Archive for the ‘Prisons’ Category

Three Prisoners Die in Hunger Strike Related Incidents: CDCR Withholds Information from Family Members, Fails to Report Deaths

20 November 2011

from CAPrisonerHungerStrikeSolidarity:

In the month since the second phase of a massive prisoner hunger strike in California ended on September 22nd, three prisoners who had been on strike have committed suicide. Johnny Owens Vick and another prisoner were both confined in the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit. Hozel Alanzo Blanchard was confined in the Calipatria Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU).

According to reports from prisoners who were housed in surrounding cells and who witnessed the deaths, guards did not come to the assistance of one of the prisoners at Pelican Bay or to Blanchard, and in the case of the Pelican Bay prisoner (whose name is being withheld for the moment), apparently guards deliberately ignored his cries for help for several hours before finally going to his cell, at which point he was already dead. “It is completely despicable that prison officials would willfully allow someone to take their own life,” said Dorsey Nunn, Executive Director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, “These guys were calling for help, their fellow prisoners were calling for help, and guards literally stood by and watched it happen.”

Family members of the deceased as well as advocates are having difficult time getting information about the three men and the circumstances of their deaths. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is required to do an autopsy in cases of suspicious deaths and according to the Plata case, is required to do an annual report on every death in the system.

Family members have said that their loved ones, as well as many other prisoners who participated in the hunger strike, were being severely retaliated against with disciplinary actions and threats. Blanchard’s family has said that he felt that his life was threatened and had two emergency appeals pending with the California Supreme Court at the time of his death. “It is a testament to the dire conditions under which prisoners live in solitary confinement that three people would commit suicide in the last month,” said Laura Magnani, Regional Director of the American Friends Service Committee, “It also points to the severe toll that the hunger strike has taken on these men, despite some apparent victories.” Prisoners in California’s SHUs and other forms of solitary confinement have a much higher rate of suicide than those in general population.

The hunger strike, which at one time involved the participation of at least 12,000 prisoners in at least 13 state prisons was organized around five core demands relating to ending the practices of group punishment, long-term solitarily confinement, and gang validation and debriefing. The CDCR has promised changes to the gang validation as soon as early next year and were due to have a draft of the new for review this November, although it’s not known whether that process is on schedule. “If the public and legislators don’t continue to push CDCR, they could easily sweep all of this under the rug,” said Emily Harris, statewide coordinator Californians United for a Responsible Budget, “These deaths are evidence that the idea of accountability is completely lost on California’s prison officials.”

Solidarity Demo with Prisoner Hunger Strikers

7 October 2011

from serfcityrevolt:

Louden Nelson Park, Santa Cruz
Saturday, 10/8 @ 6:30pm
Bring Noisemakers


12,000 prisoners are on hunger strike across the state of California in resistance to conditions in Special Housing Units (SHU).

The prisoner’s demands are simple:
1. End Administration Abuse & Group Punishment
2. Abolish the Debriefing Policy & Modify Gang Status Criteria
3. End Long Term Solitary Confinement
4. Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food
5. Expand and Provide Constructive Programming & Privileges

After a march through town to distribute information, we will have a noisy demonstration at the county jail to let the inmates hear that they are not alone.

Stand in solidarity with prisoners everywhere. Amplify their voices in the streets where we live.

Read More:

CA Dept. of Corrections Threatens Crackdown on Prisoners Hunger Striking

30 September 2011

from PrisonerHungerStrikeSolidarity:

California – With the hunger strike continuing to spread from Pelican Bay and Calipatria State Prisons to at least 6 other prisons, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has threatened to crack down on the at least 6,000 participants, including sending prisoners to solitary confinement.  The CDCR also faxed expulsion orders to two mediation team lawyers, notifying them that they had been banned from all prisons pending an investigation into whether or not they had “jeopardized the safety and security of CDCR” institutions.  Meanwhile, the prisoner-selected mediation team that has been trying to negotiate with the CDCR since the strike was initiated in July sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown, demanding a meeting and lodging their vehement objections to the actions of CDCR officials.

