[Pnews] Prisoners United of Silicon Valley thank each other and supporters for a largely successful hunger strike against solitary confinement

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jan 26 11:16:12 EST 2017


  Prisoners United of Silicon Valley thank each other and supporters for
  a largely successful hunger strike against solitary confinement

*/by Mary Ratcliff - January 25, 2017

In late September, prisoners in the Santa Clara County jails who are 
part of what they then called the Prisoners’ Human Rights Movement sent 
a letter to Sheriff Laurie Smith 
with a list of demands and a notice that in October the inmates would 
initiate a hunger strike to continue their “peaceful protest to end this 
torturous practice of solitary confinement and inhumane treatment until 
there is tangible and meaningful change for all prisoners – most whom 
are un-convicted pretrial detainees,” they stated.

The letter begins by recalling the Ashker settlement, the 2015 
resolution of a lawsuit against solitary confinement in the state prison 
system that was initially filed by prisoners and fueled by a series of 
hunger strikes, the largest in history. Though it didn’t end solitary 
confinement, it severely limited it and released thousands of prisoners 
who had suffered the torture of solitary confinement for a decade or 
more into the relative freedom of general population.

Building on that precedent, the Santa Clara prisoners write: “Currently 
there are over a hundred prisoners held in solitary confinement 
throughout Santa Clara County jails.” Then they list their core demands:

  * End meaningless classification review and the biased appeal process;
  * End placement in solitary confinement when there exists no serious
    rule violation to merit such placement;
  * End the policy and practice of denying prisoners sufficient clothing;
  * End jail profiteering and exploitation of prisoners and their
    families through contract bidding of commissary vendors based on
    kickbacks and political incentives for campaign contributions;
  * End recidivism and misappropriation of prisoners’ welfare funds.

In calling the strike, which was inspired by the nationwide prison 
strikes that began Sept 9, 2016, they wrote to their comrades: “Said 
hunger strike will begin at 12 midnight on Oct. 17, 2016, and will go on 
for two weeks, or 14 days. It will end on Oct. 30, 2016, at 12 midnight. 
This strike is not mandatory, but instead it is highly encouraged to all 
who are concerned, willing and able.

“We especially reach out to those who are healthy and influential. We 
lean upon you and ask that you utilize your influence to help further 
push and inspire this movement through your words and actions by leading 
through example.

“For those who might not be able to hold up for the full 14 days, it’s 
OK; just do your best. But this county does not acknowledge a hunger 
strike until you refuse nine straight meals through the course of three 
days, so we ask that at a minimum you hold out for four days so that 
your sacrifice and efforts are acknowledged.”

Three hundred prisoners, including many held in solitary confinement, 
joined the strike. And after only four days, jail officials held a 
meeting with about a hundred prisoners that resulted in suspension of 
the strike, which continues.

      Three hundred prisoners, including many held in solitary
      confinement, joined the strike.

“In an unusual turn,” the San Jose Mercury News reported 
“the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, the union for the rank-and-file 
enforcement officers of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, 
publicly sided with the inmates and released a statement lambasting 
Sheriff Laurie Smith for not being responsive enough to the protest of 
conditions ranging from how solitary confinement is doled out to 
inadequate clothing.”

Now, under their new name, Prisoners United of Silicon Valley, the 
strikers have issued their own newsletter and topped it with this statement:

      *Letter of appreciation*

Greetings and solidarity to each other and all who participated in our 
initial hunger strike to end the arbitrary use of solitary confinement 
and inhumane treatment in Santa Clara County jails.

Before we set off into the body of this letter, we would like to extend 
our respect and appre­ciation to all who participated and sacrificed to 
provoke change. Although we came from diverse backgrounds – be it race, 
religion, color or creed – we set our differences aside and inter­locked 
arms, forming a formidable force through civil disobedience in solidarity.

Allow the sacrifices each participant has made to be an inspiration to 
others to join in our strug­gle, allow our peaceful protest to 
demonstrate the power of unity and the positive changes that can be 
effected when we view each other not as a classification of inmates 
defined by the color of clothing issued to prisoners by administration 
but instead as human beings who share the same oppressive conditions.

For decades, prisoners have been slammed down in solitary confinement, 
locked away from education and rehabilitation programs or barred from 
participating in the fellowship of their faith due to administration 
beliefs. Meanwhile, our families are being exploited with prac­tices 
that amount to price gouging through exorbitant commissary and phone 
rates, while they survive in a region with rising rent costs, plagued by 
a homeless epidemic in a city with ordinances that throw people in jail 
for having no place to live.

Let’s be thankful we have religious leaders and community organizations 
like De-Bug [Silicon Valley De-Bug is an excellent media, community 
organizing and entrepreneurial collective in San Jose] who rally behind 
us to champion our cause and see us as different, who are the 
difference, who see us as human beings, who are not persuaded by those 
in positions of authority. They define us by our allegations and 
classification rhetoric to pump fear in the heart of the public in their 
effort to kill our support base when they are preoccupied beating us to 
death like Michael Tyree. [Tyree was a mentally ill prisoner beaten to 
death by guards in 2015. Santa Clara County settled the wrongful death 
suit for $3.6 million, and the three guards facing murder charges were 
to go on trial Jan. 23. – ed.]

