Incarceration Nation

Message from the Pelican Bay Representatives of the Hunger Strike

Message to the Legislators and Our Supporters from the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Representatives

October 9, 2013—As human beings who are committed to securing human rights for all people confined in California’s prisons, The Short Corridor Collective greets you with a firm embrace of love and solidarity. We send our endless respect to all our supporters and people of conscience for seeing the value in our humanity and staying committed to this struggle. History will prove you to be among the champions of morality, fighting relentlessly against the beast simply because you know it is the right thing to do.

Since we decided to suspend our peaceful hunger strike, we have been working on healing our bodies and reformulating our plan for moving forward. Many of us are still suffering the physical impact of not consuming any food for 60 days. We are still attempting to get accurate medical evaluations done to determine what damage our bodies have sustained. Make no mistake that what we have put our bodies through was no easy test to endure, but we all realized the necessity of carrying it through.

We also realize that this moment in history itself is a great test for us all. This test will determine whether California is ready to correct its mistakes and reestablish itself as the Golden State, a trendsetter in political thought and action, or if California’s legacy will forever be tainted by its torturous prison conditions and the veil of secrecy and denial that those in power struggle to maintain.

We must not lose sight of the fact that these conditions exist here. No matter how often the Department of Corrections repeats the lie that solitary confinement is not used in California, our decades of existence in these concrete tombs, isolated and alone, will stand as a testament to the truth. No matter how many times the Department of Corrections tries to justify our suffering and dehumanization through character assassination and dirty political games, the whole world will watch and bear witness as we continue to show our unity by fighting for human rights in the most virtuous and honorable ways possible.

This next phase of the struggle will require the power of the people more than ever. We have to work with, and urge our representatives in the legislature to ensure that the following changes are made in the interest of imprisoned people, their loved ones, their communities—in the interests of humanity.

We must put an end to solitary confinement. There is no place for indefinite solitary confinement in a civilized society. Human beings should not be treated like this. Isolation and Administrative Segregation must only be used as a last resort. Right now we have thousands of people who are isolated in California prisons as a first resort to any problem; from lack of appropriate bed space, to mental health issues, to misconduct, to alleged gang affiliation. These practices have been damaging and destructive to the people who have had to endure them (us prisoners) as well as the entire prison system, the communities outside these prison walls and the state’s economy. Enough is enough.

We must also ensure that all prisoners including those who are in isolation have regular and meaningful contact with their families and loved ones.  Allowing prisoners to maintain healthy relationships with other human beings is essential for safer prisons and a better world. It is undisputed that prisoners who have regular contact with their families and loved ones in a way that fosters meaningful relationships do better while they are in prison and recidivate less often. Preventing fathers and mothers from hugging their children or sons and daughters from speaking with their parents and loved one does not serve any legitimate purpose.

We cannot allow the Department of Corrections to continue treating human beings this way. We need our legislative leaders to take a moral and political stand for human rights and let the Department of Corrections know that torture will not be tolerated here. Take a stand right now. Don’t wait. There have been multiple internal policy reforms within the Department of Corrections, but no substantive changes to our conditions. Many of us suffer now just as we did in 1989 when Pelican Bay first opened and just as we did in 2002 when the first Pelican Bay Hunger Strike happened. That strike was only called off when legislators vowed to get involved. And here we are again in 2013.

We cannot ignore the urgency of this moment. Let there be no illusions about the difficulty of making these changes, but they are necessary and inevitable. The opportunity is here; it is up to us to seize it so that we, and those that come after us, do not end up here again.

Respectfully, The Pelican Bay Short Corridor Representatives

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, October 9, 2013