For Immediate Release – February 13, 2012
Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity
Office: 510 444 0484
Oakland – Family members and advocates are seeking information surrounding the February 2nd death of Christian Gomez, 27, a prisoner at Corcoran State Prison. It remains unclear whether or not Gomez was participating in an ongoing hunger strike in the prison’s Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU), or whether his death was related to the strike. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has not disclosed the cause of death saying that they have not yet received an autopsy report.
“Conditions inside California prisons are atrocious, especially when it comes to physical and mental health care,” says Laura Magnani, Interim Regional Director of the American Friends Service Committee and an expert witness during an August 23rd hearing in Sacramento regarding California’s Security Housing Units (SHUs) , “Any time a prisoner dies inside one of their institutions, the CDCR must be held responsible.” California’s prison healthcare system has been under federal receivership since 2006 due to inhumane and deadly conditions caused by severe overcrowding. Federal Judge Thelton Henderson recently announced an imminent end to the oversight.
Prisoners in the Corcoran ASU have been on hunger strike for periods of time since late December of 2011. Their 11 demands include adequate access to the law library and legal assistance and an end to the practice of holding prisoners in ASU after they have served their sentences in the unit. “ASUs are similar to California’s SHUs in that they are often used to punish prisoners who are jail house lawyers or who have organized with their fellow prisoners to make political demands,” says Molly Porzig, an organizer with Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, “Some prisoners are confined in solitary, without privileges afforded in general population such as radios and phone calls for years at a time and without any means to challenge their cases.” A 2009 review by the Office of the State Inspector General of the CDCR’s policies in ASUs found that prisoners in several units had been held for inappropriate lengths of time, violating their due process rights and costing the department of millions of dollars.
It is unknown how long prisoners at Corcoran will keep up their hunger strike, but letters from participants indicate that they continue until the CDCR meets their demands. One prisoner recently wrote, “The struggle that is being fought in this ASU at Corcoran State Prison is only a small part of a bigger struggle that is being fought, and that will be continuously fought, against the oppression that is evident in all parts of the world today.” Two hunger strikes took place in prisons across California last year, at one point involving at least 12,000 prisoners. Last year’s strikes, as well as the Corcoran strike, are unprecedented in the history of the CDCR and have seen unity amongst prisoners across racial and geographic lines.
For more information and updates, please visit www.prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com.