“This is very worrisome to say the least,” says Carol Strickman, one of the mediation team lawyers banned from CDCR facilities.  “We have been receiving steady reports from prisoners of CDCR intimidation and retaliation leading up to the strike.  Now, we have the CDCR threatening prisoners and cutting off contact with our legal team.  We obviously don’t want to imagine the worst, but we are legitimately concerned about violence on the part of the prison administration.”

In a letter sent to Gov. Brown this morning, mediators laid out the prisoners’ demands and said that prison officials’ inaction at the negotiation table and threats to prisoners “clearly demonstrate the unwillingness of CDCR officials to address the prisoners’ demands adequately.”  Mediators are asking for a meeting with Brown, saying, “We are ready to bring forth specific proposals that will make the current proposed reforms complete and bring California in line with best practices nationwide.  We can and must end torture in California’s prisons now.”

Support for the hunger strike continues to grow nationally and internationally.  “The strike is growing throughout the California for Security Housing Units, from Administrative Segregation Units, throughout the general population. Prisoners are becoming more and more united in their opposition to the horrendous conditions they are forced to endure at all levels of the prison system,” said Manuel La Fontaine, of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition. “And as their strike grows, so does the support coming from outside the prison walls.  People see this as a human rights issue, and so no level of repression on the part of the CDCR will stop people all over the world from fighting to help these prisoners win their demands.”

CA Prisoners to Resume Hunger Strike!

22 September 2011

CALIFORNIA – Prisoners in the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit (SHU) will resume their hunger strike against torturous conditions of imprisonment next Monday, Sept. 26th 2011. Read Tortured SHU Prisoners Speak Out: The Struggle Continues for more details on why they are resuming the strike.

According to family members, prisoners at Calipatria State Prison will also resume the hunger strike on Sept. 26th in solidarity with the prisoners at Pelican Bay and also to expose the brutal conditions they are in at Calipatria, where hundreds of prisoners are labeled as gang members, validated and held in administrative segregation (AdSeg) units, waiting 3-4 years to be transferred to the Pelican Bay SHU indefinitely.

The Calipatria hunger strikers have a similar, separate list of demands from the strikers at Pelican Bay, including abolish the defriefing policy & modify active/inactive gang criteria and expanding canteen/package items & programs/privileges for validated/SHU status prisoners (such as art supplies, proctored exams for correspondence courses, P.I.A. soft shoes, yearly phone calls & two annual packages). (via Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity)

CA Prison Hunger Strikers’ Health Rapidly Deteriorating

13 July 2011

from PrisonerHungerStrikeSolidarity:

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition received an urgent update from medical staff at Pelican Bay State Prison that the health of at least 200 hunger strikers in the SHU is rapidly worsening. A source with access to the current medical conditions who prefers to be unnamed reported:

“The prisoners are progressing rapidly to the organ damaging consequences of dehydration. They are not drinking water and have decompensated rapidly. A few have tried to sip water but are so sick that they are vomiting it back up. Some are in renal failure and have been unable to make urine for 3 days. Some are having measured blood sugars in the 30 range, which can be fatal if not treated.

SHU prisoners at Pelican Bay have said they are willing to risk their lives and will continue to strike until their demands are met. The CDCR continues to refuse to negotiate.

Prisoners across CA continue to refuse food in solidarity with the Pelican Bay SHU hunger strikers.

This past weekend, families and friends sent encouragement and support to their loved ones during weekend visits at prisons across the state, witnessing the toll the hunger strike is taking on their bodies. Families have said their loved ones are extremely pale, shaking and have already lost 20-30 pounds. Some families of prisoners who have only been drinking water for 12 days now witnessed their loved ones faint or go into diabetic shock in visiting rooms over the weekend.

