Archives for July 2013

EVENTS: Today in NYC! Rally in Solidarity with California Prison Hunger Strikers

As part of an International Day of Action, members of the New York Campaign for Alternatives to Solitary Confinement, New York City Jails Action Coalition, and concerned community members will rally this afternoon to End Torture in the United States. We will voice our support for the hundreds of individuals still on hunger strike against solitary confinement in California prisons, and press for an end to prolonged isolation in New York’s prisons and jails.

When: Wednesday, July 31, 4:30 to 6:30 pm

Where: 163 West 125th Street (at Adam Clayton Powell Blvd.), in front of the New York State Office Building

  • Bring a poster!
  • Bring friends!
  • Print out the following handout and share it with people in your community: flyer CA NY
  •  Read the full 5 Demands at http://prisoner​hungerstrikesol​idarity.wordpre​​oners-demands-2​/.
  • Call California Governor Jerry Brown at (916) 445-2841, (510) 289-0336, or (510) 628-0202 to demand that he negotiate seriously with the strike leaders.
  • Visit this website to learn how you can help: www.prisonerhun​gerstrikesolida​rity.wordpress.​com.
  • Hang a sign out a visible window stating you are in solidarity with the Hunger Strike and the days of the strike. Today, Tuesday 7/30 is Day 23!
  • Join the New York City Jails Action Coalition and the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement to fight to end torture in our own state!

flyer CA NY

NEWS: New York Activists Launch Fast Against Solitary Confinement in Solidarity with California Prison Hunger Strikers

Press Release from the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement and Jails Action Coalition.

photo fiveNEW YORK, July 13 — Dozens of activists in New York have pledged to fast to express their solidarity with the thousands who are on hunger strike at Pelican Bay and other California prisons. The “rolling fast,” in which each person fasts for one day, began on July 8, on the same day as the California hunger strike, and organizers say it will go on as long as the prison hunger strike continues.

Those who have pledged to fast include survivors of solitary confinement, family members of people held in solitary, advocates, lawyers, mental health practitioners, clergy, and concerned community members. They belong to two local campaigns that oppose the widespread use of solitary confinement in New York’s prison and jails: the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC) and the New York City Jails Action Coalition (JAC).

“It is important for those of us in New York organizing around solitary confinement in our jails and prisons to support all people who are fighting to end torture in prison,” said Jennifer Parish of New York City’s Urban Justice Center. “I choose to fast because it is a way to say to people who are locked away in horrific conditions that I stand with them. It is a small way to take on some of their suffering…On the day I fast, I hope the pangs of hunger will connect me to the desperation of these other human beings who are driven to deprive themselves of food day after day.”

Five Mualimm’ak, a member of CAIC and JAC who fasted earlier this week, endured three years in solitary confinement in a New York State prison. “While you were in ‘the box,’ it would take a whole tier screaming together to gain attention if you needed help or were injured in your cell,” Mualimm’ak said. “This only proves that we have to stand united to make change…As activists, it is our duty to make a stand with those who are screaming for help.”

By fasting, the New Yorkers are affirming their support for the five core demands of the California hunger strikers, which include an end to group punishment, reform of the current process by which individuals are deemed prison gang members and sent into indefinite isolation, an end to long-term solitary confinement, adequate and nutritious food, and constructive programming.

More than 3,000 people are held in solitary in the Security Housing Units (SHUs) at Pelican Bay, Corcoran, and Tehachapi State Prisons, with thousands more in long-term isolation in the state’s Administrative Segregation Units. They spend 22 to 24 hours a day in small, windowless concrete cells–and some remain there for decades. As of 2011, California held over 500 in the SHU for over five years, and 78 for more than 20 years.

“These are the same kinds of conditions we are trying to change in New York,” said Donna Currao, who has a family member in solitary confinement in a New York prison. “I’m fasting to raise awareness for all our loved ones near or far. We are in this together. We may be thousands of miles apart but we all are fighting for fair and humane treatment.”

In New York State prisons, more than 4,000 men, women, and children are in some form of isolated confinement, while New York City’s jails hold an additional 1,000 in solitary. At least 80 percent of SHU sentences in New York are handed down for nonviolent misbehavior. New York’s prisons and jails, like California’s, isolate individuals at rates well above the national average. These facts gave rise, in the last two years, to the two campaigns dedicated to abolishing long-term solitary, CAIC and JAC.

Pastor James Giles of the Back To Basics Outreach Ministries in Buffalo, one of several clergy joining in the fast, agrees: “Fasting is about placing my needs under subjection to my mind,” said Pastor Giles. “It is a way to prepare one’s body for suffering. To do this corporately suggests that we are willing to share in each other’s suffering, to reflect our solidarity. Standing together, sharing the same affliction for the greater cause.”

Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, of the rabbinic human rights group T’ruah, said of the California hunger strikers, “As their fellow human beings, and as citizens of a country founded on a promise of justice, we fast because we are appalled that solitary confinement endures…We fast in solidarity with them today to cry out against the injustice of solitary confinement.”

To sign up for the fast, go to

For more information about the fast, contact Megan Crowe-Rothstein at or Five Mualimm-ak at For more information about the New York campaigns involved, visit and For more information about the California prison hunger strike, visit

NEWS: Roundup of National New on Isolated Confinement, June/July 2013

Compiled by the CAIC Research Committee

July 5, 2013

Amnesty International is urging California to reform its ‘inhumane’ solitary confinement units before the hunger strike which is planned for July 8, in protest against the failure of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to carry out reforms pledged a year ago. The men planning the hunger strike have said that “Rather than improving, conditions have actually significantly deteriorated.”

