Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Prisoner hunger strikers to be force fed

by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

There is nothing the ruling classes fear more than those who actively resist oppression, who take part and lead the struggle for freedom and human dignity.  Those who make the most sacrifice, many of them playing leading roles, are feared most of all, and especially in death.  The dead are the memory of the living, a reminder of the struggle against the oppressor.

The bones of the Irish revolutionaries that died at the hands of British occupation are scattered throughout the country in unmarked graves.  The British occupation made sure of that. They did the same in Kenya after they murdered or executed after show trials, the leaders of the Mao Mao that fought against British colonial rule.

The US ruling class is force feeding hunger strikers imprisoned in the concentration camp at Guantanamo Cuba.  Most of the people still there have never been convicted of anything and many of them have been scheduled for release but are are still incarcerated after 11 years.  Death by self imposed starvation is not something the US ruling class wants.

In California we also have a prisoner hunger strike that is in its 44th day with 70 participating.  Inmates want more humane treatment and an end to indeterminate solitary confinement that dehumanizes people and drives some insane. Some people have been confined to solitary confinement for as long as 30 years.

Inmates can sign legally binding "do not resuscitate requests" and it has been the policy of authorities in these situations to allow people to starve themselves to death.   But it seems the state can prevent us from dying now.  A San Francisco judge has given prison officials authority to force feed an inmate who may be in "failing health" even if they signed requests not to be revived.

If you aren't eating for 44 days, it seems that failing health is the required result but the all powerful and caring state will put you through the torture of force feeding caring as it does for the sanctity of human life.  If you can't afford medical care, housing, or food, the chances are you can die that way as the state recognizes that we are individuals and here in the USA individual rights trump all others.  If you choose not to work (unemployment) if you choose to sleep beneath underpasses, if you choose not to eat proper food and if you choose not to pay for medical coverage to a middle man in the form of an insurance company you can die.

Isn't freedom swell!

If you are in a union you should get letters of support sent to the governor on the hunger striker's behalf. Here is the latest update on the prison hunger strike form Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity.  You will find contact info there.

Day 44 – Statement from Mediation Team

Hunger Strikers, Gavin Newsom’s Citizenville and the Frontline
Years ago a defense attorney, who was contemplating acceptance of her first death row client, talked to me about how hard it would be to keep this person from ending up in San Quentin’s Death Chamber. But she was anxious to take on the task. I asked her why? She simply and eloquently explained that in every society there must be people who are willing to stand in the way of those who abuse the power they have over individuals under their control. If there is no one there to point out that abuse, to push back against those powerful forces, the abuse will spread and deepen and will become unstoppable.

On Day 44 of the prisoner hunger strike, we are watching a real-life display of that lawyer’s philosophy—prisoners are starving themselves to disrupt the abuse of power displayed by the CDCR’s inhumane policies and practices involving indeterminate solitary confinement. They have put themselves on the frontline of protest to demand to be treated like human beings.
Meanwhile, not long ago some of the family members of the hunger strikers attempted to meet with Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom about these important matters. At the time, Newsom was temporarily serving as Acting Governor while Jerry Brown was traveling out of the country. The meeting never happened: Acting Governor Newsom said he would not have any more to say about the prisoner hunger strike than the Governor had to say about it, which, thus far, has been nothing helpful.  Well, pretty much nothing at all.

Ironically, the Lieutenant Governor recently released a book he authored called Citizenville. His promotional email states that “Citizenville shows how we can make government as useful and engaging as your iPhone.” He adds: “I talked to technology pioneers, entrepreneurs, and social media stars for Citizenville to come up with clear steps we can take to reshape our government and engage ordinary citizens.”

Perhaps the “usefulness” of government as depicted in Newsom’s marketing material for his book would be better measured by him and Governor Brown agreeing to talk to the hunger-striking prisoners themselves. The two elected officials could learn of some meaningful fixes to CDCR policies and practices that would do more than merely “engage ordinary citizens,” such talks could actually save lives—those of the protestors as well as those prisoners who are being made morose or insane or both by indeterminate solitary confinement for decades.

On behalf of the Mediation Team,
Barbara Becnel 510-325-6336 

Hunger Strike Mediation Team
Dr. Ronald Ahnen, California Prison Focus and St. Mary’s College of California
Barbara Becnel, Occupy4Prisoners.org
Dolores Canales, California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement
Irene Huerta, California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement
Laura Magnani, American Friends Service Committee
Marilyn McMahon, California Prison Focus
Carol Strickman, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children
Azadeh Zohrabi, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children

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