Chad Landrum is one of tens of thousands of California prisoners who embarked on a hunger strike earlier this month, on July 8th. As detailed elsewhere, the prisoners are struggling against conditions of torture that persist in California supermaxes, most notably Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security torture Housing Unit.
Chad is also known to readers of this site, as a prison intellectual and writer, a student and teacher of dialectical materialism and its application to the study of political economy and the prison struggle itself. (Chad’s writings can be read here.) A keen mind, Chad has written about his misgivings about the current hunger strike strategy, and yet chose to participate anyway, as part of the broad struggle against CDCr’s torture camps.
Perhaps less well known, Chad suffers from serious liver disease, and has been told by prison medical staff that he has less than six months to live – though as he has noted, this is not a diagnosis based on any kind of medical certainty, just based on the brutal fact that if the prisoncrats classify him as terminal, they no longer need to spend any money on treatment.
News has come in that – as in the 2011 hunger strikes in which he participated – Chad has had his medications and painkillers removed as retaliation for participating in the strike. Ed Mead received word from Chad sent on the third day of the strike. Ed writes:
Chad [was] told his medications were being changed because some cannot be taken if he’s dehydrated. However, he is refusing only food and is drinking lots of water. While they are decreasing dosages of other meds, they are cutting his pain medicine completely. He has severe, incapacitating pain without them. Also, they are addictive substances so he will suffer withdrawal symptoms, all while not eating. In the past, not liking the dependency, he wanted to discontinue the pain medicine, and medical staff told him that in his condition [he has chronic illness] discontinuing it could cause stroke, ruptures of diseased veins, and could even be fatal. “Yet when it’s to their convenience, they have no qualms or hesitation in cutting me off, not a slow weaning as law requires, but abruptly.” He didn’t give medicine names. He did plead, “When I [get] sick, I will be incapacitated and unable to write… Please notify Ed Mead… He expressed his willingness to arrange for individuals to call and put pressure on medical if I need it….I need all the help I can receive. Please….” He has had end-stage liver disease for at least 4 years (as long as I’ve known him).
Here is a sample letter and e-mail Ed wrote to warden Lewis:
One of the first prisoners to die in the current hunger strike will most likely be Chad Landrum #J-53474, who is in your custody. Chad suffers from advanced stage liver disease and a number of other illnesses. His pain medications were abruptly withdrawn and other meds reduced. He was told this was because some of these meds cannot be taken if he’s dehydrated. However Chad is only refusing food and is drinking lots of water-there is little chance of his being dehydrated.
At one point in the not too distant past, well before the hunger strike, Chad was unhappy with the dependency he was experiencing due to some of the addictive drugs he was taking. When he expressed this to the medical staff they told him that discontinuing those meds could cause stroke, ruptures of diseased veins, and could even be fatal. Now that he is on a hunger strike the medical staff has no qualms about suddenly cutting him off his pain meds, rather than the slow weaning as required by state law. In addition to the excruciating pain he normally suffers, Chad must now undergo the trauma of withdrawal.
Please take a moment and send an email or make a phone call to Pelican Bay warden Gregory Lewis at Pelican Bay at: Gregory.Lewis@cdcr.ca.gov or phone his office at 707-465-1000 x5001. Send a hard copy of any e-mails or letters to:
Dr. Jeffrey Beard, Secretary of CDCR
1515 S Street, 5th Floor
Sacramento, California 94283
phone: 916-323-6001 (alternatively 916-445-5073)
Warden Lewis can also be reached by mail at:
Greg Lewis, Warden
Pelican Bay State Prison
PO Box 7000
Crescent City, CA 95531-7000
At the same time, thousands of other prisoners also remain on hunger strike, while CDCr lies and uses any pretext – an item passed between cells, ordering liquids or even hygiene products from cantine – to claim that a prisoner is no longer participating. We can sadly be sure that Chad is not alone in receiving such treatment, which amounts to medical abuse intended to coerce political submission. Indeed, as occurred in the second 2011 hunger strike, reports have come in of widespread refusal to provide already ill prisoners with medication, denial of showers, yard time, and visits (including with lawyers), and the manipulation of the temperature (either claiming air conditioning is suddenly broken in prisons where temperatures are higher, or keeping it on full blast 24 hours a day where temperatures are lower).
In this context it is also vitally important that people take the time to read the Emergency Alert issued on Friday by the Prisoner Hungerstrike Solidarity Coalition, and act accordingly to protest this heightened retaliation.