Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity (PHSS) Coalition: In 2011 & 2013 when prisoners in the Short Corridor solitary confinement unit of Pelican Bay State Prison in CA started waves of hunger strikes that rocked the US prison system for years, sweeping across the entire state of CA, Critical Resistance supported the strikes and the hunger strikers’ demands by coordinating the media team for Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition.
The PHSS coalition and CR’s media work became a major source of connection for prisoners and their families during the struggle against solitary confinement, working to humanize people being tortured in solitary confinement and imprisonment throughout CA, and uplifting and amplifying the hunger strikers’ demands. While imprisoned organizers and strikers continue their struggle to abolish solitary confinement after the strikes, the PHSS coalition continued to update communities outside of prison on developments related to this fight. Learn more about PHSS’s history, work and continued efforts supporting prisoners organizing against solitary confinement in CA here.
Some Goals of this campaign for Critical Resistance:
- Humanize prisoners, especially prisoners in solitary confinement units (SHUs & AdSeg)
- Amplify resistance to the prison industrial complex (PIC) from inside prison
- Grow solidarity for the strike inside & outside of prison (internationally)
- Insert abolition as a practical response & approach to addressing issues of torture, inhumane treatment and oppressive conditions inside CA prison’s system.
- This was a solidarity campaign. It formed to support a small group of strike leaders inside Pelican Bay’s SHU. Primary leadership of demands and direction came from the strike leaders.
- Any goals, strategies, tactics, plans, decisions made by the coalition was done in support of the strike leaders furthering their strike in an effort to achieve their 5 core demands.
Highlights & Victories:
Through this campaign, we successfully…
- Won all 5 of the Core Demands!
- Made solitary confinement controversial: Popular perception of solitary confinement not only in California, but around the world has shifted
- Forced CDCR to admit how many people were on strike and to admit to putting thousands of people in solitary, as well as other torturous and unconstitutional administrative practices in prison like gang validation and debriefing
- Gained attention on conditions of torture in US (especially CA prisons) from the United Nations
- Uplifted voices and experience of people of solitary confinement, and their family members, as expertise
- This intervened in some of the violence of solitary: A part of the strategy of solitary confinement is to silence people (communication strategy by prisons to not allow others to hear from those who are locked up; families won’t hear them, can’t talk on the phone with them, etc)
- Initiated, supported and grew heavy engagement by family members (people became organizing members, and families started their own abolitionist organizing formations)
- Uplifting the historic continuity of prisoner resistance and organizing within a historic movement of prisoner-led resistance, inspired the Short Corridor Collective (hunger strike leaders in Pelican Bay) to write and circulate the Agreement to End Hostilities (agreement between people inside and outside to end any cross-racial conflict and that the real enemy is the CA Department of Corrections and the prison system)
- Gained legal victory: Ashker vs. Brown came some years after the hunger strikes, ending the use of indefinite solitary confinement
- Launched an #AbolishSolitary social media campaign in June 2015 to commemorate the 2nd anniversary of the biggest prisoner strike in history, to keep the spotlight on the use of solitary confinement and to advance the prisoner led-call to eliminate its use