Please read and spread the below statement from people in solitary confinement in Santa Clara County, California, announcing their upcoming hunger strike to begin Oct 17, 2016 and clearly explaining their human and civil rights demands behind the strike. ACT IN SOLIDARITY by sharing the prisoners’ words, putting pressure on the Santa Clara County Sheriff during the strike (phone numbers provided in the statement), writing letters to the editor, and paying attention to further statements from the Prisoner Human Rights Movement in Santa Clara County Jails.
All the respect across the board! Now onto the following at hand.
The following will consist of an open letter addressed to all prisoners contained within all three facilities of Santa Clara County Jail, in regards to a peaceful protest in the form of an organized hunger strike.
First off, allow us to stress the fact that by no means is this to be considered an attempt to promote or beneﬁt any form of gang, nor is this to be considered gang activity. This letter and its request/call for action is an attempt to enlighten and remain inclusive regardless of race, creed, or color of top/shirt due to classiﬁcation. The content of this letter does not simply pertain to any one group segment, nor any isolated issue, but instead it pertains to all prisoners within the three facilities of Santa Clara County Jail.
We all have a stake at hand, and we all serve to beneﬁt from any success that may transpire as a result of our collective efforts. Therefore, it is important that we try and visualize the impact and full potential of strength and power behind our force as united prisoners for a valid purpose and common beneﬁcial interest. With this in mind, we are now reaching out to all like-minded prisoners who are willing and interested in banding together in a united stance of solidarity under the name of Prisoners’ Human Rights Movement (P.H.R.M.) in order to bring about real meaningful forms of change.
Our chances of success will be greatly increased and will largely depend on our willingness to step up and participate in one form or another. Some positive changes within these facilities have been made due to litigation, the assistance of Prison Law Ofﬁce, Silicon Valley De-Bug and other helpful agencies. But we must also be willing to help ourselves as it is actually us, the prisoner population, who have the most to gain.
Aside from preparation and unity, proper timing is also a key component to our success. These facilities along with Sheriff Laurie Smith are currently under heavy legal pressure and community scrutiny. Therefore we must recognize this opportunity in order to truly seize the moment. As brieﬂy mentioned, our goal is to bring about meaningful, long-standing forms of change by shedding light on and challenging the misuse of authority and abuse of discretion within the administration which translates to violations as well as harsh and unfair conditions for us prisoners.
Our further and speciﬁc goals/purpose are reflected in the following list of demands/core issues which will eventually be served to Sheriff Laurie Smith and other agencies:
l. End: Meaningless classiﬁcation reviews and biased appeal process.
A. Incorporate classiﬁcation practices of other jurisdictions (CDCR, Alameda County, etc.)
B. Establish independent oversight and review of inmate appeal process, jail conditions, practices and policies.
C. Safeguard all due process protections.
2. End: Placement in solitary conﬁnement when there exists no serious rule violation to merit such placement.
a. Prohibit the use of long-term/indeﬁnite solitary conﬁnement.
b. Prohibit the use of solitary conﬁnement based solely on gang allegations, afﬁliation, validation, etc.
A. Follow the classiﬁcation and housing practice of other jurisdictions (CDCR, Alameda County, etc.)
B. Allow all inmates a genuine opportunity to be downclassed and properly integrated into the general population.
C. Determine classiﬁcation/housing of all inmates based on individual behavior.
3. End: Policy/practice of denying inmates adequate clothing.
A. Establish policy that promotes proper hygiene.
B. Provide two sets of tops. and bottoms, three sets of underclothes, and sufﬁcient clothing exchange.
4. End: Jail proﬁteering and exploitation of prisoners and their families through contract bidding of commissary vendors based on kick-backs and political incentives for campaign contributions.
A. Set commissary prices equal to or cheaper than those set in CDCR.
B. Approve more packaging vendors to create a competitive and fair market.
5. End: Recidivism and misappropriation of Inmate Welfare Funds.
A. Expand and provide constructive programming and privileges for all inmates regardless of classiﬁcation status.
B. Create opportunity to engage in meaningful self-help treatment, work, education, and other activities related to having a sense of being a part of a community in preparation for re-entering society for all inmates.
C. Reallocate Inmate Welfare Funds toward education and rehabilitation programs.
Now, our plan of action is to inspire, enlighten, and unite as many Santa Clara County prisoners as possible in order to engage in a peaceful protest in the form of an organized hunger strike. In addition, we are reaching out to Prison Law Ofﬁce, Silicon Valley De-Bug, and other outside agencies and individuals for assistance and support, so we are not alone and we have a voice from the outside.
We also encourage everyone to inform and involve friends and family members by having them ﬂood Sheriff Laurie Smith and this administration with calls of concern during said hunger strike. Encourage them to use social media to get our message out. We will also attempt to utilize traditional forms of media (newspaper, news, etc.). It might take traditional media a minute to focus on us, but let’s not be discouraged. It is truly in our best interest to see this through.
Said hunger strike will begin at 12 midnight on October 17, 2016 and will go on for two weeks/fourteen days. It will end on October 30, 2016 at 12 midnight. This strike is not mandatory, but instead it is highly encouraged to all who are concerned, willing and able. We especially reach out to those who are healthy and inﬂuential. We lean upon you and ask that you utilize your inﬂuence to help further push and inspire this movement through your words and actions by leading through example.
For those who might not be able to hold up for the full fourteen days, it’s okay—just do your best. But this county does not acknowledge a hunger strike until you refuse nine straight meals through the course of three days, so we ask that at a minimum you hold out for four days so that your sacriﬁce and efforts are acknowledged.
Familiarize yourself with the ﬁve demands—this way when staff ask why you/we are not eating, you/we can tell them it is a peaceful protest hunger strike and why. We ask those who participate to truthfully not eat and don’t store food in your area, as that will only provide staff with a reason to undermine the integrity of our sacriﬁce and efforts.
For those who do not physically take part in the strike, we respectfully ask that you respect our efforts and show other forms of support and solidarity by not accepting extra county food, nor going to canteen for the two weeks that many of us will be striking/not eating. After all, any success we have will not only beneﬁt us all here now, but also those who will eventually come, as we are seeking meaningful, long-term change.
Let’s not allow the system/administration’s harassment and manipulation discourage nor mislead us. That should only seek to inspire us and enforce the fact that we’re doing the right thing. Administration/staff cannot call off our food strike; only we can. There may be a need for a second wave/strike approximately two months later, as we are serious about our efforts and our purpose is valid.
For now though, let’s prepare and unite under the Prisoners’ Human Rights Movement, so that our power is felt and our voices are heard in order to help ourselves bring about positive change! With that said, please keep this open letter circulating. Our respects across the board!
With strength and solidarity,
Phone numbers for Sheriff Laurie Smith:
pdf of this open letter/ statement:
pdf of the demands/core issues: