California prison officials and personnel have been authorized to escalate their assualts both on prisoners hunger striking 43 days, and on human rights, further violating international law after a judge ruled Monday to force-feed the dying inmates, who are starving themselves for justice in a historic protest against prison torture.
Supporters of hundreds of California prisoners, still on the statewide hunger strike that began 43 days ago, are expressing outrage and heart-wrenching compassion after a federal judge on Monday signed an order to force-feed the striking inmates, disregarding international human rights principles.
“This order violates all international laws and standards and gives the medical director of each prison authority to violate human rights laws instead of reasonably negotiating with prisoners,” stated Claude Marks of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition.
California torture chambers hit all-time low
As many as 30,000 California inmates united forty-three days ago to challenge torture of prolonged isolation by hunger-striking, demanding an accountable process to challenge what is called gang validations that has kept them in security housing units (SHU) for decades.
California prisoners have a choice: rat on a fellow inmate for being in a gang or continue to be tortured in the SHU.
“This approach, much like Guantanamo, sets the US apart from all related international human rights standards,” Marks said.
California’s Department of Corrections and “Rehabilitation” claims that hunger stirke leaders are forcing prisoners to refrain from eating.
“Yet every instruction they have issued, in our hearing, says the opposite,” says The Hunger Strike Mediation Team in a written staement released Monday after the ruling. “People should make their own decisions about whether to go on hunger strike and how long to remain on strike.”
The strike started with 30,000 prisoners and is down to a few hundred, according to the Mediation Team.
“If people were being forced to stay on, they don’t seem to be complying,” the Team says. “Could there be some people in the system who feel peer pressure? Certainly. Could there be rogue actors, among the correctional officers or the prisoners, causing problems for people who start eating? Probably. But our Coalition has contact with prisoners and their visitors in institutions throughout the state and believes that a minimum of coercion, if any, is in play here.”
Instead of Coercian, Racism, CDCR Gang Violence, Excuses for Guards to Kill Inmates
The Mediation Team answers the question, What do the prisoners themselves say about what they are doing?
“As people who have suffered under such a brutal, diabolical system, we realize that it is our responsibility to help change the course of violent prison systems that have made their way to our communities,” Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, one of four key inmate representatives at Pelican Bay, where the hunger strikes began two years ago, stated this week. “We called for an end to hostilities to eliminate giving prison guards an excuse to kill prisoners.”
“We realize nothing productive can be done to change the current state of our situation, our prison environment, unless we end the hostilities between prisoners and end all racial and gang violence within the CDCR,” Jambaa said. “We feel that prisoners are the victims of a systematic process that manipulates them through racial and gang violence in order to prevent greater unity.”
One man, Billy “Guero” Sell, 32, has recently died as a result of his torture and hunger-strike participation, found lifeless in his cell.
(Watch Thom Hartman’s Russia Today’s report below with actor and human rights advocate Mike Farrell after the death of Sell as he was protesting torture in California prisons.)
“The only way the strike can end without any more participants dying is if the Department begins to see the prisoners as humans, not just as people who have committed crimes, usually decades earlier,” Jambaa said. “Without this breakthrough, there will be deaths.”
The Mediation Team responded to Jambaa’s statement, saying, “But an equally serious problem is that our own humanity is compromised when we demonize ‘the other,’ and dismiss their humanity.”
The team points out that hunger strikes “should only be used to raise issues within one’s community, where the moral imperative being lifted up can be embraced and real change can take place. When the opponent doesn’t feel that human affinity, all may be lost.”
Responding to that statement, prisoner rights advocate Dr. Nancy Arnold said in an email, “We need to keep working to make sure all is NOT lost for these courageous men.”
“Please pass this along and spread the word, and contact any public official – including Brown – you can,” Arnold urged. ”We need to save the prisoners’ lives – and have their suffering not be in vain.”
The Mediation Team reminded the reader, “It is sobering to remember that Cesar Chavez fasted to the point of permanently harming his own health, and died prematurely.”
Like dozens of human rights groups and hundreds of professional advocates across the United States, the Mediation Team is appealing to California Governor Jerry Brown to make the changes based on human rights that the prisoners have demanded in their Five Core Demands set forth over two years ago.
The Hunger Mediation Team statement was signed by Laura Magnani, American Friends Service Committee and team members:
Dr. Ronald Ahnen, California Prison Focus and St. Mary’s College of California
Barbara Becnel, Occupy4Prisoners.org
Dolores Canales, California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement
Irene Huerta, California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement
Laura Magnani, American Friends Service Committee
Marilyn McMahon, California Prison Focus
Carol Strickman, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children
Azadeh Zohrabi, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children
Force-feeding the Dying, California Officials’ Retaliation
This is not the first time the California prison industry officials and personnel have practiced agressive retaliation against prisoners peacefully striking.
“CDC used cruel actions to end the strike, according to Carol Strickman, a staff attorney for Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and staff to the mediation team representing the hunger strikers.” (See: Hunger strikes and national protests continue, San Franciso Bay View, D. Dupré, July 22, 2011)
“They passed around a flyer saying that this is what will happen if you go on strike,” Stirckman stated In a July 13, 2011 interview by Revolution: ”There has been retaliation … provocative acts before the hunger strike started, for example, ‘potty watch,’ not only of the leaders, but of anyone that has indicated support.”
“[Potty Watch is] a very cruel procedure where people are restrained for three days, put in diapers and unable to move their arms sometimes, or forced to stand, or strapped down,” Strickland explained. “The rationale is that the prisoner has swallowed contraband and we are going to see it. We’re going to wait for three days and monitor their bowel movements and find the thing they’ve swallowed. But, it’s used for other reasons.
“It’s used as punishment even if they know that there is nothing there. This shouldn’t be used, even if they think that there is something that the prisoner has swallowed. It’s painful. People can’t sleep. They can’t move their arms.
“I heard that sometimes their arms are put in a plastic pipe… We heard of that happening to one or two people before the hunger strike started in Pelican Bay.”
The buck stops with Gov. Jerry Brown
“We appeal to Secretary Beard and Governor Brown to demonstrate their humanity by making the reasonable changes that are being requested before it is too late,” the team says.
“History will hold them accountable for these lives.”
Sources: Pelican Bay Hunger Strike Solidarity, Hunger Strike Mediation Team, PrisonerHungerStrikeSolidarity, LA Times, SF Bay View, Russia Today, Thom Hartman, YouTube
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