PHOTOS and REPORTBACKS from Rally Against the Torture of Prisoners

On February 1, 2016, people from all over California gathered in Sacramento at the headquarters of the CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCr) to demand an end to the dangerous and deliberate sleep deprivation being inflicted on the people in solitary in Pelican Bay State Prison SHU, under the guise of “welfare checks”.

Before the Rally, more than 15 formerly incarcerated people, family members, pen pals, and other activists visited the offices of Loni Hancock (chair of the CA Senate Public Safety Senate Committee), Bill Quirk (chair of the CA Assembly Public Safety Committee), and reps from various districts to demand the immediate suspension of the sleep deprivation “welfare checks” in the Pelican Bay SHU.  Sleep Deprivation Is Torture.

Reportbacks below are from Martha Esquivel of San Diego, CA and James Decker of Eureka, CA.
Photos are from Liberated Lens Collective, Lucas Guilkey, James Decker, and Urszula Frydman. Please inquire about photo accreditation before using unlabeled photos.

from Martha Esquivel:
I’m so very thankful for having the opportunity to go to Sacramento and stand up with you all in front of CDCr and show them our unity, meet new people and listen to their stories… about how their loved ones are being tortured by CDCr, our employees. Yes, our employees. Because they get paid with our taxes, and instead of rehabilitating our loved ones who make mistakes, they are looking for methods to keep the torture going one way or another.

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Photo by Liberated Lens Collective

Almost 5 years ago, we were standing outside CDCr demanding CDCr stop the torture of our loved ones in Indefinite Isolation.  We proved to them that was torture. We Won and now CDCr has found another way of torturing them, by not letting them sleep. It has been 6 months of sleep deprivation and they know that it is torture.

Back in 2011, we didn’t have a clue what to do, we only knew that our loved ones were being Tortured and they needed our support. Our loved ones pushed from the inside and we pushed from the outside, and we got the Victory.  Today, we are more people fighting for our loved ones in prison. Some of them are out of the SHU, but we are still here fighting for the one’s still in the SHU. We are not leaving anyone behind. Together We know We can make a change, and we just want to let CDCr know that regarding this new chapter of torture they have created: We are going to win too, because our movement is a movement of Love, and we believe in rehabilitating humans not destroying them!
Martha Esquivel is active in California Families Against Solitary Confinement and the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition; She is sister to Luis Esquivel, a named Plaintiff in Ashker v Brown, now out of Pelican Bay SHU after 15 years in solitary there.

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Photo by Lucas Guilkey

from James Decker:
I was proud to be part of the contingent from far northern California to attend the Rally Against the Torture of Prisoners on February 1, 2016. We gathered just after noon, a group of family members, formerly incarcerated persons, activists, attorneys, and faith leaders. Diverse members of the community gathering with a single purpose: to stop the sleep deprivation torture.

PowerfulSpeaking_2-1-16_JamesDeckerphoto

I was moved by the testimony of those folks fighting for the very lives of their loved ones. More then 70 people were there to listen and demand action!  Women, mostly women of color, spoke about a racist system fueled by capitalism that has devastated their families and robbed their communities.

StopTortureNow_2-1-16_JamesDeckerphoto

EndSleepDeprivation_2-1-16_JamesDeckerphoto

Thanks to the folks that helped create these powerful posters and the Artist Richard Torres.

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Carol Strickman gave us an update from the legal team.  The folks from Food Not Bombs in Oakland brought nutritious food.  Sarah Torres provided stirring music and chants went up spontaneously from the crowd demanding “LET THEM SLEEP!”

CynthiaFuentes-Sevilla_Feb1,2016

Cynthia spoke of the callous neglect and medical malpractice that is rampant in the prison system. It resulted in the death of her brother.

We must keep the pressure up to end this abominable behavior by the Department of Corrections and the State of California.

In solidarity,
James Decker works with Peoples’ Action for Rights and Community and the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition.

