Ride for Freedom: An anti-deportation internationalist motorcade demonstration in NYC
April 8, 2014

A caravan of NYC activists –in solidarity with immigration resistance– rode in “Ride for Freedom: an Anti-deportation Internationalist motorcade”, to arrive to the Immigration and Costumes Enforcement Detention Facility at 182-22 150Avenue, Queens, NY for a noise demonstration on Sunday.

The demo was a success, there were no arrests and we made our voices heard loud and clear against the cruelty of the prison complex and against the massive deportations taking place recently. The demonstration was also in solidarity with the hunger strikes: “This month alone, 1,000 immigrant detainees in Washington state launched a hunger strike against inhuman conditions and deportation. Demonstrators outside chained themselves together and blocked deportation busses bound for the border.”

We were joined by class traitors such as: the riot police from the prison, the prison guards (who in their confusion and not knowing what to do started filming us, even though we were fully aware there is CCTV everywhere outside the prison in plane sight.) There was also a white van apparently used for prison transport, a few cop cars and a police van to carry arrestees.

This is the call for the noise demo:

“Immigrants across the country are standing up. This month alone, 1,000 immigrant detainees in Washington State launched a hunger strike against inhuman conditions and deportation. Demonstrators outside chained themselves together and blocked deportation busses bound for the border. In San Diego, 150 previously deported Mexican immigrants re-crossed the U.S-Mexico border to rejoin their families in an act of civil disobedience. And in Texas, immigrant detainees have declared a second hunger strike against detention and deportation.

In New York City, the American Dream remains a nightmare. After crossing militarized borders, immigrants arrive to find only brutal exploitation, racist cops, cruel bosses, and dilapidated housing. The state government refuses to provide financial aid for undocumented college students, robbing immigrant youth of a future.

Against these obscenities, the recent wave of immigrant resistance offers hope to everyone who is poor, exploited, policed or incarcerated. Stand with the rebels in Washington, California and Texas! Together we can demolish every jail and every border, and share the wealth and freedom that belongs to us all.”

Source

Immigrant hunger strikers threatened with force-feedingMarch 14, 2014
Immigrant detainees who started a hunger strike last Friday at Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash., are reporting increased retaliation by guards — including threats of force-feeding — according to a lawyer backing the group.
As the hunger strike entered its sixth day Wednesday, attorney Sandy Restrepo told Al Jazeera that the detainees have vowed to continue their strike in the face of threats until adequate negotiations take place between strikers and the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
ICE denied that it was retaliating against the strikers.
The detainees are demanding safer working conditions, better treatment by guards, more sanitary food options, and for President Barack Obama to sign an executive order halting deportations until the U.S. immigration system is overhauled.
As of Tuesday evening, five strikers had been placed under medical observation. ICE said that one of the detainees had broken the fast Wednesday morning and was allowed to “return to the general population.” 
Maru Mora Villalpando, an immigration reform advocate and founder of Latino Advocacy, told Al Jazeera that her group is in contact with elected officials to push for “a monitored negotiation process to prevent further abuse by detention center officials.”
Restrepo, who met with some of the hunger strikers on Tuesday, described guards as armed and dressed in riot gear. “Immigrants on hunger strike are being placed in solitary confinement, coerced into signing deportation forms, and threatened with forced-feeding if they continue their protest. Asylum seekers are being threatened with denial of their cases,” Restrepo said.
ICE rejected the allegations of retaliation. “There have been no punitive actions taken against individuals who are participating in the protest,” ICE officials said in an emailed statement. “ICE fully respects the rights of all people to express their opinion without interference.”
Although ICE did acknowledge that strikers were advised that they may be force-fed, it said that it was looking out for the strikers’ well-being.
“Detainees are being advised of the health consequences of remaining on a hunger strike,” the ICE statement said. “This includes the fact that going without food for a prolonged period of time could put their life in danger, and if that point is reached ICE may be forced to obtain a court order to force feed an individual.”
Villalpando, who has communicated with some of the strikers, said that guards were also threatening strikers with deportation, and in some cases forcing them to sign consent forms authorizing immediate deportation.
In one case, she said that a detainee was dragged into a room before guards and told to end his strike or sign a form authorizing deportation. “When he refused to do either, one of the guards pulled his arm and forced his fingerprint,” Villalpando said.
Strike leaders in particular, she said, are being targeted and placed in solitary confinement. “They are being told that they cannot rejoin the general population unless they end their hunger strike,” she said.
While ICE confirmed reports that some strikers were separated from the general population, it said that the basis for its decision to do so was “medical observation.”
The Washington state detainees are the latest to join a nationwide campaign to protest deportations, with similar actions recently taking place in Arizona, Illinois, California and Virginia. The coordinated protests represent a new strategy in the battle to halt deportations after a bipartisan immigration reform bill stalled in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
Immigration activists have shifted their focus from Congress to Obama, demanding that he issue an executive order to end deportations until the immigration system is overhauled for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.
Under Obama, U.S. deportations have hit record highs, immigration advocates point out.
"For us, this president has been the deporter-in-chief," said Janet Murguia, a former Obama ally and president of the National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic advocacy group in the United States. "Any day now, this administration will reach the 2 million mark for deportations. It is a staggering number that far outstrips any of his predecessors and leaves behind it a wake of devastation for families across America."
On Tuesday, family members of the Washington hunger-strikers attended solidarity rallies organized outside of the detention facility. Veronica Noriega, the wife of one of the hunger strike leaders, told Al Jazeera that her husband was placed in solitary confinement with three other strikers for his role in organizing the protest.
Noriega attended Tuesday’s rally with her three children, ages 5, 11, and 13. She is currently working three jobs to make ends meet following her husband’s detainment in September 2013, she said.
Restrepo said the government’s inability to pass immigration reform is taking its worst toll on families. “These are fathers and mothers in there, people who will one day be eligible to stay under any new immigration law. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to return to their families, to challenge their case from the outside,” she told Al Jazeera.
Source

Immigrant hunger strikers threatened with force-feeding
March 14, 2014

Immigrant detainees who started a hunger strike last Friday at Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash., are reporting increased retaliation by guards — including threats of force-feeding — according to a lawyer backing the group.

As the hunger strike entered its sixth day Wednesday, attorney Sandy Restrepo told Al Jazeera that the detainees have vowed to continue their strike in the face of threats until adequate negotiations take place between strikers and the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

ICE denied that it was retaliating against the strikers.

The detainees are demanding safer working conditions, better treatment by guards, more sanitary food options, and for President Barack Obama to sign an executive order halting deportations until the U.S. immigration system is overhauled.

As of Tuesday evening, five strikers had been placed under medical observation. ICE said that one of the detainees had broken the fast Wednesday morning and was allowed to “return to the general population.” 

Maru Mora Villalpando, an immigration reform advocate and founder of Latino Advocacy, told Al Jazeera that her group is in contact with elected officials to push for “a monitored negotiation process to prevent further abuse by detention center officials.”

Restrepo, who met with some of the hunger strikers on Tuesday, described guards as armed and dressed in riot gear. “Immigrants on hunger strike are being placed in solitary confinement, coerced into signing deportation forms, and threatened with forced-feeding if they continue their protest. Asylum seekers are being threatened with denial of their cases,” Restrepo said.

ICE rejected the allegations of retaliation. “There have been no punitive actions taken against individuals who are participating in the protest,” ICE officials said in an emailed statement. “ICE fully respects the rights of all people to express their opinion without interference.”

Although ICE did acknowledge that strikers were advised that they may be force-fed, it said that it was looking out for the strikers’ well-being.

“Detainees are being advised of the health consequences of remaining on a hunger strike,” the ICE statement said. “This includes the fact that going without food for a prolonged period of time could put their life in danger, and if that point is reached ICE may be forced to obtain a court order to force feed an individual.”

Villalpando, who has communicated with some of the strikers, said that guards were also threatening strikers with deportation, and in some cases forcing them to sign consent forms authorizing immediate deportation.

In one case, she said that a detainee was dragged into a room before guards and told to end his strike or sign a form authorizing deportation. “When he refused to do either, one of the guards pulled his arm and forced his fingerprint,” Villalpando said.

