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Tuesday, July 9, 2013
California prisoners hunger strike, condemns solitary confinement
30,000 California prisoners started a hunger strike yesterday to protest the inhumane conditions and in particular years in solitary confinement. As the video from Al Jazeera above states, a hunger strike isn’t recognized as such until participants refuse 9 meals. We have blogged about the situation in Guantanamo where hunger strikers are being force fed, a cruel and painful procedure. Prisoners from Pelican Bay's SHU released a statement describing their actions and intentions:
“The principal prisoner representatives from the PBSP SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement do hereby present public notice that our nonviolent peaceful protest of our subjection to decades of indefinite state-sanctioned torture, via long term solitary confinement will resume today, consisting of a hunger strike/work stoppage of indefinite duration until [the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] signs a legally binding agreement meeting our demands, the heart of which mandates an end to long-term solitary confinement (as well as additional major reforms).”
What is Solitary Confinement? (from Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity)
"In California, nearly 12,000 imprisoned people spend 23 of 24 hours living in a concrete cell smaller than a large bathroom. The cells have no windows, no access to fresh air or sunlight. People in solitary confinement exercise an hour a day in a cage the size of a dog run. They are not allowed to make any phone calls to their loved ones. They cannot touch family members who often travel days for a 90 minute visit; their conversation and their mail is monitored by prison guards. They are not allowed to talk to other imprisoned people. They are denied all educational programs, and their reading materials are censored. UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, stated that any time over 15 days in solitary confinement constitutes torture. Yet many people in California state prisons have been encaged in solitary for 10 to 40 years!"
The US with 2 million incarcerated has the largest prison population in the world. It is big business and a very lucrative one. These are the workers and the poor that capitalism abandons, a huge proportion of them people of color. The prison industrial complex is simply the warehousing of human beings, keeping them out of sight and out of mind. Prisoner’s rights are extremely limited. The return rate is considerable as the system makes no real effort to help prisoners return to society. A guaranteed job and a $20 an hour minimum wage would do a lot to halt not only crime but the return rate for prisoners.
Having to fend for themselves in a society that has very limited social services of any kind they often return to the milieu that they feel can provide some sense of security and belonging. Incarceration in the US is also a way of disenfranchising people politically. The racist and brutal US prison system perpetuates violence. Sexual abuse of both women and men is rampant. It is truly the American Gulag. You can sign a petition supporting the hunger strikers at the Prisoner Solidarity website.