This may be the more massive hunger strike ever. Some 30,000 inmates from 22 of the 33 California prisons have joined a hunger strike for their most basic rights.
The strike was initiated by the Pelican Bay prisoners, who suffer the worst conditions maybe in the whole North American federation. Of some 80,000 prisoners under isolation regime in the USA, at least 1000 are in that jail. In all California maybe 4500 inmates are being kept in the hole, often for many years, even decades! Some people in SHU (security housing units) regime have not seen sunlight in 20 years.
Other 6000 suffer some other variants of the isolation regime.
Most of the isolated inmates are being held hostage of arbitrary and inhumane prison rules:
By far the largest number of SHU inmates are accused of belonging to gangs, and can only be released from solitary by accusing other inmates of gang affiliation – a process that is euphemistically called “debriefing” – thus turning everyone into a potential snitch against everyone else.
Belonging to a gang can be "determined" by the simple fact of greeting someone else, believed to be a gang member. In other words: you cannot have normal relationships with the other prisoners, make friends or whatever on penalty of being thrown into the hole for years.
Only snitches and such scum are allowed some sort of normal life and possibility of parole.
Their core demands are:
- Eliminate Group Punishments
- Abolish the Debriefing Policy and Modify ‘Active/Inactive’ Gang Status Criteria
- Comply with Recommendations of U.S. Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons (from 2006)
- Provide Adequate Food
- Provide Constructive Programs and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Inmates.
See also: yesterday's entry USA: prisoners in California begin hunger strike against "super-max isolation" regime and their PDF single issue newspaper with demands and all kind of explanations: Strike the Prisons.