by Li Onesto
“What is of note here and something that should concern all U.S. citizens, is the increasing use of behavioral control, i.e. Torture units and human experimental techniques against prisoners, not only in California but across the nation. Indefinite confinement, sensory deprivation, withholding food, constant illumination and use of unsubstantiated lies from informants are the psychological billy clubs being used in these torture units. The purpose of this ‘treatment’ is to stop prisoners from standing in opposition to inhumane prison conditions and prevent them from exercising their basic human rights.”
Statement of Solidarity with the Pelican Bay Collective Hunger Strike on July 1st and announcement of participation by Corcoran SHU prisoners (from California Prison Watch, californiaprisonwatch.blogspot.com)
On Friday, July 1, prisoners in California’s infamous Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison began a courageous and determined hunger strike. This then, very quickly, turned into a display of collective outrage and solidarity among prisoners throughout the state and beyond.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) initially tried to say the strike was fewer than two dozen prisoners. But they then had to admit that by their own count, more than 500 inmates refused food at Pelican Bay State Prison and that 6,600 prisoners in 13 different prisons participated in the hunger strike on the weekend of July 2-3.
This is an extremely significant and extraordinary development, something that challenges people on “the outside” to sit up and take notice. Many have been moved to support the prisoners in their just demands.
The Pelican Bay SHU is designed to subject prisoners to solitary confinement, isolation and sensory deprivation—indefinitely. Some prisoners have been kept in these completely inhumane conditions for years and decades. And the prisoners in the SHU write that they are fighting to let the world know the brutal injustices being done to them; and that they are risking their lives to send out a message that they are human beings! That they refuse to be treated like animals.
One of the ways prison officials maintain control is by pitting prisoners against each other by race and ethnicity, and exploiting and promoting other divisions among prisoners. But this hunger strike is crossing barriers that usually divide prisoners—building unity to fight the horrendous conditions they all face. The New York Times reported, “The hunger strike has transcended the gang and geographic affiliations that traditionally divide prisoners, with prisoners of many backgrounds participating.”
A prisoner from Ohio writing in solidarity with the hunger strike said: “We are all a part of the same fabric of oppression within these walls; we all experience the same or similar conditions in some form or fashion. That’s why I believe it’s very necessary for us to come together, put down the knives for a moment & demand the kind of meaningful change needed to produce better conditions & to combat abusive ‘power holders’ in ways that foster collective resistance. Case in point—the brothas in Georgia (work stoppage demonstration) & the brothas out in Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit (SHU).” (Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity, prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com)
To Read the Rest of the Essay
Li Onesto: The Humanity and Courage of the Prisoners... And the Moral Responsibility to Support Their Demands
Colin Dayan: Barbarous Confinement (NY Times)