Sunday, July 17, 2011

Monday Protest in Sacramento

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This Monday, supporters of the striking inmates will meet at the CDCR headquarters in Sacramento.

Previous statements from CDCR denied the existence, or minimized the size, of the strike. Now, it appears that CDCR is admitting that thousands of inmates are striking. The disappointing bit, however, is that the interpretation by the authorities completely misses the point. Look at this odd CDCR statement in the Chronicle: 

Prison administrators said the 676 remaining inmates who have refused meals since the strike began July 1 probably synchronized their statewide effort through organized criminal networks.

"This goes to show the power, influence and reach of prison gangs," said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. "Some people are doing it because they want to do it, and some are being ordered to do it."

What is being missed here is that, as opposed to the common race-related segregation and animosity within walls, this strike uniquely bridged people of different races. Probably, as in any form of public protest, there is leadership, and it would not be a big surprise if leaders are charismatic and had leadership status prior to the strike. What is remarkable here is CDCR's refusal to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Why would thousands of people in deplorable conditions make their conditions even more deplorable by risking their health and well being in refusing food? Maybe the actual substance requires institutional attention? No, let's just say "gangs", and it will make the demands of thousands of people incarcerated in abysmal conditions disappear.

If you, too, are upset, and can make it to Sacramento on Monday, make your voices heard.

Edited to update: It appears that an attempt to negotiate with striking inmates has been made. CDCR has promised it would conduct a "comprehensive review" of SHU. Unsatisfied and displeased with these vague statements, inmates continue striking. Mediators report some of the strikers have lost 25-35 pounds and their health is deteriorating.

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