Revolution #238, July 3, 2011
News from the Pelican Bay Prison Hunger Strike
Revolution newspaper received a copy of the “Final Notice: PBSP SHU D-Corridor Hunger Strike” written by prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP), which calls for a hunger strike to start on July 1, 2011 (see Revolution #237, June 26, 2011, for their list of demands). Prisoners from PBSP, as well as other prisons, are speaking out about their support for this hunger strike, exposing the brutal conditions they face. And there is growing support on the outside for the hunger strike. The following are excerpts from statements and news from the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity webpage (prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com).
Excerpt from: Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit’s Peaceful Protest Hunger Strike Starting July 1, 2011 by James Crowford, Mutop DuGuya (a/k/a Bow Low)
This place is a plantation or a prison colony and we prisoners are the slaves (a status legitimized by the 13th amendment to the U.S. constitution). The guards are free to do with us as they please. They have complete control of our medical care, mail, visits, property, supplies, law library access, laundry, yard, isolation, the lights in our cell, family, friends, lock downs, etc. This is an environment in which the prison guards can torture prisoners both physically and psychologically over extended periods of time. One such attack is the dehumanizing yet widely used “potty watch” which is used under false pretenses—not to find drugs, but to humiliate other human beings.
The actual objective or goal of all this is to force every indefinitely held SHU prisoner to “debrief” (to turn rat, snitch, turncoat, however you want do define it). Some SHU prisoners break and give their captors names just to escape the terrible conditions of confinement. These prisoners are rewarded by being placed in Special Need Yards (SNY) where living conditions are better. This has been happening since the 1990s and it continues today. Ninety-five percent of the debriefers lie in order to get out of the SHU and then go on to become lifetime stoolies for the cops.
The CDCR [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] uses every trick they can to force men into debriefing, including ever increasing levels of what can only be described as torture. But if you are innocent, or if you are a principled person, they force you to endure every hardship in an effort to break you. It is this ever increasing attack that has forced us prisoners to put aside our historical differences in order to address the protracted attack on our lives and to expose the criminal activities and abuses against all indeterminate SHU prisoners in the state of California. Effective July 1st we are initiating a peaceful protest by way of an indefinite hunger strike in which we will not eat until our core demands are met. This hunger strike will be carried on by all races, New Afrikans (Blacks), Mexicans (i.e. of all walks), whites and others who realize we are silently being murdered by CDCR/CCPOAA Union as well as the U.S. judicial system who have turned a blind eye while we suffer a civil death at the hands of profiteers.
Therefore we have decided to put our fate in our own hands. Some of us have already suffered a slow, agonizing death in which the state has shown no compassion toward these dying prisoners. Rather than compassion they turn up their ruthlessness. No one wants to die. Yet under this current system of what amounts to intense torture, what choice do we have? If one is to die, it will be on our own terms.
Power concedes nothing without demand.
The Call by Mutope Duguma (s/n James Crawford)
It should be clear to everyone that none of the hunger strike participants want to die, but due to our circumstances, whereas that state of California has sentenced all of us on Indeterminate SHU program to a “civil death” merely on the word of a prison informer (snitch).
The purpose of the Hunger Strike is to combat both the Ad-Seg/SHU psychological and physical torture, as well as the justifications used of support treatment of the type that lends to prisoners being subjected to a civil death. Those subjected to indeterminate SHU programs are neglected and deprived of the basic human necessities while withering away in a very isolated and hostile environment.
Prison officials have utilized the assassination of prisoners’ character to each other as well as the general public in order to justify their inhumane treatment of prisoners. The “code of silence” used by guards allows them the freedom to use everything at their disposal in order to break those prisoners who prison officials and correctional officers (C/O) believe cannot be broken...
From a public letter written by Arturo Castellanos, prisoner in Pelican Bay State Prison:
I’m sure by now you have already received more elaborately written and detailed letters concerning the planned hunger strike (HS) scheduled for July 01, 2011. Even so, I still wish to express myself on behalf of all my fellow HS participants with these simple words in hopes that you publish it in order to inform your readers of the HS that will include SHU prisoners from all racial groups standing together as one in this struggle.
There are 500+ Indeterminate-SHU prisoners housed in D-facility (units D1 thru D10) and I am one of those who has decided to fully commit himself in this indefinite HS that has been planned since Jan. 2011. We expect approximately 30 prisoners from each unit to participate by July 20, 2011. And we are not only doing this for ourselves, it is also for all the youngsters just coming into the prison system who could easily end up in here. As well as for all other SHU prisoners, including all the women housed throughout California’s women prisons with Indeterminate-SHU terms, who also presently suffer a similar fate as us.
CDCR Taunting Hunger Strikers with “4th of July Menu”
According to the wife of a Pelican Bay SHU prisoner, “The prison has been advertising the 4th of July holiday Menu, with hotlinks, strawberry shortcake and ice cream. They have NEVER had ice cream in the SHU, and in the nearly 20 years he has been in the CA system, he has never seen a strawberry.”
This shows us the range of divide-and-conquer tactics the CDCR is using to break the strike even before it has started. It also shows how seriously the CDCR is taking this action—as something to repress before it begins, but also not significant enough to warrant any substantial change in prison conditions. More so, this tactic of repression demonstrates the purpose of Security Housing Units—to crush prisoners’ capacity for building relationships and collective resistance by further isolating them. We need to make our solidarity with the prisoners loud and clear!
There are plans for a number of actions in solidarity with the prisoners’ hunger strike, including one in San Francisco:
Friday, July 1: First day of the strike 11:00 am
Rally at California State Building (VanNess and McAllister)
If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.