Building a Movement to End Solitary Confinement, Against Imprisonment

After hunger strike leaders reached an agreement last week with the CDCR to end the hunger strike that swept across California’s prison system, prisoners have started to transition to eating food again. However this transition is both brutal and confusing.

After not eating for four weeks, it is very hard to begin eating solid food again right away, so many prisoners are in need of more medical care than the prisons can provide. Medical staff at the prisons were already overwhelmed by general conditions of overcrowding in the state’s prisons, and even further overwhelmed by this massive protest. While the medical staff supposedly need to follow certain protocols assisting hunger strikers’ transition to eating solid food, provision of basic medical care is exhausted, unreliable and ineffective.

Family members and supporters are anxiously waiting confirmation on whether or not prisoners are continuing the strike at other prisons. When the hunger strike spread to at least 13 prisons, and at least 6,600 people across the state were participating, it was clear that prisoners joining were doing so in solidarity with the demands from Pelican Bay due to the brutal conditions they are held in resembling the conditions of Pelican Bay. For instance, prisoners at Calipatria have explained that they joined the hunger strike specifically in protest of the torturous formal and informal policies of group punishment, gang validation and debriefing–practices also imposed at Calipatria. Prisoners at Calipatria are now transitioning to eating food again, according to family members of prisoners participating in the hunger strike.

There has been some mention of prisoners at Corcoran and Tehachapi continuing the strike to expose specific issues at these particular institutions, but supporters do not have confirmation, such as how many prisoners are still refusing food and for what specific reasons or demands [In the early days of the hunger strike, prisoners at the SHU in Corcoran released this statement explaining why they were in solidarity with the demands from Pelican Bay, but we have not heard of other specifics beside medical updates since]

Outside community organizations that correspond with prisoners are scurrying to send in updates on the strike and confirming the agreement between the strike leaders at Pelican Bay and the CDCR, but since the CDCR relies heavily on denying mail as a tool of isolation and political repression, supporters are unsure if their messages are getting through.

As mentioned yesterday, the hunger strike leaders at Pelican Bay released a written statement providing some explanation for their reasoning behind accepting the CDCR’s deal. Their concerns include not wanting fellow prisoners to die. At least 17 hunger strikers at Pelican Bay, including 3 of the 11 leaders, were transferred to Corcoran for supposed medical reasons, however the CDCR failed to mention that Corcoran got clearance to begin forced-feeding days before hunger strike leaders accepted the CDCR’s offer, a clear threat of what could happen to the leadership and their comrades if they did not agree to the CDCR’s terms.

While the concessions may seem too small to claim a victory, it’s important for people outside prison to understand the weight for prisoners who have been held in the SHU for decades of now being able to stay a little warmer, and to be able to keep track of time since they have no windows and the fluorescent lights are on 24 hours of every day. More so, worldwide support and momentous courage of thousands of prisoners to risk their lives effectively pressured the CDCR to sit at the same table and look prisoners in the face and offer a deal, after refusing to negotiate for weeks and insisting prisoners are less-than human.

Yesterday, dozens of supporters gathered on a continental conference call in support of the hunger strike, and discussed how to move forward now and keep pressure on the CDCR to implement the necessary changes brought to the world’s attention by the strike.

One focus of the conference call became mobilizing for the legislative hearings on August 23rd, a hearing on the SHU at Pelican Bay that will be held by the Public Safety Committee of the CA State Assembly in Sacramento. Many supporters are focusing on coordinating (inter)national days of action leading up to the legislative hearing periodically throughout the next few weeks. If you are interested in coordinating an action in a city or town near you in coordination with events in other cities, please contact us and we’ll get you in touch with other supporters organizing days of action. Read notes from the conference call here.

World Can’t Wait is calling for an International Day of Action on Monday, August 1st. Click here for more information.

As we work to consolidate a growing movement against solitary confinement, torture and all violence, we need to support all prisoners and political leaders locked up in prisons, jails and detention centers internationally. In the next few days, make sure to support Leonard Peltier, who has been locked up for more than 30 years and is currently in solitary confinement in Pennsylvania, by calling and emailing prison officials and demand that Leonard Peltier be immediately released from solitary and returned to the general population at USP-Lewisburg. Click here for contact information

U.S. Prisoners Speak Out Against Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Power

The following are messages of solidarity for the people of Japan by U.S. prisoners, two of whom are on Death Row. The messages were written, translated into Japanese, and sent to anti-nuclear and political prisoner supporters in Japan to be distributed in Hiroshima and throughout Japan on the anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima (August 6th), and Nagasaki (August 9th).
  • Statement by Mumia Abu-Jamal, innocent political prisoner in State Correctional Institution Greene, in Pennsylvania, USA:

Against Japan’s Nuclear Dangers

Brothers and Sisters of Japan: Health and strength and survival for the people of Fukushima and surrounding regions.

As we survey the long and terrible history of nuclear disasters afflicting Japan, we note that none of these were natural, and all of these were intentional.

One was acts of war as seen in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as when the U.S. dropped A-bombs on Japan. The other, of course, was the installation, construction, and faulty maintenance of nuclear power plants in a region known as prone to earthquakes. In a sense, these defective nuclear power plants were a kind of capitalism bomb of Fukushima, for these structures are often built by government grants for private profits and then, when they fail, they destroy everything within miles, even at a molecular level.

We should recognize that shortly after the disaster at Fukushima, Germany announced it would shutter its own nuclear power plants – all of them. What does that tell you? Until that happens globally, we will see many more Fukushimas.

Down with nuclear poison. 

Thank you very much. From death row, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.

To listen to Mumia’s commentary go HERE

  • Statement by Kevin Cooper, innocent prisoner in San Quentin State Prison, in California, USA:
What is it about the word ‘NO‘ that the powers-that-be do not understand? We, who are the working class, the poor people of this world, are told that the people who are in control of damn near everything are the smartest and most well-educated of all. Yet they somehow don’t hear us, and won’t acknowledge us, when we say ‘NO‘ to nuclear weapons, nuclear power plants, nuclear submarines, or any other destructive power that can come from them, such as radiation! We, as a people, must save Mother Earth for all her worth, because she is the only earth we have! The best way to do that and save mankind from itself is to say in one loud and powerful united voice: “No nukes! Not today, not tomorrow, not ever again!”
  • Statement by Lynne Stewart, innocent political prisoner in Federal Medical Center, Carswell, in Texas, USA:
The Imperial Excess

Certainly the remembrance of August 6 of Hiroshima is of dual bitterness this year.  Bitter for the same reasons as years past — the arrogance of the United States in the taking of human life, wholesale — a massacre; (no accident that the Japanese were the WW II enemy of color); and the aftermath of destroyed genetics — babies deformed, the elderly wasting away for years and years.

And people did fight back then and some are still imprisoned for that resistance.  I send greetings and respect to my brother, and yours — Hoshino Fumiaki.This year it was all exacerbated by the Natural Causes that revealed that Japan is modeling itself on the post-war ideal of rapacious U.S. capitalism, and has exhibited the same disregard for human life by unleashing the same inhumane nuclear nightmare in Fukushima, the disaster cousin of Hiroshima.  People world wide have a right to have their governments protect them from ultra-venal individual self interest, whether in Chernobyl, Bhopal, West Virginia or Japan.  We must fight back for the sake of Mother Nature and the generations yet unborn — the innocents. Onward!!

Lynne Stewart, Prisoner

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