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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

An extreme form of political discourse

Greetings sisters and brothers. To those of you familiar with the CDCR domestic torture program and the ongoing protracted struggle to realize the 5 core demands, the state’s loose relationship with the truth comes as no surprise. For those of you just gaining familiarity with this social ill, what follows should prove helpful in providing you with a greater insight into the dynamics of power relationships in the U.S.

During the July 2013 hunger strike, unlike other prisons, the unique conditions and repressive staff culture here at Corcoran-SHU required a range of peaceful protest tactics, some of which are still underway. CDCR officials, including chief ombudsman Sarah Malone, have been engaging in ongoing negotiations with Cor-SHU Reps since August 16th on local issues unique to the conditions here at Corcoran State Prison. 

The decision to accept nutrients, or continue fasting, has always been an individual choice. However, here in Corcoran-SHU, because of the degree of intentional deviation from CCHC’s Mass Hunger Strike, Fasting and Refeeding Care Guide (CCHC Hunger Strike policy Chapter 22.2) by CSP-Corcoran medical staff, most refeeding has occurred as a result of potentially, or immediately, life threatening complications related to the hunger strike itself.

In mid-August, Z. was hospitalized with highly elevated ketone levels, hunger strike related acute pancreatitis, a severe kidney infection and he was on the brink of kidney failure. The life-sustaining treatment he was given, included “electrolytes” and I.V. liquid nutrition which took him “off” the hunger strike, though he consumed no solid food. Accepting “Gatorade” here at Corcoran-SHU would also take you “off” the hunger strike, so long term participants (over 30 days of fasting like Z. and H.) had to make due with water and a multi-vitamin a day. Z. resumed the hunger strike as soon as he returned to the facility.

H. was hospitalized 6 times over the course of the 40 plus days they starved, 3 days in a 5-day period in late August due to severe dehydration, extremely low blood pressure, tachycardia arrhythmia and electrolyte levels so unstable two different E.R. doctors were afraid his heart would simply lose its bio-electric charge and stop. On the third visit to the E.R. that week the doctor (Sao) actually told him he would seek a psych override to remove his capacity for informed consent (trying to assert he was suicidal) and invoke his p.o.l.s.t. (physicians’ order for life sustaining treatment). 

This doctor asserted H.’s heart was going to stop imminently, and because his electrolyte levels were so unstable, his phosphorous levels so low, and ketone levels were so high, no amount of epinephrine and electrostatic paddles would be able to resuscitate him. He still refused LNS (Liquid Nutritional Supplement) treatment and returned to the facility. 

In both cases, though facing imminent death, they continued to refuse treatment until CDCR officials agreed to negotiate in good faith with Pelican Bay, move local reps and participants out of the 4A and 3B debriefing blocks- surrounded by informants- where the administration had isolated them in and back to the 4B yard, and negotiate the terms of resolving the local issues unique to Corcoran SHU, that as of the September 3rd meeting with Corcoran administrators, included:

-          Additional canteen items
-          Additional t.v. stations (i.e. a Direct TV contract at prisoners’ (iwf) expense
-          Additional package and special purchase items and access
-          Extending visiting to 2 ½ hours (and 3 ½ hours for those traveling over 100 miles)
-          More regular yard access (we’re lucky to get 3-5 hours of yard access per week)
-          1 non-emergency phone call per month

[beginning of November Cor-SHU was still awaiting a response to these local demands]

Unlike other prisons, the Corcoran-SHU peaceful protest had 3 components:

-          Hunger strike
-          Work stoppage
-          Mass single-cell event.

The last by far the most impactful. Participants could have chosen any one, or a combination, of these options to contribute to supporting the Pelican Bay D-Short Corridor Collective and this historic Human Rights Struggle.

Hunger strikes are a form of unilateral political discourse designed to raise social awareness of a particular injustice, while simultaneously shaming the perpetrating officials in the realm of public opinion. It is an extreme form of political discourse, the effectiveness of which lies in the potential for participants to die. With the insertion of judge Thelton Henderson’s ruling giving CDCR leave to force feed hunger strikers, the lethal component of the hunger strike was removed as an active threat (regardless of how incorrect and absurd the false narrative of “gang compulsion” was that CDCR used to dupe him into this ruling, the concrete analysis of concrete conditions still leads to this irrefutable materialist interpretation).

To be sure, the next day, here at Corcoran, those still maintaining their fast were confronted with the prospect of a process (force feeding) they could not resist without breaking the “peaceful” posture of the protest; coupled with the degree of disrespect participants here at Corcoran have had to endure and absorb over the course of this protest, each man’s decision was one grounded in the knowledge that there are still hundreds of participants who remain single-celled (and will continue to do so), and thousands more prepared to follow suit – or re-consolidate- according to the rate of progress and success reached in these ongoing negotiations. There remain a significant number of courageous hunger strike participants here still hospitalized, and their sacrifices, all of our sacrifices – should never be marginalized because conditions require a change in tactics.

As you read these words, there are new tactics being discussed, in the limited scope of our capabilities and maintaining a peaceful posture, should the need arise to resume an even more intense form of unilateral political discourse to resolve this contradiction. Let there be no mistake, elements here at Cor-SHU are more than willing (and capable) of having that discussion and taking it to its logical conclusion.

In the final analysis, it is neither true that no negotiations are being held or that the peaceful protest action here at Corcoran is over. 