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Photo by Liberated Lens Collective

More Photos! Continue reading

Feb 1st: RALLY Against the Torture of Prisoners

2016- PHSS- End Sleep Deprivation Rally- Feb 1

Rally Against the Torture of Prisoners Feb 1, 2016

As of February 1st, it will be 181 days that the men in Pelican Bay SHU have been tortured by sleep deprivation. For six months the men have been awakened every 30 minutes, 48 times per day, due to so-called “security/welfare checks” by guards.

“…they’re killing us with these Guard One/Welfare Checks…I don’t know what to do? We really are suffering right now and I can assure you that this is worse than the hunger strikes.” PB SHU prisoner Oct. 2015

Join us in Sacramento on February 1st, 2016 at 1:00 pm to rally against the torture of prisoners!

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) claims these ‘checks’ will prevent suicide. Instead, these checks are causing serious psychological and physical harm. John R. Martinez, in solitary for 15 years, stated that the checks “are counter-productive to their so called intended purpose (mental health care) and serve zero legitimate penological purpose other than to harass and mentally torment us prisoners.”

Come and stand with us to put an end to torturous ‘welfare checks’ in the SHU.

RIDESHARES will be leaving from Southern California, Santa Cruz, the SF Bay Area, the North Coast, and locations in between. PHSS will help with travel expenses.  Please contact phssreachingout@gmail.com, 510-426-5322 if you need or can provide a ride. You can also message Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity on Facebook.

We need to make the Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committees and Governor Brown stop this now!

We must keep the pressure on!

Media Advisory HERE.

 

For RIDESHARE info and MEETING WITH LEGISLATORS before the Rally, Continue reading

PRISONER HUMAN RIGHTS! events Jan 22 & Feb 1

Join Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition for two events to

END SLEEP DEPRIVATION TORTURE
IN PELICAN BAY SOLITARY

Peter Collins-Solidarity withPBHunger Strike


Solitary Man

Solo Performance by Charlie Hinton,
followed by discussion

When: Friday, Jan 22 at 7pm

Where: Omni Commons

4799 Shattuck Ave
Oakland 94609

Charlie created Solitary Man based on his letters and visits with people in solitary confinement. The show is set in 2014, a year after the largest prisoner hunger strike in history.

Charlie says,“I want this show to gain an audience and become one more voice calling for the end of mass incarceration and solitary confinement…The world is such a cold and cruel place these days, I want Solitary Man to add at least one drop of humanity.”

After the performance, we will discuss how and why the men in Pelican Bay SHU have been continuously deprived of sleep since Aug 2, 2015.

Suggested Donation $5-15, snacks & beverages provided
No one turned away for lack of funds

Facebook: SOLITARY MAN, Performance by Charlie Hinton
http://tinyurl.com/h3adxdd

SacCDCrRally_2-1-16

Rally in Sacramento Against the Torture of Prisoners

When: Monday, Feb 1st at 1pm

Where: CA Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Headquarters

1515 S St. Sacramento, CA  95811

Since Aug 2, 2015, people in Pelican Bay SHU have been jolted awake by guards doing loud “checks” every 30 minutes. This cruel torture tactic is causing serious psychological and physical harm. Sleep deprivation is inhumane.  Join us to demand an immediate end to this torture.

No more torture in our name!

prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com

Facebook:
Rally Against the Torture of Prisoners

RIDESHARE & More Info
510.426.5322
phssreachingout@gmail.com

EMERGENCY ACTION ALERT: over 5 months of sleep deprivation in Pelican Bay SHU

Please make calls (and keep calling!) to demand a STOP to the 30 minute “checks” in Pelican Bay SHU:

  • CA Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Secretary’s Office: 916-323-6001
  • Kelly Harrington, CDCR Director of Adult Divisions: 916-445-7688
  • Senator Loni Hancock, Senate Public Safety Comm. Chair: 916-651-4009
  • Assembly Member Bill Quirk, Assembly Public Safety Comm. Chair: 916-319-2020
  • CA Governor Jerry Brown: 916.445.2841

Suggested script for calls:
Begin with your name and the city and state where you live. Tell them all: “Stop the so-called ‘welfare’ checks in the SHU at Pelican Bay State Prison. Sleep deprivation is torture.”

