Monday August 1: Call for International Day of Protest and Solidarity with the Prison Hunger Strikers
In support and respect for the courageous prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison and other prisons all around California, whose July 2011 hunger strike challenged the inhumane conditions of the Security Housing Units [“the SHU”] and inspired the support of people far and wide -- we now call on people of conscience everywhere across the U.S. and beyond, to join in an International Day of Protest and Solidarity with the Prison Hunger Strikers on Monday, August 1, 2011.
The Hunger Strikers achieved real success: the conditions of systematic abuse and torture in the SHU – and widespread thru the prison system –were dragged into the light of day. Their original “five core demands” [attached] have now been acknowledged – although not yet met -- by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), which promised to consider them. On Monday, August 1 many diverse people and organizations will publicly speak out and act in support of these demands. Prisoners must gain the human rights and civil rights demanded by their very humanity – and by ours outside the prison walls too, wherever we may be.
We insist there must be NO RETALIATION by the authorities against individual prisoners, groups of prisoners, prisoners’ family members or attorneys or other advocates, in the wake of the Hunger Strike. (And we will be paying attention.)
Let us show on August 1 that the prisoners do not stand alone, through our demonstrations, rallies, religious services, fasts, call-the-governor-days, art and music, taking to the airwaves thru talk show and other call-ins, and many other public, visual, and creative expressions.
Wherever you are, make August 1, a Day of Protest and Solidarity with the Prison Hunger Strikers, a day that counts.
5 Core Demands:
1. End Group Punishment & Administrative Abuse – This is in response to PBSP’s application of “group punishment” as a means to address individual inmates rule violations. This includes the administration’s abusive, pretextual use of “safety and concern” to justify what are unnecessary punitive acts. This policy has been applied in the context of justifying indefinite SHU status, and progressively restricting our programming and privileges.
2. Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria -
- Perceived gang membership is one of the leading reasons for placement in solitary confinement.
- The practice of “debriefing,” or offering up information about fellow prisoners particularly regarding gang status, is often demanded in return for better food or release from the SHU. Debriefing puts the safety of prisoners and their families at risk, because they are then viewed as “snitches.”
- The validation procedure used by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) employs such criteria as tattoos, readings materials, and associations with other prisoners (which can amount to as little as greeting) to identify gang members.
- Many prisoners report that they are validated as gang members with evidence that is clearly false or using procedures that do not follow the Castillo v. Alameida settlement which restricted the use of photographs to prove association.
3. Comply with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 Recommendations Regarding an End to Long-Term Solitary Confinement – CDCR shall implement the findings and recommendations of the US commission on safety and abuse in America’s prisons final 2006 report regarding CDCR SHU facilities as follows:
- End Conditions of Isolation (p. 14) Ensure that prisoners in SHU and Ad-Seg (Administrative Segregation) have regular meaningful contact and freedom from extreme physical deprivations that are known to cause lasting harm. (pp. 52-57)
- Make Segregation a Last Resort (p. 14). Create a more productive form of confinement in the areas of allowing inmates in SHU and Ad-Seg [Administrative Segregation] the opportunity to engage in meaningful self-help treatment, work, education, religious, and other productive activities relating to having a sense of being a part of the community.
- End Long-Term Solitary Confinement. Release inmates to general prison population who have been warehoused indefinitely in SHU for the last 10 to 40 years (and counting).
- Provide SHU Inmates Immediate Meaningful Access to: i) adequate natural sunlight ii) quality health care and treatment, including the mandate of transferring all PBSP- SHU inmates with chronic health care problems to the New Folsom Medical SHU facility.
4. Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food – cease the practice of denying adequate food, and provide a wholesome nutritional meals including special diet meals, and allow inmates to purchase additional vitamin supplements.
- PBSP staff must cease their use of food as a tool to punish SHU inmates.
- Provide a sergeant/lieutenant to independently observe the serving of each meal, and ensure each tray has the complete issue of food on it.
- Feed the inmates whose job it is to serve SHU meals with meals that are separate from the pans of food sent from kitchen for SHU meals.
5. Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates.
- Expand visiting regarding amount of time and adding one day per week.
- Allow one photo per year.
- Allow a weekly phone call.
- Allow Two (2) annual packages per year. A 30 lb. package based on “item” weight and not packaging and box weight.
- Expand canteen and package items allowed. Allow us to have the items in their original packaging [the cost for cosmetics, stationary, envelopes, should not count towards the max draw limit]
- More TV channels.
- Allow TV/Radio combinations, or TV and small battery operated radio
- Allow Hobby Craft Items – art paper, colored pens, small pieces of colored pencils, watercolors, chalk, etc.