Strike leaders in particular, she said, are being targeted and placed in solitary confinement. “They are being told that they cannot rejoin the general population unless they end their hunger strike,” she said.

While ICE confirmed reports that some strikers were separated from the general population, it said that the basis for its decision to do so was “medical observation.”

The Washington state detainees are the latest to join a nationwide campaign to protest deportations, with similar actions recently taking place in Arizona, Illinois, California and Virginia. The coordinated protests represent a new strategy in the battle to halt deportations after a bipartisan immigration reform bill stalled in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Immigration activists have shifted their focus from Congress to Obama, demanding that he issue an executive order to end deportations until the immigration system is overhauled for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.

Under Obama, U.S. deportations have hit record highs, immigration advocates point out.

"For us, this president has been the deporter-in-chief," said Janet Murguia, a former Obama ally and president of the National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic advocacy group in the United States. "Any day now, this administration will reach the 2 million mark for deportations. It is a staggering number that far outstrips any of his predecessors and leaves behind it a wake of devastation for families across America."

On Tuesday, family members of the Washington hunger-strikers attended solidarity rallies organized outside of the detention facility. Veronica Noriega, the wife of one of the hunger strike leaders, told Al Jazeera that her husband was placed in solitary confinement with three other strikers for his role in organizing the protest.

Noriega attended Tuesday’s rally with her three children, ages 5, 11, and 13. She is currently working three jobs to make ends meet following her husband’s detainment in September 2013, she said.

Restrepo said the government’s inability to pass immigration reform is taking its worst toll on families. “These are fathers and mothers in there, people who will one day be eligible to stay under any new immigration law. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to return to their families, to challenge their case from the outside,” she told Al Jazeera.

Source

All I want is what President Obama promised – my liberty, and fair treatment for others. I have been cleared for five years, and I have been force-fed for seven years. This is not a life worth living, it is a life of constant pain and suffering. While I do not want to die, it is surely my right to protest peacefully without being degraded and abused every day

Emad Abdullah Hassan, a 34-year-old Guantanamo Bay prisoner who has been force-fed more than 5,000 times since 2007 as part of the military’s efforts to break his hunger strike. 

He is the plaintiff in a landmark lawsuit challenging the practice of force-feeding at the US military prison camp. The case represents the first time a US court will hear allegations of detainee abuse at Gitmo.

the-uncensored-she
aljazeeraamerica:

Guantanamo inmateL ‘We will remain on hunger strike’


Editor’s Note: The following is by Moath al-Alwi, a Yemeni national who has been in U.S. custody since 2002. He was one of the very first prisoners moved to Guantánamo Bay detention camp, where the U.S. military assigned him Internment Serial Number (ISN 028). The article was translated from the Arabic by his attorney, Ramzi Kassem.


I write this after my return from the morning’s force-feeding session here at Guantanamo Bay. I write in between bouts of violent vomiting and the sharp pains in my stomach and intestines caused by the force-feeding.
The U.S. government now claims that, among the 164 prisoners at Guantanamo, there are fewer than two dozen hunger strikers, down from well over 100 back in August. I am one of those remaining hunger strikers. I have been on hunger strike for almost nine months, since February.



Read more
Photo: Chantal Valery/Getty Images


On a hunger strike since February.

aljazeeraamerica:

Guantanamo inmateL ‘We will remain on hunger strike’

Editor’s Note: The following is by Moath al-Alwi, a Yemeni national who has been in U.S. custody since 2002. He was one of the very first prisoners moved to Guantánamo Bay detention camp, where the U.S. military assigned him Internment Serial Number (ISN 028). The article was translated from the Arabic by his attorney, Ramzi Kassem.

I write this after my return from the morning’s force-feeding session here at Guantanamo Bay. I write in between bouts of violent vomiting and the sharp pains in my stomach and intestines caused by the force-feeding.

The U.S. government now claims that, among the 164 prisoners at Guantanamo, there are fewer than two dozen hunger strikers, down from well over 100 back in August. I am one of those remaining hunger strikers. I have been on hunger strike for almost nine months, since February.

Read more

Photo: Chantal Valery/Getty Images

On a hunger strike since February.

Faces from GITMO: As hunger strike continues, detainee stories challenge us to remember their history & humanitySeptember 3, 2013
America wants to forget about Gitmo.
Sure, we gloat about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. When I visited Guantanamo in June to cover the 9/11 military commissions for VICE, I drew him through three layers of bulletproof glass. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is a mass murderer, and we caught him. U-S-A Number One.
But KSM-style terrorists are rare at Gitmo. Out of the 164 men held in the island prison, the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Military Commissions, Brigadier General Mark Martins, told me that 144 would never be charged with any crime.
During the invasion of Afghanistan, the United States offered locals $5,000 bounties for turning in terrorists. Instead, we got a mixture of Taliban draftees, guys who shot rifles at Islamic training camps in the 1990s, Uighurs fighting China and, above all, Arabs in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Now, branded by Bush as “The Worst of the Worst” they are to be held until the end of the “War on Terror.” But wars on concepts seldom end.
Of the 144 men who will never be charged, 84 have been cleared to leave for years. But they live in a Kafkaesque legal limbo. In what a Guantanamo spokesman claimed was a concession to the Geneva Conventions, they’re banned from speaking to press.
As of September 2, 35 prisoners are on hunger strike. Thirty-two are being force-fed, a brutal process that involves Ensure being pumped through a tube snaked into their stomachs.
One night, I drank beer with a press officer at Guantanamo’s jerk chicken joint. She described herself as a pacifist in camo. As she spoke about the hunger strike, her tanned, pretty face drew tight. “I don’t know if they’re innocent. I don’t know if they’re guilty,” she told me. “I don’t even know their fucking names.”
This is by design. Guantanamo’s guards refer to prisoners by numbers rather than names, and are banned from reading their Joint-Task-Force Guantanamo detainee assessments, which WikiLeaks made public. The U.S. government refused to release prisoners’ names until 2006. When I returned to Cuba in August to write a follow-up article for VICE, I visited the prisons for the first time, but I was not allowed to draw detainees’ faces. Americans see bogeymen in orange jumpsuits—not men with PTSD, favorite soccer teams and back problems; families and dreams; loves and legitimate hates.
For a journalist, trying to piece together the life of a Guantanamo detainee involves staring into the bureaucratic unknown. You have JTF-GTMO assessments, filled with feverish claims and torture-induced accusations. (One former detainee, Binyam Mohamed, comes up repeatedly as a source of accusations against fellow prisoners – accusations he made during C.I.A. rendition in Morocco, while interrogators allegedly sliced his genitals with razors. The U.K. government awarded him a million pounds in damages for their role in his torture.) You have their lawyers. If you’re lucky, you have blacked-out intelligence reports. Thanks to a Freedom of Information suit filed by Miami Herald journalist Carol Rosenberg, you know the names of the indefinite detainees.
But why some are approved to leave while others will be held as long as the prison exists? That’s hidden behind a wall of classification.
Since media are not allowed to photograph prisoners at Guantanamo, the only recent images come from photos taken by the Red Cross. The British legal charity Reprieve shared these photos of seven of their clients. Each of these men has been cleared years ago to leave Guantanamo. None has been charged with any crime. Here are their names, faces and, as best I could figure out, their stories.
Pictured: Guantanamo press officers hate Shaker Aamer. Though they are not supposed to speak about individual detainees, they roll their eyes at his complaints of abuse. Believing anything Aamer says, they seem to hint, is for chumps.
Aamer, a Saudi-born British resident who worked as a translator for the U.S. army during the first Gulf War, is married to a British woman. On February 14, 2002, the day Aamer was transferred to Guantanamo, the youngest of his five children was born. Aamer has never met his son.
Aamer is also Guantanamo’s most vocal detainee. As organizer of hunger strikes, he writes scathingeditorials for the Guardian. He is a cause celebre in Britain.
Ramzi Kassem, Aamer’s U.S. attorney and a law professor at the City University of New York, told me, “Shaker believes that only through constant civil disobedience and peaceful protest can he retain and assert his dignity and autonomy as a human being imprisoned at Guantanamo.”
“I sometimes feel sorry for these young prison guards at GTMO,” Aamer told Kassem. “They have been trained not to be kind, even where their instincts tell them to be kind. They have been told lies and absurdities about the prisoners to the point that they are shocked that I can speak English and they are still in disbelief that I know bands like AC/DC and that I listened to that band before the guards were even born.
“The guards check the soles of prisoners’ shoes as part of their body search protocol. They ask me to lift up my shoes behind me while I am standing up, like a mule. I have rejected this procedure for years. Instead, I insist on being brought a seat, I sit down, then I stretch out my foot and make the guard get down to the ground on his knees to check the soles.”
For more stories & portraits, click here.

