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FAQ on health care for hunger strikers

Brief Summary of Mass Hunger Strike Policy

Prisoners' documents:

Protest Starts 7/8/13

Five Core Demands (2011)

* Formal Complaint (legal

  basis for demands) (2011)

* Agreement to End Hostilities (2012)

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Anniversaries of Historic Hunger Strikes

Prisoner Representatives Consider Next Phase

UPDATE: October 2, 2014

  • Representatives of Hunger Striking Prisoners have issued a statement noting what they have been able to accomplish thus far with their peaceful protest in the form of three major hunger strikes from 2011 to 2013, and what they have yet to accomplish. 
  • Some of their core demands remain unmet, and supporters, family members, and activists are ready to work with them until all of their reasonable demands are met.

Visit  >>Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity<<  for more updates and events

UPDATE: July 8, 2014. 

  • July 2014 marks the 1 and 3 year anniversaries of the historic 2011and 2013 hunger strikes in which tens of thousands of California prisoners refused meals in a show of solidarity in support of their five core demands.

UPDATE: February 11, 2014

  • A second joint hearing of the California Assembly and Senate Public Safety Committees was held today in Sacramento with national experts testifying on how California can and should end  its use of long term solitary confinement.  Watch the entire hearing from the state's the video archive.

UPDATE: December 30, 2013

  • A second joint hearing of the California Assembly and Senate Public Safety Committees will be held on February 11, 2014 in Sacramento with national experts testifying on how California can and should end  its use of long term solitary confinement.

UPDATE: October 9, 2013

  • A four hour long joint hearing of the California Assembly and Senate Public Safety Committees was held today to discuss ideas for legislative reform regarding solitary confinement
  • Academic experts, family members, and advocates argued cogently for an end to long term solitary confinement once and for all.
  • Experts demonstrated how California is far behind other states who have drastically reduced or eliminated the use of solitary confinement in their states.
  • A webcast of the hearings is available for viewing.

UPDATE: September 5, 2013

  • On Day 60, the Prisoner representatives suspended their non-violent hunger strike protest action.
  • They issued a statement explaining that the struggle is not over and the demands are not yet met.
  • The strong joint statement of Senator Loni Hancock and Assemblyperson Tom Ammiano, the respective chairs of the Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committees, in which they recognized the prisoners' demands as legitimate and promised to work on policy changes, was key in their decision to suspend their protest today.
  • The prisoners issued this statement today.
  • The prisoners' Mediation Team released a separate statement.

UPDATE: August 27, 2013.

  • On Day 50, CDCR quietly posted a response to the five core demands and the 40 supplemental demands on its website.
  • Beyond very late, their response was incoherent as they have argued strenusouly that they would do nothing to attend to prisoners' demands who are on hunger strike while simultanesouly recognizing that many demands are reasonable and have already issued some memos granting less important demands.
  • In meetings both previous to and during the current hunger strike, the Mediation Team briefed CDCR officials and Secretary Beard on how their response to the hunger strike does NOT meet the prisoners' demands.
  • At least 41 prisoners have gone 50 days with no food according to CDCR officials.
  • Continue to demand humane treatment in California prisons.  Call the Governor today!

UPDATE: August 23, 2013.

  • This week CDCR obtained permission from a federal judge to force feed prisoners, even those with do not resuscitate orders.
  • At least 45 prisoners have gone 47 days with no food.
  • They should be able to determine their own lives--not CDCR.  CDCR officials should spend time negotiating their just demands instead of risking further serious illness or death.
  • Continue to demand humane treatment in California prisons.  Call the Governor today!

UPDATE:  August 16, 2013.

  • Today well over one hundred men have passed to the 40 day mark.
  • Over 175 visits to the emergency triage centers at the prisons or visits to nearby hospitals have been reported.
  • CDCR will not budge--will not negotiate with the prisoners.
  • Continue to demand humane treatment in California prisons.  Call the Governor today!

UPDATE:  August 8, 2013.

  • Today marks one month since over 30,000 began a hunger strike to end indefinite solitary confinement.
  • Dozens of men have been treated medically due to their extreme weakening condition, and several have already been hospitalized.
  • We have received reports that African American prisoners were moved into cells with racist epithets on them.
  • Continue to demand humane treatment in California prisons.  Call the Governor today!

UPDATE: July 26, 2013

UPDATE: July 22, 2013

  • Click here for an interview with CPF President Ron Ahnen on KFPK"s "Uprising" show this morning. 

