LF Involvements: California SHU Hunger Strike – Urbandale – Sep 11

I’ve tried to type this up a few times in preparation for this, but every time I got emotional so I kept putting it off. But its starts today, so heres my first attempt at an effortpost. It will probably seem a bit helter skelter, so I might edit for clarity later. The first round of the hunger strike was baby’s first activism for me.

Why

Some of this is covered in demands, but if you’ve read HFG’s Prison Threads(older ones archived here, current one is stickied) you already know what kind of conditions these people are dealing with. I’m sketchy with the history of the strike leaders, but I do know that the last strike started at the Pelican Bay SHU(info on what the SHU is and conditions of the SHU are here). People in the SHU only get out by dying, debriefing, or on parole. For those not familiar with debriefing, its a process where you talk, and the names and information you give is used to prosecute others in the SHU and on the outside. This is all done without fact checking, and since the conditions in the SHU are analogous to gitmo, its pretty easy to imagine that a shit situation just got a lot worse. People can and have spent their entire sentence in the SHU, and on top of the conditions being literal torture, the sensory depravation element also leads to permanent brain damage.

Demands

I’m going to just paste this from the copy I have from the first strike since the points are all the same. (these are my notes)

1. End Group Punishment & Administrative Abuse – This is in response to PBSP’s application of “group punishment” as a means to address individual inmates rule violations. This includes the administration’s abusive, pretextual use of “safety and concern” to justify what are unnecessary punitive acts. This policy has been applied in the context of justifying indefinite SHU status, and progressively restricting our programming and privileges.

(Group punishment is when someone of a particular race breaks a rule and the entire race gets thrown in the hole or priveleges are taken away from them(like exercise) if they are already there)

2. Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria

  • Perceived gang membership is one of the leading reasons for placement in solitary confinement.
  • The practice of “debriefing,” or offering up information about fellow prisoners particularly regarding gang status, is often demanded in return for better food or release from the SHU. Debriefing puts the safety of prisoners and their families at risk, because they are then viewed as “snitches.”
  • The validation procedure used by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) employs such criteria as tattoos, readings materials, and associations with other prisoners (which can amount to as little as greeting) to identify gang members.
  • Many prisoners report that they are validated as gang members with evidence that is clearly false or using procedures that do not follow the Castillo v. Alameida settlement which restricted the use of photographs to prove association.

3. Comply with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 Recommendations Regarding an End to Long-Term Solitary Confinement – CDCR shall implement the findings and recommendations of the US commission on safety and abuse in America’s prisons final 2006 report regarding CDCR SHU facilities as follows:

  • End Conditions of Isolation (p. 14) Ensure that prisoners in SHU and Ad-Seg (Administrative Segregation) have regular meaningful contact and freedom from extreme physical deprivations that are known to cause lasting harm. (pp. 52-57)
  • Make Segregation a Last Resort (p. 14). Create a more productive form of confinement in the areas of allowing inmates in SHU and Ad-Seg [Administrative Segregation] the opportunity to engage in meaningful self-help treatment, work, education, religious, and other productive activities relating to having a sense of being a part of the community.
  • End Long-Term Solitary Confinement. Release inmates to general prison population who have been warehoused indefinitely in SHU for the last 10 to 40 years (and counting).
  • Provide SHU Inmates Immediate Meaningful Access to: i) adequate natural sunlight ii) quality health care and treatment, including the mandate of transferring all PBSP- SHU inmates with chronic health care problems to the New Folsom Medical SHU facility.

4. Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food – cease the practice of denying adequate food, and provide a wholesome nutritional meals including special diet meals, and allow inmates to purchase additional vitamin supplements.

  • PBSP staff must cease their use of food as a tool to punish SHU inmates.
  • Provide a sergeant/lieutenant to independently observe the serving of each meal, and ensure each tray has the complete issue of food on it.
  • Feed the inmates whose job it is to serve SHU meals with meals that are separate from the pans of food sent from kitchen for SHU meals.

5. Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates.

Examples include:

  • Expand visiting regarding amount of time and adding one day per week.
  • Allow one photo per year.
  • Allow a weekly phone call.
  • Allow Two (2) annual packages per year. A 30 lb. package based on “item” weight and not packaging and box weight.
  • Expand canteen and package items allowed. Allow us to have the items in their original packaging [the cost for cosmetics, stationary, envelopes, should not count towards the max draw limit]
  • Allow sweat suits and watch caps. (people have died in the SHU from hypothermia. these prisons are usually built in the desert and they live in concrete rooms. this is really basic health stuff)
  • Allow wall calendars.
  • Install pull-up/dip bars on SHU yards.
  • Allow correspondence courses that require proctored exams.

How can I help?

Well, here’s some events!

[spoiler]

Los Angeles

Monday, September 26 3pm sharp: Protest at Obama Fundraiser!  Wear Orange ! West Hollywood House of Blues, 8430 Sunset Blvd (Sunset Blvd. & N. Olive Drive ) West Hollywood, CA. Phone 213-840-5348 for information

Sacramento

Wednesday, October 5th, 12 noon-2pm: Protest outside CDCR Headquarters. 1515 S St, downtown Sacramento. For carpooling and transportation needs from the Bay Area, please contact: 415.238.1801 or [email=”prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity@gmail.com”]prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity [at] gmail.com[/email]

San Francisco

Monday, September 26, 3:30 – 5:30pm: 1st annual Social Justice Panel Series, Hastings Louis B. Mayer Lounge, 198 McAllister St., SF. Speakers to include legal professionals, leading activists, former inmates, and family members of SHU prisoners.

Thursday, October 6, 5-7 p.m.: Vigil at UN Plaza, SF.

Thursday, October 13, 5-7 p.m.: Vigil at 24th  & Mission, SF.

Oakland

Thursday, September 29, 5-7 p.m.: Vigil at 14th & Broadway, Oakland.

Saturday October 8th from 12:00 to 3:30 p.m: social gathering and potlock with Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition members, local activists, friends and family members of incarcerated loved ones in California prisons, to meet and socialized. Come and join us and share your favorite treat with us. Mosswood Park, 3612 Webster Street, Oakland, CA.

Thursday, October 20, 5-7 p.m.: Vigil at Fruitvale, Oakland.

Montreal

Monday, September 26 at 7pm: Info night in support of second California prisoners’ hunger strike. At DIRA, 2035 boulevard Saint-Laurent, metro St. Laurent (Montreal).

Toronto

Sunday, September 25 from 6:00pm – 9:00pm: Toronto Anarchist Black Cross letter-writing night to support California prisoners about to go on hunger strike. A vegan dinner will be provided, courtesy of Food Not Bombs. At Beit Zatoun,  612 Markham Street Toronto, Ontario.

[/spoiler]

If you aren’t able to get to the protests, being visible is the next best thing. A list of organizations supporting the strike can be found here. Contact them to assist in putting an action together. Or write to the prisoners or strike leaders(list here). Last time people in Pelican Bay didn’t know that nearly a dozen other prisons joined in protest with them. Download a press release(also posted on that site) and send it to a local news station. Last time there was a near blackout, despite Okland’s streets being filled with people. I dont know of a whole lot of other ways to get visability, I’m new to this, so if anyone has any ideas please post them.

I’ll post more about this after I meet up with some organizers. Thanks in advance.

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