Over 30,000 inmates across California’s vast prison estate have been refusing meals since yesterday morning. A further 2,300 prisoners have refused to attend work or educational classes – claiming they are sick. Prisoners are protesting against the use of a draconian solitary confinement policy that can see prisoners held in solitary for several decades – often with little or no attempt at a justification.
California currently has 10,000 prisoners in solitary confinement, and several dozen who have spent more than 20 years each in solitary.
The protest has been organised by a small group of prisoners held in solitary at Pelican Bay State Prison. They are demanding a 5 year limit on solitary confinement, the right to educational, rehabilitation opportunities, and the right to monthly phone-calls. The organisers have released the following statement:
“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 CDCR 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).
Our decision does not come lightly. For the past (2) years we’ve patiently kept an open dialogue with state officials, attempting to hold them to their promise to implement meaningful reforms, responsive to our demands. For the past seven months we have repeatedly pointed out CDCR’s failure to honor their word—and we have explained in detail the ways in which they’ve acted in bad faith and what they need to do to avoid the resumption of our protest action.
On June 19, 2013, we participated in a mediation session ordered by the Judge in our class action lawsuit, which unfortunately did not result in CDCR officials agreeing to settle the case on acceptable terms. While the mediation process will likely continue, it is clear to us that we must be prepared to renew our political non-violent protest on July 8th to stop torture in the SHUs and Ad-Segs of CDCR.
Thus we are presently out of alternative options for achieving the long overdue reform to this system and, specifically, an end to state-sanctioned torture, and now we have to put our lives on the line via indefinite hunger strike to force CDCR to do what’s right.
We are certain that we will prevail…. the only questions being: How many will die starvation-related deaths before state officials sign the agreement?
The world is watching!”
Solitary confinement is described by Hungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com as:
“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. A United Nations spokesperson on torture, Juan Mendez stated that any time over 15 days in solitary confinement constitutes ‘torture’. Yet people in California state prisons have been en-caged in solitary for 10 to 40 years.”
California prison policy does not label such an action as a ‘hunger strike’, as they have only refused four meals. It does not become a hunger strike until they have missed nine meals.