- Allow sweat suits and watch caps.
- Allow wall calendars.
- Install pull-up/dip bars on SHU yards.
- Allow correspondence courses that require proctored exams.
Message from World Can't Wait - San Francisco Chapter about making the August 1st protests happen
We can make an important contribution to August 1 becoming a meaningful international day of action. All of us in the World Can’t Wait movement – both larger and smaller chapters, and people working and supporting but outside of any chapter. HERE’S WHY:
Although the situation inside the California prisons is still very complicated in terms of continuing news (more below) one point comes thru clearly emphasized in everything the prisoners say, and everything the support movement can see too: What is now most CRUCIAL: TO KEEP UP THE SUPPORT OUTSIDE.. Only if the authorities see ongoing public support – grassroots and prominent, numbers, different organizations, a diversity of voices all backing the prisoners -- is there any real chance of winning the changes these people have risked their lives for. The dynamic between what the prisoners are doing inside, and strong outside support, is key to the world knowing about their situation, and their resistance.
What is known: the Pelican Bay hunger strike leaders called off their strike a week ago; many men have suffered dire health effects (many lost 20-30 pounds, some were taken to hospitals, some could not eat without medical assistance because their bodies were in starvation when they did try to eat again). See the coalition blog for more details about the terms of ending the strike due to promises by the CDCR, which the prisoners called a success “in the first quarter.” BUT there are reports of significant numbers of prisoners in other prisons still striking, and of prisoners in other prisons who fasted in solidarity with Pelican Bay, who now are also suffering serious health effects. And there is the threat of retaliation against the prisoners for leading or being in or supporting the hunger strike; this is important in the Call for August 1 and will be an issue for quite some time to come. Many people have pointed out a clear moral signpost in the hunger strike: here are men supposedly “the worst of the worst” who decided to risk everything -- in the face of slow death, as has been pointed out – to refuse to let the torture and abuse go on, not just for themselves but for all prisoners - and if you think about it, by extension – for the humanity of everyone. (As we in World Can’t Wait say: “silence is complicity” and “we won’t live in a torture state!” – look what these prisoners are doing about that!)
From a Revolution report by people who talked to relatives outside Pelican Bay: "Some recounted how the guards have been taunting the prisoners with food, and telling them no one knows or cares about them, that no one hears them." Lawyers and visitors who’ve been inside Pelican Bay over the last weeks say every time the hunger strikers are able to speak to “outsiders” they say again and again how much it means to them to hear about the demonstrations and vigils and actions and support outside. One constant visitor says you cannot believe how moved these men are when you tell them about a vigil or a protest, no matter big or small. So: we must not underestimate the importance of press coverage and engagement by supporters now.
We have 5 days to August 1, here's some ideas about how we can make the most of it:
* Stretch and reach for new possibilities, wherever you are: Can more groups, a wider range of groups, unite behind this Call for August 1 to do an event together? Or if some people want a bold loud march but others want a candlelight vigil, can they mutually support? Can you make sure everything you do gets into the media, BOTH locally and call the national press too?
* Keep the message riveted to the story of the courageous hunger strike, and the two keys in the Call itself: supporting the demands of the hunger strike AND “no retaliation”.
* Remember the special voice of World Can’t Wait when it comes to torture. Forcing the prison authorities to meet the 5 core demands includes being clear that long term solitary confinement IS torture, for example, and some of the really good advocates now speaking to amplify the voices of the prisoners are bringing this out more and more. Discuss with other groups: what is the connection and the meaning of torture going on in the SHUs of the U.S. – and the torture at Guantanamo et al?
* Use your orange jumpsuits.
* Even a small protest can maximize the message as a piece of the international day of action. Get a group of people with signs to meet in front of any government building (any state governor can tell Jerry Brown people were demanding the prisoners’ cause in his/her state too!) even if all your town has is a post office.
* Be public, be creative, include as many people as you can. Line a main street with a human billboard. Do a banner drop. Make a cardboard prison cell and vigil around it.
* Ask all clergy you can reach before this weekend --to bring this into their services so people feel called to join the August 1 activities.
* We will try to devise a way like maybe on Facebook, so your PHOTOS and short reports of the day can be collected together.
* On the importance of PHOTOS in general, be visually and photogenically clear withyour message (one wire service photo is worth how many words?????). And don’t forget how signs in more languages than just English are often very important.
* Organize a mass call-in to Gov. Jerry Brown and the secretary of the CDCR, but then collect people's messages and post something about the experience
* Take to the airwaves -- get onto talk shows, set up radio and news interviews (SF is trying to figure out a speakers bureau for the one day, talk to us about what you can do)