PRISONERS UNITED of Silicon Valley Thank Each Other & Supporters for a Largely Successful Hunger Strike Against Solitary Confinement

Read full article in SF Bay View (includes video from a TV interview with hunger striker inside the jail)

January 25, 2017

by Mary Ratcliff

In late September, prisoners in the Santa Clara County jails who are part of what they then called the Prisoners’ Human Rights Movement sent a letter to Sheriff Laurie Smith with a list of demands and a notice that in October the inmates would initiate a hunger strike to continue their “peaceful protest to end this torturous practice of solitary confinement and inhumane treatment until there is tangible and meaningful change for all prisoners – most whom are un-convicted pretrial detainees,” they stated.

santa-clara-county-main-jail-yard-by-robert-galbraith-reuters-webIn prisons and jails, prisoners classed in general population are the freest, allowed to exercise on the yard together, as these men are at the Santa Clara County Jail. Solitary confinement is the least free classification and has been identified as torture by the United Nations. The issue was central to this hunger strike. “They isolate me by removing any form of social oxygen,” one prisoner told San Jose Inside. “I come out by myself, I do not interact with nobody else, no card playing, no nothing. When we go out in the yard, we come out one person at a time. We’re in our cells by ourselves. But they’re saying this isn’t solitary.” – Photo: Robert Galbraith, Reuters

The letter begins by recalling the Ashker settlement, the 2015 resolution of a lawsuit against solitary confinement in the state prison system that was initially filed by prisoners and fueled by a series of hunger strikes, the largest in history. Though it didn’t end solitary confinement, it severely limited it and released thousands of prisoners who had suffered the torture of solitary confinement for a decade or more into the relative freedom of general population.

Building on that precedent, the Santa Clara prisoners write: “Currently there are over a hundred prisoners held in solitary confinement throughout Santa Clara County jails.” Then they list their core demands:

  • End meaningless classification review and the biased appeal process;
  • End placement in solitary confinement when there exists no serious rule violation to merit such placement;
  • End the policy and practice of denying prisoners sufficient clothing;
  • End jail profiteering and exploitation of prisoners and their families through contract bidding of commissary vendors based on kickbacks and political incentives for campaign contributions;
  • End recidivism and misappropriation of prisoners’ welfare funds.

In calling the strike, which was inspired by the nationwide prison strikes that began Sept 9, 2016, they wrote to their comrades: “Said hunger strike will begin at 12 midnight on Oct. 17, 2016, and will go on for two weeks, or 14 days. It will end on Oct. 30, 2016, at 12 midnight. This strike is not mandatory, but instead it is highly encouraged to all who are concerned, willing and able.

“We especially reach out to those who are healthy and influential. We lean upon you and ask that you utilize your influence to help further push and inspire this movement through your words and actions by leading through example.

“For those who might not be able to hold up for the full 14 days, it’s OK; just do your best. But this county does not acknowledge a hunger strike until you refuse nine straight meals through the course of three days, so we ask that at a minimum you hold out for four days so that your sacrifice and efforts are acknowledged.”


Santa Clara County Main Jail is the main lockup in Silicon Valley, which is booming economically. So why would a large jail be needed where jobs are plentiful? Silicon Valley is notoriously reluctant to hire people of color regardless of their skills, so, as in nearly all the rest of the country, the wealth gap between rich and poor is huge.

Three hundred prisoners, including many held in solitary confinement, joined the strike. And after only four days, jail officials held a meeting with about a hundred prisoners that resulted in suspension of the strike, which continues.

Three hundred prisoners, including many held in solitary confinement, joined the strike.

“In an unusual turn,” the San Jose Mercury News reported, “the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, the union for the rank-and-file enforcement officers of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, publicly sided with the inmates and released a statement lambasting Sheriff Laurie Smith for not being responsive enough to the protest of conditions ranging from how solitary confinement is doled out to inadequate clothing.”

Now, under their new name, Prisoners United of Silicon Valley, the strikers have issued their own newsletter and topped it with this statement:

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PRISONERS UNITED OF SILICON VALLEY Newsletter #1

Link to full newsletter: http://tinyurl.com/gwhq2hp

PRISONERS
UNITED

OF SILICON VALLEY

December 22, 2016 – Newsletter 1

LETTER OF APPRECIATION

Greetings and solidarity to each other and all who participated in our initial Hunger Strike to end the arbitrary use of solitary confinement and inhumane treatment in Santa Clara County Jails.

Before we set off into the body of this letter we would like to extend our respect and appreciation to all who participated and sacrificed to provoke change. Although we came from diverse backgrounds be it race, religion, color or creed we set out differences aside, inter-locked arms forming a formidable force through civil disobedience in solidarity.

Allow the sacrifices each participant has made be inspiration to others to join in our struggle, allow our peaceful protest to demonstrate the power of unity and the positive changes that can be effected when we view each other not as classification of inmates defined by the color of clothing issued to prisoners by administration but instead as human beings who share the same oppressive conditions.

For decades prisoners have been slammed down in solitary confinement, locked away from education and rehabilitation programs or barred from participating in fellowship of their faith due to administration beliefs … Meanwhile our families are being exploited with practices that amount to price gouging through exorbitant commissary and phone rates. While they survive in a region with rising rent cost plagued by a homeless epidemic in city with ordinances that throws people in jail for having no place to live… Let’s be thankful we have religious leaders and community organizations like De-Bug who rally behind us to champion our cause and see us different, who are the difference, who see us as human beings, who are not persuaded by those in positions of authority whom define us by our allegations and classification rhetoric to pump fear in the heart of the public in their effort to kill our support base when they are preoccupied beating us to death like Michael Tyree … In the spirit of thankfulness perhaps one might consider reaching out to their family and friends letting them know they are appreciated; we appreciate you and yours for your support so Thank You!

