Prisoner Hunger Strike Fight Moves to Courts, Community Rallies in Support

Press Conference, Rally, Oral Argument in Ashker v. Brown
Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013 at 1:00 p.m.
Oakland Federal Building, Clay Street, Oakland, CA, 94612

In the wake of one of the largest hunger strikes in US history, prisoners will continue their fight in the courtroom Thursday afternoon.  Lawyers will present oral arguments in Ashker v. Brown, a federal lawsuit on behalf of prisoners at the Pelican Bay State Prison in California. They will be seeking to certify a class of all prisoners serving indeterminate terms at the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit (SHU), and a subclass of all prisoners who have been held at the Pelican Bay SHU for more than 10 years.  Supporters will hold a press conference and rally at the Federal Building in Oakland before today’s proceedings.

Three weeks ago prisoners suspended a hunger strike after refusing food for 60 days in protest of the torturous conditions of solitary confinement in California prisoners.  At its peak, 30,000 prisoners from over 20 prisons in California were on hunger strike, demanding an end to indefinite solitary confinement; fundamental changes in the draconian policies used to keep prisoners in solitary;  an end to collective punishment of prisoners by guards and prison officials; provision of adequate and nutritious food; and access to programs and services.  Despite continuous attacks against strikers by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), prisoners garnered unprecedented international support for their peaceful protest and decided to suspend their strike after working with legislators to convene special hearing by the state senate and assembly’s Public Safety Committees on California’s human rights violations of prisoners being held in solitary.

“This lawsuit is an import step in our loved ones’ fight to end the torture of solitary confinement,” said Marie Levin of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, whose brother Sitawa Jaama is one of the lead plaintiffs in the case and has been a key spokesperson for his fellow prisoners on hunger strike. Says Levin, “By winning  class certification during tomorrow’s proceedings, the number of prisoners who will have access to this legal venue will increase, and so will their chances of ending solitary confinement.  As always, we will be with them here in the courts, in the legislature, or out in the community.  We will use every venue available to us, until the torture is ended.”

Marie Levin, along with lawyers, and activists will be available for interviews throughout the day.

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