[Ppnews] NJ State Prison Hunger Strike

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Oct 16 08:34:00 EDT 2006

(973) 801-0001


LAWRENCE HAMM (973) 801-0001



On Thursday, October 12, 2006, prisoners at New Jersey State Prison 
began a hunger strike to protest abuse by prison guards, and the 
elimination and cutbacks of rehabilitative, educational, 
recreational, and religious programs.

The hunger strikers sixteen demands include an independent 
investigation into conditions at the prison and the establishment of 
a broad oversight group to monitor the prisons and institute reforms.

Last week the People's Organization For Progress (POP) received a 
statement from the prisoners concerning the hunger strike which 
included their demands.  In it the prisoners stated that they wanted 
the People's Organization For Progress to "represent inmate interests 
at any negotiations."

POP chairman Lawrence Hamm stated, "The demands were reviewed with 
the POP membership at our meeting on Thursday, October 12.  The 
demands are reasonable and we call for their implementation."

On Friday night, October 13 five representatives of the People's 
Organization For Progress went to Trenton, New Jersey to meet with 
Department of Corrections Acting Commissioner George Hayman at his office.

The POP delegation included POP chairman Lawrence Hamm, Vice 
Chairwoman and Secretary-General Mary Weaver, Vice Chairwoman Debby 
Strong, Prisons Committee Member R. D. Strong, and Study Group 
Committee Chairman Aminifu Williams.

Hamm said, "We met with the Commissioner and his staff for more that 
two hours.  We have begun a dialogue on the prisoners' demands that 
we will attempt to continue."

On Saturday, October 14, Hamm was a speaker at a conference on black 
men's issues held in Newark, New Jersey.  He read the prisoners 
statement and demands to the 200 conference participants.

He urged those gathered to support the prison hunger strikers by 
calling and writing the Acting Commissioner of the Department of 
Corrections and asking him to implement their demands.

He also said that POP would hold a press conference and organize a 
support demonstration on the issue very soon.

The People's Organization For Progress asks people concerned about 
this issue to call and write Department of Corrections Acting 
Commissioner George Hayman and urge him to implement the prisoners demands.

His office can be contacted at (609) 292-4036 or write to: Acting 
Commissioner George Hayman, Department of Corrections, Whittlesey 
Road, P.O. Box 863, Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0863.
Below is the text of the communication received by POP last week from 
prisoners at New Jersey State Prison:

Page 1

October 5, 2005

From:    Inmate Population

To    :    Administrators

Re    :    Hunger Strike by Inmates

The Department of Corrections is charges with the responsibility 
under N.J.A.C. 10A:1 - 1.1(a)6 and 7 to, respectively, "Provide an 
environment ... which encourages rehabilitation and reintegration 
into the community" and "Protect the incarcerated offender from 
victimization ..."  We believe that the Department of Corrections has 
failed to uphold this mandate at New Jersey State Prison.  Here, 
there currently exists no meaningful programs geared at 
rehabilitation and no opportunities to acquire vocational and other 
marketable skills.  Furthermore, administrative policy permits 
victimization of inmates at the hands of all too eager officers and 
provides inadequate outlets for (inmate) management of stress.

Administrative policy at the prison, gradually over the years and 
more rapidly recently, has created an environment of utter despair, 
desperation, and demoralization, which adversely impacts our quality 
of life in the short term and our prospects for successful return to 
society in the long term.  As a result, we, inmates at New Jersey 
State Prison, hereby declare our resolve to go on a hunger strike to 
end only after the prison administration has shown a genuine desire 
to address our concerns.

We have enclosed a "press release" and a preliminary list of demands, 
copies of which have been sent to the media and to the individuals 
and groups listed below.  This will be the only direct communication 
between inmates and the administration.  All communication by the 
administration directed at bringing about the changes we seek at the 
prison shall be by memo to the inmate population.  Furthermore, the 
People's Organization For Progress shall represent inmate interests 
at any negotiations.  The administration can show its good faith 
desire to resolve the crisis at New Jersey State Prison and avert the 
hunger strike by granting, effective immediately, inmate demands 8, 9, and 13.

cc:   Commissioner, DOC
         Lawrence Hamm, People's Organization For Progress
         Bonnie Kerness, American Friends Civil Liberty Committee
         Helen Ford, ACLU
         Steve Young, Chairman NAACP Prison Project
         Attorney General, NJ
         Senator Shirley K. Turner
         Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman

Page 2


There were lockdowns at New Jersey State Prison in May and December 
2005 and in June, July, and August 2006.  During these lockdowns, the 
last one lasting almost a month in most areas of the prison, inmates 
had no legal access, no laundry services, and no yard or other 
opportunity for recreation.

