Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network issued a statement on June 1 in support of the Folsom prisoners’ hunger strike. The strike began on May 25, reportedly with 59 prisoners of different races/nationalities participating. The statement said in part that “Samidoun expresses its strongest support for the strikers and their demands, and for the struggle in the United States against racist oppression and mass incarceration. We salute those fighting for their lives and human dignity in a prison system based on racism, injustice and exploitation.”
There were protests on June 4 by prisoners’ family members and activists in front of Folsom prison and at Twin Towers Jail in Los Angeles to draw attention to and broader support for the strike. Prison officials had spread misinformation that the strike had ended as of June 1, but family members said it was still in effect as of June 4 and that some strikers were determined to continuing even as two of the main organizers had been transferred to other facilities.
The hunger strikers issued their 9 demands upon initiation of the strike as follows:
Adequate access to courts and legal assistance; meaningful education, self-help courses and rehabilitative programs; possession of TVs; exercise equipment and meaningful exercise in the yard; end cruelty, noise and sleep deprivation of welfare checks; keep original proper packaging for commissary and canteen; non-disciplinary status to qualifying prisoners; adequate and appropriate clothing and shoes; food bowls and cups.
A family member said on June 4 that with the Trump/Pence regime (and their attorney general, Jeff Sessions), “People need to start waking up. Folsom is just a small part of what’s going on all over this country. We need to demand change. This is an emergency.” She shared that she lives in daily fear of getting a phone call that her husband has been murdered in prison. Another family member described the dehumanizing and dangerous denial of medical care to her husband and said that her husband “is a different person” than when he went into prison, having developed empathy for others. She noted, “People change [only] if they are given the resources to transition back into society instead of how they are set up to fail” by the current prison system.
Courageous prisoners of B4 Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU) at the Folsom State Prison in California began a hunger strike on May 25. A Statement from Prisoners released through their relatives said this protest is “in response to ongoing mistreatment, dehumanization and unbearable living conditions.” These conditions include not being given bowls so prisoners are forced to eat food out of ziplock bags instead, not being given cups so prisoners have to drink water out of old milk cartons, no cleaning supplies for toilets or cells, no rehab or education programs, no TVs or any property, and mail withheld up to a month or longer with no reason provided.
The statement calling for support said in part:
Hunger strikes are a last resort, a measure taken by those who truly have no other way out. They often come with high risks and heavy costs to prisoners. Incarcerated people commonly face disciplinary actions, retaliation by prison officials, abuse and further denial of their basic human rights during hunger strikes—simply for exercising their free will and resisting their mistreatment.
California prisoners had braved several hunger strikes before. The authorities had promised some improvements in conditions in exchange for an end to the struggle. The first hunger strike began in July 2011 and demanded an end to long term solitary confinement. It was initiated and led by prisoners in California’s notorious Pelican Bay Segregated Housing Unit (SHU). During that first strike, there were reportedly at one point 6,600 prisoners participating; the second later in 2011 was said to have drawn in 12,000; and the third in 2013 reportedly drew in 30,000—each strike grew statewide.
The statement asks the painful yet indicting question:
Why must California prisoners continue to sacrifice health and life, involve lawyers and courts, in order to be treated like human beings?
This question hits at the deep injustices and outrages faced by prisoners in California and elsewhere: prisoners brutalized, dehumanized, and caged up in this country of mass incarceration—and it demands an answer.
Support the Folsom prison hunger strikers–info here.