The West Coast Prison Strike and Its Local Participants

Today, according to press releases and numerous prisoner-affiliated newsletters, a West Coast prison hunger strike and work stoppage is set to commence - including at the Green Hill juvenile facility in Chehalis. The protests come in solidarity with a hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and closer to home hunger striking inmates in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California, a facility that has seen two such strikes since 2011. A third strike at Crescent City is scheduled to start today, according to the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity blog.

The list of demands being made by the nonviolent hunger striking inmates is meager at best, and varies from location to location. At Crescent City, which serves as the West Coast epicenter for the peaceful protests, prisoners are seeking an end to long-term solitary confinement and other reforms. According to the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity blog, prisoners at Pelican Bay feel the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has negotiated in bad faith and failed to live up to past promises, prompting today’s action.

“For the past (2) years we’ve patiently kept an open dialogue with state officials, attempting to hold them to their promise to implement meaningful reforms, responsive to our demands,” states a Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity post from June 21. “For the past seven months we have repeatedly pointed out CDCR’s failure to honor their word—and we have explained in detail the ways in which they’ve acted in bad faith and what they need to do to avoid the resumption of our protest action.

“On June 19, 2013, we participated in a mediation session ordered by the Judge in our class action lawsuit, which unfortunately did not result in CDCR officials agreeing to settle the case on acceptable terms. While the mediation process will likely continue, it is clear to us that we must be prepared to renew our political non-violent protest on July 8th to stop torture in the SHUs and Ad-Segs of CDCR.”

In Chehalis, at the Green Hill juvenile facility, prisoners have identified a list of 10 demands, including better access to legal representation, education, food, and telephone service. Prisoners at Green Hill are also calling on the state to “Ban the Box” - writing in a list published this month by the prison newsletter ¡Rock!: “Stop branding felons as criminals for life. Stop discrimination against felons for Pell Grants, food stamps, welfare, public housing, or job applications. If the box on job applications denies us real work, how can we make money legally?”

According to a press release issued this morning by the Free Us All coalition in Washington, at noon protestors will gather outside the King County Jail in support of today’s West Coast prison strike and the hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay. While at the moment the Green Hill juvenile facility is the only confirmed local participant, the effort may end up stretching farther. As the release states: “There is as-yet unconfirmed word that other prisons in Washington may join the strike. So far, only prisoners at Green Hill and Snake River [Oregon] have issued statements. Whether other prisons have joined the strike is not expected to be known for several days. (A successful prison strike—prisoners refusing meals or work or in some other way not cooperating with the prison routine—may result in a lockdown, slowing communication.) Expect confirmation later in the week.”

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