The hunger strikes at several California prisons this summer may have seemed like spontaneous uprisings against torturous conditions. That’s how many incurious souls in the fourth estate are portraying them. To wit, this hand-wringing Washington Post editorial highlighting the “tragic modesty” of prisoner demands:
DOZENS OF INMATES at California’s Pelican Bay facility went on hunger strikes for several weeks this summer for what seemed like pitifully modest demands: “Allow one photo per year. Allow one phone call per week. Allow wall calendars.” What would prompt such drastic measures in the quest for such modest goals? Answer: The protest was an exasperated and understandable reaction to the invisible brutality that is solitary confinement. Some of the Pelican Bay inmates have been held in “security housing units” for years; those tagged as gang members can expect to stay there for six years, with no certainty that they will be reintegrated into the general population even if they renounce gang membership. When an inmate is holed up alone in a cell for up to 23 hours a day with no meaningful human contact, a photograph of a loved one or a weekly telephone call can help to forge a connection with the outside world. With little or no exposure to natural light, a calendar can help forestall losing all track of time, all sense of reality. These simple privileges, in short, can help ward off insanity.
Well, that sounds just horrible. Why wouldn’t the cruel prison wardens allow a mere snapshot, or wall calendar?
Because the protests weren’t really about family pictures or calendars. Because the inmates, and particularly their leadership, weren’t really harmless and misunderstood “ex” gang members in the first place. Because the dozens of well-funded activist organizations who played the media like dumb fiddles aren’t telling the truth about either their tactics or goals.
The whole thing was a set-up, and any fish smarter than many fish in the MSM would have smelled something fishy and swum away from the bait.
While the national and international media were busy wringing their hands over the seemingly sentimental prisoner demands, and dumbly reprinting activist agitprop as facts, local news sources like the Sacramento Bee bothered to ask real questions about the policy being protested — Secured Housing Units (SHU), cellblocks which isolate dangerous, disruptive, and gang-related prisoners from the rest of the prison population:
Officials with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation  said they will review policies on how the agency determines which inmates are believed to be gang leaders who are then placed in a security housing unit.
But they insist that inmates inside the SHU, including several who have identified themselves as leaders of the hunger strike, pose a serious threat to others and are there for very good reasons. [emphasis added]
The state’s security housing units were designed as prisons within prisons to house the most dangerous criminals. While SHU inmates are largely isolated from other prisoners, corrections officials say, they still have certain amenities available to them.
“They have 23 channels, including ESPN,” [corrections spokesman Oscar] Hidalgo said. “I think that’s something that’s far from extreme isolation from the rest of the world.”
These guys get cable, including ESPN. I certainly don’t pay for that. Yet they claim they’re striking because they lack “wool caps” for “wintertime.” Such demands don’t pass any smell test. They are deliberately designed to create an impression that the prisoners are shivering in the cold, not sitting around watching Sports Center.
Yet the “wool caps for winter” campaign was repeated uncritically by media sources throughout the world. Al Jazeera English published a wildly misleading editorial by one prominent Soros-funded activist, Issac Ontiveros, who calls SHUs “torture.” For good measure, Ontiveros’ editorial throws in a bunch of other deceptive agitprop painting the U.S. as a “prison industrial complex” that must be overthrown. He repeats all the activists’ greatest hits, bluntly lying about the real circumstances of mass murderer George Jackson’s death, whitewashing the horrific, racially motivated killings perpetrated by Jackson, and downplaying the murders of prisoners and guards by other prisoners during the Attica riots. Racial accusation? Check. Denial of violence by “activists”? Check. America equals police state? Check.
This is the type of “news” about America being disseminated around the world, all subsidized by George Soros.
Quite astonishingly, the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Committee is actually using photos of the bloody Attica riots to illustrate their demands on behalf of the current California hunger strikers. This is the coalition homepage:
Get it? Give in and end the practice of secured housing units for offenders who stab prison guards, or . . . prisoners will riot and stab a bunch of prison guards.
