|Image courtesy: SPCR (full story here)|
Yesterday’s protest at UN plaza was an inspiring and uplifting event, even as it reminded us of the horrifying, hellish conditions inmates are subject to at SHU units.
Anti-death-penalty activist, author and journalist Barbara Becnel gave us some news about friends inside, as did a number of family members and friends. It’s not easy to go without food or drink in prison, let alone under an isolation regime, in which food is one of the few things you have to look forward to. Health is deteriorating, but the men are determined to go all the way with the strike, said Becnel, because “we are already dead.”
Some of the publications I read, as well as evidence from visitors and family members, suggests that the CDCR publicized its 4th of July menu, which included items the inmates had not seen in a long time, in an effort to break the strikers’ spirits. And some former SHU inmates spoke up about their horrifying experiences in small, metallic, windowless cells, where they were locked for 23 hours a day save for a “dog run” for an hour.
The full formal complaint, including the inmates’ demands, can be read in this issue of Prison Focus (or, in a nutshell, here). The inmates ask for an end to collective punishment and “behavior modification”; for solid evidence, rather than conjecture, in labeling an inmate as a gang member; for an end to the abysmal, pshchologically harmful isolation regime; for adequate food; and for adequate programming. These are not demands for privileges, but rather for basic human rights.
Reports on the scope of the strike are misleading. Moreover, several newspapers have not even picked up the story. Please, inform the uninformed. Even in the era of Brown v. Plata, something must be done. Favorable decisions from the Supreme Court mean nothing if the outcome of relief isn’t felt in the darkest corners of the California correctional machine.