Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Murder of Billy Sell

Billy Sell self-portrait #1

The above image is a self-portrait of Billy “Guero” Sell, hunger striker who died at Corcoran state prison on July 22, 2013. CDCR attempted to cover this up, not even informing prisoner advocates it met with in the following days that a death had occurred. When outside supporters were informed days later by other prisoners, CDCR reluctantly confirmed the news, but insisted that Sell had not been on hunger strike, but had “merely” committed suicide by hanging. (Which in itself would say plenty about the conditions he was being held in!)

Perhaps not so coincidentally, in the intervening days, the press reported that “independent monitors” from the state Inspector General were being sent into prisons to review how hunger strikers were being treated. The initial results of this “independent monitoring” seem unpromising, but as preemptive damage control it all makes a certain kind of sense.

While the precise details are not yet known, CDCR has since been forced to admit that Sell was in fact on hunger strike, and had been registered as such until just a day before he died. (Keep in mind that if a prisoner accepts any liquid other than water, such as the Kool-Aid issued with meals, that prisoner in counted as ending his hunger strike. If a prisoner is seen “fishing” – passing anything from cell-to-cell – that prisoner is similarly considered off hunger strike. This and other counting tricks keeps the number of hunger strikers low.)

Carol Strickman, an attorney with Legal Services for Prisoners With Children, has provided this list of other prisoners who, over the past two years, have similarly died and had their deaths ruled suicides, in the context of the ongoing hunger strikes against solitary:

Johnny Vick apparently hung himself on Friday, September 16, 2011, in his cell at Pelican Bay State Prison. This was during the period between the first and second phases of the 2011 hunger strike (July 1 – 20, then September 26 – October 13). He was 30 years old. We understand from Mr. Vick’s family that he had mental health issues. We are not certain that he was in the SHU or Ad-Seg at the time of his death, but had at one point been in the SHU. He may have been on suicide watch at the time of his death. It was reported that proper procedures were not followed.

Alex Machado hung himself on October 24, 2011, in his Ad-Seg cell at Pelican Bay State Prison. He had been placed in Ad-Seg at Kern Valley State Prison in December 2007. He was later transferred to Pelican Bay SHU in February 2010. In June, 2011, he was removed from the SHU and transferred to Ad-Seg at Pelican Bay due to his mental health needs. We do not know if he participated in the hunger strikes. Alex was known and liked for his assistance to other prisoners in their legal matters.

Neighboring prisoners reported that he was screaming for help before going silent. A longer report is available on Solitary Watch.

Hozel Blanchard killed himself on November 8 or 9, 2011 in his Ad-Seg cell in Calipatria State Prison. He was 41. In his last weeks, he wrote to his family and to the courts about guard harassment and he sought an emergency transfer out of that prison. He also wrote that he had been on hunger strike and had been hospitalized for it.

Christian Gomez died on February 2, 2012, while on hunger strike at

Corcoran State Prison. He was 27 years old. Corcoran prisoners had issued a set of demands to the warden in December 2011, and resumed a hunger strike in late January. Mr. Gomez had only been on hunger strike for a few days. His death may be attributable to an underlying medical condition possibly aggravated by a lack of treatment by the prison’s health care department.

As Strickman notes, “Regarding suicides in general, a report is written every year that analyzes each suicide, and recommendations are made to CDCR. The person who has written these reports resigned this year, stating that his recommendations are not followed.”

Commenting on these “suicides”, Chad Landrum (another hunger striker) wrote,

“How do we know that these men intended suicide? We don’t. But of greater significance, we do know that there were repeated attempts to call “Man Down”, kicking on cell doors, etc., which was willfully ignored and neglected by guards. In parallel circumstances, were not state employees involved, anyone else would be charged with either murder or at the very least manslaughter.”

