Hunger strike highlights horrible prison conditions

Pelican Bay State Prison is a supermax facility near Crescent City.

In a state that's still floundering for ways to comply with court orders to drastically reduce the number of inmates in a prison system that has long been severely overcrowded, people in prison face unconstitutionally inhumane and degrading treatment on a daily basis. And now a group of inmates is highlighting the problem with a hunger strike that begins this Friday, July 1.

Lawyers for and supporters of the group of inmates from the Secure Housing Unit at the notorious Pelican Bay prison will hold a press conference tomorrow (Thu/30) at 11 am outside the state building at 1515 Clay Street in Oakland to announce the hunger strike to back up a list of demands they have submitted to the warden and Gov. Jerry Brown. Their demands include an end to long-term solitary confinement, collective punishment, and forced interrogation on gang affiliation, and they say they will continue their hunger strike until their demands are met.

"The prisoners inside the SHU at Pelican Bay know the risk that they are taking going on hunger strike,” Manuel LaFontaine of All of Us or None said in a prepared statement. “The CDCR must recognize that the SHU produces conditions of grave violence, such that people lose their lives in there all the time."

The anti-war group World Can't Wait is also supporting the hunger strike and calling for a supportive demonstration on Friday at 11 am outside the state building in San Francisco at Van Ness and McAllister streets. California officials have for years defied judges' orders to reduce the prison population, which is at 180 percent of capacity, and the Supreme Court this year upheld the order and is requiring the state to reduce the prison population to 109,000 inmates, of 137.5 percent of the levels the prisons were designed to house.
The Brown Administration is seeking an extension of the deadline as it wrestles with political gridlock and a budget debacle that has stymied the governor's efforts to transfer more prison inmates to county jails. But that plan avoids the reality that the U.S. has by far the highest incarceration rate in the world, a situation that is both inhumane and fiscally unsustainable.