Faces from GITMO: As hunger strike continues, detainee stories challenge us to remember their history & humanity
September 3, 2013

America wants to forget about Gitmo.

Sure, we gloat about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. When I visited Guantanamo in June to cover the 9/11 military commissions for VICE, I drew him through three layers of bulletproof glass. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is a mass murderer, and we caught him. U-S-A Number One.

But KSM-style terrorists are rare at Gitmo. Out of the 164 men held in the island prison, the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Military Commissions, Brigadier General Mark Martins, told me that 144 would never be charged with any crime.

During the invasion of Afghanistan, the United States offered locals $5,000 bounties for turning in terrorists. Instead, we got a mixture of Taliban draftees, guys who shot rifles at Islamic training camps in the 1990s, Uighurs fighting China and, above all, Arabs in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Now, branded by Bush as “The Worst of the Worst” they are to be held until the end of the “War on Terror.” But wars on concepts seldom end.

Of the 144 men who will never be charged, 84 have been cleared to leave for years. But they live in a Kafkaesque legal limbo. In what a Guantanamo spokesman claimed was a concession to the Geneva Conventions, they’re banned from speaking to press.

As of September 2, 35 prisoners are on hunger strike. Thirty-two are being force-fed, a brutal process that involves Ensure being pumped through a tube snaked into their stomachs.

One night, I drank beer with a press officer at Guantanamo’s jerk chicken joint. She described herself as a pacifist in camo. As she spoke about the hunger strike, her tanned, pretty face drew tight. “I don’t know if they’re innocent. I don’t know if they’re guilty,” she told me. “I don’t even know their fucking names.”

This is by design. Guantanamo’s guards refer to prisoners by numbers rather than names, and are banned from reading their Joint-Task-Force Guantanamo detainee assessments, which WikiLeaks made public. The U.S. government refused to release prisoners’ names until 2006. When I returned to Cuba in August to write a follow-up article for VICE, I visited the prisons for the first time, but I was not allowed to draw detainees’ faces. Americans see bogeymen in orange jumpsuits—not men with PTSD, favorite soccer teams and back problems; families and dreams; loves and legitimate hates.

For a journalist, trying to piece together the life of a Guantanamo detainee involves staring into the bureaucratic unknown. You have JTF-GTMO assessments, filled with feverish claims and torture-induced accusations. (One former detainee, Binyam Mohamed, comes up repeatedly as a source of accusations against fellow prisoners – accusations he made during C.I.A. rendition in Morocco, while interrogators allegedly sliced his genitals with razors. The U.K. government awarded him a million pounds in damages for their role in his torture.) You have their lawyers. If you’re lucky, you have blacked-out intelligence reports. Thanks to a Freedom of Information suit filed by Miami Herald journalist Carol Rosenberg, you know the names of the indefinite detainees.

But why some are approved to leave while others will be held as long as the prison exists? That’s hidden behind a wall of classification.

Since media are not allowed to photograph prisoners at Guantanamo, the only recent images come from photos taken by the Red Cross. The British legal charity Reprieve shared these photos of seven of their clients. Each of these men has been cleared years ago to leave Guantanamo. None has been charged with any crime. Here are their names, faces and, as best I could figure out, their stories.

Pictured: Guantanamo press officers hate Shaker Aamer. Though they are not supposed to speak about individual detainees, they roll their eyes at his complaints of abuse. Believing anything Aamer says, they seem to hint, is for chumps.

Aamer, a Saudi-born British resident who worked as a translator for the U.S. army during the first Gulf War, is married to a British woman. On February 14, 2002, the day Aamer was transferred to Guantanamo, the youngest of his five children was born. Aamer has never met his son.

Aamer is also Guantanamo’s most vocal detainee. As organizer of hunger strikes, he writes scathingeditorials for the Guardian. He is a cause celebre in Britain.

Ramzi Kassem, Aamer’s U.S. attorney and a law professor at the City University of New York, told me, “Shaker believes that only through constant civil disobedience and peaceful protest can he retain and assert his dignity and autonomy as a human being imprisoned at Guantanamo.”

“I sometimes feel sorry for these young prison guards at GTMO,” Aamer told Kassem. “They have been trained not to be kind, even where their instincts tell them to be kind. They have been told lies and absurdities about the prisoners to the point that they are shocked that I can speak English and they are still in disbelief that I know bands like AC/DC and that I listened to that band before the guards were even born.

“The guards check the soles of prisoners’ shoes as part of their body search protocol. They ask me to lift up my shoes behind me while I am standing up, like a mule. I have rejected this procedure for years. Instead, I insist on being brought a seat, I sit down, then I stretch out my foot and make the guard get down to the ground on his knees to check the soles.”

For more stories & portraits, click here.

US judge approved force-feeding California inmates who have been on hunger strike since July 8August 19, 2013
A federal judge approved a request from California and federal officials on Monday to force-feed inmates if necessary as a statewide prison hunger strike entered its seventh week.
Officials say they fear for the welfare of nearly 70 inmates who have refused all prison-issued meals since the strike began July 8 over the holding of gang leaders and other violent inmates in solitary confinement that can last for decades.
They are among nearly 130 inmates in six prisons who were refusing meals. When the strike began it included nearly 30,000 of the 133,000 inmates in California prisons.
Prison policy is to let inmates starve to death if they have signed legally binding do-not-resuscitate (DNR) requests. But state corrections officials and a federal receiver who controls inmate medical care received blanket authority from U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco to feed inmates who may be in failing health. The order includes those who recently signed requests that they not be revived.
Henderson oversees the ongoing lawsuit over inmates’ medical care. The filing Monday came as prison officials and inmates’ attorneys argued over whether strikers should be allowed to voluntarily begin a liquid diet.
"Patients have a right to refuse medical treatment. They also have a right to refuse food," said Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for the receiver’s office.
However, “If an inmate gets to the point where he can’t tell us what his wishes are, for instance if he’s found unresponsive in his cell, and we don’t have a DNR, we’re going to get nourishment into him. That’s what doctors do. They’re going to follow their medical ethics,” Hayhoe said. “We’d take any and all measures to sustain their life.”
The process, which prison officials call “refeeding,” could include starting intravenous fluids or snaking feeding tubes through inmates’ noses and into their stomachs.
Prison officials already can seek a court order forcing an individual inmate to take food, though they have not done so. Now they and the receiver’s office are jointly asking for blanket permission to take that step without seeking orders on a case-by-case basis.
The federal and state officials were joined in the request by the Prison Law Office, a Berkeley-based nonprofit that represents inmates’ welfare in ongoing lawsuits that led to a federal takeover of the prison health care system and a requirement that the state sharply reduce its inmate population to improve conditions.
They want Henderson to let the chief medical executive at each prison act if a hunger striker is at risk of “near-term death or great bodily injury” or is no longer deemed competent to give consent or make medical decisions.
Moreover, do-not-resuscitate directives would not be honored if the medical executive reasonably believes the inmate was coerced into signing the request or if an attorney representing the inmate revokes the request.
Do-not-resuscitate orders signed by a hunger striker at or near the beginning of the strike or during the hunger strike would automatically be deemed invalid.
"Force-feeding violates international law to the extent that it involves somebody who doesn’t give their consent," said Jules Lobel, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who represents 10 inmates suing to end prolonged solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison.
Lobel said prison officials should look for alternatives, including providing the inmates with a liquid diet of fruit and vegetable drinks as they have requested, or negotiating with inmates over their demands.
However, Lobel said he will not seek to overturn Henderson’s order.
Prison officials said Monday that inmates are free to consume a liquid diet, but will be counted as having ended their hunger strike if they consume anything more than water, vitamins and electrolytes.
The most high-profile case of force-feeding prisoners has been the involuntary feeding of several dozen terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay through nasal tubes.
Other federal judges have turned down bids by the Guantanamo Bay inmates to stop the force-feeding. U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer said in a ruling last month that numerous courts said it is the government’s duty to prevent suicide and to provide life-saving nutritional and medical care to people in custody.
California incarcerates about 3,600 inmates in what are known as Security Housing Units, some because of crimes they committed in prison and others for indefinite terms if they are validated as leaders of prison gangs.
Four prisons have the units: Pelican Bay in Crescent City, Corcoran, California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi and California State Prison-Sacramento.
The highest-ranking gang leaders are held in what is known as the “short corridor” at Pelican Bay. Four leaders of rival white supremacist, black and enemy Latino gangs have formed an alliance to promote the hunger strike in a bid to force an end to the isolation units.
Source

