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.
Mediators are working to get further accurate information and accountability from the CDCR. “This story is deeply troubling and contradicts the assurances that the hunger-striking prisoners are receiving appropriate medical care,” Says Ron Ahnen, of California Prison Focus and the mediation team representing striking prisoners. Mediators have made an official inquiry to the federal receiver overseeing California’s prisons. This report come amid growing concern for the medical care strikers are receiving, along with continued condemnation of the CDCR’s response to the strike and Gov. Brown’s total silence on the issue.