Oakland— More than 100 hours into an indefinite hunger strike started at Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit, prisoners in at least 6 state prisons have joined in, with participation potentially growing into the thousands. Hunger strikers at Pelican Bay and other prisoners participating are protesting the conditions in the Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit (SHU).
Dozens of U.S.-based and international human rights organizations have condemned Security Housing Units as having cruel, inhumane, and torturous conditions. SHU prisoners are kept in windowless, 6 by 10 foot cells, 23½ hours a day, for years at a time. The CDCR operates four Security Housing Units in its system at Corcoran, California Correctional Institution (CCI), Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) as well as Pelican Bay.
As of Tuesday morning, advocates had confirmed hunger strike participants at Corcoran and CCI, as well as Folsom, Centinela, and Calipatria State Prisons. Despite the Hunger Strike spreading, the CDCR claimed in an LA Times article this past weekend that less than two dozen prisoners were on hunger strike.
“The CDCR is not following its own protocol around hunger strikes, but we have evidence that thousands of prisoners across in at least 6 prisons in California could be participating in the strike. We think that CRCR knows this and is purposefully withholding information,” said Carol Strickman, staff attorney at Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and legal team representative for Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity.
In a statement released from Corcoran Prison’s SHU, prisoners said, “It is important for all to know Pelican Bay is not alone in this struggle and the broader the participation and support for this hunger strike and other such efforts, the greater the potential that our sacrifice now will mean a more humane world for us in the future.”
A recent prisoner work strike in Georgia drew support from thousands of prisoner across at least 5 prisoners – the largest prisoner strike in US history. And at the Lucasville, OH State Prison this January, three hunger strikers won far-reaching changes to prison policy concerning conditions for prisoners on death row. “Given what’s happening in California prisons themselves, its no surprise we’re seeing organized action here too,” said Taeva Shefler from Prison Activist Resource Center. “The US Supreme Court – not just liberal activists– has agreed that California prison conditions amount to cruel and unusual punishment. This growing Hunger Strike is the culmination of decades of abuse, neglect, foot-dragging, and incompetence by an unbroken sequence of CDCR administrations.”
Actions in more than 12 cities are scheduled to happen throughout this week to show support for the Hunger Strike, and an end to indefinite Solitary Confinement, gang validation and inadequate food and medical care as administrative punishment.
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