Activism

California Prisoners Release Statement Suspending Largest Hunger Strike in State History

"We recognize such sacrifice is at times the only means to an end of fascist oppression,” the statement said.

The largest hunger strike in California’s history came to an end on Thursday as prisoners decided to suspend their two-month refusal to eat in protest of solitary confinement. Prisoners released a statement explaining that although their demands have not yet been met, they have agreed to suspend the hunger strike after two legislators announced last week that they will look into their concerns.

The prisoners wrote in their statement that their fight is “far from over” and they are willing to make the “ultimate sacrifice” in order to end solitary confinement.

They stated: “We clarify this point by stating prisoner deaths are not the objective, we recognize such sacrifice is at times the only means to an end of fascist oppression.”

In addition, the prisoners also repeated their call for an end to the systematic imprisonment of the poor working class, and condemned the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s $9.1 billion yearly budget.

They wrote:

Those in power promote mass warehousing to justify more guards, more tax dollars for “security,” and spend mere pennies for rehabilitation — all of which demonstrates a failed penal system, high recidivism, and ultimately compromising public safety.

The prisoners also shamed CA Governor Jerry Brown for refusing to act, denying solitary confinement in CA prisons, and falsely claiming that prisoners were coerced into the strike, which was then used to justify force-feeding the prisoners.  In addition to continuing their class action lawsuit against the CDCR, CA State Senator Loni Hancock and Assembly Member Tom Ammiano will also challenge Brown on their behalf by holding hearings and drafting legislation.

Hancock said in a statement: "The issues raised by the hunger strike are real — concerns about the use and conditions of solitary confinement in California's prisons — and can no longer be ignored."

Ammiano said: "There have been people in [solitary confinement] for 20 to 25 years and that is ridiculous. … We have to be better than that even with people that have committed egregious crimes."

In their statement, prisoners urged people to remember that their peaceful protests against cruel prison conditions began in 2010. They struck again in 2011, and then followed up this July after CDCR still failed to meet their demands. About 30,000 CA prisoners went on strike this time around, although the number decreased throughout the two months to 100 prisoners, according to the CDCR.  

"From our perspective, we’ve gained a lot of positive ground towards achieving our goals," they concluded. "However, there’s still much to be done.  Our resistance will continue to build and grow until we have won our human rights."

Alyssa Figueroa is an associate editor at AlterNet. 

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