Oakland–Mediators working on behalf of hunger striking prisoners have received disturbing news that Billy Sell, known to his friends as Guero, died while on strike at Corcoran State Prison Security Housing Unit (SHU) on Monday, July 22. His death is being ruled a suicide by prison officials. Fellow prisoners have reported that Sell was participating in California’s massive statewide hunger strike–now in its 20th day. They further reported that Sell had been requesting medical attention for several days prior to his death. They described Sell as “strong, a good person” and openly questioned the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (CDCR) ruling his death a suicide, saying it was “completely out of character for him.” Advocates are outraged at Sell’s death, noting that it could have been prevented if CDCR had negotiated with strikers. (more…)
Tag Archive: CA prisoner hunger strike
Attempting to Break California Hunger Strike, CDCR Increases Retaliation, Shuts Out Attorney Advocate
Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition
ph. 510 517 6612
Oakland–The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation continue to retaliate against hunger strikers. Yesterday it was reported that a core group of strikers were moved from the Security Housing Unit in Pelican Bay to even more restricted isolation. Since then, supporters have learned that prison officials have been attempting to break the resolve of strikers by blasting cold air into the SHU and Administrative Segregation (AD-Seg) units at Pelican Bay. Also, in a move to restrict communications between prisoners and their legal advocates, the CDCR has issued an exclusion order denying attorney Marilyn McMahon access to her clients at Pelican Bay State Prison, many of whom are in the 11th day of their protest against indefinite long term solitary confinement.
The order bans McMahon from the prison pending a CDCR investigation to determine whether one of her legal assistants “presents a serious threat to security.” The order says nothing about what the assistant stands accused of. McMahon comments, “I’m struck by how similar this is to the gang validation process, one of the hunger strike issues. Prisoners are sent to solitary indefinitely based on reports that they are not allowed to see, made by prisoners whose identity they are not allowed to know.” (more…)
I’m sure most of yall who frequent our blog know about what is happening in Pelican Bay.
It is being regarded as the largest prison strike in history, and it is that and so much more. But what can rad folks do on the outside to help support our sisters and brothers in the belly? Right now a massive call-in campaign is currently underway to put pressure on the State to concede to the prisoner’s demands (which can be found here).
On the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity blog, there are several numbers. Some comrades have let us know only one of them actually gets us to a real live person.
That number is:
This is the Governor’s number. They will ask you to dial an extension, so hit 6 and you’ll get to someone in their office. Below is an example of a script to work with. (more…)
From the LA Times:
California officials Monday said 30,000 inmates refused meals at the start of what could be the largest prison protest in state history.
Inmates in two-thirds of the state’s 33 prisons, and at all four out-of-state private prisons, refused both breakfast and lunch on Monday, said corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton. In addition, 2,300 prisoners failed to go to work or attend their prison classes, either refusing or in some cases saying they were sick.
The corrections department will not acknowledge a hunger strike until inmates have missed nine consecutive meals. Even so, Thornton said, Monday’s numbers are far larger than those California saw two years earlier during a series of hunger strikes that drew international attention. (more…)
From Solitary Watch
On October 10th, inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison and California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi launched a hunger strike. The hunger strike, which has in total involved five hundred inmates, coincided with the date of an announced racial cease-fire issued by inmates in Pelican Bay referred to as the PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective. The group, which consists of several inmates who are said by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to be leaders of criminal prison gangs including the Aryan Brotherhood and Black Guerilla Family, issued a call for all inmates to cease racial conflict and urged unity among inmates across California.
From Solitary Watch
by Sal Rodriguez
At this time one year ago, a three week hungerstrike across California prisons had been concluded, and the California Assembly had begun planning a hearing on the use of solitary confinement in California’s prisons. The conditions of the California Security Housing Units, where over 3,000 inmates are held in isolation, many for decades, had come to the public’s attention. In the time since August 2011, there would be another round of three week hunger strikes, a smaller series of hunger strikes at the Corcoran Administrative Segregation Unit, a new “Step Down Program” announced in California, a federal lawsuit filed by Pelican Bay SHU inmates, and a US Senatehearing on solitary confinement.
Even so, the situation in the SHUs and ASUs remains much as it did one year ago. A few concessions by prison officials, such as issuing sweatpants and allowing family photos, did nothing to change the problem of long-term isolation and non-existent due process.
It should be reiterated that in California, the majority of SHU inmates are not necessarily there for conduct, but for gang membership.
In a letter to California activists, Pelican Bay hunger strike leader Alfred Sandoval reports feeling like “just banging my head against the wall because nothing ever changes around here. Right now the Department of Corruption and the current administration have been attempting to pacify prisoners with items…ie. sweats, watch caps, and various food items from canteen–in hopes of distracting us …”
He continues, “the sad fact is that some have been complacent and accepted the physical and psychological abuses as normal because it has been implemented in small increments over decades, year after year so it has become the norm.” (more…)
The family of Christian Gomez, the 27-year-old prisoner who died while on hunger strike at California’s Corcoran State Prison, is speaking out about the loss of their family member in the hope that similar incidents in the future are avoided.
In a phone call with Solitary Watch, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesperson Terry Thornton confirmed that Gomez had been placed in solitary confinement in the Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU) pending investigation of assault on another inmate with a weapon on January 14, 2012. Thornton would not confirm the status of this investigation. Gomez was serving a life sentence for first degree murder and attempted murder.