Indeed, regardless of the precise manner in which Sell and the other suicided prisoners died, their deaths can be rightly seen as cases of murder. Just some of the many murders that have resulted from isolation torture, the cruelty of captivity and confinement, and the vicious refusal of prisoncrats and government leaders to negotiate in good faith and meet the prisoners’ just demands. Such systemic murder is the logical conclusion of a system designed to destroy people, the physical corollary to what is primarily intended to occur in their minds and spirits.

We must think hard on how to break the impasse and force an end to the ongoing confinement and torture of tens of thousands.

More lives depend on it.

on the main Kersplebedeb website: http://kersplebedeb.com/posts/the-murder-of-billy-sell/

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Letter from a Hunger Striker: “If We Can Do This in Prisons Then Our Barrios and Ghettos Can Also Form United Fronts Out in Society…”

Today marks day nine of our peaceful protest hunger strike/work strike. We have heard on the news that people are being rehoused in an effort to isolate people further! The whole purpose of what we are doing is to protest isolation and as a result this concentration kamp reacts by further isolating us!

The news said 30,000 people participated in this prison strike which made history. But the state has also made history by torturing thousands throughout Amerikkka and its gulags. We are facing an extermination, a neutralization of thousands of oppressed mostly Brown and Black peoples. But this soft genocide is an extension of the long lineage of colonization that Chicanos, New Afrikans and First Nations people have been facing for 500 years. Prisons in the U.S. today are but appendages of this legacy of oppression on these shores.

Although we live in this advanced Imperialist state with all its high tech modes of repression and ultra secret technology it continues to underestimate the power of the people. We sit here in a supermax isolation torture center and yet we managed to mobilize 30,000 people in gulags throughout the state and beyond to rise up to these barbaric conditions and we resist this barbaric practice of torturing us en masse.

What seems to anger the state the most is that we have broken with reactionary views and have taken on a more revolutionary stance in our struggle for human rights behind prison walls. We have come to see that the ruling class has pitted us against one another within prisons but this wasn’t the first time. For hundreds of years the state has found ways to use divide and conquer tactics to keep us unable to come together for a resolution to our common oppression.

Our biggest advancement has been in our ability to form this United Front and it frightens the state because if we can do this in prisons then our Barrios and Ghettos can also form United Fronts out in society and this is when real people’s power can be exercised outside the State’s influence, it is when the people can be introduced to alternative forms of authority.

Today we continue in our indefinite hunger strike as we face the beasts to stop the torture and this is but one step toward some real transformations in U.S. prisons and throughout Amerikka.

People’s power!

Jose H. Villarreal


PO Box 7500

Crescent City, CA 95532

on the main Kersplebedeb website: http://kersplebedeb.com/posts/letter-from-a-hunger-striker-day9/

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Panel Discussion on California Hunger Strike

Panel Discussion: The California Prisoner Hunger Strike & Ending Long-term Solitary Confinement on 7-17-13 at Revolution Books in Berkeley, CA

Andres Thomas Conteris, CloseGitmo.net – Stop U.S. Torture in Gitmo and U.S. Prisons; Director, Program of the Americans of Nonviolence International — recently interviewed hunger strikers in Pelican Bay SHU

Steven Czifra is a UC Berkeley student who spent a total of eight years in solitary confinement, including five in the Pelican Bay SHU. Along with other UC students and professors, he is taking part in a rolling solidarity fast in support of the prisoners and their demands.

Larry Everest, covers the prisoner hunger strikes for Revolution newspaper and is the author of Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda. (See Revolution Interview: Carol Strickman, from Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition Prisoners’ Struggle Against “Cruel and Unusual Punishment Amounting to Torture”)

Michael Montgomery is a reporter for KQED and the Center for Investigative Reporting who has covered California prison issues.

Danny Murillo was arrested at 16 years young, and sentenced to 15 years in state prison. 17 months were spent in Administrative Segregation (the hole) and six years in the Security Housing Unit (the SHU). Currently an undergrad student at UC Berkeley in the Ethnic Studies department and a George Miller Scholar.

