FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—-
Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity
Office: 510 444 0484
Cell: 510 517 6612
Oakland – On Monday, September 26, 2011, prisoners at both Pelican Bay and Calipatria State Prisons will resume hunger strike that last most of last July in continued protest of the inhumane conditions of their confinement, including long term solitary confinement and the widely-condemned practices of gang validation and debriefing. Despite international public outcry as well as legislative intervention in California, prisoners have stated CDCR has yet to make any substantial changes to their policies and has failed to keep up negotiation promises made when the strike was suspended in July.
“This is far from over and once again, hopefully for the last time, we will be risking our lives via a peaceful hunger strike on Sept 26, 2011 to force positive changes” writes Mutope Duguma (aka, James Crawford), a prisoner in the Pelican Bay SHU and a representative of the hunger strikers, “for 21 1/2 years we have been quietly held in Pelican Bay State Prison solitary confinement under some of the most horrible conditions known to man. So we continue to struggle to be treated like decent human beings.”
Prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU will be joined on strike by prisoners in the Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) Unit at Calipatria State Prison, located in California’s southeast-most county. Ad-Seg Units are similar to SHUs in that they place prisoners in solitary confinement for long periods of time. In addition, prisoners at Calipatria are also subject to the same gang validation and indeterminate sentencing practices at the center of this past summer’s strike. Many prisoners marked as gang members at Calipatria are kept in Ad-Seg units for years before being transfered to Pelican Bay. “Several hundred prisoners in Administration Segregation Units at Calipatria State Prison have been validated or given an indefinite SHU term and majority of the men have been waiting three to four years in administration segregation to be transferred to the Pelican Bay SHU,” says Kendra Casteneda who has a family member at Calipatria, “The men at Calipatria are striking because the same conditions that exist at Pelican Bay exist in prisons throughout California.”
California Department of Corrections (CDCR) officials seem to be preemptively cracking down on prisoners in anticipation of the strike and have publicly said they were preparing to take harsh actions against strikers. Illustrating the CDCR’s hard-line stance, Undersecretary of Operations Scott Kernan said in a recent interview, “If there are other instances of hunger strikes, I don’t think the Department will approach it the same way this time around.” Lawyers who have recently visited Pelican Bay have taken testimony from SHU prisoners who have been retaliated against by prison officials for their participation in this summer’s strike. “Prisoners are receiving serious disciplinary write-ups, usually reserved for serious rules violations, for things like talking in the library or not walking fast enough,” says Carol Strickman, a lawyer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, “It’s clear that prison officials are trying to intimidate these men and to make them ineligible for any privileges or changes that may be forced by the strike.”
This summer’s hunger strike saw widespread participation across the California prison system with at least 6,600 prisoners participating in more than a third of the state’s 33 prisons. National and international support led to a legislative hearing in the state’s capitol, where conditions in California’s Security Housing Units were scrutinized by state legislators and condemned by experts. Family members, advocates, and organizations have vowed to continue to support the prisoners in resuming their strike, and to help them in winning their demands.
For more information about the strike and for ongoing updates, please visit http://www.prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com