Saturday, July 16, 2011

Amidst Pressure, CDCR Enters Negotiation with Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers


Mediators, Advocates: "Battle is Still Uphill, Health Still Deteriorating"

Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity
Office: 510 444 0484

Oakland--With the Pelican Bay prison hunger strike
entering its third week, mediators reported
Thursday that the California Department of
Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has
responded to pressure from strikers and outside
supporters, beginning initial negotiations with
strike leaders in the prison's Security Housing
Unit, along with an outside mediation
team. Advocates working on behalf of the
strikers continue to rail against the CDCR's slow
movement over the past two weeks in addressing
the prisoners' demands, expressing grave concerns
about the strikers' rapidly deteriorating
health. Hundreds of prisoners at Pelican Bay
remain on strike, with thousands more
participating in prisons throughout California's 33 prisons.

Dorsey Nunn, executive director of Legal Services
for Prisoners with Children, and a member of the
prisoner-selected mediation team says that
leaders are determined to keep up their strike,
but worries about the CDCR's willingness to move
negotiations forward. "Both parties are dug in,
says Nunn. "The CDCR is not offering anything
substantial, and the strikers aren't receiving
anything substantial. So they'll keep going. And
we don't know how long it'll be before people start dying."

Earlier this week, advocates and supporters
received word that some of the strikers' health
had deteriorated to near-fatal levels. With the
CDCR slow to move on negotiations, and with
already poor health conditions at the core of the
prisoners' demands, many fear that time is
running out. "The strikers' claims of
substandard and prejudicial medical care at
Pelican Bay are certainly true." says Dr. Corey
Weinstein, a correctional medical consultant and
human rights investigator with 40 years
experience providing health care to CA prisoners.
Weinstein continues, "Given my long history of
working with California prisoners I have grave
doubts about the Department of Corrections
ability to adequately carry out their own
guidelines and protocols even during this urgent and public moment."

Meanwhile, organizations and individuals have
held demonstrations throughout the US, in Canada,
and in Australia, and have flooded CDCR
headquarters and Gov. Jerry Brown's office with
demands for negotiation. Strike supporters are
urging people to take further action to have the
strikers' demands met. "Everyone who is against
torture needs to support this hunger strike by
matching the courage of these prisoners," says
Molly Porzig of Critical Resistance, a member of
the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition.
"Historically, people have taken up civil
disobedience to prevent mass death, and we're in such a moment now."

Negotiations are set to continue
Friday. Mediator Dorsey Nunn says the team will
continue to urge the CDCR to negotiate in good
faith: "The strikers' demands are so minimal,
they want to have hope like anyone else. The CDCR
could end the strike by providing even a little
bit of hope for these prisoners."

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