July 3, 2013

On July 8th, prisoners at Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit (SHU) and throughout the California prison system will begin a hunger strike, along with work stoppages to compel the Governor and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to end long-term solitary confinement and meet four other core demands.

July 1, 2013

Following the closure of California’s Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) for use as a male facility, the women were sent to Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) which is currently at 174.9 percent capacity, housing approximately1,500 more people than it was designed for. Many of the women are extremely distressed by their conditions of confinement including extended placement in Administrative Segregation (Ad Seg) for sometimes just because they are victimized by other inmates.

June 27, 2013

The California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. this week asked the judge to include it as a party in the Pelican Bay lawsuit over how long the state may keep people incarcerated locked up in solitary confinement. The guards union contends that decisions on who is put into Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit, and how long they are kept there are a matter of security that affects the safety of union members throughout the state prison system.

June 26, 2013

Sarah Shourd, who spent more than a year in solitary confinement in an Iranian prison, has joined Solitary Watch. She is beginning work on a play featuring voices from solitary confinement, which she hopes to present across the country.  The presentations will be followed by meetings with local politicians, prison officials, activists, survivors and their families.

June 24,2013

In a closed meeting last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved a bill that would relax legal restrictions on the transfer of detainees out of the military prison atGuantánamo Bay giving President Obama much greater flexibility as he tries to revive his effort to close the facility. If the bill were to become law, detainees could be sent to the United States for necessary medical treatment, for continued detention in a different prison, or for prosecution. It would also ease statutory limits on transferring detainees to other countries.

Herman Wallace, 71, the subject of the film Herman’s House, has been diagnosed with liver cancer and is currently being held in a locked prison hospital room. Mr. Wallace and Albert Woodfox, two members of the Angola 3, who have been in Solitary Confinement in Louisiana, for more than 40 years have have been fighting for justice for much of that time with the assistance of Amnesty International.

June 21,2013

Legislators in Massachusetts have proposed bills that would stop corrections officers from disciplining inmates with long periods of isolation. The bills would require that people in prison who are facing disciplinary segregation be given a hearing within 15 days of being confined and every 90 days afterward to evaluate behavior. Solitary confinement sentences would be limited to six months for all but the most extraordinary circumstances. Also included in the bills are better access to mental health examinations and more rehabilitation.

June 20, 2013

Over 50 human and civil rights groups around the country have asked the U.S. government to invite Juan Méndez, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture, to visit the United States to examine, among other things, the practice of solitary confinement. Despite Mr. Méndez’s multiple requests to investigate the overuse of solitary confinement in the United States, the U.S. has, to date, failed to extend him an invitation.


June 18 & 21, 2013

In The Lancet medical journal,152 doctors signed a letter in response to the Guantanamo prisoners’ request for outside medical treatment and counsel, asking to be able to visit the prisoners and provide independent health care noting that since the detainees on hunger strike do not trust their military doctors, they are unlikely to comply with current medical advice. Also Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote aletter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, urging the government to “reevaluate the force-feeding … to put in place the most humane policies possible.” However, the practice of force-feeding has apparently not raised medical concerns from the prison doctors themselves.

June 14, 2013

At the fifth World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Madrid, The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) released summary findings about the US’ use of the death penalty, based on missions to California and Louisiana. They conclude that not only the death penalty itself is a violation of human rights but so too is the way it is implemented, which constitutes torture and discrimination. Among the violations noted, was Louisiana’s use of solitary confinement for people sentenced to death.

June 13, 2013

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine declares the Guantanamo force-feeding unethical and urges physicians to resist orders to participate.  It also urges civilian physicians, professional organizations, and licensing boards to support those who do resist.

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has agreed to hear the case of a woman, who spent more than 200 days in segregation over the course of a year of custody at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre.  The case alleges that she was discriminated against based on both her mental illness and her gender, since a treatment facility has existed for a decade serving male inmates, but there is not any such service for women.

June 11, 2013

Less than a month before statewide hunger strikes are set to resume, the California Department of Corrections has instituted a new policy at Pelican Bay State Prison which has resulted in  chronic sleep deprivation for prisoners in solitary confinement. The 2011 strike was called off in response to promises of improvements, but the people in prison gave notice that it would be resumed because those promises have been empty, and prison conditions have actually worsened.

June 9, 2013

A Rastafarian man who spent more than 10 years in segregation for refusing to cut his hair said fears for his health and safety led him to give in last month.  Virginia Department of Corrections grooming policy, which they say is for health and safety reasons, requires that the hair of the men in prison be cut short. Rastafarians in the prison had long opposed the policy on the grounds that it is against their religion. Those who refused to comply were placed in segregation cells — several for more than 10 years.

June 7, 2013

A federal judge has ordered the state of California to provide deaf people in solitary confinement with sign-language interpreters, noting “inmates there are 33 percent more likely to kill themselves.”  The court found that the corrections department has not complied with previous orders issued between 1996 and 2002 and thus is still in violation of the ADA.  However it refused hold the state in contempt, at this time.

Among the topics in the film, Dirty Wars, which opened in NYC today, is a discussion of the US drone killing of Anwar al Awaki, the radical Muslim cleric.  Mention is made of the fact that Mr. al Awaki had been arrested in Yemen at the request of the US and held in solitary confinement for 17 months, which contributed to his increasingly radical opposition to this country.

June 6, 2013

The U.S. Southern Command has requested additional guards for the prison camps at Guantánamo, with the goal of reaching a 2,000-strong staff, because, they say keeping the prisoners in single cell confinement requires the guards to do more work.  They have already gotten medical reinforcements to help deal with the hunger strike — a doctor, nurses, and corpsmen.


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