[Ppnews] Three Prisoners Die in Hunger Strike Related Incidents

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Nov 17 16:26:23 EST 2011

For Immediate Release – November 17, 2011

Three Prisoners Die in Hunger Strike Related Incidents

CDCR Withholds Information from Family Members, Fails to Report Deaths

Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

Oakland – In the month since the second phase of 
a massive prisoner hunger strike in California 
ended on September 22nd, three prisoners who had 
been on strike have committed suicide. Johnny 
Owens Vick and another prisoner were both 
confined in the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit 
and Hozel Alanzo Blanchard was confined in the 
Calipatria Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU). 
According to reports from prisoners who were 
housed in surrounding cells and who witnessed the 
deaths, guards did not come to the assistance of 
one of the prisoners at Pelican Bay or to 
Blanchard, and in the case of the Pelican Bay 
prisoner (whose name is being withheld for the 
moment) apparently guards deliberately ignored 
his cries for help for several hours before 
finally going to his cell, at which point he was 
already dead. “It is completely despicable that 
prison officials would willfully allow someone to 
take their own life,” said Dorsey Nunn, Executive 
Director of Legal Services for Prisoners with 
Children, “These guys were calling for help, 
their fellow prisoners were calling for help, and 
guards literally stood by and watched it happen.”

Family members of the deceased as well as 
advocates are having difficult time getting 
information about the three men and the 
circumstances of their deaths. The California 
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation 
(CDCR) is required to do an autopsy is the cases 
of suspicious deaths and according to the Plata 
case, is required to do an annual report on every 
death in the system. Family members have said 
that their loved ones, as well as many other 
prisoners who participated in the hunger strike, 
were being severely retaliated against with 
disciplinary actions and threats. Blanchard’s 
family has said that he felt that his life was 
threatened and had two emergency appeals pending 
with the California Supreme Court at the time of 
his death. “It is a testament to the dire 
conditions under which prisoners live in solitary 
confinement that three people would commit 
suicide in the last month,” said Laura Magnani, 
Regional Director of the American Friends Service 
Committee, “It also points to the severe toll 
that the hunger strike has taken on these men, 
despite some apparent victories.” Prisoners in 
California’s SHUs and other forms of solitary 
confinement have a much higher rate of suicide 
than those in general population.

The hunger strike, which at one time involved the 
participation of at least 12,000 prisoners in 13 
state prisons was organized around five core 
demands relating to ending the practices of group 
punishment, long-term solitarily confinement, and 
gang validation and debriefing. The CDCR has 
promised changes to the gang validation as soon 
as early next year and were due to have a draft 
of the new for review this November, although 
it’s not known whether that process is on 
schedule. “If the public and legislators don’t 
continue to push CDCR, they could easily sweep 
all of this under the rug,” said Emily Harris, 
statewide coordinator Californians United for a 
Responsible Budget, “These deaths are evidence 
that the idea of accountability is completely 
lost on California’s prison officials.”

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