Corcoran Hunger Strike: An Act of Men Desperate to be Treated Fairly

Issue 58

An Extended Lockdown and Human Rights Violations led to a Recent Hunger Strike at Corcoran. Following is some background information, based on a statement published by Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee in January:

Units at Corcoran State Prison had been on "modified program" for three and a half months; no visitation, no canteen, no packages, no educational, rehab or vocational programming, and little yard time. The pretext for this indefinite lockdown by CDCr of hundreds of prisoners for months on end is an altercation on September 28th in which three prisoners were attacked and injured.

Group punishments and indefinite isolation are standard CDCr practices, which escalate trauma and conflict, and ultimately promote violence and destabilization within facilities.

Following were the Hunger Strike demands:
● Lift Lock-Down.
● Allow Visits.
● To be Allowed to Attend Educational Vocational and Rehabilitation Programs That We Are Enrolled In.
● To Be Allow to Receive Commissary and Packages.
● To Be Given Our Weekly 10 hours Mandated of Outdoor Exercise Yard.
● To Be Treated Fairly.

UPDATE as of mid - February, published by ShadowProof:
Corcoran hunger strikers are speaking out after the warden backed out of negotiations to end a months-long lockdown and violence orchestrated by prison officials.

At its peak, 270 people participated in the Corcoran Hunger Strike, in which prisoners refused food trays for three weeks in January. They suspended their action when Warden Ken Clark agreed to negotiate and pledged to meet two of their six demands by restoring access to packages and the canteen.

But prisoners say negotiations have not progressed in the weeks since that first meeting and Warden Clark has failed to keep his promises. Family members and supporters gathered outside the prison on February 9 and 10 to protest during what would have been visitation hours.

On February 11th, the prisoners refused their morning meal and held a day-long noise demonstration by banging on the doors and windows of their cells. However, a decision has not been made as to whether they will resume the strike.

Shadowproof interviewed two prisoners incarcerated at Corcoran about living under lockdown and the gladiator fights. They are identified using pseudonyms out of fear of reprisals from prison officials for speaking out.

Junior:
“You can imagine how bad living conditions on lockdown had become in order for a group of men to decide I would rather starve myself rather than continue on living like this.” Families and Friends standing in Solidarity with their loved ones. “Lockdown in Corcoran is basically a type of torture in the form of sensory deprivation,” Junior told Shadowproof.
“By taking away visits, [you’re] depriving us [of a] social component that is key to our rehabilitation, that human contact. And it also further isolates us from society,” Junior said. “Taking all this as well as our Education and Rehabilitation programs leads a person into a state of hopelessness...”
“...We were definitely encouraged when people on the outside stepped in to support us.”
“One of the hunger strikers’ major concerns involves fights between rival prison groups on the recreation yard, which are organized by prison staff. This yard time is precious for prisoners, especially those living on lockdowns, because it’s an opportunity to exercise, socialize, and access the outdoors. But these arrangements, known as “gladiator fights” or “dogfights,” have turned this time into a nightmare for prisoners on 3C Unit ... We live on a day-to-day basis not knowing if you will be the next one... if you will be put out for a one-on-one [fight] or if you will be set up for a two-on-one or even a three-on-one [fight] and seriously hurt.”
“We are at the mercy of the guards.”

Junior urged Californians to contact their elected officials and let them know they won’t tolerate the lockdowns, the violence, or the “overall disregard of the men affected. 

Eddie:
“All your privileges are taken,” he said, “so basically you’re in a cage like an animal.” “We’ve been like this for over 4 months. As for how it is in the unit, after all this time, a lot of anger, depression, and stress.”

Eddie said the hunger strike has not been easy. “They carry a lot of retaliation from staff.”
“...your body breaks down physically and mentally...and of course, just add your anger and
depression to that.” He added prisoners are “willing to sacrifice our bodies for what is right. We are human beings and all we ask for is to be treated fairly and give us what little we have coming.”
Eddie said they are lucky to get two or three hours of yard time each week, however he explained, “When we do, you can’t enjoy it because you’re constantly looking over your shoulders.”
“Also at least once a week they run…gladiator fights. They let inmates out...that don’t get along. The COs are the ones that choose who goes out and [who they] want to see fight, stabbed, or seriously injured….As soon as the four inmates step outside, they attack each other. Nurses and COs are already on the yard, ready because they know what’s going to happen.”
“This is an easy fix but this warden does not care.”
“[The gladiator fights take] a big toll on people because we don’t know if once we step out that we’ll make it back safe....You lose sleep...It affects your family as well because they’re constantly worrying about you and wanna know what’s going on with you since [they] ain’t getting no phone calls.”

Eddie urged people on the outside to help by shedding light on the gladiator fights. “Everyone needs to know what’s really going on here in Corcoran,”

● Editor’s Note: As of the publication of this paper, CPF has not received an update regarding the Corcoran Strike.

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