Why 30,000 California Prisoners Are On Hunger Strike [INFOGRAPHIC]

July 10, 2013

Right now 30,000 prisoners in California are on hunger strike.  That is the largest hunger strike in the state’s history, encompassing roughly two-thirds of the state’s inmates.

Why are they striking?  Just check out some of the shocking facts in our infographic on the conditions of indefinite isolation in California where more than 3,000 prisoners are held in these high security isolation units known as Security Housing Units (SHUS).

No other state is believed to have held so many prisoners for such long periods in indefinite isolation. More than 2,000 prisoners are serving indefinite SHU terms because they have been “validated” by the prison authorities as members or associates of prison gangs. In 2011, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation estimated that more than 500 of these prisoners had spent ten or more years in the Pelican Bay SHU, more than 200 had spent over 15 years and 78 more than 20 years.

But California is just one of more than 40 US states to abuse the practice.  Amnesty’s report on the abuse of solitary confinement shows how the United States has shamefully become a world leader in the practice of holding people in isolation for prolonged periods — as much as 20 years or more. Help us stop this practice by taking action.

According to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, solitary confinement, even for a limited period, can cause serious psychological harm. Amnesty International urges that solitary confinement, whether for disciplinary or administrative purposes, is used only as a last resort. States should isolate prisoners only in exceptional circumstances, and as for as short a time as possible.

Amnesty is aware that CDCR has faced a number of challenges in recent years, including cuts to its budget for rehabilitation programs. However, California is falling short of international law and standards for humane treatment and the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment.

Or, as one of the gang-validated inmates being held in Pelican Bay put it:

I understand that I broke the law, and I have lost liberties because of that. But no one, no matter what they’ve done, should be denied fundamental human rights. Our constitution protects everyone living under it; fundamental rights must not be left at the prison door.

Join us in calling on California officials to end abusive use of solitary confinement in the state’s prisons.