People locked up across the state have been telling their friends and families about the tactics prison officials have been using to break the strike.

Many prisoners have said that medications are being denied to prisoners on hunger strike.

Prisoners have reported that guards in at least Pelican Bay General Population and Calipatria State Prison have been calling throughout blocks and units: “The Hunger Strike is over! The 5 demands have been met!” which is not true. According to family members of prisoners at Calipatria, participation at Calipatria was huge–at least 1,500 prisoners throughout that prison alone joined the hunger strike– until the guards spread rumors of the strike ending. Some prisoners at Calipatria remain on hunger strike, however.

While the CDCR released it’s estimate of 6,600 prisoners participating in the hunger strike during the 4th of July weekend and declared the numbers dropping to over 2,100 in the following days, of course the CDCR failed to mentioned how and why that happened. The decline in numbers in no way demonstrates a lack of support or dedication to this struggle from the prisoners, rather how eager the CDCR is to make this issue go away quickly and quietly.

Families and community organizations like Prison Moratorium Project continue to rally support outside of striking prisons like Corcoran, sharing information and trying to visit their loved ones as regularly as possible. Families and community members are also supporting the strike outside Pelican Bay.

Support for this hunger strike is at a crucial point, where we need to pressure the CDCR to negotiate with the prisoners immediately. Call the CDCR and urge them to negotiate NOW. Also call your legislators and urge them to make sure the CDCR negotiates with the prisoners in good faith. Click here for more info, including a sample script and phone numbers.

6,600 CA Prisoners on Hunger Strike

7 July 2011

from PrisonerHungerStrikeSolidarity:

The CDCR’s own figures acknowledge 6,600 prisoners participated in the hunger strike across 13 prisons (out of a total 33) in California this past weekend. While the CDCR claims the number of prisoners participating has dropped to 2,100 people yesterday, we know this hunger strike is strong, and many prisoners are in it for the long haul.

Thousands of prisoners have come together in solidarity with the prisoners at Pelican Bay SHU, while being locked up in brutal conditions themselves. This massive resistance and support is a testament to people’s undying will and ability to build collective power in the face of disappearance and death.

A rally in solidarity with the hunger strikers will be held at the UN Plaza in San Francisco, Saturday July 9th (via Indybay)

Mexican Consulate in NYC Occupied

4 April 2011

from ReclaimUC:

The Mexican Consulate in New York has been occupied by the Movimiento por Justicia en el Barrio in solidarity with five political prisoners from the community of Bachajón, Chiapas. On February 3, Chiapas state police raided the community and arrested 117 people. After worldwide protests erupted in response, the government released 112 of the prisoners. But five remain in jail, facing charges of murder or attempted murder.

The Bachajón Zapatista supporters are adherents to the Other Campaign, which was initiated by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in order to form national and global alliances amongst leftist organizations and movements.

The arrests stem from a confrontation between rival indigenous groups that occurred the previous day in San Sebastian Bachajón, which is an ejido, or communally held lands. Marcos García Moreno, an ejido member who belonged to the faction that allied itself with the government, was shot and killed during the confrontation with ejido members who are Other Campaign adherents. The government accuses the Other Campaign adherents of murdering García Moreno and attempting to murder a second man who was shot during the confrontation. The Other Campaign adherents deny the charges. They say they were unarmed, and that the government-allied ejido members were shooting guns into the air during the confrontation.

The government has attempted to paint the conflict as a dispute between rival indigenous factions over control of a tollbooth that charges a fee to enter the Agua Azul waterfalls, one of Chiapas’ most popular tourist attractions. However, the Bachajón adherents and their lawyers at the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (“Frayba”) say that they have proof that the tollbooth confrontation was designed to provoke government intervention and police occupation of the region. The Bachajón adherents argue that the government orchestrated the confrontation at the tollbooth “as a pretext to take over the Agua Azul Waterfalls Ecotourism Center for its transnational interests and projects.”