 

Send emails to CA elected officials:
Click this link from Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) to email the message to STOP the ‘checks’http://tinyurl.com/ztjcos3

 

Join the fight against the checks!:
Find out how here!
http://wp.me/P1BB1k-28B

 

Share this YouTube Video far and wide!
“Sleep Deprivation” from Liberated Lens Collective
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjWF3OtGSkQ

Background info: Continue reading

Mon, Dec 28 Rally in San Francisco: STOP SLEEP DEPRIVATION TORTURE at PELICAN BAY!

RALLY MON. DEC. 28, 2015, 10AM in SAN FRANCISCO,
AND MAKE PHONE CALLS.
Share the Facebook event and invite your friends!

Join the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition on Monday, December 28th outside the San Francisco Federal Courthouse (450 Golden Gate Ave, San Francisco, CA 94102) for a rally against the so-called “welfare checks, that since August 2nd, have been waking up men in Pelican Bay SHU (solitary confinement) every 20-30 minutes, 24/7.

As of December 28th, these men will have been tortured with sleep deprivation for 148 days!

Lawyers and CDCr officials will be meeting inside SF Federal Court at 11:00am. We want to show them that these checks are TORTURE and that they need to STOP NOW!

We know that interrupted sleep can cause serious mental and physical health problems. John R. Martinez, who has been in Pelican Bay SHU for over a decade, …wrote: “…there is a reasonable probability that life-threatening injuries and/or even death is inevitable, as medical symptoms are only worsening but not being treated.”  CDCr claims the checks are to prevent suicide, but knowing these detrimental effects of sleep deprivation, we’re worried the checks could actually lead to someone committing suicide or developing permanent disabling, and potentially terminal illnesses and conditions.

OTHER ACTIONS you can take (without leaving your home!):

1. Call to advocate for the 30 minute checks to stop, stating that sleep deprivation is torture. Some offices may require your name, city, and zip code.

•CDCR Secretary’s Office: 916-323-6001
•CDCR Director of Adult Divisions, Kelly Harrington (he): 916-445-7688
•Senator Loni Hancock, Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee: 916-651-4009
•Assembly Member Bill Quirk, Chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee: 916-319-2020

2. Forward this information to your networks to make it known widely that this torture may continue unless we, along with allied lawyers, put pressure to stop it!

Continue reading

“Our movement rests on a foundation of unity: our Agreement to End Hostilities.” [VIDEO included]

Statement of plaintiffs on settlement of Ashker v. Governor of California

Dated Aug. 31, 2015

This settlement represents a monumental victory for prisoners and an important step toward our goal of ending solitary confinement in California, and across the country.  California’s agreement to abandon indeterminate SHU confinement based on gang affiliation demonstrates the power of unity and collective action.  This victory was achieved by the efforts of people in prison, their families and loved ones, lawyers, and outside supporters.

Our movement rests on a foundation of unity: our Agreement to End Hostilities.  It is our hope that this groundbreaking agreement to end the violence between the various ethnic groups in California prisons will inspire not only state prisoners, but also jail detainees, county prisoners and our communities on the street, to oppose ethnic and racial violence.  From this foundation, the prisoners’ human rights movement is awakening the conscience of the nation to recognize that we are fellow human beings.  As the recent statements of President Obama and of Justice Kennedy illustrate, the nation is turning against solitary confinement. We celebrate this victory while, at the same time, we recognize that achieving our goal of fundamentally transforming the criminal justice system and stopping the practice of warehousing people in prison will be a protracted struggle.  We are fully committed to that effort, and invite you to join us.

Todd Ashker
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa
Luis Esquivel
George Franco
Richard Johnson
Paul Redd
Gabriel Reyes
George Ruiz
Danny Troxell

“This litigation was led by the plaintiffs – those held in the SHU – from the beginning, not the lawyers, who properly understood their role as carrying out the strategy of those they represented to fight for their release and further their movement. It should be studied.”  Bret Grote, Attorney, Abolitionist Law Center

After decades in solitary they joined forces. Here’s what happened.

Sunday, Aug. 23rd– Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement

Action Locations and Details — from San Diego to Arcata, CA to New York City  HERE

Solitary Is Torture

Honoring Hugo “Yogi Bear” Pinell

Long live Hugo Pinell, who showed us the power of the human spirit, that love can survive and overpower hell on earth.