US judge approved force-feeding California inmates who have been on hunger strike since July 8
August 19, 2013

A federal judge approved a request from California and federal officials on Monday to force-feed inmates if necessary as a statewide prison hunger strike entered its seventh week.

Officials say they fear for the welfare of nearly 70 inmates who have refused all prison-issued meals since the strike began July 8 over the holding of gang leaders and other violent inmates in solitary confinement that can last for decades.

They are among nearly 130 inmates in six prisons who were refusing meals. When the strike began it included nearly 30,000 of the 133,000 inmates in California prisons.

Prison policy is to let inmates starve to death if they have signed legally binding do-not-resuscitate (DNR) requests. But state corrections officials and a federal receiver who controls inmate medical care received blanket authority from U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco to feed inmates who may be in failing health. The order includes those who recently signed requests that they not be revived.

Henderson oversees the ongoing lawsuit over inmates’ medical care. The filing Monday came as prison officials and inmates’ attorneys argued over whether strikers should be allowed to voluntarily begin a liquid diet.

"Patients have a right to refuse medical treatment. They also have a right to refuse food," said Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for the receiver’s office.

However, “If an inmate gets to the point where he can’t tell us what his wishes are, for instance if he’s found unresponsive in his cell, and we don’t have a DNR, we’re going to get nourishment into him. That’s what doctors do. They’re going to follow their medical ethics,” Hayhoe said. “We’d take any and all measures to sustain their life.”

The process, which prison officials call “refeeding,” could include starting intravenous fluids or snaking feeding tubes through inmates’ noses and into their stomachs.

Prison officials already can seek a court order forcing an individual inmate to take food, though they have not done so. Now they and the receiver’s office are jointly asking for blanket permission to take that step without seeking orders on a case-by-case basis.

The federal and state officials were joined in the request by the Prison Law Office, a Berkeley-based nonprofit that represents inmates’ welfare in ongoing lawsuits that led to a federal takeover of the prison health care system and a requirement that the state sharply reduce its inmate population to improve conditions.

They want Henderson to let the chief medical executive at each prison act if a hunger striker is at risk of “near-term death or great bodily injury” or is no longer deemed competent to give consent or make medical decisions.

Moreover, do-not-resuscitate directives would not be honored if the medical executive reasonably believes the inmate was coerced into signing the request or if an attorney representing the inmate revokes the request.

Do-not-resuscitate orders signed by a hunger striker at or near the beginning of the strike or during the hunger strike would automatically be deemed invalid.

"Force-feeding violates international law to the extent that it involves somebody who doesn’t give their consent," said Jules Lobel, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who represents 10 inmates suing to end prolonged solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison.

Lobel said prison officials should look for alternatives, including providing the inmates with a liquid diet of fruit and vegetable drinks as they have requested, or negotiating with inmates over their demands.

However, Lobel said he will not seek to overturn Henderson’s order.

Prison officials said Monday that inmates are free to consume a liquid diet, but will be counted as having ended their hunger strike if they consume anything more than water, vitamins and electrolytes.

The most high-profile case of force-feeding prisoners has been the involuntary feeding of several dozen terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay through nasal tubes.

Other federal judges have turned down bids by the Guantanamo Bay inmates to stop the force-feeding. U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer said in a ruling last month that numerous courts said it is the government’s duty to prevent suicide and to provide life-saving nutritional and medical care to people in custody.

California incarcerates about 3,600 inmates in what are known as Security Housing Units, some because of crimes they committed in prison and others for indefinite terms if they are validated as leaders of prison gangs.

Four prisons have the units: Pelican Bay in Crescent City, Corcoran, California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi and California State Prison-Sacramento.

The highest-ranking gang leaders are held in what is known as the “short corridor” at Pelican Bay. Four leaders of rival white supremacist, black and enemy Latino gangs have formed an alliance to promote the hunger strike in a bid to force an end to the isolation units.

Source

Depressed and driven to the point of desperation, Nabil joined a hunger strike in February. This was not Gitmo’s first hunger strike, but it has attracted the most attention. As it gained momentum, and as Nabil and his fellow prisoners got sicker, the Obama administration was backed into a corner. The president has taken justified heat as his bold and eloquent campaign promises to close Gitmo have been forgotten. Suddenly, he was faced with the gruesome prospect of prisoners dropping like flies as they starved themselves to death while the world watched. Instead of releasing Nabil and the other prisoners who have been classified as no threat to the United States, the administration decided to prevent suicides by force-feeding the strikers.

Nabil has not been the only “mistake” in our war on terror. Hundreds of other Arabs have been sent to Gitmo, chewed up by the system there, never charged and eventually transferred back to their home countries. (These transfers are carried out as secretly and as quietly as possible.) There have been no apologies, no official statements of regret, no compensation, nothing of the sort. The United States was dead wrong, but no one can admit it.

Indefinite solitary confinement violates human rights by Dr. Angela Davis
August 13, 2013

California prisoners are now in their 33rd day of a hunger strike; what they are risking their health and possibly their lives for is basic: an end to indefinite solitary confinement, a practice that most countries recognize as a violation of basic human rights.

Yet both Gov. Jerry Brown and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Jeffrey Beard are intransigent in their refusal to engage in honest negotiations with the prisoners.

Theirs is a system deep in crisis, mired in decades of lawsuits challenging numerous violations of the legal rights of prisoners that have yielded relatively little in terms of fundamental change. Headlines from the last month alone reveal the inability of current leadership to respect the most basic rights of California prisoners:

On Aug. 2, in spite of assertions by Brown that prison conditions have improved, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to delay a court order for California to release nearly 10,000 prisoners by year’s end to improve conditions in state prisons.

The three-judge panel overseeing the state’s prisons ruled that California must cut its prison population to deal with unconstitutional prison conditions such as substandard medical and mental health care caused by overcrowding. The CDCR is appealing this decision yet again.

On July 29, medical experts filed a report to a federal court monitor documenting substandard health care at Corcoran State Prison that represented “an ongoing serious risk of harm to patients” that results in preventable deaths. There was no comment from the Governor’s Office.

On July 7, the Center for Investigative Reporting broke a story about the fact that 148 women in state prisons received tubal ligations without required state approvals from 2006 to 2010. Former prisoners say doctors pressured women into being sterilized and targeted those whom prison officials deemed likely to commit crimes in the future. Brown offered no comment.

On July 1, California corrections officials reluctantly agreed to move up to 2,600 prisoners at risk of contracting valley fever out of Pleasant Valley and Avenal state prisons after being ordered to do so by U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson.

The judge was critical of the department’s handling of valley fever outbreaks within its prisons, saying the death of 36 prisoners over the last six years “clearly demonstrated (the state’s) unwillingness to respond adequately to the health care needs of California’s inmate population.”

Again, no comment from the governor or the CDCR.

Instead of closing the prisons because of high health risks, Asian prisoners are being transferred to those prisons because of statistically lower “risks.”

Those with the power to make changes have dug in their heels, insisting that there is no crisis.