Back on Planet Sanity, the San Jose Mercury News bothers to document real conditions in the SHUs, plus the behind-bars behavior that landed some of the benighted residents of California’s Secure Housing Units in secure housing to begin with:
Many of the inmates on the tour were housed in pairs in cells stocked with televisions and books. The cells had doors perforated with dozens of tiny holes, instead of standard prison bars, to make it more difficult for inmates to pass items from one to another.
In one area, two inmates in neighboring cells played virtual chess, calling out their moves to one another.
Inmates do have contact with other prisoners, staff and visitors, including spending more than an hour each day in exercise yards, [corrections spokesman Oscar] Hidalgo said. They have 23 cable television channels, reading materials, access to a law library and learning materials, and can correspond with family and friends.
Conditions are “far from what we think is torturous,” Hidalgo said, though some violent inmates and purported gang leaders are kept physically separated.
Three of the state’s prisons have such units, housing about 3,800 of the state’s 161,500 inmates.
Inmates sent to the unit “have essentially earned their way,” Hidalgo said. “They have numerous assaults on inmates, they have numerous assaults on staff, they have to be isolated for their protection and for the protection of other inmates. These are predatory-type inmates, and we need to ensure they are not harmful to others.” . . .
He said the strike originated in the unit’s “short corridor,” home to 202 top gang leaders. The department provided background on five strike leaders at the request of The Associated Press. They include:
— Todd Ashker, 48, who prison officials contend is a high-ranking member of the white supremacist Aryan Brotherhood. He’s serving 21 years to life for a killing another inmate at Folsom State Prison in 1987, the latest in a long series of convictions. He’s accused of stabbing five inmates and assaulted three employees in prison.
— Danny Troxell, 58, of the Aryan Brotherhood, who’s serving 26 years to life for a Fresno County murder. He’s accused of six assaults on other inmates.
— Arturo Castellanos, 50, of the Mexican Mafia, serving 26 years to life for a Los Angeles County murder. He’s accused of stabbing six inmates in prison.
— Ronnie Dewberry, 53, the Black Guerrilla Family’s “minister of education” in charge of orienting and indoctrinating other inmates. He is serving 25 years to life for an Alameda County murder.
— George Franco, 46, of Nuestra Familia, serving 15 years to life for a Santa Clara County murder.
Hidalgo said the strike was coordinated by gang leaders who normally are sworn enemies.
In order to understand the professional activists orchestrating the hunger strikes, you first have to understand that they view incarceration itself, whatever the crime, as illegitimate. Their goal, stated openly, is to “empty all prisons.” Yet, such extreme statements don’t place them beyond the pale in the progressive Left, who largely view America as a fascist police state. The tone of this activism has grown increasingly extreme, even though public relations efforts often mute the rhetoric for certain audiences. The current anti-incarceration movement is more powerful and more dangerous than their outré predecessors such as the original Black Panthers. Unlike these former groups, the current movement’s leaders wield tremendous influence in public policy and legal policy organizations, as well as in the current Justice Department and other government bureaucracies.
Coordinated actions like the California hunger strikes also demonstrate the reach of such extremism into taxpayer-funded institutions like the California university system. Several movement leaders are tenured professors whose activism is really their only academic work — activism subsidized by the taxpaying victims of the super-thugs being housed in SHU units.
Here are just a few of the activist groups involved in inventing the recent hunger strike. In one way or another, nearly all these groups are bankrolled by George Soros’ Open Society Foundation:
Critical Resistance — founded by well-reimbursed, Communist, taxpayer-employed, “professor” Angela Davis, Critical Resistance is dedicated to eliminating prisons entirely. Their mission statement:
We call our vision “abolition”, and take the name purposefully from those who called for the abolition of slavery in the 1800′s. Abolitionists believed that slavery could not be fixed or reformed – it needed to be abolished. As PIC [Prison Industrial Complex] abolitionists today, we also do not believe that reforms can make the PIC just or effective. Our goal is not to improve the system; it is to shrink the system into non-existence.