On July 8, California prison authorities admitted that over 30,000 prisoners had joined the hunger strike by refusing meals. The Los Angeles Times said this “could be the largest prison protest in state history.” Prisoner representatives from the Pelican Bay State Prison SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement said, “our nonviolent peaceful protest of our subjection to decades of indefinite state-sanctioned torture, via long-term solitary confinement will resume…consisting of a hunger strike/work stoppage of indefinite duration until CDCR [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] signs a legally binding agreement meeting our demands, the heart of which mandates an end to long-term solitary confinement (as well as additional major reforms).”

Co-sponsored by Revolution Books and

the Stop Mass Incarceration Network-Bay Area

on the main Kersplebedeb website: http://kersplebedeb.com/posts/panel-discussion-on-california-hunger-strike/

Protected: Medical Abuse in 2013 California Prison Strikes

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on the main Kersplebedeb website: http://kersplebedeb.com/posts/medical-abuse-2013/

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Statement of Solidarity from Incarcerated Women Across Massachusetts

This statement was created by Members of The Prison Birth Project:

As Prisoners across the country prepare to strike, our hearts and thoughts are with them. As incarcerated women we know first hand many of the abuses the strikers face on a daily basis—as well as many of the repercussions they may face in retaliation for the action against these abuse.

As incarcerated mothers we experience lack of access to healthy food, lack of respect, autonomy and access to health care, lack of access to children and are regularly set up by the system to fail.

As we stand in solidarity with striking prisoners, we ask you to stand in solidarity with us. Not just on July 8th—but every day of the year. To be in solidarity with us, we need folks from outside to come inside! Being behind the wall is hard and we need support while we are here, so when we get out we can be leaders. We need allies to be here both inside and out, to support us in creating space and community, to come together and be leaders. We need to be leaders because we are the experts.

We are here. We need folks to listen from their heart and be by our side when we are ready to speak, to strike and to stand out. We need allies to rally in support of policies inside and out so we can survive while we are here and thrive when we get out. We need allies to help us break down the wall between men and women inside—to help us bridge the gap and support our families through the realities of the criminal system.

Because of our experience, we are the experts on these issues and we ask that all allies, reformers, abolitionists, lawyers, legislators and our families work together, come together around the realities – not rhetoric – and help us move mountains and break down the walls in a supportive and sustainable ways physically, spiritually, politically and personally.

on the main Kersplebedeb website: http://kersplebedeb.com/posts/statement-of-solidarity-from-incarcerated-women-across-massachusetts/

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

July 9 Message from Short Corridor Hungerstrike Reps

Greetings to our supporters and all people of conscience.

We are grateful for your support of our peaceful protest against the state-sanctioned torture that happens not only here at Pelican Bay but in prisons everywhere. We have taken up this hunger strike and work stoppage, which has included 30,000 prisoners in California so far, not only to improve our own conditions but also an act of solidarity with all prisoners and oppressed people around the world.

We encourage everyone to take action to support the strike wherever they live. Sign the petition demanding California Governor stop the torture; plan rolling solidarity fasts if you are able; use every means to spread the word; and participate in non-violent direct action to put pressure on decision-makers.

If it was not for your support, we would have died in 2011. Thank you everyone. We are confident we will prevail.

In Solidarity,

– Todd Ashker, C-58191, PBSP-SHU, D4-121

– Arturo Castellanos, C-17275, PBSP-SHU, D1-121

– Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C-35671, PBSP-SHU,D1-117

– Antonio Guillen, P-81948, PBSP-SHU, D2-106

The PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Representatives

on the main Kersplebedeb website: http://kersplebedeb.com/posts/july-9-short-corridor/

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

2013 Prisoner Strikes

For more news about the 2013 prisoner strikes, see:

Some background documents:

And background documents from the Short Corridor Collective:

To get daily updates on the 2013 prisoner strikes, subscribe to the Hungerstrike Newsletter using the form in the right sidebar.

on the main Kersplebedeb website: http://kersplebedeb.com/posts/2013-prisoner-strikes/