The occupation of the Mexican Consulate takes place on the fourth day a five-day campaign “5 Days of Worldwide Action for the Bachajón 5.” Here’s the message that was sent out, including the demands — we’ve translated it into English (Spanish and Tzeltal are below the fold):

Compañeros from the alternative, autonomous, and independent media,

We have occupied the Mexican Consulate here in New York to demand the liberation of the Bachajón 5. In this way we are trying to ensure that the demands made by our brothers and sisters in San Sebastian Bachajon make an echo around the world. We ask that you help us spread the word. Later we will send a write-up and photos.

Our demands, which are the demands from San Sebastian Bachajon, are the following:

We demand the unconditional release of our compañeros, political prisoners who have been taken hostage by the bad government of Chiapas and Mexico.

We demand respect for the lands and territories of our mother earth within the framework of our autonomy as Indigenous Peoples.

We demand respect for our right to administer and care for our natural resources from our culture as Originary Peoples.

We will be posting updates and photos as we receive them.

[Update Monday 1:17 pm]: An article on the occupation was just published in the Mexico City daily La Jornada [in Spanish]. Here’s a rough translation of the opening paragraphs:

Mexico City — This morning, the Movimiento por Justicia del Barrio of New York, adherent to the “other campaign,” peacefully occupied the offices of the Consulate of Mexico in New York City, in order to demand that the government of Chiapas release the “Bachajón 5.” The action took place as part of a worldwide campaign that has been developing in many countries since April 1.

Protest actions have taken place in front of the Mexican Embassy in London, and the Consulate in Montreal. On Sunday, the Unión Sindical Solidaria, meeting in Paris, demanded the liberation of the five tzeltal peasants from San Sebastián Bachajón, Chiapas, who have been captive for five months facing charges for crimes they did not commit. The Association Ya Basta! participated this past weekend in anti-war marches in various cities of Italy, and included the release of the indigenous prisoners among their demands.

Below is the original message in Spanish and Tzeltal that was sent out from the occupation this morning:

Compas de medios libres, autonomos y independientes,

Hemos tomado el Consulado de Mexico aqui en Nueva York para exigir la liberacion de los 5 compas de Bachajon. De esta forma estamos tratando de asegurar que las demandas de nuestr@s herman@s de San Sebastian Bachajon tengan eco alrededor del mundo. Les pedimos que nos ayuden a sacar esto a la luz. Mas tarde les enviaremos una cronica y fotos.

Las demandas de San Sebastian Bachajon que son las nuestras son:

Exigimos la libertad incondicional de nuestros compañeros, presos políticos que están siendo rehenes del mal gobierno de Chiapas y de México.

Ya jsutik te ak’a kolok’ ta chukel te mololabtik ta oranax ma’ xu’ ya yich’ k’anbeyel smulta, na’otik te chopol awalil ja’ nax la xchuk yu’un ta spobeyel te lumsk’inal son te sk’ulejal te banti nakal, ta slumal Chiapa ta sk’inal México.

Exigimos el respeto a nuestra madre tierras y territorios en el marco de nuestra autonomía como Pueblos Indígenas que somos.

Ya jsutik te yich’el ta muk’ te jch’ul jmetik ta spamal lum k’inal sok chapanel xkulejal te ja yu’un stalel te bats’il ants winiketik.

Exigimos el respeto a nuestro derecho a administrar y cuidar nuestros recursos naturales desde nuestra cultura como Pueblos originarios.

Ya jsutik ta yich’el ta muk’ te cocheltik sok skanantayel sok yilel te bitik sk’ulejal te jch’ul jmetik lum k’inal jich bin útil xkuxlejal te bats’il ants winiketik.

Georgia Prisoners on Strike

12 December 2010

GEORGIA, USA – Georgia State prisoners have been on strike since Thursday at the following state prisons: Baldwin, Hancock, Hays, Macon, Smith and Telfair, among others. Prisoners are refusing to leave their cells and work under slavery conditions. Prisoners have coordinated their efforts through a loose network of cellphones (which are banned for prisoners). They’re list of demands (below) is directed at the Georgia Department of Corrections (DOC).

