"California holds nearly 12,000 people in extreme isolation at a cost of over $60 million per year. The cells have no windows, and no access to fresh air or sunlight. The United Nations condemns the use of solitary confinement for more than 15 days as torture, yet many people in California state prisons have been encaged in solitary for 10 to 40 years!
"In 2011, over 12,000 prisoners and their family and community members participated in statewide hunger strikes protesting the inhumane conditions in the SHU [Secure Housing Unit]. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) promised meaningful reform. In February 2013, prisoners announced that another hunger strike would begin July 8th because of CDCR's failure to fulfill that promise." (from the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity website)
30,000 California prisoners joined the hunger strike on July 8th. Nineteen days later, despite retaliation by prison officials, over 700 hunger strikers continue this nonviolent resistance action. The hunger strikers' demands are clear and specific, for example: end collective punishment for individual rule violations, end long-term solitary confinement, stop requiring prisoners to inform on each other in return for better food or release from solitary, and provide all prisoners with adequate and nutritious food.
The California prisoners' fight is a matter of basic human decency. It's also strategically important, because the prison system in the United States is a major tool of political repression and social control, and thus a pivotal arena of political struggle.
There are a number of immediate ways to support the California prisoners hunger strike, from signing petitions to calling Governor Brown's office to organizing local demonstrations.
For more information about the strike and how to support it, see Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, California Prison Focus, and Solitary Watch.
For detailed background about the 2011 hunger strikes, see Karl Kersplebedeb's article, "The 2011 Hunger Strikes Remembered: Resistance Against Neocolonial Imprisonment and Torture." And for an extensive list of related websites, documents, and articles, see Kersplebedeb's "2013 Prisoners Strikes" page.