Monday, February 13, 2012

Prisoner At Corcoran Dies, Hunger Strike In ASU Continues

February 13, 2012 Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

Oakland - Family members and advocates are seeking information
surrounding the February 2nd death of Christian Gomez, 27, a prisoner
at Corcoran State Prison. It remains unclear whether or not Gomez was
participating in an ongoing hunger strike in the prison's
Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU), or whether his death was
related to the strike. The California Department of Corrections and
Rehabilitation (CDCR) has not disclosed the cause of death saying
that they have not yet received an autopsy report.

"Conditions inside California prisons are atrocious, especially when
it comes to physical and mental health care," says Laura Magnani,
Interim Regional Director of the American Friends Service Committee
and an expert witness during an August 23rd hearing in Sacramento
regarding California's Security Housing Units (SHUs) , "Any time a
prisoner dies inside one of their institutions, the CDCR must be held
responsible." California's prison healthcare system has been under
federal receivership since 2006 due to inhumane and deadly conditions
caused by severe overcrowding. Federal Judge Thelton Henderson
recently announced an imminent end to the oversight.

Prisoners in the Corcoran ASU have been on hunger strike for periods
of time since late December of 2011. Their 11 demands include
adequate access to the law library and legal assistance and an end to
the practice of holding prisoners in ASU after they have served their
sentences in the unit. "ASUs are similar to California's SHUs in that
they are often used to punish prisoners who are jail house lawyers or
who have organized with their fellow prisoners to make political
demands," says Molly Porzig, an organizer with Prisoner Hunger Strike
Solidarity Coalition, "Some prisoners are confined in solitary,
without privileges afforded in general population such as radios and
phone calls for years at a time and without any means to challenge
their cases." A 2009 review by the Office of the State Inspector
General of the CDCR's policies in ASUs found that prisoners in
several units had been held for inappropriate lengths of time,
violating their due process rights and costing the department of
millions of dollars.

It is unknown how long prisoners at Corcoran will keep up their
hunger strike, but letters from participants indicate that they
continue until the CDCR meets their demands. One prisoner recently
wrote, "The struggle that is being fought in this ASU at Corcoran
State Prison is only a small part of a bigger struggle that is being
fought, and that will be continuously fought, against the oppression
that is evident in all parts of the world today." Two hunger strikes
took place in prisons across California last year, at one point
involving at least 12,000 prisoners. Last year's strikes, as well as
the Corcoran strike, are unprecedented in the history of the CDCR and
have seen unity amongst prisoners across racial and geographic lines.

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