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The Hunger Strikers in Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP)

by Committee on Raza Rights Monday, Jul. 09, 2001 at 3:45 AM

The Hunger Strikers in Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP)

errorBrochure/Statement Released By CMPP on July 1, 2001:

Compaeras y Compaeros,

Chicano Mexicano Prison Project (CMPP) is supporting The Hunger Strikers in Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP). Steve Castillo and other inmates, in their effort to raise the consciousness of the public to the human rights violations suffered by prisoners in the SHU (Security Housing Units) at Pelican Bay State Prison and in Concentration Prison Camps across the U.S., have begun a massive and historic hunger strike.

CMPP is in total solidarity with the hunger strikers and we will are supporting this effort by getting the word out gente in the community and to progressive forces nationally and internationally. We are utilizing every resource at our disposal to publicize the struggle being waged by compa Steve Castillo and other prisoners. We have begun doing mass e-mails, community leafleting (talking to Raza in the streets), putting this information on movement web sites, and publishing this information in the next issue of Las Calles (CMPP newsletter). Also, we are implementing a letter campaign to the California Department of Corrections.

Anyone interested supporting this particular issue, please contact CMPP at:
Chicano Mexicano Prison Project
PO BOX 620095
San Diego, CA 92162
(619) 696-9224

Que Viva La Raza!
Cathy Espitia
Coordinator, CMPP

Below is a Press Release by compaero Steve Castillo, which explains from the point of the view of the hunger strikers, the reasons for their actions.

Press Release From Pelican Bay State Prison Inmates
We Merely Seek To Be Treated Humanely And Fairly

On July 1, 2001, myself and several other prisoners of all ethnic groups will begin a hunger strike in solidarity and in protest to the on-going arbitrary and oppressive gang policy by the California Department of Corrections (CDC).

CDC has a policy and practice of labeling prisoners as gang affiliates and placing them in the Security Housing Unit(SHU) for an indefinite period of time. In the SHU, prisoners are confined to their cells for 22 1/2 hours a day. There are no windows or view of the outside world. No programs are available. Idleness, isolation, and sensory deprivation are the norm. Prisoners have been housed in the SHU under this policy for 5, 10, 15 years or more. And the SHU placement was imposed not for any violation of law or prison rule infraction, but rather as a result of the gang label imposed on prisoners by CDC.

The main basis for our protest is that CDC refuses to implement clear, fair, and uniform standards for accurately determining whether (or not) a prisoner is truly a gang affiliate or found unsuitable for SHU release based on false, unreliable, or out-right ridiculous information.

For instance, we have been labeled as gang affiliate or found unsuitable for SHU release for merely talking to other prisoners labeled as gang affiliates. And it doesn't even matter if the alleged gang affiliate is a relative, or, if a prisoner knows of another's affiliation -or, if that CDC affiliation label is true.

Other examples are: signing a card for a dying prisoner, prisoners assisting each other with legal work, or an issue of speech and an association that has absolutely nothing to do with gang affiliation or gang related matters. Even some of our family members and friends have been labeled by CDC as gang affiliates and denied visits with us.

For years we have been denied SHU release or parole because we refuse to "debrief" (snitch); only to learn that in 1999, a court of law found that requirement to be an illegal CDC regulation. Now, CDC claims we can be release from the SHU if we remain six years clean from "gang activity". Problem is, CDC refuses to give a clear definition as to what constitutes "gang activity". And, as a result we are being kept in the SHU under the same examples previously mentioned.

Further, it is not difficult to imagine our frustration over knowing that other prisoners serve out their entire prison sentence in general prison population, which is often a sentence shorter than the one we serve in the SHU as a result of a type of speech and association that is not unlawful or in violation of any prison regulation.

We have continuously exhausted letter campaigns and administrative appeals to no avail. We can not get the courts to give our legal challenges the timely and adequate review they deserve. Therefore, we feel we have no other recourse but to strike and bring to public light the severity of the issues.

It is important to note that we do not seek to avoid responsibility or consequences for our actions. Yes, we must adhere to the law and prison regulations, but we also expect CDC to be a model of compliance to do the same. We merely seek to be treated humanely and fairly, with an opportunity to demonstrate our suitability for parole and SHU release.

Finally, over the years I have received letters from friends and families of prisoners I know, and many who I don't know. They ask, sometimes beg me, to help their husbands, sons or fathers to get out of the SHU. And, I don't know what is more difficult; reading how badly a mother wants to hold her son before she dies; a son telling me his father is going crazy in here; a daughter who wants her father out of the SHU so he can parole and give her hand in marriage; or just trying to explain to them, the senselessness of the CDC policy.

After seven years in the Pelican Bay-SHU, one thing that is perfectly clear to me: this protest is not just about us prisoners and CDC, it's also about our family and the evolving standards of decency that signifies a maturing human race.

Steve Castillo
#D-89028 SHU D8-219
P.O. Box 7500
Crescent City, CA 95523

Part or all of this maybe reproduced if it is used to advance the National Mexicano Liberation Struggle and the struggles of oppressed people throughout the world. To get permission, write to the:

La Verdad Publications
P.O. BOX 620095
San Diego, CA 92162

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add your comments

Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 7 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
Is this the prison's fault?? Lori Monday, Jul. 09, 2001 at 9:04 AM
Why is this posted? Crow Monday, Jul. 09, 2001 at 12:40 PM
Strike over IC Monday, Jul. 09, 2001 at 12:44 PM
Re Pelican Bay SHU Ed Monday, Jul. 09, 2001 at 11:31 PM
Dear Ed Trapper Tuesday, Jul. 10, 2001 at 3:57 AM
Dear Trapper, et al Ed Tuesday, Jul. 10, 2001 at 4:37 PM
Correction to web address ED Tuesday, Jul. 10, 2001 at 5:17 PM
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