________________________________________________

Beloved political prisoner Hugo ‘Yogi Bear’ Pinell, feared and hated by guards, assassinated in Black August after 46 years in solitary
August 14, 2015   by Dr. Willie and Mary Ratcliff

Black August adds another hero and martyr to the roll.

From December 1970 to 2014, when he finally had a contact visit with his mother, Yogi was allowed to come out from behind the thick glass in the visiting room and touch a loved one only once: When he married Shirley, they were given 15 minutes together. She later died.

By some accounts, it was his first day on the yard after 46 years in solitary confinement when Hugo Pinell, affectionately known as Yogi Bear, was assassinated Aug. 12. The news sparked a victory celebration by  prison guards on social media: “May he rot in hell” and “Good riddens” (sic), they typed. Yogi was the only member of the San Quentin 6 still in prison, and his role in the events of Aug. 21, 1971, the day George Jackson was assassinated, has earned the guards’ incessant enmity ever since.

“This is revenge,” declared his close friend, fellow Black Panther veteran Kiilu Nyasha, on Hard Knock Radio Aug. 13. “They hated him as much as George Jackson. They beat him constantly, kept him totally isolated for 46 years – no window, no sunlight – but they could never break him, and that’s why they hated him.

“The only way he survived was that this man was full of love.” ….
Please read more of this excellent SF Bay View article
which includes “The Black Panther Party and Hugo Pinell”  from The Black Panther newspaper of Nov. 29, 1971

 

Hugo Pinell Presente!
August 14, 2015   by Isaac Ontiveros

….Hugo became a part of the Prison Liberation Movement, which saw the prison as a front of struggle connected to the global upsurge of oppressed people against colonialism, imperialism, and white supremacy.  This was a period of intense education, organizing, and resistance among imprisoned people—some locked up as political prisoners, some transformed while inside, nearly all targeted by prison administrations for their political stances and activism.  In 1971, Hugo, along with 5 other prisoners at San Quentin State Prison in California, were charged with raising a rebellion at the facility’s Adjustment Center, during which prisoner movement leader George Jackson was assassinated.  Several weeks later, actions commemorating the assassination of Jackson by prisoners at Attica went on to spark the massive rebellion at that prison.  The story and political trial of the San Quentin Six helped people across the planet to understand the conditions inside prison, the resistance of prisoners, and the connection across the walls that the Prison Liberation Movement was trying to make.

Hugo Pinell in 2001

Hugo Pinell would go on to spend over 40 years in the solitary confinement units used to punish prisoners and break up their social, political, and religious organizations—indeed, Pinell was the longest held prisoner in solitary confinement in California, before recently being released into the general population.  Despite the torturous conditions of solitary, Hugo remained steadfast politically, and tried to stay connected to people and struggle, inside and outside the prison.  Hugo participated in the recent California Prison Hunger Strikes and was vocal supporter of prisoners’ 2011 Agreement To End Racial Hostilities.   In his late 60s while on hunger strike, Hugo talked about his activism with journalist Kilu Nyasha:

I wasn’t prepared for a hunger strike, so I don’t know how well or how long I can hold on, but I had to participate…I don’t even think in terms of doing or saying something wrong, for that would strike against everything I live for: freedom, becoming a new man and the New World. So, Sis, this hunger strike provides me with an opportunity for change while also allowing me to be in concert with, and in support of, all those willing to risk their precious and valuable health.  ….
Please read more of this tribute from Critical Resistance
Hugo Pinell- Rest in Power

August 13, 2015  by Claude Marks

We are saddened by the news of Hugo Pinell’s death. Hugo Pinell always expressed a strong spirit of resistance. He worked tirelessly as an educator and activist to build racial solidarity inside of California’s prison system. ….

….As the California Prisons began to lock people up in long-term isolation and control unit facilities, Hugo was placed inside of the SHU (Secure Housing Unit) in prisons including Tehachapi, Corcoran and Pelican Bay. There, despite being locked in a cell for 23 hours a day, he continued to work for racial unity and an end to the torturous conditions and racially and politically motivated placement of people into the SHU. This work included his participation in the California Prison Hunger Strikes as well as supporting the Agreement to End Racial Hostilities in 2012.

