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Hunger strike at Pelican Bay State Prison

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 13 years ago, in 2011, on the World Wide Web.

Received this morning in my inbox from a friend involved with Nevada Prison Watch. The solidarity e-mail campaign is from Change.org; the notice about the hunger strike comes from California Prison Focus, a member of Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity.

From: A. Parker
Subject: Please sign the petition to support the demands of the prison hunger strikers in Pelican Bay State Prison, California

Please sign the petition to support the demands of the prison hunger strikers in Pelican Bay State Prison, California, who will start an indefinite hungerstrike on July 1st.


Prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison (California) are going on an indefinite hunger strike as of July 1, 2011 to protest the cruel and inhumane conditions of their imprisonment. The hunger strike was organized by prisoners in an unusual show of racial unity. The hunger strikers developed five core demands. Briefly they are:

  1. Eliminate group punishments. Instead, practice individual accountability. When an individual prisoner breaks a rule, the prison often punishes a whole group of prisoners of the same race. This policy has been applied to keep prisoners in the SHU indefinitely and to make conditions increasingly harsh.

  2. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria. Prisoners are accused of being active or inactive participants of prison gangs using false or highly dubious evidence, and are then sent to longterm isolation (SHU). They can escape these tortuous conditions only if they “debrief,” that is, provide information on gang activity. Debriefing produces false information (wrongly landing other prisoners in SHU, in an endless cycle) and can endanger the lives of debriefing prisoners and their families.

  3. Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to longterm solitary confinement. This bipartisan commission specifically recommended to make segregation a last resort and end conditions of isolation. Yet as of May 18, 2011, California kept 3,259 prisoners in SHUs and hundreds more in Administrative Segregation waiting for a SHU cell to open up. Some prisoners have been kept in isolation for more than thirty years.

  4. Provide adequate food. Prisoners report unsanitary conditions and small quantities of food that do not conform to prison regulations. There is no accountability or independent quality control of meals.

  5. Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates. The hunger strikers are pressing for opportunities to engage in self-help treatment, education, religious and other productive activities…. Currently these opportunities are routinely denied, even if the prisoners want to pay for correspondence courses themselves.

    Examples of privileges the prisoners want are: one phone call per week, and permission to have sweatsuits and watch caps. (Often warm clothing is denied, though the cells and exercise cage can be bitterly cold.) All of the privileges mentioned in the demands are already allowed at other SuperMax prisons (in the federal prison system and other states).

For more information and continuing updates, visit http://www.prisons.org/hungerstrike.htm


Grant the 5 Core Demands of the Pelican Bay SHU Hunger Strikers

Dear Warden Lewis, Secretary Cate, and Governor Brown:

We support the prisoners on hunger strike in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) of Pelican Bay State Prison and those in other units joining them. We strongly urge you to grant their five core demands as soon as possible.

[Your name]

2 replies to Hunger strike at Pelican Bay State Prison Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. andre

    Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

    • Rad Geek

      They might have said the same thing at Dachau.

      Many of the people confined in Pelican Bay are completely innocent of any moral crime (either because, in some cases, they were wrongfully convicted, or because the act that they really did commit was a bullshit political crime, like dealing drugs or selling other prohibited goods to willing customers, that never actually threatened or invaded the rights of any identifiable victim, and so should never have been punished with imprisonment.

      Those who are in fact guilty, and did in fact commit a genuine crime against person or property (assault, rape, theft, murder, etc.) should pay for what they did. But not for things that they didn’t do; they should not, for example, be subjected to racist collective punishments nor punished for bullshit status crimes (see demand #1 and demand #2). And whatever they have done, and however sinful, violent and destructive they may have been, they are still human beings, and they still have got a right not to be poisoned, set up to be murdered, or tortured 24 hours a day (see demands #2, #3, #4, and #5).

      Is there a particular one of the prisoners’ demands that you do not support? If so, could you explain which you do not support, and why — hopefully in some greater depth than a proverbial rhymed couplet?

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