SHU) prisoner in California whose SHU sentence is related to gang validation. The review will evaluate the prisoners’ gang validation under new criteria and could start as early as the beginning of next year. “This is something the prisoners have been asking for and it is the first significant step we’ve seen from the CDCR to address the hunger strikers’ demands,” says Carol Strickman, a lawyer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, “But as you know, the proof is in the pudding. We’ll see if the CDCR keeps its word regarding this new process.”
The mediation team stated that while the memo indicates statewide changes in the gang validation process for SHU prisoners, the CDCR did not address the status of hunger strikers at Calipatria or Salinas Valley prisons, who are not SHU prisoners. All sources say that at this point, these prisoners will continue to refuse food and stand behind the 5 core demands for all prisoners in California. A recent letter from a prisoner at Calipatria states “Men have…placed their lives on the line in order to put a stoppage to all these injustices we are subjected to day in and day out. People would rather die than continue living under their current conditions. …It is a privilege, an honor to be a part of the struggle, to be a part of history for the betterment of all those inside these cement walls… I will go as far as my body allows me to go.”
Gang validation is a practice that the CDCR uses throughout California prisons. Hundreds of prisoners who have been validated at Calipatria have been held in Adminstrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) for as long as four years, awaiting transfer to Pelican Bay.