All of Us Or None — AOUON is at the forefront of a dangerous new legal campaign: promoting lawsuits against corporations like Home Depot when such deep-pocketed targets deign to choose to not hire ex-cons with criminal records. That’s right — employers everywhere may soon be facing civil rights lawsuits if they choose any non-felon over a felon, or take applicants’ criminal histories into account in any way. How would you like to not know the criminal background of your kid’s teacher — or your mom’s nursing home aide — or that guy Home Depot sent over to hang the new cabinets? Disturbingly, Eric Holder is grandstanding on this issue and deploying the resources of the Department of Justice to “research” such discrimination claims. The EEOC is, of course, on board through Holder’s Cabinet Level Prisoner Re-Entry working group.
Good luck not hiring muggers and robbers in the future. See here for more shocking details.
Aw, heck. The day is growing short. I’ll just list the rest of the organizations agitating for wool hats for violent offenders. Remember, all of these groups have joined hands with radicals seeking the release of all prisoners and the total elimination of incarceration. Some things to ponder when reading this list: Do most of these organizations and “organizations” really look like grassroots groups? How many are part of the vast activist astroturfing being coordinated through “civil liberties” legal foundations? How many are extreme left-wing or openly communist political and legal groups rebranding themselves as social justice advocates? How many are directly or indirectly funded by George Soros?
[Answer: No, Lots, The Rest of Them, and Almost All the Big Ones]
A Better Way Foundation A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing) A New Way of Life Reentry Project, Los Angeles, CA ACLU of California (Read Statement here) ACLU of Mississippi AIDs Foundation Chicago All of Us or None American Civil Liberties Union (National) American Friends Service Committee American Gruner: Coalition of Latino Leaders
American Public Health Association (Prisoner Health Committee, Medical Care Section)
ANSWER Arkansas Voice for the Children Left Behind Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco) Black Awareness Community Development Organization Breakout!, New Orleans, LA Bristol Anarchist Black Cross Building Locally to Organize for Community Safety (BLOCS) –Atlanta, GA Cafe Intifada California Coalition for Women Prisoners California Prison Focus California Prison Moratorium Project Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) Campaign to End Prison Slavery (UK) Campaign to End the Death Penalty (Read statement here) Cante Wanjila Native American Reentry and Support Project, South Dakota Center for Community Alternatives Center for Constitutional Rights (National) (Read statement here) Center for New Community (national) Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, Providence, RI Center for Young Women’s Development Certain Days Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar Chapel Hill Prison Books Collective (NC) (Read Statement here) Chicago Anti-Prison Industrial Complex Teaching Collective Chuco’s Justice Center CLAC Legal Committee Coalition for Prisoners Rights COMITÉ DE SOUTIEN DE LA GRÈVE DE LA FAIM / HUNGERSTRIKE SUPPORT COMMITTEE Comité pour un Secours rouge canadien Committee to Stop FBI Repression Community justice network for youth Community Restoration Services (Los Angeles) Courage to Resist (Read statement here) Critical Resistance CUAV: Community United Against Violence (San Francisco) Defender Association of Philadelphia Denver Anarchist Black Cross Detention Watch Network East Bay Saturday Diaologues with Dr. Nancy Arvold & April Schlenk Ella Baker Center for Human Rights Fair Chance– Los Angeles Project Families & Allies of Virginia’s Youth Families to Amend California’s Three-Strikes (FACTS) FedCURE Florida Immigration Coalition (Miami, FL) Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition Freedom Archives Freedom Inc (Madison WI) Fresno County Brown Berets Friends Committee of Legislation on California Frontline Soldiers Generation 5 Glen Cove Solidarity HIV Prevention Justice Alliance Human Rights Coalition- Fed Up! (Pittsburg) Immigrant Workers’ Center Immigration Law Clinic of UC Davis Law School International Action Center International Concerned Family & Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal International Council for Urban Peace, Justice & Empowerment International Health Workers for Peace Over Profit (Read Statement