The hunger strike at Folsom State Prison continues to go strong, with supporters planning a rally to take place this Sunday, June 4, in front of the notorious prison, located 20 miles outside of Sacramento, Calif.
Folsom, also known as “Old Folsom,” is the second-oldest state prison in California, behind San Quentin. People incarcerated in Folsom’s Administrative Segregation Units began a hunger strike May 25 to protest the “ongoing mistreatment, dehumanization, and unbearable living conditions at Old Folsom State Prison,” the hunger strikers said in a statement posted on IndyBay.org.
In addition to being forced to eat out of recycled “washed” trash bags, hunger strikers have reportedly been denied access to their mail, human contact and other environmental stimuli. They are also forced to walk around the prison in boxer shorts and T-shirts, while being denied warm clothes during winter months, which leaves them vulnerable to illness. Guards intentionally—approximately every 30 minutes during “checks”—disrupt their sleep.
The hunger strikers made it clear that they are willing to accept the likely retaliation of prison guards in the form of further “disciplinary actions ... and further denial of their basic human rights during hunger strikes” because “FSP [Folsom State] is deliberately indifferent to prisoners suffering.”
“[The institution] is aware that prolonged social isolation, and lack of environmental stimuli causes “serious psychological pain and suffering and permanent psychological pain and suffering and permanent psychological and physical injury,” hunger strikers continued.
The hunger strikers state that “when taken together, these conditions constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the U.S. Constitution.”
One hunger striker has reportedly been moved to another prison, placed in solitary confinement and denied his right to visitors in retaliation for helping to organize the strike, San Francisco Bay View reports. Guards are also ransacking hunger strikers’ cells under the guise of looking for “confiscated food items.”
Read the full statement here.
In 2013, California’s mass prison hunger strike ended after 60 days—July 8 to Sept. 5—“after two state legislators issued statements of public support for reform of conditions that have had hundreds locked in solitary confinement for more than a decade,” Truthout reports.
Less than two thirds of California’s adult male population is nonwhite or Latino (60%), but these groups make up three of every four men in prison: Latinos are 42%, African Americans are 29%, and other races are 6%. Among adult men in 2013, African Americans were incarcerated at a rate of 4,367 per 100,000, compared to 922 for Latinos, 488 for non-Latino whites, and 34 for Asians. Over 30,000 people incarcerated in Calif.’s prison system participated.
As The Root previously reported, in September, incarcerated people in 40 prisons in 24 states across the U.S. initiated a work strike to coincide with the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison uprising, which began Sept. 9, 1971, and lasted four days.
In all, 29 people incarcerated in Attica and 10 hostages were killed by police while fighting for humane conditions, including food and medical care.
1. PROVIDE ADEQUATE ACCESS TO COURTS AND LEGAL ASSISTANCE
Denial of adequate access to courts and legal assistance: The “law cage” is inadequate for prisoners who are illiterate, non-English speaking and/or undereducated. Many of the men here are facing serious charges that carry life sentences and even the most educated could not mount a proper defense or do legal research on their own. Access to properly trained legal assistance that a law library provides is in line with Lewis v. Casey et al (1996) No. 94-1511. Currently, there is no access to legal forms, copies or printing. It has been long established the “paging” system is in violation.
2. PROVIDE MEANINGFUL EDUCATION, SELF-HELP COURSES AND REHABILITATIVE PROGRAMS
Denial and/or lack of meaningful education, self-help courses and rehabilitative programs: Wright v. Rushen, 642 F2d 1129 (9th Cir. 1981), held FSP shall provide its ASU prisoners with education and rehabilitative programs. ASU prisoners are not afforded GED programs, and the high school diploma program is split between the entire facility and ranch plus ASU. Therefore, we are placed in a hard spot; ASU prisoners are neither first or second priority, leaving no educational opportunities.
The college program is nonexistent at best, to add to the problem, those previously enrolled are forced to drop classes due to no TVs for video assignments, preventing them from acquiring degrees. FSP provides absolutely no self-help courses or counseling in anger management, behavior management etc. FSP provides absolutely no substance abuse counseling or programs, such as N.S. or A.A.
3. ALLOW POSSESSION OF TELEVISIONS
Denial of TVs: FSP has flat out lied on the ability to provide the necessary electrical outlets to allow the possession of a TV. Instead of fixing this issue years ago, FSP continues to cover up the fact the funds allocated (Inmate Welfare Funds) are spent leisurely on non-inmate stuff. Per Title 15, §3190(3), ASU prisoners are allowed the choice of a TV or radio.
