California Prison Strikers Punished With Blasting Cold Air, Stolen Legal Documents

July 19, 2013 | Julia Dawidowicz

In retaliation to the mass California Prison Strike, on its twelfth day now, guards and authorities have been blasting cold air into cells, stealing legal documents, and even preventing inmates from speaking with lawyers.

Drastically decreased temperatures put thousands of prisoners — many of whom are already on the brink of starvation — at serious risk of hypothermia and other health issues. Contact between inmate protestors and help from the outside are being increasingly severed. Like the other torture forms that led to the strike in the first place, such as indefinite solitary confinement,  these tactics are meant to ultimately drive the inmates to desperation.

On July 8th approximately 30,000 inmates in California launched the protest in attempt to reform the vastly unfair solitary confinement system, abolish group punishment, and push for better food, classes, and rehabilitation programs. The strike has unified different racial groups throughout the prison system, and has become the largest prison strike in state history, with inmates refusing meals and boycotting work and classes.

While the strike is drawing a good deal of attention to the issues at its core, authorities will seemingly stop at nothing to lower protestors’ morale, moving strike leaders from SHUs to administrative segregation, an even more severe form of solitary, and confiscating documents outlining negotiation settlement plans.

After assuring The Guardian that the confiscated documents were returned unread, penal service spokesperson Thornton feebly justified the inhumane retaliation tactics:  “There are consequences for engaging in disruptive behaviour and a mass hunger strike is disruptive behaviour.” She adds that the protestors are being wasteful, and poor taxpayers: “Lots of taxpayer-funded food is being thrown away.”

Not such a waste when you consider that Pelican Bay State Prison spends $180 annually in taxpayer funds to keep inmates locked away in windowless cells for unnecessarily prolonged periods of time (on average, 7.5 years). And who’s been footing the bills for that blasting A.C., anyway?

California governor Jerry Brown is allegedly on vacation, so chances of a quick resolution aren’t looking good. Let’s hope he returns from his relaxing European getaway clear-headed enough to realize this is no fucking joke.

(Image: Pelican Bay State Prison)