Update: The prisoners ended the strike after 6 days, but will continue fighting awful conditions. More here.


  • A LIVING WAGE FOR WORK:  In violation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude, the DOC demands prisoners work for free.
  • EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES:  For the great majority of prisoners, the DOC denies all opportunities for education beyond the GED, despite the benefit to both prisoners and society.
  • DECENT HEALTH CARE:  In violation of the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments, the DOC denies adequate medical care to prisoners, charges excessive fees for the most minimal care and is responsible for extraordinary pain and suffering.
  • AN END TO CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENTS:  In further violation of the 8th Amendment, the DOC is responsible for cruel prisoner punishments for minor infractions of rules.
  • DECENT LIVING CONDITIONS:  Georgia prisoners are confined in over-crowded, substandard conditions, with little heat in winter and oppressive heat in summer.
  • NUTRITIONAL MEALS:  Vegetables and fruit are in short supply in DOC facilities while starches and fatty foods are plentiful.
  • VOCATIONAL AND SELF-IMPROVEMENT OPPORTUNITIES:  The DOC has stripped its facilities of all opportunities for skills training, self-improvement and proper exercise.
  • ACCESS TO FAMILIES:  The DOC has disconnected thousands of prisoners from their families by imposing excessive telephone charges and innumerable barriers to visitation.
  • JUST PAROLE DECISIONS:  The Parole Board capriciously and regularly denies parole to the majority of prisoners despite evidence of eligibility.


Why we reject the plan to fix the schools by cutting prison funding.

17 January 2010

What does it mean to pit students against prisoners? Obviously at the first level it’s a maneuver of public relations. The government is taking the words of the student movement into its mouth, but without proposing any real solution for the crisis of schools or prisons: only a desperate attempt to maneuver itself around the political crises on its horizon.

The university and the prison are the two remaining institutions in this society in which masses of individuals are gathered together for years at a time. They exist as reverse mirror images of each other; the schools, for the privileged, to produce particular kinds of skilled labor; the prisons, for another kind of workforce, the lumpen or surplus population who are not necessary to the economy. They become subjects of value production through being incarcerated, or through participation in underground and gangster economies; they go into the military; they live in the shantytowns popping up across the state. They are a reserve pool. The prison is symbiotic with the ghetto; college, with the suburb; in this sense they are structures of class stratification which mark out their denizens for very different roles in life.
In the last major revolutionary upsurge (the 1960s and 70s), prisoners and students played major roles, especially in California. The riots in Berkeley; George Jackson and the San Quentin six. The counter-revolution was not purely repressive, but actively constructed with millions of tons of concrete in the new, more modern schools and prisons. The kinds of crowds that gathered by the thousands in Sproul Plaza during the Free Speech Movement were preventively dispersed by the new campuses designed to have no central gathering point. Similarly, in the prisons, new regimes of separation and isolation were installed. Prisoners across the board were cut off further from contact with the outside world and with other sections of the prison, contained in smaller, more manageable, modular sections. The communication that had been necessary for the radicalization of prisoners like George Jackson and his Black Guerrilla Family, or the inmates who seized control of Attica, was made impossible; it became difficult to even get books into prisons. The 1980s saw the appearance of the “super-maximum” control units, and while prison segregation had been banned, authorities found it advantageous to stimulate racial hostilities among their captives. Meanwhile, the rise of both community colleges and community corrections served to de-center both institutions in space.

