Five hundred prisoners across California refused meals last Wednesday, October 10th, starting a hunger strike that continued through the weekend, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The strike came at the same week as prisoners in Pelican Bay’s Short Corridor Collective called for the start of an Agreement to End Hostilities. The geographically widespread actions show that prisoners across our state are anxious to support stronger communities, reduce opportunities for retributive punishment and to demand accountability of the state’s caging apparatus.
On Saturday, October 13th, the LA Times reported that 500 prisoners across the state refused meals on the 10th at both Pelican Bay State Prison (in Northern California, almost at the Oregon border) and at Tehachapi State Prison (in Southern California, near Los Angeles). This piece sources its information to Terry Thornton, a spokesperson for the CDCR. The story also quotes Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity member Molly Porzig, refuting the CDCR’s allegations that references to racial tensions in the Agreement to End Hostilities is necessarily correlated with prisoners’ gang membership or affiliation.
An LA Times follow-up article the next day quoted the same CDCR official, saying that the hunger strike had ended in Pelican Bay on Friday and was continuing in Tehachapi, with 181 prisoners refusing meals. The latest update reveals that the hunger strike at Tehachapi was in protest of the CDCR’s new gang management policy proposal. Prisoners across the state have voiced their criticism of the the proposed policy, which still allows for extreme isolation for indefinite terms based on an alleged “status” rather than actual gang related behavior. Today the Short Corridor Collective sent an open letter to Governor Brown voicing their dissatisfaction with the new policy and asking him to intervene and put an end to the decades of torturous isolation in solitary confinement.The SF Bayview has also posted a roundup of events since the End to Hostilities Agreement was called into action, which includes important coverage of the Youth Justice Coalition’s Los Angeles rallywhich called for an extension of the End to Hostilities Agreement from the prisons to the streets. The Bayview’s piece also includes letters from prisoners supporting the call. Gustavo Chavez, a prisoner at Pelican Bay, said (in a letter) that if prisoners are able to maintain an end to hostilities within prisons, “why not work on spreading the word outside the prison walls so that we may put an end to the gang violence and work on becoming a bigger force?” It seems that LA’s Youth Justice Coalition is working with precisely the same logic.
Terrance E White, imprisoned in Delano, California, was also quoted by the SF Bayview, speaking about the call to end hostilities: “[We] are all in agreement with it. It is about time to take back all that has been lost and continue to press forward in this struggle for liberation. They’ve had all us oppressed in these conditions for far too long.”
Finally, in its roundup, the Bayview said that some of its printed newspaper copies may have been rejected from prisons in California as a direct result of printing and attempting to distribute the Short Corridor’s call:
Rumors reached us that the Corrections Department might ban the October Bay View statewide for containing the call that would effectively disarm them… On Oct. 12, she received 11 “mail stops,” notices from the Pelican Bay gang unit claiming her letters violate California Code of Regulations Title 15 with “plans that violate the law” and facilitate prisoner-to-prisoner communication, even though she had deleted all the signers’ names and prison numbers.