It comes as no surprise that we are asked to believe that the CDCR does not really hold prisoners in solitary confinement because they may have access to radios or televisions. We shouldn’t be surprised that the death of Billy Sell, a participant in the hunger strike for two weeks until the day before he died, is officially considered a death “unrelated to the hunger strike.”

We shouldn’t be shocked when Beard attempts to cover up the inhumanity of keeping prisoners in solitary for decades with no hope of release by calling the hunger strike “a gang power play.”

It’s important to remember that the United States stands alone in its extensive use of indefinite long-term solitary confinement; in Britain, solitary is banned for more than three weeks. In Pelican Bay, more than 500 people have been held in solitary for more than 10 years, and more than 78 have been held in solitary for more than 20 years.

There is a growing human rights movement across the country, led by prisoners and their families, that names this practice for what it is: torture. Some states like Illinois and Mississippi have closed or drastically downsized their solitary confinement units without any threat to institutional safety.

The California prisoners’ hunger strike is a courageous call for the California prison system to come out of the shadows and join a world in which the rights and dignity of every person is respected.

Source

Day 29 of the California prisoners hunger strike: In Pelican Bay and other prisons throughout California, approximately 30,000 inmates are nearing their second month of the largest prison hunger strike in US history. Committed to maintaining the strike indefinitely, they are demanding an end to a vast range of abuses, including solitary confinement, long-term isolation, denial of family contact, and absence of legal protections.
Palestinian hunger strikers have expressed their solidarity with inmates in California, urging them to stay strong in their commitment to ending their isolation and to remember that they are not alone. Internationally, as one, we stand — internationally, as one, we resist.
Art by Nidal El-Khairy

Day 29 of the California prisoners hunger strike: In Pelican Bay and other prisons throughout California, approximately 30,000 inmates are nearing their second month of the largest prison hunger strike in US history. Committed to maintaining the strike indefinitely, they are demanding an end to a vast range of abuses, including solitary confinement, long-term isolation, denial of family contact, and absence of legal protections.

Palestinian hunger strikers have expressed their solidarity with inmates in California, urging them to stay strong in their commitment to ending their isolation and to remember that they are not alone. Internationally, as one, we stand — internationally, as one, we resist.

Art by Nidal El-Khairy

California inmate dies in solitary confinement during hunger strikeJuly 28, 2013
A man being held in solitary confinement has died at one of the California state prisons where thousands of inmates are refusing food to protest the practice of indefinite solitary confinement. Prison officials are insisting Billy “Guero” Sell was not part of the hunger strike when he died. Advocates and inmates, however, say that he was not only participating but had requested medical treatment for several days before his death.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation maintain that Sell’s death is being investigated as a suicide, unrelated to the hunger strike. Inmates rejected this explanation, saying a suicide would be “completely out of character for him.” According to a letter from hunger strikers, several men said, “No one believes he killed himself.”
The hunger strike began with 30,000 individuals on July 8 and has dwindled to about 1,000 participants in 11 prisons. Prison infirmaries have been swamped with fasting inmates in critical condition.
Prison officials have undercounted hunger strikers by not including inmates who are still drinking electrolytes like Kool-Aid or tea. Additionally, leaders of the movement have been rounded up and put in more severe solitary confinement. Lawyers and relatives of the strikers say they have received multiple letters from different inmates reporting that prisons areblasting their cells with cold air in an attempt to weaken their resolve.
At Pelican Bay, California’s maximum security prison, many inmates are kept in solitary confinement for 10 to 28 years — even though the psychological trauma of being locked in a windowless room for 23 hours a day begins to kick in after just ten days.. Officials often justify this “living death,” by using race or political reading materials as evidence the confined inmate may have a “gang affiliation.” Mentally ill prisoners also make up a substantial proportion of solitary cells in several states. In their third hunger strike since 2011, inmates are calling for an end to solitary confinement, a more humane review process for inmate punishment, as well as access to health care and education.
Source

California inmate dies in solitary confinement during hunger strike
July 28, 2013

A man being held in solitary confinement has died at one of the California state prisons where thousands of inmates are refusing food to protest the practice of indefinite solitary confinement. Prison officials are insisting Billy “Guero” Sell was not part of the hunger strike when he died. Advocates and inmates, however, say that he was not only participating but had requested medical treatment for several days before his death.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation maintain that Sell’s death is being investigated as a suicide, unrelated to the hunger strike. Inmates rejected this explanation, saying a suicide would be “completely out of character for him.” According to a letter from hunger strikers, several men said, “No one believes he killed himself.”

The hunger strike began with 30,000 individuals on July 8 and has dwindled to about 1,000 participants in 11 prisons. Prison infirmaries have been swamped with fasting inmates in critical condition.

Prison officials have undercounted hunger strikers by not including inmates who are still drinking electrolytes like Kool-Aid or tea. Additionally, leaders of the movement have been rounded up and put in more severe solitary confinement. Lawyers and relatives of the strikers say they have received multiple letters from different inmates reporting that prisons areblasting their cells with cold air in an attempt to weaken their resolve.

At Pelican Bay, California’s maximum security prison, many inmates are kept in solitary confinement for 10 to 28 years — even though the psychological trauma of being locked in a windowless room for 23 hours a day begins to kick in after just ten days.. Officials often justify this “living death,” by using race or political reading materials as evidence the confined inmate may have a “gang affiliation.” Mentally ill prisoners also make up a substantial proportion of solitary cells in several states. In their third hunger strike since 2011, inmates are calling for an end to solitary confinement, a more humane review process for inmate punishment, as well as access to health care and education.

