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The Extreme Suffering of Solitary Confinement Has Propelled 30,000 Prisoners to Go on Hunger Strike

California's largest prison protest in state history is underway.

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I have two disciplinary citations on my record. The first arose because I donated artwork to a nonprofit organization. The other is because I participated in a statewide hunger strike to protest conditions in the SHU. The strike was thought to be a success, with more than 6,000 inmates going without food for several weeks and ending with the promise of serious reforms from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. In spite of the promises, the CDCR does not plan to institute any meaningful reforms.

Now fellow SHU inmates and I have joined together with the Center for Constitutional Rights in a  federal lawsuit that challenges this treatment as unconstitutional. I understand I broke the law, and I have lost liberties because of that. But no one, no matter what they've done, should be denied fundamental human rights, especially when that denial comes in the form of such torture. Our Constitution protects everyone living under it; fundamental rights must not be left at the prison door.

A version of this piece ran in the May 31, 2012, issue of the San Francisco Chronicle under the headline "The crime of punishment at Pelican Bay State Prison."

This article first appeared on TruthOut - Copyright, Reprinted with permission

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