In the spirit of thankfulness, perhaps one might consider reaching out 
to their family and friends letting them know they are appreciated; we 
appreciate you and yours for your support, so Thank You!

Before we bring this letter of appreciation to a close, we would like to 
abreast the prisoner population that our hunger strike has not ended; it 
has been momentarily suspended. We gave the administration 30 days to 
bring about tangible changes for the benefit of all prison­ers. We will 
continue our efforts until all of our core demands have been met.

We will not be duped by the superficial, such as movie night and a 
snack. We must persist as a collective that stands firm on principle. We 
must not be deluded by a carrot on a stick offered to us by an oppressed 
system that is fueled by greed and political ambitions.

      We would like to abreast the prisoner population that our hunger
      strike has not ended; it has been momentarily suspended. We gave
      the administration 30 days to bring about tangible changes for the
      benefit of all prison­ers.

To prevail in our struggle for prisoners’ human rights, we respectfully 
ask the prisoner population to exercise diplomacy, for it is not in our 
own interest to engage in combat with one another when we are fighting 
together to improve our conditions of confinement. We ask those of you 
who sway influence in your housing unit to work with each other to 
resolve conflict peacefully by promoting prisoner solidarity.

Let’s try not to provide ammunition to the administration that allows 
them to justify the reasoning for the use of solitary confine­ment. Our 
goal is to promote our cause by unifying like-minded people to support 
our next planned hunger strike.

In closing, we thank you for your time.


/Prisoners United of Silicon Valley/

      *Official updates*

The Prisoners United newsletter follows the letter of appreciation with 
updates spelling out how their demands are being met. On Oct. 21, they 

Prisoners formerly in solitary have been programming together on the 
yard with good spirits. They send their love and appreciation to all the 
organizations, individuals and media that showed support. The hunger 
strike is on suspension out of good faith that the administration will 
do the following:

 1. Classification: In 90 days, strikers will be able to down-class
    based on behavior into general population.
 2. Solitary confinement: Hunger strikers have been released from
    solitary with handshakes and hugs.
 3. Clothing: Additional clothing has been ordered.
 4. Overpriced commissary and welfare fund: Due to contract constraints
    with the commissary vendor, the administration has agreed to
    subsidize lowering commissary prices through the Welfare Fund,
    meanwhile shopping for another vendor after contract completion.

On Oct. 25, we spoke with administration. In our discussion, we made a 
few supplemental demands and re­quests:

 1. Phones: We requested to install more phones in each unit that will
    be releasing more prisoners out to program, as each unit was
    designed for no more than one prisoner. In addition, installing
    sufficient phones will reduce the potential rise of inmate fights as
    a result of overlap. For example, 4C and 4B have only one phone in
    each pod. We ask to install at least two of three more phones per
    pod. All other units within Main Jail North should have at least 10
    phones in each pod.
 2. Televisions: We requested at least one more television in the units
    that house a high capacity of prisoners to accommodate Spanish and
    Vietnamese speakers as well as to reduce the potential rise of
    inmate fights as a result of incapacity.
 3. Sporks with handles: We requested sporks (spoon-fork eating
    utensils) with handles.
 4. Tattoo removal program: We requested a tattoo removal program.

There was a shortlist of additional requests and demands we made. This 
was just an example of the few. Currently there is a total of 10 small 
yards. Unfortunately, only one yard is being occu­pied by prisoners 
formerly in solitary, leaving a majority of prisoners who are still in 
solitary due to the administration’s claim of incapacity.

As of Dec. 15, 2016, prisoners have been down-classed and/or re-housed 
to the fourth floor. Prisoners formerly in solitary are now on the 
fourth floor. Who and why is still a question.

Prisoners who have been re-housed to the fourth floor are said to now 
only have 45 minutes of programming a day in comparison to 10 hours a 
day where they were housed prior.

Exercise shorts have yet to be received.

Commissary prices have yet to be reduced.

Dec. 22 update: Previously the name PHRM (Prisoners Human Rights 
Movement) was used as a represen­tative body to harness the hunger 
strike in Santa Clara County’s main jail. The PHRM name was used due to 
lacking an actual name and was directly inspired by the PHRM in CDCR 
(California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the state 
prison system). Moving forward, we will now be known as Prisoners United 
of Silicon Valley.

/Bay View editor Mary Ratcliff can be reached at //editor at sfbayview.com/ 
<mailto:editor at sfbayview.com>/or 415-671-0789. Contact Prisoners United 
of Silicon Valley via Silicon Valley De-Bug, 701 Lenzen Ave., San Jose, 
CA 95126, 408-971-4965, //info at siliconvalleydebug.org/ 
<mailto:info at siliconvalleydebug.org>/or SV Debug on Facebook and Twitter./

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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