Support Torture? Why Prisoners Hunger Strike in Pelican Bay, California
HUNGER STRIKE by PRISONERS AT PELICAN BAY, CALIFORNIA
There’s a possibility that a prisoner on hunger strike has died by the time I am writing this. I hope not. They’ve been living, but only barely so. I first found out about what was going in the “super-max” penal facility in Northern California not quite a week ago, and it’s been on my mind (and heart) ever since.
An article in the Huffington Post reads:
“The hunger strike began a week ago and was organized by prisoners confined in the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison, a maximum security facility located near the Oregon border. Inmates there are held in windowless isolation cells for more than 22 hours a day and can have little or no contact with other prisoners for years and even decades at a time.”
I call this torture. I do not support torture. But yet, I do, because I live in the State of California, I pay taxes, and I am describing the conditions in SHU in Pelican Bay.
I happened to catch The Michael Slade show on KPFK and hear an interview with a woman whose uncle who has been kept in SHU for years. She said that he was placed in the isolation unit because the prison authorities decided he had a gang affiliation. Why? Because he had a tattoo on his hand. A tattoo that his niece says he got as a teenager which had absolutely nothing to do with a gang.
Read about the history and conditions of Pelican Bay:
From a California Government website: “It costs an average of about $47,000 per year to incarcerate an inmate in prison in California.”
SHU prisoner, Joseph Aragon: “I spent the better part of 2008 and part of 2009 in a cell without any glass in a 2 foot by 4 foot window frame. I had to use the blanket I was issued as a window covering. I slept with all my clothes on a bare mattress so I could have two sheets to cover myself with. I also lived with huge cockroaches and mice and had to secure my food items by hanging them in a t-shirt from the ceiling vent to keep bugs and rodents out. I’ve had to drink water with toxic levels of arsenic and selenium well above federal standards. If this is not torture, I don’t know what is.” Read more from Joseph here: http://www.realcostofprisons.org/writing/aragon_shus.html
Sign the petition: Support Prisoners on Hunger Strike at Pelican Bay State Prison through change.org
Lily L. Diamond