At the time of his death, Hugo had been locked behind bars for 50 years yet his spirit was unbroken.
Please read the full writing, Hugo Pinell- Rest In Power

See Who are the San Quentin 6? flyer (from 1970’s) provided by Freedom Archives

Here is a link to the Freedom Archives San Quentin 6 collection 

brief poem by Luis ‘Bato’ Talamantez

Hasta Siempre Hugo
Solidarity forever
And we are saddened
Solidarity left
You when (it) should have
Counted for something and
What your long imprisoned
Life stood for
Now all your struggles
To be free have failed
And only death an
Inglorious and violent
Death has
Claimed you
At the hands of the
Cruel prison system
La Luta Continua

-Bato and the San Quentin 3

A short poem written by Hugo Pinell from a publication issued in 1995.

No
Matter
How long it takes,
Real Changes will come,
And the greatest personal reward
Lies in our involvement and contributions,
Even if it may appear that nothing significant
Or of impact really happened
During our times,
But it did,
Because
Every sincere effort
Is as special as every human life

-Hugo Pinell (1995)

July 23rd Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement- Locations & Details

Thursday, July 23 ACTIONS by location (alphabetical order)

Arcata/Bayside, CA – Boston, MA – Chicago, IL – Culver City / Los Angeles, CA – Naples, FL – New York, NY – Oakland, CA – Philadelphia, PA – Pittsburgh, PA – San Diego, CA – San Jose, CA– Santa Cruz, CA – Santa Monica, CA – Thunderclap (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr)

If you don’t see your locale listed here, click HERE to read the entire post.  If you still don’t see your locale, we haven’t received the details yet or YOU just might need to organize a simple action where you are!!

Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC) has a PHSS Facebook Event page.  SCATESC’s growing list of Co-sponsors and Endorsers is below.

July 23 Locations & Details (so far)

ARCATA / BAYSIDE, CA:
BreakingDownTheBox_July23 FlyerOn Thursday evening, July 23rd, come to the Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship to watch the excellent new film ‘Breaking Down the Box’ (40 min). We’ll have refreshments and discussion afterwards with KHS
U radio host Sista Soul and other special guests! The film event is hosted by the Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Social Action Committee and PARC, Peoples’ Action for Rights and Community (Eureka).

Earlier in the day (location & time will be posted soon), join us in Arcata. We’ll hand out literature for people to get educated and involved now to STOP THE TORTURE that is solitary confinement.  We will also be promoting the Agreement to End Hostilities.

HERE‘s the Arcata flier!
Arcata Action Details
Time: 6:00pm – 8:00pm PST
Location: The Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 24 Fellowship Way, Bayside, CA  95524
For more info, call  707-267-4249
Contact Name: Verbena
Contact Email: phssreachingout@gmail.com
Facebook event
: https://www.facebook.com/events/1607915476127367/

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS:
The Coalition for Effective Public Safety – CEPS is engaging in public actions the 23rd of each month to bring attention to the 80,000+ people held in solitary confinement across the U.S. on any given day and to end solitary confinement. This date emphasizes the 23 or more hours every day that people are kept in solitary confinement. Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) has helped launch statewide Coordinated Actions to End Solitary Confinement in California following the Pelican Bay hunger strike initiated in 2013 by people incarcerated there in response to the deplorable conditions they were being held in. Monthly actions began in California in March 2015, and we started here in Massachusetts in June 2015.

Massachusetts is one of only three states where prisoners who commit disciplinary infractions can be placed in solitary confinement for up to ten years, even though the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has called for a ban on any solitary confinement that lasts longer than fifteen days.

This month we are hosting a documentary screening outside about solitary confinement. More details will be posted here soon.
Massachusetts Action Details

Time and Location: will be posted here soon
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Coalition-for-Effective-Public-Safety-CEPS/353915588130873
Contact person: Rachel Corey
For info or to help plan future actions: director@cjpc.org

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS:
The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) estimates that 2,500 – 3,000 people are held in solitary confinement in Illinois on any given day. The Federal Bureau of Prisons plans to open Thomson Supermax Prison in Thomson, IL by the end of the year, bringing 1,500 new solitary cells to the state.

