MUSLIMS NOW 70% OF FRENCH PRISON POPULATION
Muslims, who make up between 5-12% of the French population (estimates vary), now officially top the 70% mark in French prisons! And we thought that there was something wrong in English and Welsh prisons where MoJ statistics claim they make up 12% of the population (four times that of the general population compared to the 11% of prisoners that are black, 2.8 times the outside population).
[For more on this subject see this article on Racism in the Close Supervision Units.]
PELICAN BAY HUNGER STRIKE OFF BUT CONTINUES ELSEWHERE
On October 13, after nearly three weeks on hunger strike, Pelican Bay prisoners announced the suspension of their current protest following the publishing of a CDCR memo detailing a comprehensive review of every Security Housing Unit (SHU) prisoner in California whose SHU sentence is related to gang validation. The review will evaluate the prisoners’ gang validation under new criteria, "something the prisoners have been asking for and it is the first significant step we’ve seen from the CDCR to address the hunger strikers’ demands,” according to Carol Strickman, one of the hunger strike mediators.
Prisoners in other jails across California have decided to continue with their protests as they cover issues other than SHU-related gang affiliation, though prisoners in Calipatria State Prison have decided to temporarily end their hunger strike to regain strength and gain medical attention as the prison warden has been refusing hunger strikers any form of medical attention. All Californian prisoners and their supporters continue to ask the public to maintain the pressure on the CDCR to keep to current agreements and to negotiate in good faith, as well as halting any retaliation against protesting prisoners. [15/10/11]
PELICAN BAY HUNGER STRIKE II WEEK 3
The second round of the Californian Secure Housing Unit (SHU) hunger strike protests that resumed on September 26 is now well into its third week as the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) continues to ratchet up its attempts to break the resolve of the participants. At end of 1st week, the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition claimed, based on information from the federal receiver’s office, that 12,000 prisoners had refused meals in 12 prisons across California, including Pelican Bay, Corcoran, Salinas Valley, Calipatria, San Quentin and Ironwood (CDCR has only admitted to a maximum of 4,250 prisoners participating at the start of the hunger strike, supposedly fewer than during the July leg of the protests). In addition, some 3,000 other Californian prisoners held in private prisons in Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma were also refusing food in solidarity with the core hunger strike group.
Many of the participants are on a "rolling hunger strike", taking turns in refusing meals in order to maintain their protest and support those on the core indefinite hunger strike protest. However, numbers appear to have dropped with the intensified CDCR retaliation against participants. Added to that is the confusion inherent in the way CDCR recognises hunger strike participation, only considering an inmate to be on hunger strike when he or she has missed nine consecutive meals, and is apparently deliberately underestimating participation (see below).
The Department's attitude has hardened towards the protests since its initial stages and is now treating the hunger strike as an organised "mass disturbance", refusing to participate in any negotiations and is disciplining those who participate and moving prisoners who support the hunger strike from the general population into isolation. As a consequence hunger strike representatives at Pelican Bay moved to Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg); participating prisoners are being denied family and legal visits until hunger strike ends and their mail is being censored and restricted; they are being punished with excessively harsh write-ups and guards are repeatedly raiding inmates' cells; CDCR is slowing the delivery or denying participants their medication, as a consequence an inmate suffered a heart attack and was hospitalised; even when medication is actually delivered, CDCR is falsifying hunger striker numbers by delivering it (along with the liquid needed to take it) on food trays and logging it as being a taken meal; they are being denied liquids and canteen items, including food, are being removed from prisoners' cells; and air conditioning in Ad-Seg cells on full in cold (10 oC) weather. CDCR has also expelled two attorneys chosen by the inmates to represent them on the mediation team, accusing them of trumped-up misconduct charges and breaches of security.
The Department is certainly turning up the heat on the protests but the prisoners remain solid and understand that CDCR is unlikely to give in to their demands in the short term. So, with a number of prisoners already refusing water as well as food, and with the health conditions of a number of core protesters deteriorating (many already with long-term medical problems), prisoners are calling on the media to make inquiries on prison protocol if and when they begin to die. [12/10/11]
A POINT OF VIEW: PRISONS DON'T WORK
An interesting 10 minute programme on Radio4 from Will Self on prisons and punishment. [Text] [iPlayer]
SHU HUNGER STRIKE RESUMPTION STATEMENT
Prisoners in the Pelican Bay Secure Housing Unit (SHU) have confirmed that they will resume their indefinite hunger strike on 26 September and have released a statement outlining the reasons for their actions here.
PELICAN BAY HUNGER STRIKE TO RECOMMENCE 26 SEPT.
Prisoners in the Pelican Bay Secure Housing Unit are to resume their indefinite hunger strike on 26 September that they had suspended at the end of July in order to carry out negotiations with Department of Corrections and rehabilitation (CDCR) representatives.
Even before the temporary suspension was called CDCR disassembling had been a problem but the total lack of any genuine engagement with the protestors' 5 core demands has forced the prisoners' representatives to call for the recommencement of the hunger strike. Vaguely worded promises about “a step down program [that] will be operational by the end of this year or early next year” and the meagre concessions on prisoners privileges, together with the general deterioration in conditions (food, medication, harassment of prisoners, etc.) in the SHU have forced the prisoners into a corner.
