California Prisoners Enter Tenth Day of Hunger Strike to End Torturous Conditions
On July 1, 2011, more than 6600 prisoners across the California penal system began a rolling hunger strike to protest their inhumane treatment, including being torturous physical abuse and medical neglect. Prisoners claim they're also subject to mental abuse, including being cut off from their families entirely if they're identified as being a gang member -- a label that, according to prisoners James Crowford and Mutop DuGuya, is often bestowed without merit or evidence. Crowford and DuGuya, from Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit (SHU):
The cruelty is a protracted attack against prisoners, their families, friends, and all of their associates who are subjected to investigations for criminal activities. It does not matter if they are into crime or gang activity or not, the objective is to insinuate that they are and to cut off any relationships that may exist with the prisoner. The gang investigation officers manufacture their evidence by using inmate informers to create as assumption of crime to attack our friends and families.
The CDCR’s gang investigators understand that the prisoners held in solitary confinement are being subjected to various forms of torture and are nonetheless able to sustain themselves, even in the face of these ongoing attacks. Prisoners have adapted to maintain their sanity. So the gang investigators take it a step further, beyond the prison walls, where they work to intimidate by way of threats and other means our friends and families, be they children, grandparents, sisters, bothers, parents or whomever—people who are completely innocent of any gang or criminal activity. They intimidate and incriminate people across the board. They run them off in fear of being prosecuted for a crime that does not exist (other than to say they are under investigation). This kind of attack is not only very intimidating for someone who has never even had a traffic ticket, they are actually cruel to those dear to us.
The prisoners' demands include basic human rights -- i.e. providing adequate and nutritious food and complying with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons -- but so far, authorities at Pelican Bay SHU have declined to negotiate. To show support outside the system, a coalition called Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity (PHSS) has begun grassroots efforts to spread the word of the SHU strikers, including petitions, actions and phone banking. "In the Spring of 2011," says the PHSS site, "prisoners inside Pelican Bay State Prison contacted prisoner-rights and anti-prison activist organizations announcing 50-100 prisoners would be beginning a rolling hunger strike on July 1st, and that they needed support making sure their voices and demands were heard and acted on outside prison walls."
To support, sign the petition and find out more, visit PHSS' site here.