[Ppnews] Inmate Health Dwindles as Prison Hunger Strike Enters Fourth Week

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jul 20 15:01:25 EDT 2011

Inmate Health Dwindles as Prison Hunger Strike Enters Fourth Week


Jorge Rivas

More than 400 inmates at four California prisons 
are entering their fourth week of a hunger strike 
to protest long stays in isolation cells that 
they contend are cruel and inhumane.

Prison officials told the 
Times they’re closely monitoring  49 inmates who 
have lost at least 10 pounds each, including 
seven at Pelican Bay, the maximum-security prison 
near the Oregon border where the hunger strike began July 1st.

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity (PHSS), a 
coalition based in the Bay Area made up of 
organizations supporting the inmates at Pelican 
Bay, reports more than 6,600 prisoners throughout 
the state of California are refusing food in solidarity.

PHSS also reports that dozens of striking 
prisoners have lost 20-25 pounds are being taken 
to prison infirmaries because of irregular heartbeats or fainting.

An inmate at the state prison in Tehachapi in 
Central California has lost 29 pounds, a 
spokeswoman for the court-appointed receiver in 
charge of prison healthcare confirmed to the 

In an op-ed for the 
Francisco Bayview newspaper, Dorsey Nunn, a 
mediator with strikers and the California 
Department of Corrections (CDC) reports the 
Pelican Bay prison hospital is filled with 
“prisoners who are being hydrated intravenously 
because some have started to refuse water.” 
According to Nunn, many inmates are also having 
trouble keeping water down at this point. “It is 
truly a matter of luck and or untiring spirit 
that nobody has died so far,” he added.

“What’s most troubling is that the California 
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has 
not offered anything substantial in response to 
the prisoner’s demands, which include an end to 
long term solitary confinement,” said Carol 
Strickman in a 
press release Monday.

“Some of these guys have been in the Security 
Housing Unit for 20 years or more and are 
suffering the severe affects of being locked in a 
6 x 10 concrete cell for 23 ½ hours a day. What 
they are asking for are basic human rights,” 
added Strickman, a lawyer with Legal Services for 
Prisoners with Children and member of the 
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity legal team.

The Pelican Bay prisoners’ demands are standard 
in “Supermax” prisons in other states, organizers say. The demands include:
    * “End Group Punishment & Administrative 
Abuse”  would end group punishment as a means to 
address an individual inmates rule violations.
    * “Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify 
Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria” The 
practice of “debriefing,” or offering up 
information about fellow prisoners particularly 
regarding gang status, is often demanded in 
return for better food or release from the SHU. 
Prisoners demand the end to debriefing because it 
puts the safety of prisoners and their families 
at risk, because they are then viewed as “snitches.”
    * “Comply with the US Commission on Safety 
and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 
Recommendations Regarding an End to Long-Term 
Solitary Confinement” Prisoners demand a  more 
productive form of confinement in the areas of 
allowing inmates in SHU and Ad-Seg 
[Administrative Segregation] the opportunity to 
engage in meaningful self-help treatment, work, 
education, religious, and other productive 
activities. This demand includes access to 
adequate natural sunlight and health care treatment.
    * “Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food” 
Prisoners’ demands include the end to the 
practice of denying adequate food as a means of 
punishment, asking for wholesome nutritional meals
    * “Expand and Provide Constructive 
Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU 
Status Inmates” demands include a weekly phone 
call, permission to keep wall calendars 
and  craft items - art paper, colored pens, small 
pieces of colored pencils, watercolors, chalk, etc.

Dunn, one of the mediators between the prisoners 
on hunger strike and the California Department of 
Corrections, (CDC) 
prison official have offered nothing. He says 
prisoners are sticking through with their demands 
because they don’t have much to to lose:

“They felt disrespected but are staying committed 
to this course of action until CDC stops the 
torture. Some of them have been in solitary 
lockup for multiple decades with no possibly of 
getting out of the hole. They would rather die or 
continue to be tortured before they’d surrender their soul.”

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