Day 46 – Statement from the Mediation Team

How much force is used when a prison is force-fed?  The Mos Def force-feeding video showed him being strapped down, a ritual reminiscent of the electric chair.  When sympathetic medical personnel attempted to insert the plastic tube through his nose and down his throat to his stomach, it was painful.  Even a willing patient, like Mos Def, would be hard-pressed not to struggle to avoid the procedure.  Imagine how an unwilling patient in the hands of unsympathetic medical personnel would respond.  No wonder it is considered a violation of international law.

Added to the “necessary” force is the gratuitous violence that hostile guards and medical personnel may inflict.  And hostile they are.  We have received recent reports from two prisons of guards unnecessarily tightening handcuffs to inflict pain and provoke a response.  “Just sign a Do Not Resuscitate Order so you can die,” one prison doctor told a hunger striker.  Other medical personnel were overheard betting on how long particular hunger strikers would last.  A former prison employee fears, based on past experience, that “the guards will beat these guys up to place IV’s and feeding tubes,” particularly “any of them that resist.”

Why is there so much hostility directed by prison staff at peaceful hunger strikers protesting inhumane conditions?  California’s prison culture is to view prisoners as less than human, not worthy of consideration.  This culture emanates from the top.  Secretary Beard’s vitriol in his recent LA Times Op-Ed piece was tacit approval for past and future aggressive and cruel treatment of starving prisoners by CDCR staff.

Prison health care protocols for a mass hunger strike call for health care staff to obtain consent before “administering a course of medical treatment,” including feeding.  Policy 4.22.2.  These protocols require medical staff to distribute information about Advance Directives to prisoners after their third week on hunger strike.  Advance Directives allow a person to state in advance what medical treatment he/she wants, or does not want, under particular circumstances, if he/she is later unable to provide consent.  CDCR has a standard Advance Directive form–CDCR Form 7421.  Before providing medical treatment, including feeding, California state law provides that prison health care staff “act in accordance with the provisions of [a prisoner’s] advance directive.”  Title 15, section 3351(a).  In other words, prison policy is that a prisoner on hunger strike can refuse consent to being force-fed.

In a shocking about-face this week, CDCR and its prison health care services program obtained a blanket force-feeding order  – regardless of the present or recently recorded wishes of the individual prisoner.  This order was obtained without the advance knowledge or input of any of the affected prisoners.  It is the absolute height of irony that prisoners who are peacefully protesting (1) cruel and unusual prison conditions tantamount to torture, and (2) lack of due process or fairness, are now subjected to an escalation of these very same constitutional violations.

The federal court should allow individual prisoners the right to refuse force-feeding.  Those prisoners who have voluntarily signed a Do Not Resuscitate document, or any prisoner who currently has voluntarily concluded that he does not want to be force-fed, or continue to be force-fed, should be permitted to file a motion in federal court to amend the court order as to him.  The prisoner should be provided with counsel and an opportunity to be heard.  Those due process rights are available under California state law.  Probate Code sections 3200-3212.  They should be honored in federal court.

Additionally, any force-feeding procedure should be video-taped, with the prisoner being given a chance to report any staff misconduct.

All of this could have been avoided if CDCR had been willing to negotiate with the prisoners and meet their reasonable demands for humane treatment.

On behalf of the Mediation Team,
Carol Strickman, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children

Hunger Strike Mediation Team
Dr. Ronald Ahnen, California Prison Focus and St. Mary’s College of California
Barbara Becnel,
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

9 thoughts on “Day 46 – Statement from the Mediation Team

  1. Brown is raising millions of dollars for re-election and this cruelty isn’t phasing his campaign that much because more people need to be holding him accountable beneath articles in news forums. The prison guards wishing death on the inmates need be called out for their anti-social behavior beneath this articles too. It is clear from their comments that they are capable of torture and murder. If we allow Jerry Brown to get elected when three million Californians are related to a prisoner or someone on parole, then we are fools. The prisoners cannot fight for themselves living under such oppression. Their friends and family of the power of the vote. The power to organize and fund campaigns of a Governor who would re-try every case. Until he is gone, there will be no criminal justice reform. Come on, let us work and throw CCPOA’s puppets in elected office out of power. 6500 Actual workers are needed here.

  2. The Prison Guards and I.G.I. “Goon Squad” are going to beat the shit out of the prisoners to force feed them. You have to understand that they will mount up outside of the cell in full force wearing gas masks, shield and enter as a group to rush each cell individually. I’ve been through cell extractions and that is what is going to happen to get to the prisoners. They will say that it is for security so none of the staff get hurt, but let’s be real, how strong can a person be after not eating for 45 days! This is the most cruel blow I have ever witnessed in my life, and I’ve seen a lot! I know God is with the prisoners because he loves them and HATES evil. Who is being evil now?

    • Shame on gov. Brown and actually our country for allowing this cruel unlawful conduct to continue in the prison system.

  3. Carol, Thank you for his clear and penetrating analysis, along with the available legal strategy for hunger strikers to follow.

    A couple of major pieces of this horrific court decision puzzles me — to say the least:

    *** How could Judge Henderson buy the argument that prisoners’ ‘No Resuscitation’ signed wishes were done under gang pressure? I always thought this judge was a very wise and humane person….

    *** How could the Prison Law Office, supposedly representing the interests of prisoners, go for this same CDC bull…. argument?

    *** What does all this say about the power of CCHCS to ‘oversee’ the medical system in California prison system if this ‘overseeing’ group also goes for this hype?

    sharon m

  4. This just is so heartbreaking. I have a son at Pelican Bay. I can not fathom how terrible he is being treated! I pray he stays alive but mostly I pray his mental health is not forever damaged.

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