Press Release: Folsom Prison Hunger Strike Enters 9th Day – Families, Advocates to Rally in Folsom and L.A. to Support Prisoners’ Demands

For Immediate Release – Friday, June 2, 2017

WHAT:  Rally & Press Conference to Support Folsom Prison Hunger Strike

WHEN:  Sunday, June 4th from 12:00pm-2:00pm | Press Conference @ 1:00pm

WHERE:
Folsom: Folsom State Prison | E Natomas & Folsom Prison Road  (Folsom, CA 95630)

Los Angeles: Twin Towers Jail | 450 Bauchet St  (Los Angeles, CA 90012)

PRESS CONTACTS:

Courtney Hanson
photos.courtneyjade@gmail.com | (916) 316-0625

 Raquel Estrada
rpartida831@gmail.com | (831) 227-7679

Folsom—On Sunday, June 4th, 2017, human rights advocates will hold a rally outside of Folsom State Prison (FSP) to amplify the voices of people incarcerated in the Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU) at FSP, who have been on hunger strike since May 25th. Prisoners in Building 4 of ASU are striking because they are forced in live in conditions that are inhumane and constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the U.S. Constitution. Despite the fact that FSP is aware of the dangerous consequences of prolonged social isolation, they continue to deprive prisoners of basic human needs, including normal human contact, environmental and sensory stimulation, mental and physical health, physical exercise, sleep, access to courts, and meaningful activity.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is aware (Madrid-Ashker-Coleman) that the conditions of extreme isolation will likely inflict some degree of psychological trauma, including but not limited to: chronic insomnia, severe concentration and memory problems, anxiety and other ailments. The CDCR and the general public have a heightened awareness about this issue because of the prisoner hunger strikes that swept California in 2011 and 2013 and involved more than 30,000 prisoners. Those strikes led to Ashker v. Brown, a federal class action lawsuit asserting that prolonged solitary violates the 8th Amendment (cruel and unusual punishment) and putting someone in solitary based on gang association violates the 14th Amendment (no due process). The case reached settlement in September 2015, ending indeterminate solitary confinement terms in Security Housing Units (SHUs), but did not prevent prisoners from being kept in prolonged solitary confinement in Administrative Segregation.

FSP continues to claim that lack of money prevents them from abiding by CDCR’s stated goals, and are content to not only ignore the suffering of men in its care, but to retaliate against them for their peaceful protest.

“On the afternoon of May 27th, someone called on my husband’s behalf relaying his message that Warden Ron Rackley and Ombudsman Sara Smith had a meeting with him where they communicated that they were upset with the hunger strike and threatened to take away his visits, move him to another prison, give him a 115 and revalidate him as a Security Threat Group (STG) gang leader for his role in organizing the hunger strike. On May 28th, I arrived to visit and the Sergeant informed me that my husband is no longer at FSP and was moved to DVI Tracy.” —Raquel Estrada

Folsom prison hunger strikers have the following demands, which are published in greater detail here.

  1. PROVIDE ADEQUATE ACCESS TO COURTS AND LEGAL ASSISTANCE

  2. PROVIDE MEANINGFUL EDUCATION, SELF-HELP COURSES AND REHABILITATIVE PROGRAMS

  3. ALLOW POSSESSION OF TELEVISIONS

  4. PROVIDE EXERCISE EQUIPMENT, INCLUDING PULL-UP BARS, FOR MEANINGFUL EXERCISE IN YARD

  5. END CRUELTY, NOISE AND SLEEP DEPRIVATION OF WELFARE CHECKS

  6. KEEP ORIGINAL PROPER PACKAGING FOR COMMISSARY AND CANTEEN

  7. GIVE NON-DISCIPLINARY STATUS TO QUALIFYING PRISONERS

  8. PROVIDE ADEQUATE AND APPROPRIATE CLOTHING AND SHOES

  9. PROVIDE FOOD BOWL AND CUP

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Endorsed by Sacramento Solidarity Network, California Families Against Solitary Confinement, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, Peoples’ Action for Rights and Community, All of Us or None, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children, Democratic Socialists of America Sacramento, Party for Socialism and Liberation, Showing Up for Racial Justice Sacramento, Freedom Outreach, Underground Scholars

Great NEW VIDEO: “Breaking Down the Box” (40 min.)

