Press Contacts: d’andre Teeter 510-926-5207; Reiko Redmonde 510-384-1816; StopMassIncarcerationBayArea@ gmail.com
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Website: Stop Mass Incarceration Bay Area / Twitter: @StopMassIncNe
Who: Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN), Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement (CFASC), and National Religious Coalition Against Torture (NRCAT) — co-hosts
What: Life-sized mock Security Housing Unit (SHU) Cell / Display
Where: California State Capitol South Steps
When: Wednesday August 14 – 8 am to 8 pm & 12 noon press conference
The Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN), Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement (CFASC), and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), in support of the California Prison Hunger Strikers and their Five Demands, invite the public to visit an installation of a life-sized mock Security Housing Unit (SHU) Cell on the California State Capitol South Steps in Sacramento from 8am to 8pm.
They will host a noon press conference with statements from prisoners’ families, hunger strike supporters, and human rights advocates, including Dr. Ron Ahnen, Professor of Politics, St Mary’s College*, President of California Prison Focus, Member of the Mediation Team; Larry Everest, Revolution newspaper; UCB student Steven Czifra, formerly incarcerated in Pelican Bay SHU; and others TBA.
This stark multimedia installation will allow visitors to acquire a tactile and visceral understanding of the reality of solitary confinement that over 4,000 California prisoners have endured for years and decades, and why this is cruel and unusual punishment deemed torture by the UN and human rights groups. The installation includes images of SHU cells and prisoners and moving testimony from prisoners and others. This installation will stand as a refutation of the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation Claims (Los Angeles Times, Aug 6) that the notorious SHU “is not ‘solitary confinement.'”
On July 8, 2013, 30,000 California prisoners began a hunger strike to end the torture of solitary confinement and for their basic rights and humanity. Their central demand is “comply with the recommendation of the U.S. Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement.” Now, hundreds of prisoners have gone 36 days without food, with many more supporting in other ways. Millions throughout society support the prisoners, including prominent voices such as Jay Leno, Danny Glover, Cornel West, Noam Chomsky, and Gloria Steinem. On July 22, 2013, Amnesty International called California Prisons and the CDCR’s response to the hunger strike an “affront to human rights.”
Yet Governor Jerry Brown remains silent. The California Dept. of Corrections refuses to meet the prisoners’ just, reasonable, and basic demands, and has instead retaliated against and vilified the hunger strikers.
¨The Stop Mass Incarceration Network states “This is an EMERGENCY! One hunger striker, Billy `Guero’ Sell, has already died. Many more people need to stand NOW with the prisoner hunger strikers!”
The families, Assemblyperson Ammiano, and SMIN invite Jerry Brown and Jeffrey Beard to visit the “SHU” and to state why this is not torture.
“A hunger strike is not taken lightly by us, we are not suicidal, rather we hope to save lives. We may not be able to save our lives. But we have come to identify our existence in SHU as a conveyor belt leading into an oven of inferno. And we may indeed be strapped onto this conveyor belt with no way out as we have continued for years to watch our comrades fall into the abyss of the oven in psychosis, suicide or other chronic illness. And we may not be able to stop our ride from dropping us into the abyss but we will stop this conveyor belt for future generations to come. Today this ride stops!”
– Excerpt from a letter to Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition by a prisoner dated July 8, 2013
“I remain concerned about the hundreds of prisoners still participating in a hunger strike to protest conditions. These are not minor prisoner complaints; they are violations of international standards that have drawn worldwide attention. To keep anyone in severe isolation for indefinite amounts of time does not meet norms of human rights that civilized countries accept.”
– Assemblymember Tom Ammiano
¨”My son is housed maybe in a cell where the prisoner there before him might have took his own life or went mad. …there is no window. You don’t know when day transitions into night. You just go by the food tray that they slide you, if it’s a breakfast tray or a dinner tray. And to know that even their yard, it just exists of another cell. They bring them out, and they put them in another cell surrounded by 20-feet brick walls and the sky covering covered in Plexiglas. And I think, for me, that is just the most troubling, that I feel myself at times as if I’m buried alive, as I feel myself that I wake up in the night and I can’t breathe and I have anxiety, because I just imagine what it’s like to be entombed day in and day out in a cement cell like that.”
– Dolores Canales of CFASC on Democracy Now.
“So far one of the hunger strikers has perished. This is serious enough that people are refusing food and refusing the meager means to life that is being offered to them. They’re taking it to their graves so to suggest that this doesn’t constitute solitary confinement is ridiculous. What is solitary confinement? …Some of these people haven’t touched another human being in excess of 30 years….They’re alone, they’re desperate, they’re willing to die, they are dying…to act like there is not issue is absurd.”
– Steve Czifra, interviewed on MSNBC
Stop Mass Incarceration Network Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide