Friday, January 10, 2014

Retaliation Against Hunger Strikers With Inadequate Food

Solidarity with the Prisoner Hunger Strike for Human Rights! [link]

2014-01-10 message from "Emergency Response Network/Pledge of Resistance" of the "Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition"
Thank you for your ongoing support of the hunger strikers who participated in their non-violent strike in 2013, in an inspiring show of unity across prison-manufactured racial and geographical lines.
Hunger strikers at Pelican Bay are being retaliated against through food service that is insufficient, inedible, and lacking nutritional value. As we exit the holiday season, it is appropriate to be mindful that adequate food is a human right. It is also one of the prisoners’ five core demands.

The hunger strikers developed five core demands [See footnote 1]. The changes demanded are standards in many other Supermax prisons and are not a threat to safety or security. Demand 4 is: Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food.
Peaceful protests have occurred through recent decades to bring attention to inadequate, substandard, dangerously old food, shoved at prisoners with disrespect. This is not a new issue. Since last year’s hunger strike, the problem has become worse at some California prisons, including Pelican Bay.
Portion sizes have declined dramatically, described as “bite size” or “child-size.” The prison issues menus that describe each diet in detail, but food trays are served without everything that was described. The meals offer very little fresh produce, food is frequently served on top of wet cardboard, and the items themselves may be spoiled or not completely cooked.
Given the unsafe environment characterized by lack of sunlight, inadequate ventilation, extreme heat or cold, the lack of appropriate medical treatment, verbal and physical abuse, and social isolation, it is all the more critical that meals be consistently nutritious and wholesome, and ample to meet an adult male's caloric needs.
This is one kind of unjust retaliation that California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) continues to perpetrate against hunger strikers.
Inmates are nearly powerless to complain about this underhanded and retaliatory food situation.

The process for prisoner complaints at CDCR is filing an administrative appeal (form 602). In addition to complaining about inadequate, unhealthy, or disgusting food, a 602 form might address topics like the miscalculation of work credits, restrictive mail policies, and visitor denials. But CDCR only allows prisoners to file one “non-emergency” 602 form per week. Otherwise, the form will be rejected for abusing the process. Emergency appeals are only for very serious and time-sensitive topics, a protective custody request for example. If an inmate is experiencing other abuse or retaliation, he must choose what is more important: asking to see his family, or asking that his food be completely cooked. This obviously makes it hard for prisoners to decide to file food-related grievances.
Ombudspersons, the other check on the system, are stretched beyond capacity. There are only five ombudspersons, each assigned to 6 – 8 institutions across the state. Approximately 228,060 meals are prepared monthly for 2,715 inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison alone. No doubt ombudspersons are responsible for a host of functions besides monitoring food. Thus, even assuming a best-case scenario, it’s unlikely that the ombudspersons will be able to monitor the food.
State regulations mandate a better system. For example, Title 15, Article 4, Sec. 3050(a) of California Code of Regulations states that “[e]ach inmate shall be provided a wholesome, nutritionally balanced diet,” and that “[f]ood shall not be withheld nor standard menu varied as a disciplinary sanction for any inmate.”

Please contact Jean Weiss (Ombudsman for eight California State Prisons, including Pelican Bay) and Robert Diaz (Associate Director of High Security Institutions). Your voice matters—use it! Tell Ms. Weiss and Mr. Diaz to end this policy of punishing people by denying them adequate food, and to fix this problem through a meaningful systematic audit that will discover and correct issues immediately. Let them know that you are upset to learn that the peaceful hunger strikers are being retaliated against through inadequate and unhealthy meals, and that prisoners are nearly powerless to complain.
* Jean Weiss, Office of the Ombudsman, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation [1515 S Street, Room 311 South, Sacramento, CA 95811] [] [916-324-5458]
* Ralph Diaz, Associate Director of High Security Institutions, Division of Adult Institutions,  Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation [P. O. Box 942883, Sacramento CA. 94283] [916-445-7688]

In solidarity,
[signed] "Emergency Response Network/Pledge of Resistance" of the "Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition"
Footnote 1 - The five core demands are:
1. End Group Punishment & Administrative Abuse
2. Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria
3. Comply with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 Recommendations Regarding an End to Long-Term Solitary Confinement
4. Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food
5. Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates.

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