Target: Tim Lockwood, Chief of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Goal: Stop force feeding hunger striking prisoners, allow them standard treatment
Over 100 of the original 30,000 inmates in California’s high security units have been on hunger strike since July to protest inhumane detention conditions. Instead of simply attending to the prisoners’ needs, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation implemented force feeding procedures similar to those employed at Guantanamo Bay. The men’s health continues to decline while the California Corrections Department makes no effort to consider the demands.
In July, some 30,000 inmates of California’s security housing units began a hunger strike to protest substandard treatment in some of the US’ most crowded prisons. Currently, 129 of the prisoners remain on hunger strike, with others striking on and off. Their physical state has been in steady decline and some of the men are close to organ failure and death.
The Californian prisoners’ expectations are standard in other parts of America. They are asking for an end to extended solitary detention, which has been found to have a lasting effect on mental health. Some inmates in California’s high security units have been individually segregated for ten to forty years. They demand that corrections officers cease gang profiling, as mere suspicion of gang involvement can result in solitary. Detainees are also calling for an end to group punishments to address an individual’s transgressions. Finally, the inmates want wholesome and nutritious meals as well as a few simple things to enrich their livelihood-art supplies, one photo per year, and a phone call every now and then.
Instead of considering the demands, the Corrections Department sought out allowance from a judge to enforce force feeding procedures and disciplinary measures. The court also ruled that any do not resuscitate orders can be ignored by the state in strike-related situations.
The feeding procedure involves a tube forced down the throat, which delivers liquid nutrients. This invasive process is excruciatingly painful as well as traumatizing.
Refusing medical treatment or food is one of the only rights that a prisoner has, and one of the only means to get a message across. Force feeding mentally competent men is contrary to medical ethics and violates their right to freedom of expression. The object of imprisonment is rehabilitation, not to cause further detriment to the mental and physical state of inmates. Your signature will ask the California Department of Corrections provide care that meets the standards of other state supermax prisons.
Dear Mr. Tim Lockwood, Chief of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation,
There are currently 129 men on hunger strike in California’s maximum security housing units. Originally, 30,000 inmates joined the strike to protest substandard detention conditions in the state of California. These 129 men are now close to death, and a force feeding procedure has been implemented as opposed to considering their demands, which are commonplace in similar facilities across America.
I ask that you make an expedited effort to find middle ground with the prisoners as their demands are not absurd. A prison’s role in society is to rehabilitate inmates rather than to harm and alienate them.
Psychologists have found that extended periods of solitary confinement have a lasting effect on an inmate’s mental state. Moreover, the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons recommends that long-term isolation be avoided.
Craft and hobby supplies such as paper, crayons, pastels, and chalk offer an outlet of creative expression that many inmates may not otherwise have. These things can help improve morale and promote mental well-being among detainees.
Finally, I ask that the practice of force feeding hunger strikers be concluded. This painful and invasive procedure is a breach of inmates rights to freedom of expression. Furthermore, it is counterproductive to solving the issue of getting the men to eat on their own.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Creative Commons via flickr.com/javan