By Christie Thompson
More than 12,400 inmates across California have been fasting since Monday, to protest solitary confinement and call for improved prison conditions. The strike, involving roughly two-thirds of the state’s prisons, is one of the largest in California history.
So far no prisoners have been force-fed, and the Corrections Department says they have no current plans to do so. “Hopefully no one will get to that point,” said a spokesperson for California’s corrections department. During a similar strike in 2011, the said he planned to seek court permission to force-feed inmates. (The strike ended before he did so.)
As lawmakers call for an end to the force-feeding of Guantanamo detainees, the California strike serves as a reminder: inmates on U.S. soil can ultimately be given the same treatment.
While there is no national data available on the prevalence of force-feeding in U.S. prisons, a number of cases have been documented in recent years, largely after appeals to stop the process were rejected by state courts. The courts have typically ruled that prisons can force-feed an inmate without their consent if it’s needed to maintain the safety and security of the prison.
Connecticut inmate William Coleman, who is hunger striking over what he says was a wrongful conviction, has been force-fed since 2008. The Connecticut Supreme Court hassided with prison officials, who said that Coleman’s strike could threaten the prison’s security and lead to copycat strikes.
More recently, New York inmate Leroy Dorsey was denied the right to refuse feeding in May, when the New York Court of Appeals ruled the prison could continue to restrain and feed him with nasogastric tubes.
Bioethicist Dr. Jacob Appel, who opposes the practice, says he believes that court rulings have resulted in more prisons turning to force-feeding in response to hunger strikes. “It’s a little bit of bad press if you force-feed inmates,” he said. “It’s a lot of bad press if you have a lot of protesting inmates and one of them dies.”
California is one of only three states whose courts have ruled against force-feeding. In 1993, the state Supreme Court ruled that one a paralyzed inmate had the right to “decline life-sustaining treatment, even if to do so will cause or hasten death.”
But the judges in that case noted that prisons could use force-feeding if a hunger strike was a threat to order in the prison and the safety of other inmates. “We do not preclude prison authorities from establishing the need to override an inmate’s choice to decline medical intervention,” the judges wrote.
California prison policy says that inmates can refuse medical treatment as long as they’re conscious and able to do so. Prisoners can also sign statements that say they cannot be administered treatment, regardless of their condition. “Force-feeding inmates is not part of our medical protocol,” said Joyce Hayhoe, Director of Legislation for the California Correctional Health Care Services.
But in 2011, the former head of California prisons said he thought those prohibitions against force-feeding could be overruled with a court’s approval. To do so, the Corrections Department would have to prove that force-feeding was in the state’s interest to maintain a safe prison environment for other inmates.
The department never actually sought court permission, as officials agreed to meet with inmates and said they were reviewing the state’s solitary confinement policy. The two strikes in 2011 ended after three weeks.
The prison system did revise its solitary confinement policies in March, but inmates now striking say the changes do nothing to limit the length of solitary confinement sentences, which can continue indefinitely. Inmates are also calling for an end to “group punishment,” such as race-based lockdowns that restrict an entire race of inmates for one prisoner’s violation. The California Corrections Department is facing federal lawsuits over both practices.
“At this point, it is clear to us that the [Corrections Department] has no intention of implementing the substantive policy changes that were agreed to fifteen or sixteen months ago,” organizers said in a press release, announcing plans to renew the strike.
Hunger strikers at Pelican Bay prison have released a list of five demands, which inmates in other prisons have expanded.
Corrections officials have announced that inmates will face consequences for participating in the strike, ranging from being denied family visits to being put in solitary confinement. “It is against state law to participate in disturbances such as mass hunger strikes,” said corrections spokesperson Jeffrey Callison. “Eventually participants will be issued rule violation reports.”
Dolores Canales’s son, an inmate at Pelican Bay prison, is striking for the third time in two years. She is worried prison officials may be less willing to work with inmates this time around. “They’re going to let them go God only knows how long without eating,” she said.
Canales has lead efforts to organize other family members in support of the strike. She, like many family members she knows, has avoided discussing force-feeding with her son. “I don’t want to know,” she said. “If it were up to me I would say do whatever it takes to have him live.”
Isaac Ontiveros, a spokesperson with the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Network, hopes the size of the strike will push corrections officials to consider inmates’ demands, and make it harder to crack down on the protest.
As far as force-feeding, “It doesn’t need to come to that,” Ontiveros said. Prison officials “can end this very, very simply.”