The United Nations considers solitary confinement beyond 15 days torture and has called for its absolute prohibition. Many people in Illinois and throughout the US have spent decades in solitary. We say NO MORE.

All those opposed to solitary confinement are invited to rally on July 23rd outside the Thompson Center, home of IDOC before marching to the Federal Building. We demand an end to the torturous practice in Illinois, by both the state and federal government. We demand that the Illinois legislature hold a hearing to investigate solitary confinement, or what they call “Segregation” or “Administrative Detention”. We demand Thomson close its doors, as Tamms did 2.5 years ago.

This action is in solidarity with anti-solitary activists in California who have been organizing actions, events, teach-ins, and more on the 23rd of every month as part of a statewide campaign to end solitary confinement. They’ve chosen the 23rd of the month because people held in solitary spend at least 23 hours/day in isolation.
___________________________________
Learn more!  Read about Uptown People’s Law Center’s lawsuit against IDOC for their overuse of solitary confinement. Here’s
more info on Thomson Supermax. 
Chicago Action Details
Time: 5:00pm – 6:30pm CDT
Location: RALLY @
Thompson Center, 100 W Randolph St, Chicago, Illinois 60601, MARCH to Federal Building
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/511219215692757/

CULVER CITY / LOS ANGELES, CA:
July23_ LA
Two years have passed since people confined in California’s Pelican Bay State Prison initiated (on July 8) a 60-day hunger strike to protest the conditions associated with the prison’s “security housing unit,” or SHU.  Four years have passed since the initial hunger strike began on July 1.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) continues to claim that “there is no ‘solitary confinement’ in California’s prisons and the SHU is not ‘solitary confinement,'” but people inside the Pelican Bay State Prison’s security housing unit say they remain locked in for at least 23 hours per day.

At this event, we will present If the SHU Fits-Voices from Solitary Confinement, and follow with a session to:
* Share Stories
* Discuss Strategies to make meaningful change and
* Take Action!

“If the SHU Fits” is produced by Dramastage Qumran, LA Laborfest, & Public Works Improvisational Theatre, and supported by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), and the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS).

The event is a part of the Statewide Coordinated Actions to End Solitary Confinement, a call by prisoners in solitary to their supporters outside to STOP THE TORTURE with events on the 23rd of each month, signifying the number of hours prisoners are kept in solitary.
HERE‘s the Culver City/LA flier!
Culver City Action Details
Time: 7:30pm – 9:30pm PST
Location: Peace Center, West 3916 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, CA90230
Contact person: Andy Griggs

For info, call 310-704-3217 or email lalaborfest@gmail.com
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1453616404940842/

NAPLES, FLORIDA:
Demonstration in front of the Collier County Jail on the 23rd to End Solitary Confinement.  Details will be posted here soon!

NEW YORK, NY:
Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement invites you to a RALLY at UNION SQUARE on July 23rd.  (Meet by steps on  south side, by E. 14th and Broadway)

Every day in New York prisons and jails, there are more than 5,000 people in solitary confinement and other forms of extreme isolation. There, they spend 23 hours a day locked in a cell about the size of an elevator. In isolated confinement, people are left with nothing to do, no programs, no one to talk to, and no human touch. In these torturous conditions, people experience intense suffering and, often, severe psychological and physical damage. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture determined that keeping a person in solitary more than 15 days is torture; New York regularly holds people in solitary for months and years, and sometimes decades.

Join us on the 23rd of every month in the fight to end solitary confinement. We are joining allies around the country who are holding monthly actions based on the recommendation of people incarcerated in Pelican Bay prison who led the momentous hunger strikes in California.

People in solitary need you.
Together we can HALT solitary confinement and end torture in New York State.
New York City Action Details
Time: 6:00pm EST
Location: Union Square- meet by steps on south side, by E. 14th and Broadway
Contact email: caicny@gmail.com
Website: http://nycaic.org/

OAKLAND, CA:
Thursday evening, July 23rd, the San Francisco MIME TROUPE will perform at Oakland’s Lake Merritt in back of the bandstand.

