As the medical conditions of over 200 prisoners on the 34th day on hunger strike enter the danger zone for permanent damage to health, or death, prisoners remain clear that their mission has not been accomplished and that this non-violent action must continue until indefinite isolation is ended.
The Brown Administration has not only refused to negotiate, it has begun a demonization campaign to inflame public fears about dangerous criminals who allegedly have their own nefarious motives for refusing to eat. The choice these men have made to work across all the gang designations to agree on a non-violent tactic and a set of reasonable demands for reforms tells a different story. Another example of these men working together is The Call to End Hostilities, originally issued in 2012. 16 prisoners signed the Call from across ethnic lines at Pelican Bay. It is an effort to remove the impetus for solitary confinement by addressing the alleged need for it. If these units are necessary to manage gang violence, the prisoners decided to try a different approach. The Call says, among other things:
“Beginning on Oct. 10, 2012, all hostilities between our racial groups in SHU, ad-seg, general population and county jails will officially cease. This means that from this date on, all racial group hostilities need to be at an end. If personal issues arise between individuals, people need to do all they can to exhaust all diplomatic means to settle such disputes; do not allow personal, individual issues to escalate into racial group issues…
“ In conclusion, we must all hold strong to our mutual agreement from this point on and focus our time, attention and energy on mutual causes beneficial to all of us [i.e., prisoners] and our best interests. We can no longer allow CDCR to use us against each other for their benefit!” This Call, and the demands related to the hunger strike, urge a return to a more open, just, and rehabilitative system.
Though authorities have done nothing to publicize the Call, (just as law enforcement has rarely encouraged truces among gangs on the streets), CDCR has admitted that violence has declined since the call went out. If the Department devoted just a quarter of the resources currently devoted to gang control to programs that bring people together across racial lines, there could really be an end to hostilities. We call on the Governor and his prison administrators to negotiate an end to this peaceful protest immediately, before more people become sick and die. Nothing will be accomplished by rigid refusal to come together. Public safety requires us to promote peace, not fear and hatred.
On behalf of the Mediation Team,
Laura Magnani, American Friends Service Committee (510) 526-5131
Hunger Strike Mediation Team
Dr. Ronald Ahnen, California Prison Focus and St. Mary’s College of California
Barbara Becnel, Occupy4Prisoners.org
Dolores Canales, California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement
Irene Huerta, California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement
Laura Magnani, American Friends Service Committee
Marilyn McMahon, California Prison Focus
Carol Strickman, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children
Azadeh Zohrabi, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children