TORTURE IS A MORAL ISSUE

As the grievous loss of Kalief Browder reveals, we must act with urgency to end the devastation of solitary confinement. To that end, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture announces the release of a new NRCAT film, Breaking Down the Box, a 40-minute documentary for communities of faith, to expose the torture of solitary confinement in the context of mass incarceration in the United States.

Breaking Down the Box from NRCAT on Vimeo.

Produced by filmmaker Matthew Gossage, the film examines the mental health, racial justice and human rights implications of the systemic use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. It is a call to action for communities of faith to engage in the growing nationwide movement for restorative alternatives to isolated confinement that prioritize rehabilitation, therapeutic interventions, and recovery.  Watch the film online and then download or order a DVD for use in your congregation or community, at no cost. More resources and DVD order form at www.nrcat.org/breakingdownthebox

Please spread the word:

Twitter  New documentary from @NRCATtweets exposes torture of #solitaryconfinement in context of mass incarceration www.nrcat.org/breakingdownthebox

fb_logo  Watch a new documentary exposing the torture of solitary confinement in the context of mass incarceration in the U.S.  Film and resources for faith communities at www.nrcat.org/breakingdownthebox

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We encourage you to share this new resource in your community during June Torture Awareness Month and throughout the year. Additional promotional and discussion materials are available at www.nrcat.org/breakingdownthebox.

Thank you for your commitment to building a #TortureFreeWorld together.

In community,

Rev. Laura Markle Downton
Director of U.S. Prisons Policy and Program

Why The U.S. Won’t Let the U.N. Look Inside Its Prisons

After a half-decade and a mandate by the U.N. to investigate solitary confinement practices, U.N. torture rapporteur Juan Mendez had to find a backdoor into an American jail. Today, his findings are released in a report.

In 2010, Juan Mendez was appointed Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Degrading and Inhumane Treatment by the United Nations. His mandate is wide in size and scope—to expose and document torture wherever it exists on the planet today.

Since the beginning of his mandate Mendez has made criticizing the overuse of solitary confinement a priority. In 2011, he issued a report stating that 22 or 23 hours a day alone in a prison cell for more than 15 days at a time can cause permanent, lasting psychological damage and can constitute torture.

This problem, he emphasized, is particularly severe in the U.S., where prisoners are routinely held under such conditions for months, years and even decades at a time. Many have never committed a violent crime.

Fast-forward five years. The U.S. government has yet to grant Mendez access to a single isolation pod in any U.S. prison. The clock is ticking. Mendez has a mere 20 months left of his term, and he has yet been able to substantiate his reports with a firsthand investigation.

“The U.S. was voted into the Human Rights Council—a position that carries with it an obligation to cooperate,” he says. When he speaks, Mendez wears a look of weary determination befitting of his post.

“I’m disappointed to still be waiting for the State Department to respond to my request. I’ve been waiting over two years.”

“That fact that he hasn’t received a response is contemptible,” says Laura Rovner, legal expert on prison conditions from University of Denver. “It puts the U.S. in the company of countries like Syria, Pakistan, and Russia that also have been unresponsive to requests for country visits.”

“Given the length of the delay,” Rovner continues. “You have to wonder about the reason, whether it’s motivated by concerns about what the Special Rapporteur will find inside these prisons.”

Then suddenly, last December, Mendez was allowed access to California’s Pelican Bay State Prison—a facility known for keeping inmates in isolation indefinitely in its Security Housing Unit (SHU).

This visit did not come about through the official channels Mendez had long been appealing to, however. Instead, he found a way in to one of the most notorious prisons in the country through a kind of backdoor.

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