Guards Retaliate Against Inmates In Growing Prison Hunger Strike

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by Noelle de la Paz

The Pelican Bay Prison Hunger Strike has gained considerable momentum. The renewed strike began last week and is the second such mass action staged by inmates in less than six months to draw attention to overly punitive treatment. Thousands of inmates have reportedly joined the effort in prisons throughout California and across three additional states, despite efforts by prison administration to crackdown on inmates.

The effort began at the Secure Housing Unit at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison on September 26, and inmates from a dozen facilities throughout the state are now participating. According to the federal receiver’s office, 12,000 prisoners are now participating in the hunger strike, including 3,000 inmates housed in out-of-state facilities in Arizona, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.

As Julianne Hing reported last week, conditions in the prison’s Secure Housing Unit (SHU) have not improved according to prisoners’ original demands. In July, 6,000 inmates went on strike to protest inhumane prison policies, including one that allowed nearly half of Pelican Bay’s 1,111 prisoners to be held in solitary confinement for more than ten years.

The strike has now become the largest such action in recent history, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has addressed it as such. CDCR classifies the strike as an organized disturbance, thereby institutionalizing disciplinary actions against prisoners. Some strike leaders have been transferred to solitary confinement units.

Families of inmates have also been denied visits to Pelican Bay, according to Jay Donohue of the Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS). “Their visits for the weekend were not allowed, and they’ve been told that they won’t be at all until the strike ends.

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2 thoughts on “Guards Retaliate Against Inmates In Growing Prison Hunger Strike

  1. As thousands of prisoners wrap up day five of round two of the California Food Strike, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has stepped up its repression and propaganda in response to prisoners’ demands for basic humyn rights. They have even declared it a punishable offense to peacefully campaign the state for these rights by refusing state-issued food.

    The bourgeois press has been repeating the CDCR’s ridiculous claim that if prisoners went on strike again it might delay reforms in the SHU system. Their audacity is laughable. We all know the strike is nothing but a scapegoat, and not the cause of their delay.

    Meanwhile, they have indicated that they will make conditions worse on three main points of the original 5 Core Demands. All three points address the systematic repressiveness of the whole California prison system.

    MORE GROUP PUNISHMENT – Not only has the CDCR threatened that reforms will be slowed down by another round of hunger striking, but they have implied that non-striking prisoners will also lose their programming as a result.(1) This is in direct contradiction to the first demand.

    MORE SECURITY THREAT GROUPS – While the prisoners have demanded an end to the arbitrary and secretive system of sentencing people to endless sentences in the Security Housing Units (SHU, long-term isolation) for “gang affiliation,” the CDCR has publicly discussed broadening the “Security Threat Group” category to include street organizations. This will mean more people in SHU for indeterminate sentences.

    MORE LONG-TERM ISOLATION – The third demand calls for an end to the torturous practice of long-term isolation. While the state has continued to assert that these practices are constitutional based on court rulings, they have promised to send more prisoners to Administrative Segregation and SHU just for participating in the hunger strike!

    As laid out in the 5 Core Demands, these are parts of a system of oppression that affects all prisoners. While comrades in SHU have the drive to put it down hardest because of their living conditions, the CDCR is making it clear that the implications will affect the whole system.

    Even the reforms offered in the Gang Management Policy Proposal of 25 August 2011 allow the continued practice of keeping the most progressive and politically active prisoners in isolation indefinitely.(2) While this would put California more inline with what is done in most other parts of the country, it is hardly progress. This proposal highlights the political nature of the injustice system.

    Even the 8 “Short-term Action Items” affecting prisoners in Security Housing Units listed in a 27 September 2011 CDCR memo(3) may not be granted to prisoners refusing to eat state-issued meals. They hope that by granting the more petty demands that they can break up the unity of California prisoners, convincing some to give up while they are ahead. The unreasonable actions of the CDCR during this whole conflict should convince any prisoner that such a move would be a mistake. There is no indication that California will be reducing its repression, and every indication that it hopes to heighten Amerika’s war on oppressed nations.

    For more info on the strike and retaliations see


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