WILPF Santa Cruz works to end solitary confinement torture

Santa Cruz WILPF members Cat Heron Steele and Willow Katz protest torture and the Trump inauguration, January 20, 2017. Credit: John Malkin.

By Willow Katz, Santa Cruz WILPF

Since 2012, over 2,500 prisoners in California have been released from Security Housing Units (SHU)—solitary—to general prison population, due to: historic hunger strikes; California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation regulation reform; and the Ashker v. Governor of California class action lawsuit settlement.

The WILPF Santa Cruz Branch co-sponsors Together to End Solitary, nationwide actions on the 23rd of every month to end solitary confinement torture and mass incarceration. The date, the 23rd, represents the 23-plus hours a day people are locked in solitary cells. These actions started as a statewide effort in California and quickly turned nationwide.

From 2011 to 2013, the California Prisoner Human Rights Movement carried out three hunger strikes against solitary confinement and prison abuses, and for five core demands for their constitutional and human rights. People of color account for 85 to 90 percent of those in CA SHUs, many of them jailhouse lawyers and political activists. After the 2012 Agreement to End Hostilities was implemented across racial/ethnic and geographic lines, over 30,000 CA prisoners and hundreds nationwide joined the 2013 hunger strike.

On September 1, 2015, the prisoner-led class action civil rights lawsuit Ashker v. Governor of California successfully settled. It effectively ends indefinite, long-term solitary confinement in all California state prisons. Thousands of people have been released from solitary to general prison population, where they are promoting the Agreement to End Hostilities, which has greatly decreased violence among people incarcerated in California.

The UN Mandela Rules prohibit over 15 days in solitary and any isolation of children, adolescents, persons with mental disability, and pregnant or breast-feeding women. Yet thousands of people remain in prolonged solitary confinement in California adult prisons, and up to 100,000 people are in solitary in US prisons, with thousands in youth facilities and untold numbers in jails and immigration and military detention centers. Help us promote the Agreement to End Hostilities.

For almost three years in California, thousands of people locked up in solitary have been awakened with loud noise and flashlights in their eyes every 30 minutes, night and day. Write a letter to end this sleep deprivation torture. Read prisoner quotes and expert reports, find a wealth of information, and take action on the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity website.

WILPF Santa Cruz continues the work to end solitary confinement, mass incarceration, and human rights abuses of currently and formerly incarcerated people.

On settlement of Ashker v. Governor of California, CA prisoner plaintiffs stated on August 31, 2015: “Our movement rests on a foundation of unity: our Agreement to End Hostilities. It is our hope that this groundbreaking agreement to end the violence between the various ethnic groups in California prisons will inspire not only state prisoners, but also jail detainees, county prisoners and our communities on the street, to oppose ethnic and racial violence. . . . As the recent statements of President Obama and of Justice Kennedy illustrate, the nation is turning against solitary confinement. We celebrate this victory while, at the same time, we recognize that achieving our goal of fundamentally transforming the criminal justice system and stopping the practice of warehousing people in prison will be a protracted struggle. We are fully committed to that effort, and invite you to join us.”

For more information, contact phssreachingout@gmail.com.


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