Three Prisoners Die in Hunger Strike Related Incidents: CDCR Withholds Information from Family Members, Fails to Report Deaths

In the month since the second phase of a massive prisoner hunger strike in California ended on September 22nd, three prisoners who had been on strike have committed suicide. Johnny Owens Vick and another prisoner were both confined in the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit. Hozel Alanzo Blanchard was confined in the Calipatria Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU).

According to reports from prisoners who were housed in surrounding cells and who witnessed the deaths, guards did not come to the assistance of one of the prisoners at Pelican Bay or to Blanchard, and in the case of the Pelican Bay prisoner (whose name is being withheld for the moment), apparently guards deliberately ignored his cries for help for several hours before finally going to his cell, at which point he was already dead. “It is completely despicable that prison officials would willfully allow someone to take their own life,” said Dorsey Nunn, Executive Director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, “These guys were calling for help, their fellow prisoners were calling for help, and guards literally stood by and watched it happen.”

Family members of the deceased as well as advocates are having difficult time getting information about the three men and the circumstances of their deaths. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is required to do an autopsy in cases of suspicious deaths and according to the Plata case, is required to do an annual report on every death in the system.

Family members have said that their loved ones, as well as many other prisoners who participated in the hunger strike, were being severely retaliated against with disciplinary actions and threats. Blanchard’s family has said that he felt that his life was threatened and had two emergency appeals pending with the California Supreme Court at the time of his death. “It is a testament to the dire conditions under which prisoners live in solitary confinement that three people would commit suicide in the last month,” said Laura Magnani, Regional Director of the American Friends Service Committee, “It also points to the severe toll that the hunger strike has taken on these men, despite some apparent victories.” Prisoners in California’s SHUs and other forms of solitary confinement have a much higher rate of suicide than those in general population.

The hunger strike, which at one time involved the participation of at least 12,000 prisoners in at least 13 state prisons was organized around five core demands relating to ending the practices of group punishment, long-term solitarily confinement, and gang validation and debriefing. The CDCR has promised changes to the gang validation as soon as early next year and were due to have a draft of the new for review this November, although it’s not known whether that process is on schedule. “If the public and legislators don’t continue to push CDCR, they could easily sweep all of this under the rug,” said Emily Harris, statewide coordinator Californians United for a Responsible Budget, “These deaths are evidence that the idea of accountability is completely lost on California’s prison officials.”

 

28 thoughts on “Three Prisoners Die in Hunger Strike Related Incidents: CDCR Withholds Information from Family Members, Fails to Report Deaths

  1. Pingback: Three Prisoners Die in Hunger Strike Related Incidents: CDCR Withholds Information from Family Members, Fails to Report Deaths « 4strugglemag

  2. This is very hard news for prisoners and their families.
    The only practical thing guards could do to alleviate the sufferings of persons confined in SHUs is to release them back into the general prison population. Of course, this is something they have neither the inclination nor the authority to do. So they inure themselves to the constant cries and pleas for assistance echoing through those cells, and the result is given in a press release- three more preventable suicides. Added to that scenario, these were men who participated in hunger strikes and were especially vulnerable to pressure and retaliation by staff.
    These brutal terms of confinement must be consigned to the ash heap of history. And a State which mandates such destruction is not worthy of the respect and loyalty of its citizens.
    Long live the insurgent brothers and sisters.

  3. Stephen King could not have made up a worse scenario than a California jail.Is this how a civilized country acts towards its charges?Is this the behaviour we can expect from people who calls themselves christians and respectable,upstanding members of society?

  4. Pingback: Three Prisoners Die in Hunger Strike Related Incidents: CDCR Withholds Information from Family Members, Fails to Report Deaths « Denver Anarchist Black Cross

  5. Inmates are human beings, but the treatment the California (and other) Corrections Dept provides is unjust and unhumane. The idea that many supporters of mistreatment are Christians is enough to make me sick.

  6. This is absolutely appalling! How much longer is the public going to continue to ignore what is happening in our prison system? Don’t they realize that our taxes are paying for this inhumane treatment, & as such, that all of us are partly responsible for the cruelty being implemented in our prison system? The USA is proving to be no better than all those 3rd world countries we’re constantly putting down for their cruelty to their citizentry. Come on, people, wake up & get your heads out of the sand!! May God help these inmates & their families………June, the parent of an inmate who’s been in the PB SHU for 12 years straight.

    • Americans ignore this deplorable situation as well as they do the rest of the decline of civilization in this Country. First, good luck finding many Americans who are left in this Country, and secondly, good luck in finding Americans whose voices will be heard. These “punishments” do not fit the “crime” and that makes this entire prison system a “sham”. But, true Americans don’t give up the fight for our Rights. God bless us all.

  7. Pingback: Three Prisoners Die in Hunger Strike Related Incidents: CDCR Withholds Information from Family Members, Fails to Report Deaths « Internationalist Prison Books Collective

  8. Pingback: Three Prisoners Die in Hunger Strike Related Incidents: CDCR Withholds Information from Family Members, Fails to Report Deaths « occupy california

  9. So in awe of the inmates who participated in the hunger strikes … may their actions bring about changes that give a great measure of peace to the families of the participating prisoners that lost their lives.

  10. Pingback: Hozel Blanchard Presente!: Open Funeral Service in Oakland, CA | Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

  11. I am completely against inhumane treatment within California jails and prisons overall, these prisoners have been sentenced for punishmentm but it seems that some of the deputies inside have a personal vendetta against all prisoners. I would like to pose the question what is proper punishment for prisoners? And at what level should their punishment increase? (i.e. for more serious crimes like murder and rape) They are criminals and we should not give them complete freedoms nor the freedom of choice because that would defeat the purpose of punishing them. Whatever it is they did it was a crime and they are paying for it. I think mandatory education is the way to because that way you can teach drug dealers and theives a legal way to make money when they are released. My concern is their release as well, once they reenter society what kind of human beign has the CDCR crafted.

  12. Pingback: Three Prisoners Die in Hunger Strike Related Incidents: CDCR Withholds Information from Family Members, Fails to Report Deaths « National Prison Industry Divestment Campaign

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  15. Pingback: Suicided | Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

  16. Pingback: Suicided « 4strugglemag

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  21. Hozel blanchard was my brother best friend. Our family is deeply hurt that prison guards so called professional would do this to my brother or any man or woman. This has to end all people have rights. I love you brother my heart is heavy, the system and so called laws will not get away with this one. God will guide this one.

  22. This does not surprise me at all. My brother is in prison and there are many things that are done that are subhuman and purposely cause a man to desperation. I found a blog about other things that go on inside prisons and no one cares about it. go to wolfamidjackels.weebly.com

  23. My name is Elisha Carter , Hozel Blanchard is my brother my Family and i still have no answers to cruel punishment done to my brother. This is still very painfull. Anyone who knows anything pls contact us. . My prayers go out other inmates and families who have suffered a loss. Contact number 562 313 9297

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