Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Weekly Pickets to Support California Prisoners On Indefinite Hunger Strike
When: 12pm – 1:30pm, every Friday starting July 8, for as long as the strike continues
Where: the United States Consulate at 1155 rue St-Alexandre (metro Place des Arts)
Since July 1st, prisoners in the long-term isolation unit at Pelican Bay and other prisons in California have been on an indefinite hunger strike to try to win some modest improvements to their conditions.
These men are held in their cells, alone, 22½-24 hours per day, they are served unsanitary and unwholesome food, punished collectively for the actions of individuals, and routinely - and without reason - denied access to programs and amenities which are considered standard in similar facilities in other states and at the federal level.
Solitary confinement has been shown to have serious effects of one’s physical and psychological health after even a small period of time – many of the California prisoners have spent decades enduring such conditions.
At the unsubstantiated word of another coerced inmate or at the whim of a prison administrator, prisoners are forced into this hellish life. Once in isolation, the only way out is to “debrief” or inform on other prisoners, who will then in their turn be subjected to isolation. This creates a vicious circle of unreliable and often false accusations elicited by means of torture.
In response to these conditions, scores of men locked inside Pelican Bay and other facilities have united in pledging to put their own lives on the line. As James Crowford and Mutop DuGuya from Pelican Bay explain, “No one wants to die. Yet under this current system of what amounts to intense torture, what choice do we have? If one is to die, it will be on our own terms.”
The prisoners’ demands are modest ones:
1. Eliminate group punishments.
2. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria.
3. Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to longterm solitary confinement.
4. Provide adequate food.
5. Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates.
The United States presently holds over 2,300,000 prisoners, and according to some studies almost 100,000 of them are in isolation. Meanwhile, here in Canada, Indigenous people and people of color out of all proportion to their numbers, and these trends will only be exacerbated by the government’s proposed crime bill.
Between 2005 and 2012 the Correction Services Canada (CSC) budget will have doubled, as many new prisons are being built to accommodate a massive increase in the number of prisoners. Searching for the “best” ways to keep more and more people locked up, CSC officials have visited "supermax" prisons in the U.S. similar to Pelican Bay. Canada is adopting the crime and punishment policies of the country with the world's highest incarceration rate. To support the fight of tortured prisoners in the US is to fight against the Canadian government's attempts to implement and expand similar policies here!
Starting on July 8 and for the duration of the hunger strike, there will be weekly pickets at the U.S. consulate, 1155 rue St-Alexandre, every Friday at 12h. Bring signs and noisemakers!
Other activities are being planned in Montreal. To find out more, get in touch: