|Solidarity Demonstration in Support of the July Hunger Strikers (from World Can't Wait)|
California prisoners resumed their hunger strike on Monday at the Pelican Bay and Calipatria prisons (from Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity) to halt the torturous conditions in the Security Housing Units (SHUs).
Prisoners went on hunger strikes in July for almost four weeks, until the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) agreed to some of the prisoners’ five core demands. It was one of the largest prison strikes in California history, affecting at least 13 State prisons and over 6,600 prisoners.
Since then, the CDCR’s has done nothing to meet the strikers’ demands and has continued to condemn prisoners to SHU torture. The purpose of the SHUs is to isolate anyone accused of gang associations (including many who are not gang members) or of being a political revolutionary, and break them physically and emotionally and encourage them to inform on other prisoners and gang members, placing their lives and the lives of their friends and family members in peril.
While in the SHU, prisoners are denied physical human contact with family members and are often locked down in their cells for nearly 24 hours per day or in solitary confinement, sometimes for years at a time. Many prisoners are being denied adequate and prompt health care or any health care at all. Prisoners are also complaining of being served watered down food on filthy trays and plates and not being provided sufficient nutrients or calories.
Many are saying that the conditions in the prisons and the retaliatory treatment by guards have been worsening. According to lawyers for the prisoners, inmates have been retaliated against for participating in July’s strike, receiving serious disciplinary write-ups for minor infractions like talking in the library or not walking fast enough. Such write-ups can result in parole being denied, loss of prison jobs, and other consequences. Prisoners have also been subjected to violent cell searches at 4:00 am, blocked mail and false assault charges.
In the July strike, prisoners of all ethnicities and gang affiliations came together in solidarity to resist their brutal conditions, one of the only times this has occurred since the Black Panthers started organizing prisoners in the late 1960s. The significance of this solidarity was not lost on the CDCR, which has indicated that it will deal with another strike in a much more aggressive manner. However, lawyers for the prisoners believe the solidarity will be just as strong, and that prisoners will continue even through forced feedings and even until death if necessary (see Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity blog).