The struggle continues.
Our love and solidarity to you all.
N.C.T.T.-Cor-SHU

September, 2013
Edited Nov. 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Statement Suspending the Third Hunger Strike

Posted on September 5, 2013 by prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity

Greetings of Solidarity and Respect!

The PBSP-SHU, Short Corridor Collective Representatives hereby serve notice upon all concerned parties of interest that after nine weeks we have collectively decided to suspend our third hunger strike action on September 5, 2013.

To be clear, our Peaceful Protest of Resistance to our continuous subjection to decades of systemic state sanctioned torture via the system’s solitary confinement units is far from over. Our decision to suspend our third hunger strike in two years does not come lightly. This decision is especially difficult considering that most of our demands have not been met (despite nearly universal agreement that they are reasonable). The core group of prisoners has been, and remains 100% committed to seeing this protracted struggle for real reform through to a complete victory, even if it requires us to make the ultimate sacrifice.  With that said, we clarify this point by stating prisoner deaths are not the objective, we recognize such sacrifice is at times the only means to an end of fascist oppression.

Our goal remains: force the powers that be to end their torture policies and practices in which serious physical and psychological harm is inflicted on tens of thousands of prisoners as well as our loved ones outside.  We also call for ending the related practices of using prisoners to promote the agenda of the police state by seeking to greatly expand the numbers of the working class poor warehoused in prisons, and particularly those of us held in solitary, based on psychological/social manipulation, and divisive tactics keeping prisoners fighting amongst each other. Those in power promote mass warehousing to justify more guards, more tax dollars for “security”, and spend mere pennies for rehabilitation — all of which demonstrates a failed penal system, high recidivism, and ultimately compromising public safety.  The State of California’s $9.1 billion annual CDCR budget is the epitome of a failed and fraudulent state agency that diabolically and systemically deprives thousands of their human rights and dignity. Allowing this agency to act with impunity has to stop! And it will.

With that said, and in response to much sincere urging of loved ones, supporters, our attorneys and current and former state legislators, Tom Ammiano, Loni Hancock, and Tom Hayden, for whom we have the upmost respect, we decided to suspend our hunger strike.  We are especially grateful to Senator Hancock and Assembly Member Ammiano for their courageous decision to challenge Governor Brown and the CDCR for their policies of prolonged solitary confinement and inhumane conditions. We are certain that they will continue their fight for our cause, including holding legislative hearings and the drafting legislation responsive to our demands on prison conditions and sentencing laws. We are also proceeding with our class action civil suit against the CDCR.

The fact is that Governor Brown and CDCR Secretary Beard have responded to our third peaceful action with typical denials and falsehoods, claiming solitary confinement does not exist and justifying the continuation of their indefinite torture regime by vilifying the peaceful protest representatives. They also obtained the support of the medical receiver (Kelso) and Prison Law Office attorney (Spector—who is supposed to represent prisoners interests, and instead has become an agent for the state) to perpetuate their lie to the public and to the federal court — that prisoners participating in the hunger strike have been coerced — in order to obtain the August 19, 2013 force feeding order.

We have deemed it to be in the best interest of our cause to suspend our hunger strike action until further notice.
We urge people to remember that we began our present resistance with our unprecedented collective and peaceful actions (in tandem with the legislative process) back in early 2010, when we created and distributed a “Formal Complaint” for the purpose of educating the public and bringing widespread attention to our torturous conditions.

After much dialogue and consideration, this led us to our first and second hunger strike actions in 2011, during which a combined number of 6,500 and 12,000 prisoners participated. We succeeded in gaining worldwide attention and support resulting in some minor changes by the CDCR concerning SHU programming and privileges. They also claimed to make major changes to policies regarding gang validation and indefinite SHU confinement by creating the STG/SDP Pilot Program. They released a few hundred prisoners from SHU/AD SEG to general population in the prison.  But in truth, this is all part of a sham to claim the pilot program works and was a weak attempt to have our class action dismissed. It didn’t work.
In response we respectfully made clear that CDCR’s STG-SDP was not responsive to our demand for the end to long term isolation and solitary confinement and thus unacceptable.  (See: AGREEMENT TO END HOSTILITIES)

Our supporting points fell on deaf ears, leading to our January 2013 notice of intent to resume our hunger strike on July 8, 2013 if our demands were not met.  We also included Forty Supplemental Demands.
In early July, CDCR produced several memos notifying prisoners of an increase in privileges and property items, which are notably responsive to a few of our demands, while the majority of our demands were unresolved, leading to our third hunger strike, in which 30,000 prisoners participated and resulted in greater worldwide exposure, support and condemnation of the CDCR!

From our perspective, we’ve gained a lot of positive ground towards achieving our goals.  However, there’s still much to be done.  Our resistance will continue to build and grow until we have won our human rights.

Respectfully,

For the Prisoner Class Human Rights Movement

Todd Ashker, C58191, D1-119
Arturo Castellanos, C17275, D1-121
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C35671, D1-117
Antonio Guillen, P81948, D2-106

And the Representatives Body:

Danny Troxell, B76578, D1-120
George Franco, D46556, D4-217
Ronnie Yandell, V27927, D4-215
Paul Redd, B72683, D2-117
James Baridi Williamson, D-34288. D4-107
Alfred Sandoval, D61000, D4-214
Louis Powell, B59864, D1-104
Alex Yrigollen, H32421, D2-204
Gabriel Huerta, C80766, D3-222
Frank Clement, D07919, D3-116
Raymond Chavo Perez, K12922, D1-219
James Mario Perez, B48186, D3-124

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