here)International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, SF Bay Area Chapter Justice for Families Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, New Orleans, LA Kemba Smith Foundation Kersplebedeb L’En-Droit de Laval La Raza Centro Legal Labor/Community Strategy Center, Los Angeles, CA LAGAI-Queer Insurrection Law Office of Rebecca Young, East Boston, MA Legal Services for Prisoners with Children Little Lake Learning Center Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network (Read statement here) Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute (Read statement here) Merced County Brown Berets Milk Not Jails, New York MIM Prisons Modesto Anarcho Crew Modesto Copwatch National Center for Lesbian Rights National Jericho Movement National Lawyers Guild National Lawyers Guild University of Pittsburg Chapter National Policy Partnership for Children of the Incarcerated National Religious Campaign Against Torture (Read statement here) NC Piece Corps Needle Exchange Emergency Program New Afrikan Black Panther Party Prison Chapter New York City Anarchist Black Cross Federation New York City Anti-Racist Action November Coalition Oakland Community Action Network Oakland Education Association (OEA) Peace & Justice Caucus (Read Statement here) Osiris Coalition Parolees for Change (Los Angeles) Parti communiste révolutionnaire Pathways To Your FuturePeace & Justice of La Luz, New Mexico Peace Over Violence Los Angeles People’s Commission NetworkPeople’s Organization for Progress (NJ) Peter Cicchino Youth Project of the Urban Justice Center (NY) Prison Activist Resource Center Prison Health News Prison Law Office. (Read Statement here) Prison Policy Institute, Massachusetts Prison Radio Prison Radio Show CKUT 90.3 FM Montreal Prison Watch Network Prisoner Correspondence Project Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York Projet Accompagnement Solidarité Colombie QPIRG Concordia Real Cost of Prisons Project Redwood Curtain Copwatch Registered Society within Association for Probation and Offenders’ Assistance, Germany Republicans for Change Resurrection After Exoneration, New Orleans, LA Rethinking Schools Revolution Newspaper Revolutionary Athletes Worldwide (R.A.W.) Revolutionary Hip Hop Report Riverside Church Prison Ministry Safe Streets/Strong Communities, New Orleans, LA San Francisco Women in Black. SF Pride at Work/HAVOQ (Read statement here) Shabazz Legal Services Socialist Action Solidarity Across Borders Southern California Library Stanislaus County Radical Mental Health Stop the Injunctions Coalition TalkBLACK, Atlanta, GA Tamms Year Ten, Illinois Texas Families of Incarcerated Youth The Mobilization to Free Mumia-Abu Jamal The New Orleans Loiterers Union The New York Campaign Against Torture (NYCAT) The New York Task Force for Political Prisoners The Outs The Termite Collective The WE Project, Los Angeles Time for Change Foundation Toronto Anarchist Black Cross Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois Transgender, Gender Variant and Intersex (TGI) Justice Project UHURU Solidarity Movement United for Drug Policy Reform (Oakland, CA) United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society United National Anti-War Committee United Panther Movement Urban Justice Center (New York City) Vermont Action for Political Prisoners Visions to Peace Project, Washington, D.C. Voice of the Ex-Offender (VOTE) Voices Unbroken W. Haywood Burns Institute WESPAC Foundation (NYC) Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Pajaro Valley Chapter Women’s Council of the CA Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers Women’s Prison Book Project (Minneapolis, MN) World Can’t Wait
Fascinatingly, the Open Society Foundation isn’t on the list. But they don’t really need to be: they are the list.
If you like this report and other stories published at Crime Victims Media Report, please consider making a donation at our Paypal button. Donations of any size are greatly appreciated, and they enable me to do this work.
If you are victim of crime and feel you were denied justice, or if want to thank the police and prosecutors who supported you and sought justice, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t guarantee I can personally be of assistance, but I may be able to steer you to other resources and organizations, or help you tell your story.
If you have suggestions for stories or are media seeking pro-prosecution, pro-incarceration, victims’ rights perspectives from an experienced state lobbyist and academic, type “media” in the heading and send your query to email@example.com.