Amid a Week of Rallies in Support of Prison Hunger Strikers, CA Assemblyman Tom Ammiano Urges Action, Resolution to Strike

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–AUGUST 1, 2013

Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition
Ph: 510.444.0484

Oakland–California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano issued a statement today urging¬†the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to meet¬†with prisoner hunger strike mediators and work toward meeting the prisoners’¬†demands. Prisoners throughout California have been on hunger strike for 25¬†days, demanding an end to indefinite solitary confinement, comprehensive¬†changes in draconian “anti-gang” policies, an end to collective punishment,¬†and the provision of nutritious food and constructive programs and¬†educational services.

“These are not minor prisoner complaints, they are violations of¬†international standards that have drawn worldwide attention. To keep anyone¬†in severe isolation for indefinite amounts of time does not meet norms of¬†human rights that civilized countries accept,” Said Ammiano. “I support¬†those who are asking the administration to take more active steps to change¬†the culture in CDCR. I am hopeful that the CDCR leadership will talk to¬†mediators for the hunger strikers and that those talks can lead to progress¬†that would allow this hunger strike to end.”

“We applaud Assemblyperson Ammiano for taking such a strong stance in¬†support of basic human rights for California prisoners,” said Donna¬†Willmott, a spokesperson for the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity¬†Coalition. “We hope other California decision makers join with him and not¬†only make strong statements but also taking decisive action to bring about a¬†resolution of this crisis.”

The CDCR has taken a hard line against the strikers and their families,¬†making unsubstantiated claims that the strike and its outside support is¬†part of massive gang conspiracy. They have also publicized salacious¬†details of some prisoners’ criminal histories, ignoring the roles these¬†prisoners are playing in making just human rights demands and calling for an¬†end to hostilities among prisoners. The CDCR continues to make assertions¬†that the department’s use of extreme isolation is justified to control “the¬†worst of the worst.” Despite the prisoners being derided by the CDCR,¬†support for the them is spreading.

Tuesday, nearly 100 family and loved ones of strikers visited the California¬†State Capitol and presented 70,000 signatures urging negotiation with the¬†strikers to Governor Jerry Brown’s office. Though Brown himself did not¬†meet with family members personally, one of his aides did, marking the first¬†public involvement from his office. On Wednesday, hundreds rallied in¬†support of hunger strikers at demonstrations held in Los Angeles, Oakland,¬†London, New York, Santa Cruz, Jackson, and Philadelphia. Demonstrations¬†were also held in Germany and Guyana. Demonstrators demanded that the CDCR¬†and Governor negotiate with strikers immediately and end any and all¬†retaliations against their protest. Los Angeles’ rally was attend by at¬†least 200 and included speeches by actors Danny Glover and Mike Ferrell.¬†Wednesday’s rallies also drew connections between the hunger strike and the¬†recent Trayvon Martin protests. “In coming together, we work toward¬†bringing an end to injustices everywhere, from solitary confinement to¬†racial profiling to mass incarceration,” said Dolores Canales, of the¬†Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, whose son is on hunger strike¬†in Pelican Bay.

¬†The death of hunger striker Billy Sell in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at¬†Corcoran prison continues to be an urgent concern. A moment of silence was¬†held in Sell’s honor at the Oakland rally on Wednesday. Ammiano addressed¬†Sell’s death directly, saying, “The death of a prisoner who had participated¬†in the hunger strike has been ruled a suicide, I can’t be comforted by the¬†knowledge that conditions in taxpayer funded institutions have led to¬†unusual rates of suicide instead of reasonable rates of rehabilitation.”¬†Amnesty International also condemned Sell’s death and is joining strike¬†supporters in demanding an independent investigation. “Conditions for¬†prisoners in solitary confinement in California are an affront to human¬†rights and must end,” said Amnesty.

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K. KersplebedebK. KersplebedebK. Kersplebedeb

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