Source

Please stop “reforming” Pelican Bay: Solitary confinement is tortureJuly 17, 2013
"I took my first photograph last November. That’s one picture in 17 years," Pelican Bay prisoner Jimmy Flores writes to me. He lives in the California prison’s Secure Housing Units (SHUs) - solitary confinement - where he passes 22.5 hours per day locked alone in a windowless concrete cell. Aside from letters, he is denied all contact with the outside world. "Up until last year, nobody knew what I looked like back home."
Seventeen years.
On the outside, we package our time in smaller parcels. Our calendars split our days into half-hour segments. If I am two minutes late for my conference call, the people already on the line will need to make awkward small talk for approximately 1.5 minutes. On Facebook, you can find out that it was 33 minutes ago that your friend posted a picture of their powder-faced dog eating a donut, “about an hour” since another announced the advent of a “Complicated Relationship.” And if it’s been less than a minute since Truthout’s last tweet about Pelican Bay, Twitter can break the time down for you in seconds.
In the SHUs, the markers are different: The number of years since a family visit, which consists of an hour and a half spent talking on a phone through a plexi-glass wall. The number of months since a letter was received.
"It’s been years since I’ve seen the sun or the moon," SHU prisoner Abraham Macias*writes to me. He explains that in the SHUs, “yard time” consists of an hour spent alone in a “concrete box.” He writes: “Occasionally I’m blessed to have sunlight angle into the yard, but it’s not often.”
Every 4-6 weeks, Macias gets a letter from his mother. Three or four times per year, one from his daughter arrives. The papers accumulate slowly, tucked into a few manila envelopes stacked in the corner of his cell.
Nine days ago, nearly 30,000 California prisoners began a hunger strike, fasting in solidarity with those in solitary confinement, to protest their treatment - in particular, inadequate food, lack of contact, indefinite stays, and the dubious measures used to determine who “should” be placed in SHUs. Theoretically, the units are supposed to separate gang “associates,” but practically anything may be used asevidence of this association, including possession of African-American history journals or prisoner rights literature, saying "hello" to another prisoner, or using theSpanish words ”tio” and “hermano.”
Though the numbers of hunger strikers have dwindled over the past week, many of the folks incarcerated in SHUs have vowed to strike to the point of death: “Myself and others will end up in a hospital on feeding tubes until our demands are officially signed off on,” Paul Redd, an SHU prisoner, told Truthout.
The point? To raise publicity around solitary confinement, putting pressure on prison authorities to make changes.
The first few days of this month’s hunger strike garnered a fair amount of news coverage: The sheer numbers of fasting prisoners, coupled with the SHUs’ shockingly gruesome conditions, made for scintillating media fodder. But as the strike pushes forward and the numbers teeter, will the publicity keep up? Will the “public pressure” continue, as the news cycle tumbles forward, as our minutes and seconds are assigned to new bits of information, fresh “news alerts” and emails and Facebook updates and tweets? Will the prisoners - with no access to any of those media - be forgotten, and will their strike, therefore, “fail”?
The question is a familiar one. In the summer of 2011, a vast majority of the prisoners in Pelican Bay’s SHUs began refusing to eat. They were joined in solidarity by thousands of prisoners across California and Arizona. Over the course of two three-week hunger strikes, they made plain their demands: basic human rights, fairer treatment, enough food, an alternative to "debriefing" and a modicum of programming (such as trainings and classes).
The 2011 hunger strike received a decent amount of publicity. The New York Timesand Los Angeles Times took note, some networks picked it up, and eventually, the California Department of Corrections felt compelled to respond. They promised changes. The media buzz dissipated.
A year later, the department implemented a few “reforms”: The minimum number of years served in the SHUs was reduced from six to four, though no maximum was set. Some inmates’ cases were reviewed to determine whether they could be transferred out.
Yet over the past year, the number of inmates locked up in SHUs across the state has actually risen. Criteria for SHU placement have broadened. Medical care remains meager. There’s still not enough food.
These changes constitute “reforms” in the way that school closings in poor communities have been dubbed “education reform,” or the way in which Reagan’s tax cuts for the super-wealthy were championed as “tax reform.” Early advocates of the prison system—the folks who brought us solitary confinement in the first place—called themselves “reformers,” too.
The “reform” label didn’t fool people like Flores and Macias. For them, the story hadn’t passed. They still measured their time in excruciatingly dilated increments. Sixteen: the number of years since Flores has heard his son’s voice. Eight: the number of years left until Macias can leave his cell for home. (That date is set in concrete as thick as the walls that confine him; SHU prisoners can’t accumulate “good time.”)
And so, the hunger strikers’ demands in 2013 are essentially the same as they were in 2011. And without sustained public pressure - the kind that recognizes that even when the 24-hour news cycle moves on, injustice remains very much alive - they will be the same demands issued the next time around. If there is a next time.
In a poem, Macias refers to his only means of communication, written correspondence, as “the forgotten craze.” He refers to his time as “forgotten days.”
Indeed, solitary confinement is by its nature easy to “forget,” for those of us who aren’t confined. Once the “reforms” are enacted and the media cycle gallops onward and away, no one’s reminding us! And as our minds keep pace with the energetic technologies that feed them, those who are cut off from those technologies exist in an alternate temporal dimension, becoming, as Jimmy Flores phrases it in a letter, “souls of people’s past.”
But forgetting is still a controllable act, and we on the “outside” don’t have to do it.
As we reflect upon our position in political space and time, we must remind ourselves that our fast-paced steps are part of a longer, slower movement toward possibilities of justice that may open the light into the dim, windowless corners of our society.
*Name changed.
Source

Please stop “reforming” Pelican Bay: Solitary confinement is torture
July 17, 2013

"I took my first photograph last November. That’s one picture in 17 years," Pelican Bay prisoner Jimmy Flores writes to me. He lives in the California prison’s Secure Housing Units (SHUs) - solitary confinement - where he passes 22.5 hours per day locked alone in a windowless concrete cell. Aside from letters, he is denied all contact with the outside world. "Up until last year, nobody knew what I looked like back home."

Seventeen years.

On the outside, we package our time in smaller parcels. Our calendars split our days into half-hour segments. If I am two minutes late for my conference call, the people already on the line will need to make awkward small talk for approximately 1.5 minutes. On Facebook, you can find out that it was 33 minutes ago that your friend posted a picture of their powder-faced dog eating a donut, “about an hour” since another announced the advent of a “Complicated Relationship.” And if it’s been less than a minute since Truthout’s last tweet about Pelican Bay, Twitter can break the time down for you in seconds.

In the SHUs, the markers are different: The number of years since a family visit, which consists of an hour and a half spent talking on a phone through a plexi-glass wall. The number of months since a letter was received.

"It’s been years since I’ve seen the sun or the moon," SHU prisoner Abraham Macias*writes to me. He explains that in the SHUs, “yard time” consists of an hour spent alone in a “concrete box.” He writes: “Occasionally I’m blessed to have sunlight angle into the yard, but it’s not often.”

Every 4-6 weeks, Macias gets a letter from his mother. Three or four times per year, one from his daughter arrives. The papers accumulate slowly, tucked into a few manila envelopes stacked in the corner of his cell.

Nine days ago, nearly 30,000 California prisoners began a hunger strike, fasting in solidarity with those in solitary confinement, to protest their treatment - in particular, inadequate food, lack of contact, indefinite stays, and the dubious measures used to determine who “should” be placed in SHUs. Theoretically, the units are supposed to separate gang “associates,” but practically anything may be used asevidence of this association, including possession of African-American history journals or prisoner rights literature, saying "hello" to another prisoner, or using theSpanish words ”tio” and “hermano.”

Though the numbers of hunger strikers have dwindled over the past week, many of the folks incarcerated in SHUs have vowed to strike to the point of death: “Myself and others will end up in a hospital on feeding tubes until our demands are officially signed off on,” Paul Redd, an SHU prisoner, told Truthout.

The point? To raise publicity around solitary confinement, putting pressure on prison authorities to make changes.

The first few days of this month’s hunger strike garnered a fair amount of news coverage: The sheer numbers of fasting prisoners, coupled with the SHUs’ shockingly gruesome conditions, made for scintillating media fodder. But as the strike pushes forward and the numbers teeter, will the publicity keep up? Will the “public pressure” continue, as the news cycle tumbles forward, as our minutes and seconds are assigned to new bits of information, fresh “news alerts” and emails and Facebook updates and tweets? Will the prisoners - with no access to any of those media - be forgotten, and will their strike, therefore, “fail”?

The question is a familiar one. In the summer of 2011, a vast majority of the prisoners in Pelican Bay’s SHUs began refusing to eat. They were joined in solidarity by thousands of prisoners across California and Arizona. Over the course of two three-week hunger strikes, they made plain their demands: basic human rights, fairer treatment, enough food, an alternative to "debriefing" and a modicum of programming (such as trainings and classes).

The 2011 hunger strike received a decent amount of publicity. The New York Timesand Los Angeles Times took note, some networks picked it up, and eventually, the California Department of Corrections felt compelled to respond. They promised changes. The media buzz dissipated.

A year later, the department implemented a few “reforms”: The minimum number of years served in the SHUs was reduced from six to four, though no maximum was set. Some inmates’ cases were reviewed to determine whether they could be transferred out.

Yet over the past year, the number of inmates locked up in SHUs across the state has actually risen. Criteria for SHU placement have broadened. Medical care remains meager. There’s still not enough food.

These changes constitute “reforms” in the way that school closings in poor communities have been dubbed “education reform,” or the way in which Reagan’s tax cuts for the super-wealthy were championed as “tax reform.” Early advocates of the prison system—the folks who brought us solitary confinement in the first place—called themselves “reformers,” too.

The “reform” label didn’t fool people like Flores and Macias. For them, the story hadn’t passed. They still measured their time in excruciatingly dilated increments. Sixteen: the number of years since Flores has heard his son’s voice. Eight: the number of years left until Macias can leave his cell for home. (That date is set in concrete as thick as the walls that confine him; SHU prisoners can’t accumulate “good time.”)

And so, the hunger strikers’ demands in 2013 are essentially the same as they were in 2011. And without sustained public pressure - the kind that recognizes that even when the 24-hour news cycle moves on, injustice remains very much alive - they will be the same demands issued the next time around. If there is a next time.

In a poem, Macias refers to his only means of communication, written correspondence, as “the forgotten craze.” He refers to his time as “forgotten days.”

Indeed, solitary confinement is by its nature easy to “forget,” for those of us who aren’t confined. Once the “reforms” are enacted and the media cycle gallops onward and away, no one’s reminding us! And as our minds keep pace with the energetic technologies that feed them, those who are cut off from those technologies exist in an alternate temporal dimension, becoming, as Jimmy Flores phrases it in a letter, “souls of people’s past.”