Christian Gomez had not told his family members of his intentions to participate in the January 27-February 13 hunger strike held by ASU inmates in protest of their conditions. According to an interview with Gomez’s sister, Y.L., she “found out when the coroner Tom [Edmonds] implied that there was a possibility of a chemical imbalance due to a hunger strike he was participating in. That’s the first I heard of this. Back in [September or October] when he first was transferred there he did tell me that they were having a hunger strike to fight for their rights but he was in general population.” (more…)
Editor’s note: This comes from the brilliant minds – locked away in one of the most restrictive prisons in the U.S. – who brought you “California prison hunger strikers propose ‘10 core demands’ for the national Occupy Wall Street Movement,” the Bay View’s most read story, with 9,980 pageviews, from Dec. 6, 2011, to Feb. 19, 2012.
by J. Heshima Denham, Zaharibu Dorrough and Kambui Robinson of the NCTT Corcoran Security Housing Unit (SHU)
“But beneath this conventional enthusiasm and amid this ingratiating ritual toward the dominant power, you can easily perceive in the wealthy a deep distaste for the democratic institutions of their country. The people are a power they both fear and despise.” – Alexis De Tocqueville, “Democracy in America”
Greetings, brothers and sisters. A firm, warm and solid embrace of revolutionary love is extended to you all.
As we proceed in this period of evolution in our struggles for substantive social change in the U.S. via the national Occupy Movement, the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Movement, the Anti-Imperialist Movement etc., it is imperative that we not only understand that we are all representative of a single socio-political and historic motive force, but those in opposition to our democratic aspirations are the very same political, social and economic powers that this nation has relied on to ensure the integrity of democracy, social justice and economic equality. This is a contradiction.
This historic contradiction will NOT be resolved via our disparate efforts. Substantive change will only be realized through a comprehensive strategic approach, coordinated and conducted by us all. Simply put, we are a single movement, and for us to have the social impact necessary to compel progress we must proceed with this realization as out guiding ethos. We of the NCTT (New Afrikan Collective Think Tank) in the Corcoran SHU (Security Housing Unit) have a proposal on effective strategic organizing we’d like to share with you here, but before we do so we think it is imperative that you all understand the historic significance of what we are all a part of.
It is our assessment that what is occurring today as it relates to the national protest movement (i.e., Occupy Wall Street, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity etc.) is the unfinished legacy of the struggle for social justice necessary for the U.S. to fulfill its democratic potential. This struggle is part of the rich and courageous legacy of abolitionists, women’s rights activists, organized labor, populists, human and civil rights activists and other democratic struggles of the nation’s past.
Social revolution has always been imperative to this type of substantive change. This calls for the recognition and coming together of people – citizens from different cultural, economic and ideological backgrounds – realizing the common interest inherent in this truth: that we all inhabit the same planet, breathe the same air, are part of the human family.
The BayView, 1/25
from the NCTT Corcoran SHU
“Death is impossible for us to fathom; it is so immense, so frightening that we will do almost anything to keep from thinking about it. Society is organized to make death invisible, to keep it several steps removed. That distance may seem necessary for our comfort, but it comes with a terrible price: the illusion of limitless time, and a consequent lack of seriousness about daily life. As a warrior in life, you must turn this dynamic around: Make the thought of death something not to escape but to embrace. Your days are numbered. Will you pass them halfhearted or will you live with a sense of urgency? Cruel theaters staged by a czar are unnecessary; death will come to you without them. Imagine it pressing in on you, leaving you no escape, for there is no escape. Feeling death at your heels will make all your actions more certain, more forceful. This could be your last throw of the dice: Make it count.” – Robert Greene, bestselling author of “The 48 Laws of Power”
Greetings, brothers and sisters: A firm, warm and solid embrace of revolutionary love and solidarity is extended to each of you from each of us.
Since the last hunger strike ended, we have weathered wave after wave of retaliation from the state’s prison administrators that continues unabated to this day. But before I catalog these manifestations of weakness on the part of state prison administrators, we feel it’s necessary to recount why this struggle began and the nature of our resolve to see the five core demands realized.
We have been consigned to ever more aggressive sensory deprivation torture units for 10, 20, 30 and in some cases 40 years, based on an administrative determination that we are members or associates of a “gang” – a term that encompasses leftist ideologies, political and politicized prisoners, jailhouse lawyers and most anyone who in the opinion of Institutional Gang Investigations (IGI) is not passively accepting his role as a commodity in the prison industrial complex.
These administrative determinations are not due to some overt act of misconduct or pattern of rules violations. No, these “validations” are based most often on the reforms, words or accounts of debriefers, rats, informants and other broken men who will say and do ‘most anything their IGI and ISU (Investigative Services Unit) handlers instruct them to, to avoid confinement in the SHU (Security Housing Unit) or carry some other favor from their masters.
After decades of fruitless legal challenges, after years of suffering the deprivations of conditions so inherently evil, inhumane and psychologically torturous that most of you simply cannot comprehend the reality behind these words, most of us came to realize an immutable truth: that the state’s mantra of “the only way out of the SHU is to parole, debrief or die” was something that they not only meant, but was in fact a key feature in developing a subservient and passive pool of prisoner commodities upon which the orderly fleecing of taxpayer dollars could be based.
Thirty years of successful propaganda, of dehumanizing underclass communities and the imprisoned, of lobbying that’s led to the dominance of the CCPOA (California Correctional Peace Officers Association) in judicial and political elections and appointments – all to mislead an ill-informed public into submitting greater control of their lives and society to an industrial interest that runs counter to the public safety concerns they were vested to protect. Many of us watched this state of affairs progress unchallenged as our protestations fell on deaf ears, year after year, decade after decade, until advanced age and the decimation of our communities forced us onto “death ground,” where you may survive if you can resist, but you will most surely perish if you do not.