A Message of Solidarity; a post by Jodie Lawston

1 Oct

In July 2011, over 6,000 prisoners in the state of California went on hunger strike for four weeks to protest unjust prison conditions in Administrative Segregation and Secure Housing Units across the state.  On September 28, 2011 6,000 prisoners resumed a hunger strike to protest these inhumane conditions.  Critical Resistance (http://www.criticalresistance.org/) sent out a press release explaining prisoners’ families have confirmed that prisoners in the Calipatria State Prison general population and Ad-Seg units, in addition to prisoners at CCI Tehachapi, CSP Centinela and West Valley Detention Center, are refusing food until their demands are met.  The press release explains:

“The prisoners are refusing food to protest what have been characterized by human rights groups as torturous conditions in California’s Securing Housing Units (SHUs) at Pelican Bay, CCI Tehachapi, CSP Corcoran and Valley State Prison for Women. Prisoners continue to rally around 5 demands, originating at Pelican Bay, which include an end to the practice of long term solitary confinement as well as the policies of gang validation and debriefing. A prisoner at CCI Tehachapi recently described the conditions and reasons for striking: “The only clothing we are given in here are socks, boxers and a t-shirt. To be honest they’re filthy. Now just imagine being locked in that bathroom for 24 hrs, 7 days a week, year after year after year for no legitimate reason. We have only been allowed to have fresh air for four hours in the past eight months.”

Administrative segregation are some of the most inhumane conditions a prisoner can be subject to, as they are forced to stay in a cell without human contact for 23, and sometimes 24, hours per day.  In some cases they do not even see correctional officers as everything is automatic; for example, food is given through a slot in the cell door, and the person providing the food (which is awful itself and has little to no nutritional value) is not seen.  This kind of environment provides no intellectual or positive emotional stimulation at all.

You can read more about the hunger strike here: http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/.  There are an array of community and organizational supporters, including actors such as Susan Sarandon and Mark Ruffalo, activists such as Nawal El Saadawi—who was involved in the 2011 Egyptian protests—and Cindy Sheehan, and scholars such as Saskia Sasson and Cornell West.  We here at Razor Wire Women stand in solidarity with the hunger strikers and the communities that support them, and demand that their voices be heard, and action be taken on their demands.

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