But forgetting is still a controllable act, and we on the “outside” don’t have to do it.

As we reflect upon our position in political space and time, we must remind ourselves that our fast-paced steps are part of a longer, slower movement toward possibilities of justice that may open the light into the dim, windowless corners of our society.

*Name changed.

Source

The horrible psychology of solitary confinementJuly 12, 2013
In the largest prison protest in California’s history, nearly 30,000 inmates have gone on hunger strike. Their main grievance: the state’s use of solitary confinement, in which prisoners are held for years or decades with almost no social contact and the barest of sensory stimuli.
The human brain is ill-adapted to such conditions, and activists and some psychologists equate it to torture. Solitary confinement isn’t merely uncomfortable, they say, but such an anathema to human needs that it often drives prisoners mad.
In isolation, people become anxious and angry, prone to hallucinations and wild mood swings, and unable to control their impulses. The problems are even worse in people predisposed to mental illness, and can wreak long-lasting changes in prisoners’ minds.
“What we’ve found is that a series of symptoms occur almost universally. They are so common that it’s something of a syndrome,” said psychiatrist Terry Kupers of the Wright Institute, a prominent critic of solitary confinement. “I’m afraid we’re talking about permanent damage.”

California holds some 4,500 inmates in solitary confinement, making it emblematic of the United States as a whole: More than 80,000 U.S. prisoners are housed this way, more than in any other democratic nation.
Even as those numbers have swelled, so have the ranks of critics. A series of scathing reports and documentaries — from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International — were released in 2012, and the U.S. Senate held its first-ever hearings on solitary confinement. In May of this year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office criticized the federal Bureau of Prisons for failing to consider what long-term solitary confinement did to prisoners.
What’s emerged from the reports and testimonies reads like a mix of medieval cruelty and sci-fi dystopia. For 23 hours or more per day, in what’s euphemistically called “administrative segregation” or “special housing,” prisoners are kept in bathroom-sized cells, under fluorescent lights that never shut off. Video surveillance is constant. Social contact is restricted to rare glimpses of other prisoners, encounters with guards, and brief video conferences with friends or family.

For stimulation, prisoners might have a few books; often they don’t have television, or even a radio. In 2011, another hunger strike among California’s prisoners secured such amenities as wool hats in cold weather and wall calendars. The enforced solitude can last for years, even decades.

These horrors are best understood by listening to people who’ve endured them. As one Florida teenager described in a report on solitary confinement in juvenile prisoners, “The only thing left to do is go crazy.” To some ears, though, stories will always be anecdotes, potentially misleading, possibly powerful, but not necessarily representative. That’s where science enters the picture.
“What we often hear from corrections officials is that inmates are feigning mental illness,” said Heather Rice, a prison policy expert at the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. “To actually hear the hard science is very powerful.”
Scientific studies of solitary confinement and its damages have actually come in waves, first emerging in the mid-19th century, when the practice fell from widespread favor in the United States and Europe. More study came in the 1950s, as a response to reports of prisoner isolation and brainwashing during the Korean War. The renewed popularity of solitary confinement in the United States, which dates to the prison overcrowding and rehabilitation program cuts of the 1980s, spurred the most recent research.
Consistent patterns emerge, centering around the aforementioned extreme anxiety, anger, hallucinations, mood swings and flatness, and loss of impulse control. In the absence of stimuli, prisoners may also become hypersensitive to any stimuli at all. Often they obsess uncontrollably, as if their minds didn’t belong to them, over tiny details or personal grievances. Panic attacks are routine, as is depression and loss of memory and cognitive function.
According to Kupers, who is serving as an expert witness in an ongoing lawsuit over California’s solitary confinement practices, prisoners in isolation account for just 5 percent of the total prison population, but nearly half of its suicides.
When prisoners leave solitary confinement and re-enter society — something that often happens with no transition period — their symptoms might abate, but they’re unable to adjust. “I’ve called this the decimation of life skills,” said Kupers. “It destroys one’s capacity to relate socially, to work, to play, to hold a job or enjoy life.”
Some disagreement does exist over the extent to which solitary confinement drives people mad who are not already predisposed to mental illness, said psychiatrist Jeffrey Metzner, who helped design what became a controversial study of solitary confinement in Colorado prisons.
In that study, led by the Colorado Department of Corrections, researchers reported that the mental conditions of many prisoners in solitary didn’t deteriorate. The methodology has been criticized as unreliable, confounded by prisoners hiding their feelings or happy just to be talking with anyone, even a researcher.
Metzner denies that charge, but says that even if healthy prisoners in solitary confinement make it through an unarguably grueling psychological ordeal, many — perhaps half of all prisoners — begin with mental disorders. “That’s bad in itself, because with adequate treatment, they could have gotten better,” Metzner said.
Full article

The horrible psychology of solitary confinement
July 12, 2013

In the largest prison protest in California’s history, nearly 30,000 inmates have gone on hunger strike. Their main grievance: the state’s use of solitary confinement, in which prisoners are held for years or decades with almost no social contact and the barest of sensory stimuli.

The human brain is ill-adapted to such conditions, and activists and some psychologists equate it to torture. Solitary confinement isn’t merely uncomfortable, they say, but such an anathema to human needs that it often drives prisoners mad.

In isolation, people become anxious and angry, prone to hallucinations and wild mood swings, and unable to control their impulses. The problems are even worse in people predisposed to mental illness, and can wreak long-lasting changes in prisoners’ minds.

“What we’ve found is that a series of symptoms occur almost universally. They are so common that it’s something of a syndrome,” said psychiatrist Terry Kupers of the Wright Institute, a prominent critic of solitary confinement. “I’m afraid we’re talking about permanent damage.”

California holds some 4,500 inmates in solitary confinement, making it emblematic of the United States as a whole: More than 80,000 U.S. prisoners are housed this way, more than in any other democratic nation.

Even as those numbers have swelled, so have the ranks of critics. A series of scathing reports and documentaries — from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International — were released in 2012, and the U.S. Senate held its first-ever hearings on solitary confinement. In May of this year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office criticized the federal Bureau of Prisons for failing to consider what long-term solitary confinement did to prisoners.

What’s emerged from the reports and testimonies reads like a mix of medieval cruelty and sci-fi dystopia. For 23 hours or more per day, in what’s euphemistically called “administrative segregation” or “special housing,” prisoners are kept in bathroom-sized cells, under fluorescent lights that never shut off. Video surveillance is constant. Social contact is restricted to rare glimpses of other prisoners, encounters with guards, and brief video conferences with friends or family.

For stimulation, prisoners might have a few books; often they don’t have television, or even a radio. In 2011, another hunger strike among California’s prisoners secured such amenities as wool hats in cold weather and wall calendars. The enforced solitude can last for years, even decades.

These horrors are best understood by listening to people who’ve endured them. As one Florida teenager described in a report on solitary confinement in juvenile prisoners, “The only thing left to do is go crazy.” To some ears, though, stories will always be anecdotes, potentially misleading, possibly powerful, but not necessarily representative. That’s where science enters the picture.

“What we often hear from corrections officials is that inmates are feigning mental illness,” said Heather Rice, a prison policy expert at the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. “To actually hear the hard science is very powerful.”

Scientific studies of solitary confinement and its damages have actually come in waves, first emerging in the mid-19th century, when the practice fell from widespread favor in the United States and Europe. More study came in the 1950s, as a response to reports of prisoner isolation and brainwashing during the Korean War. The renewed popularity of solitary confinement in the United States, which dates to the prison overcrowding and rehabilitation program cuts of the 1980s, spurred the most recent research.

Consistent patterns emerge, centering around the aforementioned extreme anxiety, anger, hallucinations, mood swings and flatness, and loss of impulse control. In the absence of stimuli, prisoners may also become hypersensitive to any stimuli at all. Often they obsess uncontrollably, as if their minds didn’t belong to them, over tiny details or personal grievances. Panic attacks are routine, as is depression and loss of memory and cognitive function.

