More on Medical Crisis, Need Support Pressuring Immediate Negotiations
July 14, 2011
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity (PHSS) is “a coalition based in the Bay Area made up of grassroots organizations committed to amplifying the voices of and supporting the prisoners at Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit (SHU) in their hunger strike to end tortuous conditions.”
Legal representatives made visits to Pelican Bay SHU Tuesday and interviewed a number of hunger strikers. Each prisoner explained how medical conditions of hundreds of hunger strikers in the SHU are worsening. Many prisoners are experiencing irregular heartbeats and palpitations, some are suffering from diagnosed cardiac arrhythmia. Many are also experiencing dizziness and constantly feel light-headed. Many struggle with shortness of breath and other lung and respiratory problems.
Dozens of prisoners have fainted and been taken to either the infirmary and/or outside hospitals. Some prisoners also have Crohn’s disease, which leads to extreme loss of fluids and electrolytes and needs to be treated by adequate nutrition and hydration.
At least 200 prisoners continue the strike in solidarity with the prisoners at Pelican Bay at Calipatria State Prison, where summer heat has reached to 110 degrees F, even hotter inside the SHUs. Some people have experienced heat stroke due to severe dehydration.
Prisoners at Corcoran have also notified us that hunger strikers there are struggling with the same symptoms of severe dehydration. After mild seizures and severe diabetic shock, some people have been taken to the infirmary.
Many doctors outside of prison, some of whom have experience working with prisoners, have explained to us that adequate hydration is paramount to preventing fatal starvation. The fact that the prisoners are showing symptoms of such extreme dehydration shows the prisoners are approaching a medical crisis.
Dr. Corey Weinstein, a private correctional medical consultant and human rights investigator with 40 years experience providing health care to CA prisoners, explains:
“The strikers’ claims of substandard and prejudicial medical care at Pelican Bay are certainly true. As well the medical staff refuses to take on their responsibilities as health professionals to advocate for their patients in matters of daily life related to food, nutrition, exercise and mental hygiene. Those who should be providing care act the jailer instead. Given my long history of working with California prisoners, I have grave doubts about the Department of Corrections’ ability to adequately carry out their own guidelines and protocols even during this urgent and public moment. Reports such as prisoners with very low blood sugar levels and lack of urination for 3 days should not be coming from the prison. These are men who require hospital care under prison protocols. We should ask why do they remain at the prison?”
Clearly the prisoners are in dire need of adequate food and hydration. The only way to prevent people from dying right now is for the CDCR to negotiate with the prisoners with the outside mediation team the prisoners have approved of.
Support the Prisoners in Winning their Demands!
*If you have information you think we should know about or suggestions of how people can support the strike that will help pressure CDCR to negotiate immediately, please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org. Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Prisoner-Hunger-Strike-Solidarity/117053298383319
**Supporters everywhere are encouraged to coordinate and organize events, actions, and demonstrations that amplify the prisoners’ voices and will effectively urge the CDCR to negotiate immediately.
Emergency Press Conference in San Francisco:
“We cannot stress enough how critical the situation is”
In response to a crisis situation concerning the medical treatment of prisoners on hunger strike in Pelican Bay and other California prisons and the refusal of the prison authorities to negotiate with prisoners or their representatives, the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition called an emergency press conference on Wednesday, July 13 in front of the California State building in San Francisco. TV, radio and print media were present together with about 40 supporters of the hunger strike.
“We cannot stress enough how critical the situation is,” said Isaac Ontiveros from the coalition who emceed the press conference. “The health of some of these prisoners has deteriorated to the point of it being potentially fatal. The time now is for the CDCR to negotiate with the prisoners.”
Carol Strickman, an attorney for the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition, and a member of the mediation team that has been attempting to meet with prison officials, gave an update on the medical situation the prisoners face. “The medical staff is overwhelmed, they’ve put the SHU on lockdown, nurses are going around every hour to look for people who have fallen over or passed out. Dozens of people have fallen over or passed out, some hitting their heads. They are removed and taken to the infirmary there or outside hospitals. We don’t know any details,” she said.
Strickman continued, “We received a report Monday night that some of them are getting intravenous glucose and are being resuscitated to some degree in that way. Blood sugars are down for some people. There are some people who have significant medical conditions already and I’ll point out that one of the leaders originally stated, that the leaders were not asking for those with serious medical conditions to engage in this hunger strike. Nevertheless many people have and this shows you just how serious and just how horrible the conditions are in the SHU that all prisoners would risk their lives for improvement.”