Responses to the 5 core demands:
1. SHU still operating via indefinite deprivation of human rights;
2. CDCR has made clear that it plans to substantially expand on the use of “solitary confinement” via targeting all prisoners deemed “disruptive groups” (security threat groups) [defined as “two or more inmates who are collectively deemed to be a security threat” – e.g., all street gang affiliates, prisoners deemed political-revolutionary etc];
3. the medical care problems have not been resolved. SHU inmates suffering from chronic disease are denied adequate care due to deliberate indifference and efforts to coerce them to debrief;
4. food quality now worse than before strike;
5. limited concessions incl. sweat shirts impacts on ability of yearly allowances to buy 'canteen & package' items, decreasing the amount of food prisoners are able to buy to supplement the poor diets. [14/09/11]
THE HIGH COST OF PRISON VISITS
Arizona, the American state notorious for Sheriff Joe Arpaio's tent city and the proposal to use unpaid prison labour to build its own $50 million subscription-funded Mexican border fence, has introduced a $25 prison visitors fee. The one-off non-refundable levee is charged to adults wishing to visit prisoners in the state's 15 prisons and is ostensibly to cover background checks on the visitors. However money raised will also go towards the upkeep of the 10 state-run prisons (5 are privately-run) and opponents have filed a lawsuit seeking to have the fee declared an illegal tax.
PELICAN BAY SHU HUNGER STRIKE TO RESUME?
Following abortive discussions with CDCR officials which raised no substantive offers of changes to the SHU regimes, it now appears that Pelican Bay SHU prisoners will recommence their suspended indefinite hunger strike. In a letter to the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, Mutope Duguma outlined the prisoners' determination to continue their protest despite the fact that many of them suffer from debilitating and often life-threatening illnesses. The protestors feel that the prison authorities will not take them seriously and refuse to "remain under this tortuous treatment" and are willing to provide "the body count that they seek or a bunch of hospitals filled up throughout the state."
CAT O' NINETAILS WAGS THE DOG
The Coalition's stupid knee-jerk (verging on elbow-jerk) reactions to the recent 'civil' disturbances are threatening not only to transfer the street riots into the country's already overcrowded jails but are also doomed to hole below the waterline the projected 'savings' deemed to be gained via the 'Rehabilitation Revolution' and cutbacks in projected Ministry of Justice spending over the period of the current Parliament.
With prison places at a premium, and the few that are available in open prisons (supposedly available only to long-term Cat C prisoners nearing the end of their sentences), prison governors are threatening that they will have to cram prisoners in 3 to a cell. This has already led to lockdowns due to increased in-prison tensions and will inevitably result in a break out of violence somewhere (probably one of the London local prisons, HMP Manchester or HMP Birmingham).
One voice has been singularly lacking in recent weeks (except for the day of Cameron's statement to a recalled Commons) and that is Ken Clarke's. He must be silently pulling his hair out as everything he has argued for (an end to the use of short-term sentences, cutting the prison population, a more 'rational' sentencing policy, etc.) is slowly disappearing below the rising tide of traditional reactionary Tory real politic as Cameron seizes his opportunity to shaft his Justice Secretary and return the Coalition to more traditional hang 'em flog 'em policies. [18/08/11]
According to Inside Time, a leaked confidential Ministry of Justice directive signed by the "Head of Prisoner Retail" from the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), an entitled 'Choosing items with higher margins', "Each establishment retains the profit margin made between the purchase price and the selling price of items as a contribution towards the service charge. The higher the sales margin, the more profit will be created. Products are rated on the Red/Amber/Green version of the NPL [National Product List]. Try and choose green lines to improve your margin, and avoid red ones where possible." So the truth is out and NOMS has confirmed what all prisoners already knew: the Booker/DHL canteen list is designed to screw as much out of prisoners as possible, an invisible tax on public sector* prisoners' wages, many of whom are employed for peanuts to pick and pack those same canteen goods. [12/08/11]
HMP BIRMINGHAM ON LOCKDOWN
According to the Birmingham Mail, HMP Birmingham is on lockdown due to increased tensions on the wings paralleling those on the streets outside in Winson Green together with the expected influx of new prisoners who have been involved in the civil disturbances. According to an inside source (read: screw, who no doubt received a nice backhander for the information or who is on the paper's unofficial pay role), “All wings have been on lockdown. We are on the highest level of risk.” [11/08/11]
CALIFORNIAN PRISONS HUNGER STRIKE UPDATE
The Californian prison hunger strikes may be over for the time being but the pressure is still on the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to 'come up with the goods' and produce substantive concessions. In recent days Pelican Bay hunger strikers have been in contact with the support network that has built up outside the prison walls, one that is part of a growing campaign against the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, outlining their decision to end the hunger strike section of their ongoing protests against the Special Housing Units.
What the hunger strikers have done is to give the CDCR a temporary respite, a grace period of 2-3 weeks from July 20th, to give the CDCR's top administrators the opportunity to come up with some substantive changes in response to their five core demands. If they don't follow through they plan to go back on hunger strike. "It's very important that our supporters know where we stand, and that CDCR knows that we're not going to go for any B.S. We remain as serious about our stand now as we were at the start, and meant what we said re indefinite hunger strike peaceful protest until our demands are met. I repeat - we're simply giving CDCR a brief grace period in response to their request for the opportunity to get [it] right in a timely fashion! We'll see where things stand soon enough!!" [02/08/11]