PLEASE SHARE- RePost to Reddit, Digg, Facebook, Twitter, etc. (below)
30,000 California Prisoners Hunger Strike Against Long-Term Solitary Confinement
Amnesty International Denounces Torture in California Prisons
The Crisis of Juvenile Prison Rape: A New Report: “Sexual abuse in juvenile detention is a national crisis”
Suit claims abuse, filth at juvenile detention center
Uncompromising Photos Expose Juvenile Detention in America
Feds: Mississippi county runs ‘school-to-prison pipeline’
Gov. Perry Ignores Massive Abuse In Texas Juvenile Detention System While Taking Money From Worst Offenders
America’s 10 Worst Prisons: Pt. 10 Rikers Island
America’s 10 Worst Prisons: Pt. 9 Reeves County
America’s 10 Worst Prisons: Pt. 8 Julia Tutwiler
America’s 10 Worst Prisons: Pt. 7 Pelican Bay
America’s 10 Worst Prisons: Pt. 6 LA County
America’s 10 Worst Prisons: Pt. 5 NOLA
America’s 10 Worst Prisons: Pt. 4 Polunsky
America’s 10 Worst Prisons: Pt. 3 Tent City
America’s 10 Worst Prisons: Pt. 2 ADX
America’s 10 Worst Prisons Pt. 1 Walnut Grove
Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Not Talk to the Police
Philadelphia Closes 23 Schools, New $400 Million Prison Being Built
Riverside police officer convicted of forcing women to perform sex acts on him to avoid being arrested
Cop gets blow job from hooker THEN arrests her
LAPD officer, arrested for lewd acts on children
Police Officer Arrested on Child Rape
Officer’s rape conviction upheld
Court officer ‘fondles’ woman, has her arrested
How to File a Complaint Against a Police Officer
How to Sue the Police
When Can I Sue Police for False Arrest?
Know Your Rights With Police Officers
Know Your Rights- Detention And Pat Down- Do’s and Don’ts
Know Your Rights: Supreme Court Ruling Allows Strip Searches for Any Arrest
The Supreme Court Decided Your Silence Can Be Used Against You
Know Your Rights: Police Dogs
Know Your Rights: Border Patrol & the “War on Drugs”
5 Ways to Fight Police Brutality
About Police Brutality
Police brutality in the United States
Law Enforcement Misconduct Statistics
Police brutality and use of excessive force
Strike Updates: Rally against RCMP Police Brutality
CopWatch activist arrested
Corrupt Chicago P.D. Pt. 1
Corrupt Box Elder County Sheriff’s
Corrupt Green Bay P.D. Pt.1
Corrupt L.A.P.D. Pt II
LAPD Chickens Come Home to Roost
Corrupt L.A.P.D. Pt. I
Corrupt Corona PD
Corrupt Texas Police Pt. I
Top 1,000 Cases of police brutality in the United States
5 Worst NYPD Brutality Cases
Top 5 Most Corrupt U.S. Police Officers Of All-Time
FBI Agents Dating Drug Dealers, Paying for Sex
FBI removes many redactions in Marilyn Monroe file
F.B.I. Counterterrorism Agents Monitored Occupy Movement, Records Show
The F.B.I. and Dr. King
FBI Raid News Media Offices
FBI agent apologizes to victims- The F.B.I. and MAFIA gangboss James “Whitey” Bulger Pt. 3
A Note to the NYPD
Pigs (a poem)
(Three complaints and you’re out) Should Citizens Have the Right to Fire a Police Officer?
Police Taser 11-year-old autistic girl
Boy, 10, tasered by police
Texas Police Tase Overweight Asthmatic to Death in Drug Raid
Man dies after he was shocked by police with Taser gun
Man dies in police custody after being Tased, pepper sprayed outside Douglas County courthouse
North Carolina: Cops Kill Teen In Elementary School Parking Lot In Marijuana Sting Gone Bad
Officers Fired For Breaking Inmate’s Legs
David Ranta, convicted more than 20 years ago for a murder he didn’t commit, is a free man after a re-examination of his case
No Charges For Cops Who Beat Up a Motorist
Police Commandeer 2 Homes by Force Owners Arrested for Obstructing
Police chief suspended for Facebook pic
Arrest warrants issued for 2 Dallas police officers
Craigslist Sting- Officer convicted
Prison Terms Cut For `Marquette 10`
Harold Rodriguez, Chicago Police Officer, Arrested After Soliciting, Accepting $5,000 Bribe
Former Camden officer gets 46 months in corruption probe
4 Milwaukee police officers charged in strip-search case
Texas women sexually assaulted by police over marijuana smell, no marijuana
“Looking for drugs” Cops Strip Search Mom, “Forcibly” Pull Tampon Out of Her for Maybe Rolling Through Stop Sign
Two woman given Body Cavity Searches on the side of the Highway
Woman arrested while seeking medical attention- dies in Police custody
UVA student jailed for possession of bottled water, ice cream
Principal Strip Searches Innocent 10-Year Old
Police Officers on Meth
Meth lab turns out to be sweet maple syrup operation
DEA teaches meth-cooking 101
DA says evidence against ex-councilman will be Ignored
Fugitive ex-cop Dorner barricaded in cabin after shooting two officers
Killer Cop’s Facebook Manifesto
Police open fire on 2nd wrong truck in effort to kill ex-cop
Weapons and Camping gear found in cop killer’s burned truck
Manhunt For Ex-LAPD Officer Drags On In The California Mountains
Christopher Dorner’s Vendetta
Know Your Rights: Obama’s War On Weed
DRUG BUST: Five Tips for Spotting an Undercover Cop
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Administration of Justice Identification of a Drug User
Drug Test 101 Know Your Rights
C.I.A.s Real Role in the Afghan Heroin Trade
C.I.A & the MAFIA & the Global Drug Trade (Then & Now)
CIA Promotes Person Who Destroyed Torture Tapes
Money Laundering: Follow the Hedge Funds
Banks Financing Mexican Drug Cartels Admits Wells Fargo
HSBC banks actively laundered money for drug lords and terrorist
Senate investigation: HSBC Banks criminal account holders
Are you willing to be arrested?