Today, 1 in 200 Californians are in prison (most of them on nonviolent drug offenses), and most prisons are operating at 200% of designed capacity. In August, a panel of three federal judges ordered the state of California to release 43,000 inmates due to the low level of medical care and other conditions creating an “immediate [risk of] death and harm.” The governor, of course, refused. And now he gives us this absurd proposal to set a max percentage for prisons at 7% of the budget, and universities at 11%—reversing their current standing. This is only a crude propaganda move; all this has of course been pointed out before—that there is only so much in the budget, that thanks to Prop 13 and the two-thirds majority required for raising taxes, the treasury is simply becoming drained. Some of the more prescient elements of the student movement have already demanded the liberation of the state’s captives. Of course, the policy proposals on the table basically come down to the Republicans, who oppose early parole, and Democrats who oppose cuts to prison health care.

The only possible solution to salvage either of these institutions for capital is to privatize them. It is here that capitalism as the unbridled negation of human existence shows its face; these two sites which are already situated to mold individuals to their social roles will be put under the rule of the most cutthroat calculus—quality will never outstrip quantity within the capitalist mode of existence. Students are merely collateral for construction loans, and a gamble on productive jobs in the future; prisoners are those without a legitimate place in the process, except as a reserve labor force (and object of prison corporations; let’s not forget prison labor as well, the latest form of slavery). And in order to create new forms of value, there must be a simultaneous devaluation of a particular sector of society. The university is thus being redesigned as a glorified vocational school, producer of complex labor powers for a privileged few, and an outsourced research and development division for state and corporate agencies to which it is ultimately the appendage. Its future can only be ever-more null and quantitative existence for its ever-more restricted pool of students: there must necessarily be those who are excluded access from the university, in order for the degrees it produces to be worth anything.

The opposite pole of social reproduction is found in the prison system, where individuals are actively being made useless. The prison is no longer meant to be a place to rehabilitate individuals, but a dead end in which the individual’s nullity in everyday life comes to its logical conclusion. As jobs become scarce, foreclosed homes are left unoccupied, and the prisons become the only place in which the growing number of people without a tenable capacity to produce value can be safely placed. It is this devaluation of living labor—“the crisis of a period in which capitalism no longer needs us as workers”—which underlies the crises of the prison, the university, and so much more. Socially condemned individuals are to simply to be warehoused and contained at all costs, healthcare be damned. Imprisonment is exclusion taking total form, one which marks even those who depart from its walls, still to be denied inclusion in the legitimate economy through the loss of employment, education and housing. (Much like immigrants who are finding themselves increasingly imprisoned and deported.) The prison as a form of mass containment and social control originated as the debtors’ prison; we still speak of prisoners “paying their debt to society.” Now students and workers are facing more debt than ever before: our whole society is a debtors’ prison. Meanwhile, the extension of parole regimes, house arrest, and generalized surveillance may be another means not just of reducing the cost of prisons, but bringing them into ever closer convergence with the rest of daily life (or rather, vice versa).

The unity we are calling for in the struggle against the privatization of both schools and prisons, and toward their abolition along with all other structures of capitalist society, is not based on some spurious identification between the student and the prisoner. We realize they occupy very different, again, almost opposite places in the social sphere. What we have in common is our becoming increasingly useless to capitalist production; the increasing uselessness of any given person, who might be given a wheel to spin if they show sufficient obedience, and thrown in a cell if not. In either case, to spend our days in a bloodless, alienated, increasingly solitary and disconnected form of life. It is the growing mass of useless people who, during capitalism’s mounting crises—so it’s said—become the proletariat, the class-for-itself that is forced, in order to defend its interests, to destroy the capitalist economic mode. In other words, when the opposite poles meet is when the whole thing collapses: when we confront these kinds of divide-and-conquer tactics, not just through analysis, but by articulating through action where our loyalties lie—not with the system that reduces everyone to functions and lists of numbers, but with all whose lives are reduced and controlled by it. It is through the decomposition of our assigned roles, and the structures that enforce them on us, that we become worthy of and dangerous in such a struggle. By means of strike, blockade, looting, occupation, and riot, we will make this crisis the last.

For collective action against all capitalist social institutions!