  • Supporters of the hunger strikers should continue to call Governor Brown's and Secretary Beard's offices to insist that they grant the five core demands of the prisoners.  In addition, CDCR has set up a hotline for you to voice your comments and concerns.  Please do so every day.

  • Disturbing reports have come in from Pelican Bay where one legal visitor felt very cold in the visiting room and was told by prisoners that their cells are even colder.  In the meantime,  Governor Brown continues on vacation and is even visiting the Dachau concentration camp--at a time when he is overseeing the systematic torture of individuals locked down for decades on end in "living tombs" in Security Housing Units (SHU)!

UPDATE: July 19, 2013

  • More reports of retalation against peaceful protesting prisoners have come in.  In Corcoran State Prison, prisoners are refused clean laundry, clean bed linen, showers, and access to the law library.
  • A prisoner at Tehachapi reports that guards were creating a "confrontational atmosphere" with batons "drawn and extended" as he went to get weighed and have his blood pressure taken.
  • Based on news reports and CDCR press releases, somewhere between 370,000 and 380,000 meals have been refused to date,  and nearly 1,500 men continue their hunger strike into the 12th day.

UPDATE: July 17, 2013

  • Nearly 2,500 prisoners in 15 prisons continue to refuse meals a full 10 days into the hunger strike.
  • Punishment for this peaceful protest has begun as some prisoners have been remvoed from their cells and placed in administrative segregation units.
  • CDCR claims that new "Security Threat Group" policy addresses the prisoners' concerns.  See interview with Jules Lobel on Democracy Now to understand why this claim is patently false.

UPDATE: July 8, 2013

  • 30,000 prisoners in two thirds of California prisons refused meals in protest of decades long solitary confinement. 

The hunger strike succeeded so far in:

  • moving CDCR to begin an immediate review of their gang validaiton and use of solitary confinement in the Security Housing Units (SHUs).
  • bringing the issue of torturous SHUs (supermax/control units) to public attention and to mainstream media.
  • mobilizing broad support throughout California, nationally, and internationally for their reasonable demands.

Make your voices heard in the weeks to come!

  • Keep the pressure on CDCR until the 5 core demands are fully met!
  • Continue to encourage friends and supporters to sign the online petition.  
  • Public awareness is all that protects the hunger strikers from retaliation.

February 25, 2013

  • Rep. Tom Ammiano held a second Public Safety Committee hearing regarding the new regulations for SHU on February 25 at the State Capitol in Sacarmento.

UPDATE: January 29, 2013

  • Prisoner representatives give notice to Governor: "Peaceful Protest to Resume July 8, 2013, If Demands Are Not Met."  Read their letter here.

UPDATE: October 10, 2012

  • End of Hostilities Agreement goes into effect.  The agreement calls for the end to all hostilities between racial groups in all CA prisons and county jails. Read the entire document here.

UPDATE: September 13, 2012

  • Today, Version 7.0 of the new Security Threat Group and Gang Management Policy was made available through California Watch's reporter Michael Montgomery.  That version of the new report is available here.

UPDATE:  September 11, 2012

  • Representatives of the CA Hunger Strike issued a statement calling for an end to all violence and hostility between different groups of prisoners throughout the state of CA from maximum security prisons to county jails. The statement asks prisoners to unite beginning October 10th, 2012. Read the entire document here.

UPDATE: July 1, 2012

  • To date, only version 5.5 of the policy has been made available to the public, although further changes have been made.  That report is available here.
  • Representatives of the Pelican Bay prisoners in the short corridor (D) soundly rejected CDCR's proposal and offered a counter proposal that allowed for some interaction among segregated prisoners (that is, prisoners not allowed on general population yards).  CDCR rejected the prisoners' counter proposal out of hand.
  • In a meeting with CDCR officials in April of this year, the prisoners' mediation team strongly criticized CDCR's new gang management and solitary confinement policy proposal because it fails to reform the most important aspects of the old policy.
  • The new policy would continue to rely on information provided by informants that cannot be questioned in order to validate prisoners as gang members.
  • The proposal thus makes it possible for prisoners to be sent to solitary confinement absent any type of serious rules violation behavior.  Prisoners continue to spend years in solitary confinement based on hearsay, having certain tatoos, possessing certain reading materials, or other alleged "indicators" associated with gang involvement
  • Finally, the new policy puts no limit on how long one can be held in solitary confinement.
  • Comments on Version 5.5 of the new proposal appear in issue #38 of Prison Focus - Spring 2012.