Before we bring this letter of appreciation to a close we would like to abreast the prisoner population that our hunger strike has not ended, it has been momentarily suspended. We gave administration (30) days to bring about tangible changes for the benefit of all prisoners. We will continue our efforts until all of our core demands have been met. We will not be duped by the superficial such as movie night and a snack, we must persist as a collective that stands firm on principle. We must not be deluded by a carrot on a stick offered to us by an oppressed system that is fueled by greed and political ambitions.

To prevail in our struggle for prisoners human rights we respectfully ask the prisoner population to exercise diplomacy for it is not in our own interest to engage in combat with one another when we are fighting together to improve our conditions of confinement. We ask those of you who sway influence in our housing unit to work with each other to resolve conflict peacefully by promoting prisoner solidarity. Let’s try not to provide ammunition to the administration that allows them to justify the reasoning for the use of solitary confinement. Our goal is to promote our cause by unifying like-minded people to support our next planned Hunger strike.

In closing, we thank you for your time.

Truly,

PRISONERS UNITED OF SILICON VALLEY

 

Newsletter #1 contents:
Letter Of Appreciation
Official Updates
Recommended Reading
We Are the 13th Amendment! by Jose Valle
Recommended Resources
Write to De-Bug San Jose
Prisoners United of Silicon Valley
Notes
Questionnaire

Download, Read, or Print entire newsletter:
https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/prisoners-united-1.pdf

Santa Clara Co. Jail Hunger Strikers Released from Solitary! Hunger Strike Suspended Pending Sheriff’s Fulfillment of Demands

hs-suspended-oct-222016

HUNGER STRIKE SUSPENDED.

Hunger Strikers have been released from solitary with handshakes and hugs. In 90 days, Strikers will be able to downclass in to general population. Additional clothing has been ordered. The sheriff’s department has agreed to subsidize lowering Commissary prices through the Welfare Fund. The Hunger Strike will continue its suspension until lasting changes are met.

The community can still put pressure in the form of a petition to insure lasting change in classification, administration, and Gang Intel both in policy and practice.

Be a part of the process to have lasting change!

Share & Sign the Petition: https://www.change.org/p/support-the-santa-clara-county-jail-hunger-strikers

#debugsanjose #protectyourpeople #hungryforchange

Previous Post- Hunger Strike Announcement/More Info: http://wp.me/p1BB1k-2Ot

UPDATE on Santa Clara Jail Hunger Strike

Oct 19, 2016 UPDATE:  The Hunger Strike in the Santa Clara Main Jail is on- more than 300 people are participating, many of them in solitary confinement.  The classification system in Santa Clara Jails must change, and solitary confinement must end!  Please note this correction in the Sheriff’s number.  The correct number is 408.808.4611.  Additional numbers to call: 408.299.8770 and the Public Information /Public Relations Officer- 408.808.4905.  Read the below statement regarding the Hunger Striker’s Demands and, when you call, express your support for those human and civil rights demands and for the hunger strikers. Don’t be discouraged by staff responses.  State your concerns and support and keep the pressure on. Sheriff Laurie Smith has failed to respond so far.

Previous Post- Oct 17, 2016 Hunger Strike Announcement/More Information: http://wp.me/p1BB1k-2Ot

Oct 17 Hunger Strike: END Solitary Confinement and Inhumane Treatment in Santa Clara Co. Jails

UPDATE:  The Hunger Strike is on in the Santa Clara Main Jail- more than 300 people are participating, many of them in solitary confinement.  The classification system in Santa Clara Jails must change and solitary confinement must end!  Please note this correction in the Sheriff’s number.  The correct number is 408.808.4611.  Additional numbers to call: 408.299.8770 and the Public Information /Public Relations Officer- 408.808.4905  Read the below statement regarding the Hunger Striker’s Demands and, when you call, express your support for those human and civil rights demands and for the hunger strikers. Don’t be discouraged by staff responses.  State your concerns and support and keep the pressure on. Sheriff Laurie Smith has failed to respond so far.

Please read and spread the below statement from people in solitary confinement in Santa Clara County, California, announcing their upcoming hunger strike to begin Oct 17, 2016 and clearly explaining their human and civil rights demands behind the strike. ACT IN SOLIDARITY by sharing the prisoners’ words, putting pressure on the Santa Clara County Sheriff during the strike (phone numbers provided in the statement), writing letters to the editor, and paying attention to further statements from the Prisoner Human Rights Movement in Santa Clara County Jails.

Prisoners’ Statement/Open Letter:

All the respect across the board! Now onto the following at hand.

The following will consist of an open letter addressed to all prisoners contained within all three facilities of Santa Clara County Jail, in regards to a peaceful protest in the form of an organized hunger strike.

First off, allow us to stress the fact that by no means is this to be considered an attempt to promote or benefit any form of gang, nor is this to be considered gang activity. This letter and its request/call for action is an attempt to enlighten and remain inclusive regardless of race, creed, or color of top/shirt due to classification. The content of this letter does not simply pertain to any one group segment, nor any isolated issue, but instead it pertains to all prisoners within the three facilities of Santa Clara County Jail.

We all have a stake at hand, and we all serve to benefit from any success that may transpire as a result of our collective efforts. Therefore, it is important that we try and visualize the impact and full potential of strength and power behind our force as united prisoners for a valid purpose and common beneficial interest. With this in mind, we are now reaching out to all like-minded prisoners who are willing and interested in banding together in a united stance of solidarity under the name of Prisoners’ Human Rights Movement (P.H.R.M.) in order to bring about real meaningful forms of change.

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