(Note: This is my second essay in support of the fasting California prisoners. Thefirst is here. The take away: prisoners on hunger strike for almost 3 weeks have requested your support in their struggle to end long term, 23 hour a day solitary confinement in California’s Special Housing Units. I urge you to support them. Details follow.)
Today is day 19 of the prison hunger strike. This may be the most significant act of prisoner resistance in 40 years, since the Attica Uprising in 1971.
The LA Times reports:
More than 400 inmates at four California prisons are in the third week of a hunger strike to protest long, punitive stays in isolation cells.
Prison officials, who refuse to allow reporters into the institutions to interview the strikers, said 49 inmates who have lost at least 10 pounds each are "being monitored closely," including seven at Pelican Bay, the maximum-security prison near the Oregon border where the hunger strike began. …
Inmate advocates say thousands of inmates have joined the strike, which began July 1. Many are beginning to show dramatic weight loss and collapse with the early signs of starvation, they say.
Dozens have been sent to prison infirmaries because of irregular heartbeats and fainting, according to a statement issued Monday by a group calling itself California Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity, which represents attorneys and family members of inmates. "Most have lost 20-35 pounds," the statement said.
And, of course, whatever is going on inside the prisons in response to the hunger strike will be shielded from direct, outside observation by disinterested parties. The LA Times reports:
Despite repeated assurances that the situation is under control, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation refused The Times' request to visit and interview striking inmates.
"At this time, we are not allowing media into the prison due to security and safety issues," prison spokesman Oscar Hidalgo said in an email. "This hunger strike signifies a disruption in normal operation of Pelican Bay and our operations staff are focused completely on resolving this issue."
That’s where you come in. The walls are keeping the prisoners in, yes, but they are also keeping you, your eyes, your ears, your nose, and most important, your conscience out. This puts the prisoners at even greater risk because it fosters prison officials’ ability to act with impunity to break the strike and to force feed prisoners and to impose even more punitivie conditions to break the strike. And it permits prison officials to control all information about the strike by preventing any prisoners from being heard.
The strike has brought together Black and Latino prisoners who are normally set against each other. They are asserting their humanity and challenging others to reclaim their humanity by standing with them in solidarity.
Some of these prisoners are willing to die unless their demands to end inhuman treatment are met.
Inmates at Corcoran State Prison have issued a statement asking for your help:
“Our indefinite isolation here is both inhumane and illegal and the proponents of the prison industrial complex are hoping that their campaign to dehumanize us has succeeded to the degree that you don’t care and will allow the torture to continue in your name. It is our belief that they have woefully underestimated the decency, principles and humanity of the people. Join us in opposing this injustice without end. Thank you for your time and support.”
Statement from inmates at Corcoran State Prison
The core demands of the prisoners are in my prior essay and can also be found here with a petition of support.
The prisoners are counting on people of conscience to act now and to show support for the Hunger Strikers.
You can do this by signing the petition.
You can do that by calling the Governor and the Secretary of theDepartment of Corrections (telephone numbers below).
You can do this by writing your own statement of support for the hunger strikers and sending it to the media or posting it on the blogs or the editorial pages. If you do that, please also send a hard copy to:
Secretary Matthew Cate, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 1515 S Street, Sacramento, CA 95814, Telephone: (916) 323-6001
Governor Jerry Brown, State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814, Telephone: (916) 445-2841
As important, call for the prison officials to permit the media to enter the prison and to report on the strike. If prison officials can keep the citizenry from knowing that is going on, they are free to act with impunity to end the strike however they may choose.
Please speak up for the striking prisoners. Only your support can bring their struggle to a safe and humane solution.
UPDATED 10:30 ET, 7/19/11: For more on the torture of solitary confinement please take a look at this recent OP-ED from the New York Times.
UPDATED 10:50 ET, 7/19/11: Facebook groups in support:
Great sources for instant update, media links.
cross-posted from The Dream Antilles