Pelican Bay Prisoners Go On Hunger Strike to Protest Grave Conditions: Lawyers, Advocates, Organizations Hold Press Conference, Voice Prisoner Demands

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE‚ÄĒJune 29, 2011

Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros
Communications Director, Critical Resistance
Office: 510 444 0484
Cell: 510 517 6612

What: Press Conference
When: Thursday, June 30, 2011, 11:00am
Where: Elihu M. Harris State of California Office Building, 1515 Clay St., Oakland, CA

Oakland‚ÄĒPrisoners at the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, CA will initiate an indefinite hunger strike on July 1st, 2011 to protest condition in the prison‚Äôs Security Housing Unit (SHU). Lawyers and advocates who have been in contact with the prisoners will hold a press conference¬†Thusday June 30th at the Oakland Federal Building, at 11am to rally support for the strike and put pressure on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to respond to the prisoners‚Äô demands.¬†Prisoners have delivered their demands to¬†Pelican¬†Bay¬†warden¬†Greg Lewis, the CDCR, and to Governor Jerry Brown. Their demands include an end to long-term solitary confinement, collective punishment, and forced interrogation on gang affiliation. The prisoners have also stated that they are willing to give up their lives unless their demands are met.

“The prisoners inside the SHU at¬†Pelican¬†Bay¬†know the risk that they are taking going on hunger strike,‚ÄĚ says Manuel LaFontaine, of All of Us or None, an organization that supports former prisoners and part of a Bay Area-based Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition supporting¬†Pelican¬†Bay‚Äôs prisoners. La Fontaine continues, ‚ÄúThe CDCR must recognize that the SHU produces conditions of grave violence,¬†such¬†that people lose their lives in there all the time.” U.S.¬†and international human rights organizations have condemned Security Housing Units as having cruel, inhumane, and torturous conditions. SHU prisoners are kept in windowless, 6 by 10 foot cells, 23¬Ĺ hours a day, for years at a time. The CDCR operates four Security Housing Units in its system at¬†Corcoran, California¬†Correctional Institution, Valley State Prison for Women as well as¬†Pelican¬†Bay.

Recent work and hunger strikes in¬†Georgia¬†and¬†Ohio¬†prisons were successful in both winning some concessions and alerting the public to the conditions inside¬†US¬†prisons. “People who are in prison are already being punished.¬†They are still human beings and should not have to lose their civil and human rights” says Karen Shain, a lawyer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.

Pelican Bay’s hunger strike begins amidst the recent landmark Supreme Court ruling condemning California’s prison overcrowding and order the reduction of its population by at least 33,000 people. At the center of the overcrowding ruling were dozens of prisoner deaths a year due to the lack of basic medical and other healthcare. Thursday’s Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity press conference will touch off several events happening in cities across North America in the coming weeks.

Legal workers, advocates, and experts on the California prison system will be available for comment and interviews.

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for more information: http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/

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