During housing unit searches conducted during the lockdowns, some 
lasting as long as twelve hours, inmates were humiliated, forced in 
the last search, to wear underwear, reminiscent of Abu-Ghraib, with 
hands held on their heads, while being herded along a gauntlet of 
officers, with dogs, stretched to the full extent of their leash, 
barking incessantly for close to an hour at a time.  During these 
searches, officers showed no regard for the property of inmates, 
which were manhandled, damaged, made unusable, or stolen; and 
officers showed no regard for the living space of inmates, which were 
left as if ravaged by a great storm, the only thing missing was the 
water damage and the walls were still intact.  When inmates 
complained about the abuses, they were yelled at and threatened with 
punishment.  Furthermore, the institutional remedy process offered no redress.

In addition to the lockdowns, without explanation, inmate school and 
religious programs have been eliminated; and recreation periods have 
been eliminated or severely cut back.  Just recently, inmate groups 
have been shut down; almost all inmates have been removed from job 
assignments; and hardcover books have been banned from prison.

As a result of these actions by prison officials and a general sense 
by inmates that officials have taken these measures solely to inflict 
punishment or to incite a violent uprising, approximately 1400 
inmates, housed in the general population of the prison, have decided 
to go on a hunger strike, which will begin on October 12, 2006.  On 
that day, no inmate in the general population will go out of his cell 
and inmates will refuse to eat prison meals.  The strike will end no 
earlier than when prison officials agree to discuss meaningful changes.

With this non violent action, inmates hope to bring attention to 
their complaints.  Specifically, inmates request the following 
changes, which is not an exhaustive list.

Page 3

New Jersey State Prison Inmates' Preliminary List of Demands

1.    that a person or persons independent of Department of 
Corrections ("DOC") influence aggressively investigate the 
circumstances leading to the prison-wide searches in 2006 and 2005 
and the manner in which the searches were conducted

2.    that corrective measures be taken based on the results of the 
investigation called for in 1, including discipline of any DOC staff 
member responsible for introducing contraband into the prison

3.    that discipline be imposed on anyone for misconduct during the searches

4.    that area, unit, and cell searches be conducted in a 
professional manner, with respect and due regard for an inmate's 
person, property, and living space and for the property of and space 
allotted to inmate groups

5.    that there will be accountability for theft, damage to 
property, or other misconduct during searches

6.    that a person or persons independent of DOC influence be 
allowed to inspect searched areas to ensure that inmates rights are protected

7.    that there be an evening and weekend program and activity 
schedule, to include school, vocational, legal access, and recreation 

8.    that the previous daytime recreation schedule be reinstated

9.    that all inmate groups be reopened or restored to full 
functioning capacity, which includes opportunities to meet and to 
conduct group activities

10.    that any inmate removed from an assignment without good cause 
be reinstated, with good cause defined as conduct by the inmate being 
removed from the assignment that violates prison rules or makes the 
inmate unsuitable for the particular job assignment

11.    that there be an annual or other periodic cost-of-living 
increase in wages for prison jobs and program assignments

12.    that a reliable phone system be installed

Page 4

13.    that the ban on retention and possession of hardcover books be repealed

14.    that laundry services, recreation opportunities, legal access, 
and phone privileges be made available during any and all lockdowns

15.    that a diverse body, to include prison administrative 
officials and members of the legal profession and civil rights 
groups, with input from inmates and relevant experts, be formed to 
propose and implement programs and policy at New Jersey State Prison 
and other prisons under the control of the DOC that encourages 
rehabilitation and reintegration into the community

16.    that amnesty be granted to all participants in the hunger strike


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