UPDATE: March 9, 2012

  • After four and a half months of study, CDCR officials finally released today a new strategy proposal to replace their current gang management and solitary confinement policies.  That report is available here.
  • Representatives of the Pelican Bay prisoners in the short corridor (D) have rejected that proposal and offered a counter proposal
  • The prisoners' mediation team has also offered a thorough critique of the new policy along with suggestions for substantial changes.
  • Members of CPF have also commented on the new proposal (see the current issue of Prison Focus #38 - Spring 2012)

UPDATE: October 13, 2011

  • Representatives of the Pelican Bay hunger striking prisoners' mediation team met with CDCR officials today to discuss on-going reforms to the Security Housing Units (SHU) policy
  • For the first time, CDCR committed to reviewing the cases of all prisoners currently in SHU who were placed there due to gang validation.
  • The new criteria are being reviewed and should be in place by the beginning of next year, according to CDCR officials.  This plan was confirmed in a memo signed by both CDCR officials and mediation members.
  • The end of this hunger strike marks an historic victory for human rights in which prisoners unified  across the system to push and obtain changes that are fundamental to human rights.

UPDATE: October 2, 2011

  • Federal Receiver's office confirms nearly 12,000 prisoners refused meals this week
  • CDCR only counts prisoners who miss nine consecutive meals (4,100+)
  • Many prisoners are refusing some meals on some days but not consecutively
  • Thus, participation in this protest has been three times as much as CDCR has stated

UPDATE: September 23, 2011

  • The good news is that the CDCR is considering some reforms.
  • The bad news is that any privileges to win release from solitary confinement (SHU) require a "discinplinary free" record, and the guards have been writing up prisoners (especially those in the short corridor of Pelican Bay) for minor acts such as walking too slowly or talking in the library.

UPDATE: September 9, 2011

  • Legislative Hearings on August 23 in Sacramento were a great success!!
  • Dozens of families and other supporters provided testimony and public comment on the horrendous conditions of the SHU.
  • CDCR Undersecretary Scott Kernan promised changes that clearly fall short of the prisoners five demands

UPDATE: August 4, 2011

  • Prepare for Legislative Hearings on August 23.  Plan to come to Sacramento!
  • The California Assembly's Public Safety Committee needs to hear from you!  Now is your chance to participate in this struggle for human rights.  Save the date, plan your carpool, rent a bus, do whatever you need to get to Sacramento on August 23.  It's going to be HUGE!!  We will also have a march and an opportunity for you to visit your legislator's office on that day.  More details here.

UPDATE: July 27, 2011

  • Prisoners at Pelican Bay in the Security Housing Units (SHU) reported that they had received watch caps (beannies) as promised from the CDCR as one of the three good faith steps to halt the hunger strike.  The other two initial steps to be implemented immediately are the permission of all SHU prisoners to have wall calendars, and for prisoners to be allowed to resume taking correspondence courses in which the CDCR must provide the opportunity for someone to proctor their final exams.  Note that the correspondence courses in question are only those that are paid for by the prisoners themselves.

UPDATE: July 21, 2011

  • 6:30 pm local time:  California Prison Focus confirmed that the hunger strike leaders at Pelican Bay entered into an agreement with CDCR officials today to end their hunger strike in exchange for a major policy review of SHU housing conditions, gang validation process, and debriefing process.  CDCR also agreed to implement three additional changes immediately to all SHU prisoners as a show of good faith to consider seriously the prisoners' core demands.  These are the permission to have wall calendars, to have watch caps "beannies", and to resume correspondence courses which require a proctored exam.
  • The end of the strike is not the end of the struggle, according to the prisoners.  We must now make sure that CDCR will follow through on their promises.
  • CDCR issued a press release today stating that the hunger strike at Pelican Bay State Prison is over.  Members of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Coalition and the Prisoners' mediation team are in the process of verfiying the truthfulness of these claims by obtaining direct confirmation from the prisoners themselves.  The CDCR claims that the only items conceded to the prisoners were watch-caps in cold weather, the permission to have wall calendars, and the restoration of proctored exams for prisoner paid correspondence courses.

UPDATE: July 19, 2011

  • The Federal Receiver's office issued a partial update on Monday, July 18, reporting on four prisons.  Those numbers indicate that some prisoners are ending their hunger strike, and others are joining.  According to their update, 168 prisoners joined the hunger strike on July 18 at the California Correctional Institute in Tehachapi, a SHU prison.  The greatest weight loss reported was 29 pounds.

