† Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.
Still Starving for Justice
by nancy a heitzeg
In the face of unrelenting repression and no sign of relief, refusal becomes the last refuge of prisoners. Prisoner hunger strikes proliferate again, at Guantanamo, Pelican Bay and Wallens Ridge State Prison in Virginia.
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
“American soldiers have been reduced to force-feeding prisoners who are strapped to chairs with a tube down their throats.”
Gitmo Is Killing Me, by Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel:
ONE man here weighs just 77 pounds. Another, 98. Last thing I knew, I weighed 132, but that was a month ago.
I’ve been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10 and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity.
I’ve been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial.
I could have been home years ago — no one seriously thinks I am a threat — but still I am here. Years ago the military said I was a “guard” for Osama bin Laden, but this was nonsense, like something out of the American movies I used to watch. They don’t even seem to believe it anymore. But they don’t seem to care how long I sit here, either…
The situation is desperate now. All of the detainees here are suffering deeply. At least 40 people here are on a hunger strike. People are fainting with exhaustion every day. I have vomited blood.
And there is no end in sight to our imprisonment. Denying ourselves food and risking death every day is the choice we have made.
I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantánamo before it is too late.
Gitmo Hunger Strike Rises To 97 Prisoners:
The number of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay who are on a hunger strike has risen again.
Lt. Col. Samuel House said Friday that 97 men are now on strike, up three from the day before. He says 19 of them are receiving liquid nutrients through a nasal tube to prevent dangerous weight loss. Another five are under observation at the hospital on the U.S. base in Cuba.
He says none have life-threatening conditions.
The hunger strike began in February, with prisoners protesting conditions and their indefinite confinement. Lawyers for the prisoners say the military is undercounting the number of hunger strikers.
The U.S. holds 166 prisoners at Guantanamo, most without charges.
Pelican Bay, California
Peaceful Protest to Resume July 8th 2013, If Demands Are Not Met:
ATTENTION: Governor Jerry Brown; CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard; and all other parties of interest.
In response to CDCR’s failure to meet our 2011 Five (5) Core Demands, the PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Representatives respectfully present this notice of, and basis for, our indi- vidualized, collectively agreed upon, decision to resume our nonviolent peaceful protest action on July 08, 2013.
The upcoming peaceful protest will be a combined Hunger Strike [HS] – Work Stoppage [WS] action. Once initiated, this protest will continue indefinitely—until all Five (5) Core Demands are fully met…
The undisputable fact is that many of us have been held in solitary confinement for the past 10 to 40 years, based on fabricated information provided by prisoners who have been tor- tured to the point where they provide false information to IGI, in order to get out of the SHU/Ad-Seg. Few of us, if any, have ever been formally charged with, or found guilty of a single illegal, gang-related act. (For the 5 Core Demands, see: http://www.prisons.org/document /FinalNoticewith5CoreDemands.doc).
We have demonstrated our commitment to our cause through our hunger strike actions – from July 01 to July 20, and from Sept. 26 to Oct. 13, 2011. We remain 100% collectively committed today!We have kept our word, while patiently waiting for the CDCR to keep theirs. However, at this point, it is clear to us that the CDCR has no intention of implementing the substantive policy changes that were agreed to fifteen or sixteen months ago – based on their highly touted “Security Threat Group” proposals [March and June 2012], and the much hyped “STG Pilot Program” [October 11, 2012], the CDCR has clearly demonstrated their bad faith; because their alleged changes to the policies/practices at issue are a sham.
In reality, the proposed changes will greatly expand upon the number of prisoners who will be subjected to long-term isolation in torture cells; all the above is detailed in our written Rejection/Oppositions to the March and June proposals. As well as the October 11, 2012 Pilot Program. (See them at: http://www.prisonart.org/images/!Newsletter/Rock2_1 and at: http://www.prisonart.org/images/!Newsletter/Rock1_2. The entire Pilot Program is at: http://www.sfbayview.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/CDCR’s-Oct.-11-2012-Security-Threat- Group-Pilot-Program.pdf.)
Wallens Ridge State Prison, Virginia
Hunger Strike Begins at Wallens Ridge State Prison:
On Monday, April the 15th it was brought to the attention of theSolidarity with Virginia Prison Hunger Strikers Coalition that a hunger strike has been initiated at Wallens Ridge State Prison located in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. Based off inside information there are at least 16 individuals participating in this hunger strike. The status of the strikers is unknown at this time.
Last May a hunger strike was initiated at Red Onion State Prison, which is located 30 minutes north of Wallens Ridge State Prison and could be considered its sister site. Between the prior hunger strike and the current one, the VADOC has conducted a new effort to transport many of the prisoners formerly held at Red Onion to Wallens Ridge. Although Wallens Ridge is a lower-level security prison it is commonly said by prisoners and ex-prisoners that Wallens Ridge is a more brutal and corrupt prison than Red Onion. Even though the technical status of Wallens Ridge is security-level 4 there has now been a new security-level designation within Wallens Ridge, in correspondence with Red Onion transfers, known as security-level S. According to the VADOC January newsletter the reasoning behind this campaign is to “give…offenders more programmatic opportunities and more pathways to lower security prisons” and that it has resulted in “..a reduction in the number of Administrative Segregation offenders, a reduction in incidents, and a reduction in offender grievances.”The fact that these young men are compelled to risk their lives in order to gain a little more fairness, a little more decency, refutes whatever the official line of the VADOC may be in its efforts to keep the population under its thumb.
The VADOC and its agents are culpable for all torture and brutality that is inflicted upon generations of young black men who are living at the mercy of a justice system that specifically targets them based on their race and class. We support these hunger strikers and their demands against the oppression they face daily at the hands of correctional officers and the negligence of the VADOC itself. ( See 7 Demands )