For Immediate Release – September 26, 2011
Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity
What: Press Conference
When: Monday September 26, 2011, 2pm
Where: UC Hastings, 198 McAllister, San Francisco
San Francisco – As prisoners in the Secure Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison and the Administrative Segregation Unit (Ad-Seg) at Calipatria State Prison resume their hunger strike to protest what have been characterized as inhumane prison conditions, community members and prisoner’s families will hold a press conference outside UC Hastings School of Law in San Francisco. A panel discussion featuring legal experts, activists, advocates and prisoner’s family members will follow the press conference at UC Hastings, highlighting the prisoners’ conditions and reasons for their renewed strike.
“What other avenues do prisoners have? As with the first hunger strike, the demands of the strikers are reasonable and long overdue,” says Laura Magnani, a member of the prisoner’s mediation team and a representative of the American Friends Service Committee, “We call on the State of California to move quickly to address the problems of solitary confinement in the state’s prisons.” The initial hunger strike started at Pelican Bay lasted nearly the entire month of July and swept across the state, with at least 6,660 prisoners in a third of California’s prisons participating. Despite claims to the contrary, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has yet to fully address what the prisoners feel are the most substantive changes outlined in their demands.
CDCR statistics show that of the 1,111 prisoners held in the Pelican Bay SHU, 513 have been in solitary confinement for 10 or more years and of those, 78 have been held for 20 or more years. Meanwhile, an estimated 400 prisoners held in Calipatria’s Ad-Seg unit have been validated by the CDCR as gang members and are awaiting transfer to one of the state’s four SHUs. “The CDCR’s gang validation process is a sham. They are using supposed gang membership as an excuse to torture people,” says Dolores Canales, the mother of one of the hunger strikers, “Holding people in tiny cells for years on end without any real possibility to get out, without natural sunlight or human contact is a clear violation of human rights.” The only way to exit the SHU is to debrief, or disclose all knowledge of gang activity, potentially putting the prisoner and their families in danger because they are then viewed as “snitches.”
In recent interviews, Scott Kernan, Undersecretary of Operations for the CDCR suggested that the department might expand SHU imprisonment to include some unnamed “security threat groups” and that the current realignment process the CDCR has undertaken to relieve extreme overcrowding, as ordered by the Supreme Court, might open up the possibility for more SHU cells. “ This is exactly the opposite of what the prisoners have asked for in their very reasonable demands,” says Manuel LaFontaine, an organize with All of Us or None, “It is this kind of manipulative gerrymandering that has brought us to a crisis point in terms of conditions in California prisons.”
Broad international support for the strikers continues to grow as the hunger strike enters its next phase. For more information and updates visit www.prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com.