[Ppnews] How the hunger strike started for me

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Sep 26 21:11:22 EDT 2011

Letter from Pelican Bay- Alfred Sandoval

8/29/2011 from FB

I received your postcard so I thought I'd answer your question as to 
how the hunger strike started for me. Well, I've been in the S.H.U. 
since July of 1987 so I've lived through a lot of physical as well as 
psychological abuses. I was originally placed in S.H.U. at San 
Quentin's Adjustment Center. The first thing I noticed as I was being 
escorted past the Sgt.'s office was a caricature of a boar hog 
dressed in a C/O's uniform holding a noose with a hammer hanging from 
it posted on the wall. So, being Mexican I knew what time it was. 
Slowly, the blatant racism was pushed into the politically correct 
broom closet but it's never been thrown out.

In 2003, I was returned from court to Pelican Bay and told in no 
uncertain terms that I would die here.

When PBSP created the control unit (short corridor) in early 2006, 
the goal of the Office of Correctional Safety (OCS) was made 
perfectly clear: Debrief or die! They implemented orders to the short 
corridor C/O staff to apply pressure to targeted prisoners and the 
gang unit (IGI) became the overseers of the control unit and began to 
target prisoners' families and friends and attempt to create discord 
by mixing up mail, withholding and delaying personal mail and 
restricting visits for as little as saying hello to another prisoner. 
Their goal is to isolate these targeted prisoners. I had never 
believed in hunger strikes, thinking that they're counter-productive. 
However, when the gang unit began to work in concert with the chief 
medical officer (the I.G.I. actually decides the level of medical 
treatment prisoners in the short corridor receive) I decided to 
participate in this and the next hunger strike, but here's why:

A few years ago, a close friend, his name was Jimmy, developed 
cancer. The medical staff, M.T.A.'s and R.N.'s explained that if he's 
debrief, become an informant, he would receive better medical care. 
Now Jimmy and I had known each other since we were teenagers running 
the streets of East Los Angeles getting high and living the lifestyle 
that ended up with both of us in prison for life. As Jimmy's cancer 
grew worse, he began chemo therapy. Jimmy mentioned to me how the 
I.G.I. would "show up" at the clinic and comment that he could have 
contact visits with he wife before he died if he'd debrief. He 
refused but that's how he found out the cancer was terminal! Jimmy 
loved his wife more than anything and he wouldn't tell her everything 
about the head games and bullshit like waking up from surgery still 
under anesthesia being questioned by I.G.I. but I had warned him of 
that because it happened to me and at least three other prisoners. 
After one of the surgeries, Jimmy was returned to his cell after a 
brief stay at the PBSP infirmary. (Those cells are completely bare 
except for a bed and all you can do is lay there and wait). On the 
second night bac k in his cell, he awoke to a bed pain. He said it 
was a little after 2 a.m. and the staples had opened along his 
abdomen and he was bleeding. He was holding his intestines in calling 
for the C/O. The C/O came and saw the blood and said he'd call the 
R.N. on duty. The C/O came back approximately 30 minutes later with a 
roll of toilet paper. Jimmy was sitting on the blood-covered cement 
floor holding a towel soaked in blood against his stomach. The cop 
tossed Jimmy the toilet paper and said the medical staff would not 
come until the next shift and there was nothing he could do. Jimmy 
held his stomach close din pain until almost six a.m. when the 
medical finally came and they rushed him to the hospital. He asked 
that I keep it to myself because that was his style. I was pissed!! 
He had requested two hardship transfers to Corcoran because of its 
medical facility and he'd be able to see his wife and family more 
before he died. Both were denied and he was told to debrief and then 
he'd be transferred but he steadfastly refused. The cancer spread and 
the gang unit increased the headgames telling the medical staff to 
confiscate his shaded prescription glasses. But luckily, a Doctor 
Williams stepped in and told the medical staff to leave Jimmy alone 
as he was at end state cancer. Jimmy chose to stop the chemo therapy 
and die. We'd talk through a steel door and discuss everything and 
nothing and plan out his funeral. He died in December of 2010 and I 
am proud and honored to have been his friend.

Shortly after Jimmy's death I was told that approximately 8 of the 
older prisoners had been approved for transfer to the S.H.U. medical 
facility at New Folsom but the gang unit had those transfers stopped 
citing that those prisoners, all in their 60s and 70s years old, had 
not successfully completed the debriefing or in-active process 
thereby issuing a death sentence to all of these prisoners and 
denying adequate medical care.

I am 53 years old with incurable illnesses, Hep-C and Crohn's disease 
so I am participating in the hunger strike to expose how prisoners 
are being mistreated and medical treatment withheld as a coercement tactic.

The abuses, physical and psychological, the intimidations and 
harassments have very well documented history here at Pelican Bay 
State Prison. They should speak for itself.

* Early 1990 rumors of abuses at PBSP SHU come to light. The prison 
opens doors to media tour

* 1995 rumors of abuses citing C/O's extracting prisoners from their 
cells, stripping them naked and leaving them hogtied in the cold 
cells and on the cement yard over night. Prison opens doors to media tours

* 1998 C/O's accused of setting up inmates opening cell doors in SHU

* 2001 prisoners began hunger strike to change debriefing process as 
it was not legal! Promises were made, Castillo case settled and 
reworded to be used against prisoners. Prison opens doors to media tours

* 2006 California Inspector General office issues memo for media 
release citing their investigation exposed that the PBSP internal 
affairs would avoid finding staff misconduct on excessive use of 
force and that some changes had been made but more are needed

During this hunger strike, prisoners have been threatened with 
"progressive discipline" which means the prisoners' property will be 
taken out of the cells and they will only be allowed a pair of shower 
shoes and a pair of underwear until the administration deems the 
prisoner as "programming." The warden had a staff meeting before the 
last hunger strike telling staff that he would ignore the hunger 
strikers, which he did, violating the CDCR regulations and allowing 
prisoners to become ill. Grievances were returned unprocessed so it 
never happened.

That is Pelican Bay State Prison.

So now you know why I participate in the hunger strike.

Thank you for your time.

Alfred Sandoval
Pelican Bay State Prison
Crescent City, California

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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