UPDATE: July 15, 2011

  • Hunger striking prisoners at Pelican Bay rejected a response from the CDCR to their demands.  The CDCR's response came in the form of an update posted on the CDCR's website to their annual strategic initiatives document.  The document is non-binding.

UPDATE: July 12, 2011

  • CORCORAN:  Prisoners from Corcoran State Prison SHU unit report that two prisoners were hospitalized after falling unconscious due to their hunger strike.  Both were sent to the hospital on July 3.  No further word on how they are doing.
  • Corcoran prisoners also reported getting weighed for the first time on July 5.  Average weight loss at that time was between 8 to 20 pounds.

UPDATE: July 11, 2011

  • Friends and family members of hunger striking prisoners at Pelican Bay who met with them over the weekend confirmed that prisoners have lost signfiicant weight.  One prisoner lost 17 pounds, another 19.
  • Family members notes that hunger strikers are looking thin.  Some have been taken to the clinic and tests show serious deterioation of their health.
  • CRUELTY:  CDCR has refused to negotiate even though prisoners have a mediation team representing them in place.  How cruel is it to not even consider taking about demands while prisoners are dying?!
  • Prisoners in Administrative Segregation at Pleasant Valley State Prison say they plan to start a hunger strike on July 24, according to the family member of a weekend visitor.

UPDATE: July 10, 2011

  • Several reports confirm that some medications have been denied to prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison.
  • Prisoners in affected areas who are NOT on the hunger strike are boycotting canteen food so that prisoners on hunger strike are not accused of getting food from other prisoners.
  • Hunger Strike started on July 1 at several institutions across the prison system in support of Pelican Bay SHU Hunger Strikers.  Reports are that 6,600 prisoners refused trays on the first day.
  • Thousands of prisoners across at least one third of California prisons continue strong in their indefinite hunger strike despite CDCR disinformation that strike is over or winding down.

What is this all about?

This strike is essentially about ending the torturous conditions of Security Housing Units (SHU), especially for prisoners who have no gang activity in the prison but are accused of gang "association" and being sent to locked down solitary confinement INDEFINITELY. 

California is cutting $150 million to primary education, closing schools around the state in order to pay $140 million in overtime costs alone to guard thousands of prisoners with no violent write-ups or behavior while in prison in highest security conditions. CDCR even recently prohibited self-educaiton correspondence programs for prisoners that the prisoners pay for themselves.

Is there a better alternative? The Mississippi model is a start. They removed gang "associates" from SHU, saved millions of dollars and decreased violence system wide by moving gang associates out of the SHU.  Ohio, too, has made huge reforms away from California's approachand has greatly reduced its SHU population.

The prisoners developed five core demands.

California Prison Focus supports the prisoners' reasonable and modest demands, and calls on Governor Jerry Brown and the CDCR to implement these changes.

Briefly, the five core demands of the prisoners are:

1. Eliminate group punishments. Instead, practice individual accountability. When an individual prisoner breaks a rule, the prison often punishes a whole group of prisoners of the same race. This policy has been applied to keep prisoners in the SHU indefinitely and to make conditions increasingly harsh. 

2. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria. Prisoners are accused of being active or inactive participants of prison gangs using false or highly dubious evidence, and are then sent to longterm isolation (SHU). They can escape these tortuous conditions only if they "debrief," that is, provide information on gang activity. Debriefing produces false information (wrongly landing other prisoners in SHU, in an endless cycle) and can endanger the lives of debriefing prisoners and their families.

3. Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to longterm solitary confinement. This bipartisan commission specifically recommended to "make segregation a last resort" and "end conditions of isolation." Yet as of May 18, 2011, California kept 3,259 prisoners in SHUs and hundreds more in Administrative Segregation waiting for a SHU cell to open up. Some prisoners have been kept in isolation for more than thirty years. 

4. Provide adequate food. Prisoners report unsanitary conditions and small quantities of food that do not conform to prison regulations. There is no accountability or independent quality control of meals.

5. Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates. The hunger strikers are pressing for opportunities “to engage in self-help treatment, education, religious and other productive activities..." Currently these opportunities are routinely denied, even if the prisoners want to pay for correspondence courses themselves. Examples of privileges the prisoners want are: one phone call per week, and permission to have sweatsuits and watch caps. (Often warm clothing is denied, though the cells and exercise cage can be bitterly cold.) All of the privileges mentioned in the demands are already allowed at other SuperMax prisons (in the federal prison system and other states).


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