Despite the hunger strikers’ extreme medical situation, the California Department of Corrections has refused to meet a single one of the prisoners’ just and urgent demands; in fact they have refused to even negotiate with the prisoners or meet with mediators chosen by the prisoners or any outside medical personnel. This is after 13 days of the hunger strike. Instead, a prison spokesperson claimed that the courageous hunger strike and solidarity between prisoners “goes to show the power, influence and reach of prison gangs.”
This hunger strike has crossed racial and gang divides—and this is a crude attempt to justify ongoing, perhaps stepped up, torture and abuse of the prisoners. One woman who has two sons that are taking part in the hunger strike told of visiting her sons just days after the strike began. “As I walked by the other windows to go and see my sons, I looked at the other prisoners and they all looked pale. I could tell that they were suffering but that they are also holding up their strength.”
Samir Hussein, a pediatrician from Montreal, Quebec, presented a letter signed by medical professionals in the U.S., Canada, and other countries supporting the prisoner demands.
“We are appalled at the conditions of the prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison and other prisons in the state have to endure,” Dr. Hussein said. “Not only is the physical health of the prisoners being destroyed by the actions of the CDCR with which medical practitioners are complicit but so is the dignity of the prisoners themselves because of the conditions that they have to endure. It is a sign of utmost courage that prisoners are fighting these conditions through this hunger strike and it’s lamentable that medical care is either being withheld or not adequately provided by medical professionals. The medical doctors here must step up.”
Supporters of the prisoners announced plans to continue and intensify their support in the coming days in the Bay Area including the following:
- Daily actions (Monday through Friday from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm) are planned at the State Building in San Francisco (Van Ness and McAllister).
- A vigil in solidarity with the prisoner hunger strikers will be meeting on Thursdays from 5:00 to 7:00 PM in front of the Alameda County Courthouse (located at 1225 Fallon St, Oakland) until the hunger strike in California prisons is over.
- A “Bring the Noise” action in support of the hunger strike is planned for downtown San Francisco at rush hour. “Let the world know that the prisoners are human beings and that their demands must be met.” Meet at 5 pm at UN Plaza—Civic Center BART.
SUMMARY OF THE PRISONERS DEMANDS:
1. End administrative abuse and group punishment
2. Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria. Prisoners should not be categorized and punished as gang members just because another prisoner says they are part of a gang in order to get out of the SHU.
3. Comply with US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 Recommendations Regarding an End to Long-Term Solitary Confinement and Provide SHU prisoners Immediate Meaningful Access to adequate natural sunlight, quality health care and treatment, transfer all Pelican Bay- SHU prisoners with chronic health care problems to the New Folsom Medical SHU facility.
4. Provide Adequate Food – cease the practice of denying adequate food as punishment, and provide wholesome nutritional meals including special diets, and allow inmates to purchase additional vitamin supplements.
5. Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status prisoners (i.e. visitation, phone calls, mail, radio, etc).
For a full version and explanation of the prisoners’ demands, check out: prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com. Please visit and revisit their blog for updates from the organizers.
Mobilize thousands to make daily calls demanding that the just demands of the prisoners are met:
Matthew Cate, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Phone: (916) 323-6001
Governor Jerry Brown. Phone: (916) 445-2841
CDCR Public Affairs Office. Phone: (916)445-4950
FOUR THINGS YOU CAN DO NOW TO END THE CALIFORNIA PRISON CRISIS:
Human Rights Examiner
July 15, 2011
As human rights groups across America stand in solidarity with tortured prisoners participating in the 2011 historic hunger strike as a last resort, Bail Out the People say there are four things that can be done in any community.
1. Make phone calls per the request of the Solidarity Committee (info below).
3. Sign the prisoners’ online petition at http://www.change.org/petitions/support-prisoners-on-hunger-strike-at-pelican-bay-state-prison
Please make these calls and demand that the authorities enter into negotiations before they have (more) deaths on their hands:
Governor Jerry Brown – (916) 445-2841, fax (916) -316-0558; CDCR Secretary Mattrew Cate – (916) 323-6001;Pelican Bay State Prison Warden Greg Lewis (707) 465-1000 x 9040; and Ombudsman Ralyn Conner (916) 324-6123.