According to Kupers, who is serving as an expert witness in an ongoing lawsuit over California’s solitary confinement practices, prisoners in isolation account for just 5 percent of the total prison population, but nearly half of its suicides.

When prisoners leave solitary confinement and re-enter society — something that often happens with no transition period — their symptoms might abate, but they’re unable to adjust. “I’ve called this the decimation of life skills,” said Kupers. “It destroys one’s capacity to relate socially, to work, to play, to hold a job or enjoy life.”

Some disagreement does exist over the extent to which solitary confinement drives people mad who are not already predisposed to mental illness, said psychiatrist Jeffrey Metzner, who helped design what became a controversial study of solitary confinement in Colorado prisons.

In that study, led by the Colorado Department of Corrections, researchers reported that the mental conditions of many prisoners in solitary didn’t deteriorate. The methodology has been criticized as unreliable, confounded by prisoners hiding their feelings or happy just to be talking with anyone, even a researcher.

Metzner denies that charge, but says that even if healthy prisoners in solitary confinement make it through an unarguably grueling psychological ordeal, many — perhaps half of all prisoners — begin with mental disorders. “That’s bad in itself, because with adequate treatment, they could have gotten better,” Metzner said.

Full article

The California Prison Strike: Day Four

posted by  on THU, JUL 11, 2013 at 10:26 AM

By California prison standards, a person isn’t legally considered on a “hunger strike” until he or she has refused nine consecutive meals. We should know soon how many of those 30,000 prisoners who refused meals on Monday—about five times the number of prisoners who participated in a 2011 strike—are still refusing meals as of today.

But last night the New York Times reported that almost everyone who started striking on Monday was still at it yesterday:

LOS ANGELES — Nearly 29,000 inmates in California state prisons refused meals for the third day Wednesday during a protest of prison conditions and rules. The protest extended to two-thirds of the 33 prisons across the state and all 4 private out-of-state facilities where California sends inmates, corrections officials said.

Thousands of prisoners also refused to attend their work assignments for a third day, and state officials were bracing for a long-term strike.

Prisoners have also reported that, unlike during the 2011 strike, they are "willing to die" because prison conditions are so wretched.

California corrections secretary Jeffrey Beard says the strike is counterproductive and that prison officials are already taking steps to meet prisoners’ demands, which were first negotiated and agreed to after the 2011 strike. Prison-rights activists say the CDCR has failed to follow through on its end of the bargain.

But the CDCR isn’t just slow to meet prisoners’ requests—it hasn’t been fast enough for the courts, who’ve demanded that the system reduce overcrowding. A 2011 US Supreme Court finding said the state of California’s prison system led to one “needless” death every eight days. As Justice Sotomayor asked in 2010:"When are you going to avoid the needless deaths that were reported in this record? When are you going to avoid or get around people sitting in their feces for days in a dazed state? When are you going to get to a point where you are going to deliver care that is going to be adequate?"

Not fast enough, apparently—besides the strike it’s also facing a court order to reduce overcrowding by the end of the year and release at least 10,000 prisoners.

To review the prisoners’ five demands as explained by prison-rights activist Ed Mead last weekend:

One, eliminate group punishments. That’s a no-brainer. If I do something wrong, don’t punish everyone on the tier.

Two, abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria. The courts have held there has to be some evidence validating a prisoner’s gang status. Black prisoners have been validated on the basis of having a copy of my newspaper in their cells that mentions George Jackson. That’s been considered evidence. Once you’re validated, the only way out is to parole, debrief, snitch, or die. Debriefing is telling the administration who all the other gang members are. And if you’re not a gang member you have to make up names—it’s a bounty system. Now the prisons have an STG (security threat group) status. If they decide you’re a security threat, they lock you up indefinitely, and that requires no proof whatsoever, and also includes people who were never gang members, people who could be politically active.

Three, comply with recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons circa 2006.

Four, provide adequate food. [This includes having prisoners who serve meals to those in solitary eat from separate pans to prevent food theft.]

Five, provide constructive programs and privileges for SHU [solitary confinement] prisoners including educational activities and recreation. SHU prisoners are supposed to get an hour a day of exercise in a wire dog kennel, but guards make excuses, like they’re too busy to let them out.

Sounds reasonable to me—they’re not even asking for minimum wage for their labor. Stay tuned.

Source

California prison officials say 30,000 inmates refuse mealsJuly 9, 2013
California officials Monday said 30,000 inmates refused meals at the start of what could be the largest prison protest in state history.

Inmates in two-thirds of the state’s 33 prisons, and at all four out-of-state private prisons, refused both breakfast and lunch on Monday, said corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton. In addition, 2,300 prisoners failed to go to work or attend their prison classes, either refusing or in some cases saying they were sick.
The corrections department will not acknowledge a hunger strike until inmates have missed nine consecutive meals. Even so, Thornton said, Monday’s numbers are far larger than those California saw two years earlier during a series of hunger strikes that drew international attention.
Despite the widespread work stoppages and meal refusals, Thornton said state prisons operated as usual through the day. “Everything has been running smoothly,” she said. “It was normal. There were no incidents.”
The protest, announced for months, is organized by a small group of inmates held in segregation at Pelican Bay State Prison near the Oregon border. Their list of demands, reiterated Monday, center on state policies that allow inmates to be held in isolation indefinitely, in some cases for decades, for ties to prison gangs.
Though prison officials contend those gang ties are validated, the state last year began releasing inmates from segregation who had no evidence of gang-related behavior. Nearly half of those reviewed have been returned to the general population.
The protest involves the same issues and many of the same inmates who led a series of protests in California prisons two years ago. At the height of those 2011 hunger strikes, more than 11,600 inmates at one point refused meals. The correction department’s official tally, which counts only those inmates on any given day who have skipped nine consecutive meals, never rose above 6,600.
Source

California prison officials say 30,000 inmates refuse meals
July 9, 2013

California officials Monday said 30,000 inmates refused meals at the start of what could be the largest prison protest in state history.

Inmates in two-thirds of the state’s 33 prisons, and at all four out-of-state private prisons, refused both breakfast and lunch on Monday, said corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton. In addition, 2,300 prisoners failed to go to work or attend their prison classes, either refusing or in some cases saying they were sick.

The corrections department will not acknowledge a hunger strike until inmates have missed nine consecutive meals. Even so, Thornton said, Monday’s numbers are far larger than those California saw two years earlier during a series of hunger strikes that drew international attention.

Despite the widespread work stoppages and meal refusals, Thornton said state prisons operated as usual through the day. “Everything has been running smoothly,” she said. “It was normal. There were no incidents.”

The protest, announced for months, is organized by a small group of inmates held in segregation at Pelican Bay State Prison near the Oregon border. Their list of demands, reiterated Monday, center on state policies that allow inmates to be held in isolation indefinitely, in some cases for decades, for ties to prison gangs.

Though prison officials contend those gang ties are validated, the state last year began releasing inmates from segregation who had no evidence of gang-related behavior. Nearly half of those reviewed have been returned to the general population.

The protest involves the same issues and many of the same inmates who led a series of protests in California prisons two years ago. At the height of those 2011 hunger strikes, more than 11,600 inmates at one point refused meals. The correction department’s official tally, which counts only those inmates on any given day who have skipped nine consecutive meals, never rose above 6,600.

Source

Rapper/actor Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) released a video in conjunction with a human rights organization this morning via The Guardian that shows him undergoing what he says is the standard process for force-feeding Guantanamo detainees. Or attempting to, anyway — after an excruciating attempt to submit to a nasogastric tube (up the nostrils, down to the stomach) he convulses in tears and begs to stop the experiment.

More than half of the 166 prisoners at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo are participating in a hunger strike that has been going on for months, military officials have said. Lawyers for the prisoners have asked the federal courts to stop the force-feeding, saying it’s akin to torture and prevents them from observing the religious fasting of Ramadan, which begins tonight. Justice Department lawyers responded last week that the process is a humane way to keep detainees from starving to death.

Bey, 39, has a background in activism, railing against the government response to Hurricane Katrina and the conviction of Mumia Abu-Jamal. He made the film with the group Reprieve, which participated in the court filings.

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