Prisoners are forced to choose a radio due to FSP’s unwillingness to provide outlets. With no programs, education or meaningful time out of cell, the sensory deprivation, sitting idle, causes prisoners to lose their minds, forcing prisoners to harm themselves in order to get mental health care, which provides TVs per Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. (1994) “[O]ne does not have to await the consummation of threatened injury to obtain preventive relief.”
FSP’s attitude of “make us,” “we’re exempt,” is in violation and promotes prisoners to harm themselves to get a TV. Examine FSP record of prisoners needing mental health care while housed in ASU.
4. PROVIDE EXERCISE EQUIPMENT, INCLUDING PULL-UP BARS, FOR MEANINGFUL EXERCISE IN YARD
Denial of exercise equipment, including pull-up bars: CDCR began installing pull-up bars in all SHUs and ASUs throughout CDC prisons. FSP is one of the last if not the last ASU to install pull-up bars.
This was done so men can receive meaningful exercise in the small dog kennel type cages used as yards. With no ability to run around and exercise our legs, prisoners are left to sit idle for hours. CDCR agreed the pull-up bars were meaningful equipment. The permanent injunction in Toussaint v. McCarthy, 597 F. Supp. 1388 9N.D. Cal 1984) covers FSP, saying ASU prisoners shall be provided meaningful exercise. FSP has the necessary vocational jobs and classes to install the bars and build the equipment at minimum to no cost.
5. END CRUELTY, NOISE AND SLEEP DEPRIVATION OF WELFARE CHECKS
Sleep deprivation from welfare checks: Correctional officers (COs) on first watch create excessive noise with keys while walking every half hour; mixed with uncourteous loud metal on metal contact, it creates unnecessary cruelty and punishment. A CO’s equipment and keys can be properly secured on their person to prevent the excessive noise, yet when asked for courtesy the noise is made extreme as a retaliation, thus waking prisoners every half hour the entire night.
6. KEEP ORIGINAL PROPER PACKAGING FOR COMMISSARY AND CANTEEN
Commissary and canteen: All items are repackaged into TRASH BAGS! This is forcing prisoners to use toothpaste out of trash bags. Deodorant that is gel is repackaged to trash bags, which causes the deodorant to evaporate and lose its purpose to keep the funk away. Coffee jars are repackaged to trash bags which causes coffee to go stale and harden. This is an irrational practice with no real security or safety reason, as proven by the fact that all packaging in canteen and quarterly packages is allowed within the SHU.
7. GIVE NON-DISIPLINARY STATUS TO QUALIFYING PRISONERS
Denial of NDS (Non Disciplinary Status) to qualifying prisoners: Title 15 Article 7 Segregation Housing §3335 (A)(1) outlines and stipulates criteria for NDS. FSP’s warden is denying this status based on an underground memo of criteria not approved by the APA. FSP’s warden is attempting to extort information out of prisoners in order to receive NDS after being placed in ASU for “non-disciplinary” reasons.
FSP’s warden is attempting to force prisoners to cooperate with institutional investigations, violating a prisoner’s right to invoke the Fifth Amendment.
8. PROVIDE ADEQUATE AND APPROPRIATE CLOTHING AND SHOES
Denial of personal clothing and shoes: Prisoners are forced to walk around in their boxer underwear and state-issued T-shirt, which are normally extremely used and too large or too small. Prisoners are moved around the prison like this and remain all day like this.
Prisoners are provided one jumpsuit that is always over-sized, with no ability to wash or exchange it. In the cold winter months, prisoners are denied warm clothing or beanies to prevent sickness while out on yard.
During the summer, the warmer months, prisoners are denied appropriate clothing to cover up and still maintain coolness. It is a decency factor of allowing prisoners clothing and properly fitted shoes to remain dignified and in touch with the civilized world. There is no reasonable security issue or factors to deny a person decency.
9. PROVIDE FOOD BOWL AND CUP
Denial of a food bowl or cup: FSP is forcing its ASU prisoners to eat out of recycled (“washed”) trash bags, old zip lock bags and milk cartons and to drink from a 3 ounce “rubbery” reused cup. See Estelle v. Gamble, 424 U.S. 97 (1976). This treatment is unnecessary cruelty and punishment and violates prisoners’ Eighth Amendment rights. The amendment embodies “broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity and decency.”