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Day 39 of California Prisoners' Hunger Strike

Today marks Day 39 of the California prisoners' ongoing hunger strike to protest the torturous conditions of solitary confinement. Yesterday, on Day 38, over 100 people gathered on the steps of the California state capitol to demand action from California decision makers.
As California prisoners continue to refuse meals as they protest the torturous conditions of solitary confinement, activists on Wednesday set up a life-sized replica of a Security Housing Unit (SHU) cell in front of the state capitol in Sacramento, and encouraged the governor, legislators, and members of the public to just briefly experience what thousands of CA prisoners live through.

According to California Prison Focus, dozens of strikers have been treated medically due to their weakening conditions, and several have been hospitalized since July 8, 2013, when approximately 30,000 prisoners began refusing meals.

Irene Huerta, whose husband has been in solitary for 28 years and is currently striking, is part of a mediation team that is trying to keep channels of communication open between strikers and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), with hopes of reaching an end to the strike. "It is important for us to be here today.? It is day 38 and our loved ones could die soon if no one steps up to do anything," says Huerta.?

Huerta joins many others in condemning the CDCR's continued attacks on strikers, along with Governor Brown's total silence on the entire issue.? "For Brown to say nothing at all, at such a critical moment, that is a slap in the face.? To say anything at all, even to speak against the strike, that's one thing.? But to remain silent when people's lives are on the line and their families are worried sick? There is nothing worse."

Donna Willmott, a spokesperson for the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, stated, ". . . As the medical conditions become more and more critical, and as the CDCR digs in its heels, it is absolutely imperative that actual and resolute steps be taken immediately.? The time to wait and see has passed."

A delegation of prisoners' loved ones and supporters continue to meet with legislators to demand action. In particular, people are demanding an emergency session of California's Public Safety Committee.

California's prison system is undisputedly in a disastrous state of crisis. That Governor Brown has fought tooth and nail against correcting the crisis - even asking the United States Supreme Court to approve his non-compliance with the Court's order to fix the prison system so that it no longer violates the US Constitution - is telling. In 2011, the United States Supreme Court found that the overcrowding in California prisons had gotten so bad - close to double the prisons' designed capacity - that inmates' health and safety were unconstitutionally compromised. The Court ordered the state to reduce its prison population by tens of thousands of inmates, to 110,000, or to 137.5 percent of capacity.

However, in January of this year, Governor Brown audaciously declared that California's prison crisis is over. He implored the Supreme Court to delay a federal court order to release nearly 10,000 more inmates. Just two weeks ago, on Aug. 2, the court said NO. California has to meet its goal by the end of 2013.

On the issues of the hunger strike and solitary confinement, Governor Brown has remained silent, while the CDCR's strategy has been to deny that solitary confinement exists, and to demonize the people in solitary confinement as brutal murderers, the "worst or the worst," deserving of treatment that constitutes torture, according to the United Nations' standards. The CDCR is deceiving the public by saying that the people who are in solitary confinement are there because of the crimes they committed.

In reality, the decision to put someone in solitary confinement in the SHU has nothing to do with why that person is in prison. Rather it is a decision that is made by prison guards, with very little due process and very little transparency. In fact, many people who are isolated in the SHU are in prison for non-violent, non-sexual, not-serious offenses.

More background and frequent updates - including articles that this piece is based on - can be read at the official Prisoner Hunger strike solidarity website. California Prison Focus (CPF) is an organization that stands up against the cruel and torturous conditions of the California prison system, especially advocating for the immediate shut down of all SHU cells and similar conditions of solitary confinement. CPF travels regularly to Pelican Bay and Corcoran state prisons to uncover and disseminate information on the current conditions prisoners must endure.

CPF hotline to TAKE ACTION in support of strikers by voicing comments and concerns: 916-324-3397