On Monday, July 8, approximately 30,000 prisoners across California began refusing meals to protest inhumane prison conditions and the use of indefinite solitary confinement. The hunger strike, now entering its 24th day, is the largest in state history. UAW 2865 wishes to make public its strong support, respect, and admiration for those currently risking their health and lives in fighting for their humanity against state oppression.
The United Nations and other international human rights groups have condemned California’s practice of solitary confinement as a form of torture. Within the “Secure Housing Units” at Pelican Bay and other facilities, several thousand prisoners are held in isolation, confined to windowless cells for more than 22 hours a day, with minimal human contact and no work, recreational or educational programs. After prisoners went on strike in 2011, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) convinced prisoners to suspend the strike by promising change. Instead, however, the CDCR has responded by punishing hunger strike leaders with prison discipline and other retaliation, and stonewalling any real efforts at reform. Meanwhile, Governor Jerry Brown has been completely silent on the strike and has chosen instead to take a vacation in Europe, while strikers in California risk their lives in demanding change.
UAW 2865 stands in solidarity with these strikers, in understanding the California prison system to be but one arm of the “Prison Industrial Complex” (PIC). This system operates in order to secure the authority of people who get their power through racial, economic and other structural privileges. As a result, surveillance, policing, and imprisonment are used as solutions to what are, in actuality, economic, social, and political “problems.”
The University of California is complicit in this exercise of racialized state oppression. In 2012-2013, California budgeted nearly $1 billion more to prison spending than to higher education. These numbers reflect the University of California’s complicity in the “school-to-prison pipeline”, a set of policies and practices which push our nation’s schoolchildren, especially those who are most affected by multiple structural oppressions, out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal “justice” systems.
Thus, as students and educational workers, UAW 2865 stands in solidarity with the hunger strikers and with community groups and family members of hunger strikers who have coordinated demonstrations in cities across the U.S. and abroad to voice their support. We join these courageous people inside and outside of prison in demanding that the CDCR fully implement the prisoners’ five core demands, which are:
- End Group Punishment & Administrative Abuse
- Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria
- Comply with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 Recommendations Regarding an End to Long-Term Solitary Confinement
- Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food
- Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates.
We encourage our members to support the hunger strike by signing the following petition (http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/