Please come volunteer to help set up the model SHU (mock solitary confinement cell) beginning at 3:30 PM.

We will distribute information and people can get a feel for the small space that 10’s of thousands of people are confined to 23+ hours a day, often for years.

Please call Penny (cell:  415-412-1969) to let us know if you can be with us for this important date. As the trial in the Pelican Bay class action lawsuit approaches in December, the public needs to know current news and see the model SHU again.

END LONG TERM SOLITARY CONFINEMENT !!
Oakland Action Details
Time: 3:30pm– Set up mock SHU
           5:00pm– Distribute literature and show mock SHU
Location: Lake Merritt, in back of Edoff Memorial Band Stand, Oakland, CA 94610
Contact email: phssreachingout@gmail.com

Contact person: Penny
For more info, call 415-412-1969

Continue reading

Pelican Bay Hunger Strike: Four Years and Still Fighting

Originally published in Counterpunch

Four years ago prisoners in California – led by those in the control units of Pelican Bay – organized a hunger strike to demand an end to the torturous conditions of solitary confinement. Two more strikes would follow, with over 30,000 prisoners taking united action in the summer of 2013—both in isolation and in general population in nearly every California prison. The strikes reflected significant shifts in political consciousness among prisoners and their loved ones. The violence of imprisonment was further exposed by demands and heightened organization from within the cages. Prisoner-led collective actions as well as growing public support dramatically have changed the political landscape.

The organization of hunger strikes in 2011 surprised many, especially the CDCr – the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (the lower case ‘r’ by most prison writers derides the Orwellian use of the word rehabilitation), the media, and much of the public.

Current prison organizing continues a historic legacy of struggle. Among prisoners, the strikes of 2011-2013 were compared to the Attica Rebellion of 1971. Shortly before that rebellion, prisoners at Attica refused to speak or eat in the facility’s chow hall, paying tribute to Black Panther Party member and California prison movement leader George Jackson, who had been assassinated at San Quentin prison August 21st. Jackson was a skilled and effective leader who connected the human rights demands of prisoners to revolutionary ideas both globally and in the streets. He argued with powerful clarity that racist and exploitive power relations could and should be changed through political and military struggle, and that Black liberation was achievable as part of an international struggle to destroy imperialism. Within the prisons, he built unity across racial lines – thinking that a unified prison movement could succeed in winning basic human rights both within the cages and in oppressed communities. While the state obviously found Jackson’s ideas and example extremely dangerous, many prisoners and community members found them a clarion call for action.

On September 9th 1971, Attica erupted. Led by prisoners affiliated with the Nation of Islam, the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords, and the Five Percenters, the rebellion seized control of several large areas of the prison and issued a manifesto demanding, among other things, better health conditions, an end to political persecution of prisoners, and a right to organize or join labor unions (these demands were very similar to the Folsom Prison manifesto written in California in 1970). After four days of negotiations, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered that the prison be retaken – in the ensuing brutal military assault 39 people were killed by state police and prison guards.

While Attica is one of the most remembered uprisings, between the late 1960s and the early 1980s, there were over three hundred prison rebellions across the US, including those at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in 1973, the Idaho State Penitentiary in 1972-3, the August Rebellion in 1974 at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women in New York State, a 1975 demonstration at the North Carolina Correctional Center for Women, and the Penitentiary of New Mexico in 1980.

In response to these militant uprisings, prisons developed unprecedented strategies of repression, isolation and for a time resistance took less dramatic forms. Yet prisoners were still inspired to resist. In one example, in 1995 women in CA state prisons initiated a class action law suit against genocidal health care conditions and successfully organized family members and allies across the state to support them.

Prisoners in California in 2011-2013 organized against the very policies, strategies, and technology that had been put into place to neutralize the rebellions of previous decades (both inside and outside prison)—including solitary confinement, gang validation (which includes the criminalization of George Jackson’s writings), and the gutting of educational programming. In turn, prisoners used similar historic strategies – collective direct action, multiracial unity, and building strong support and solidarity networks on the outside. Continue reading