The hunger strike of California prisoners—which the Partisan has been following since it began on July 8—ended in the first week of September, after California legislators agreed to public hearings investigating the cruel punishments and inhumane conditioners inmates face in the state.
Thirty thousand people refused food at various points in the two-month period, and 40 went without solid food for the entire time. Among the inmates demands were an end to indefinite isolation, regular contact with families, and an end to the “debriefing” practice, whereby prisoners are only released from solitary confinement if they effectively snitch on other prisoners.
Some of the hunger strikers, so-called prison “gang leaders,” have been in solitary confinement—where they are kept in a windowless cell for 22 hours a day and denied contact with other prisoners—for decades. The punishment is cruel and unusual, as studies have shown even a few days in isolation causes lifelong mental trauma.
The recognition of the prisoners’ complaints is a victory and we salute the prisoners’ courage in one of California’s longest prisoner strikes. But it doesn’t mean the “democratic” process works. Indeed, it was the current political process that brought prisons to the state they are currently in. The capitalist process is one where the way to be heard whereby corporations and corrections officers unions paid millions of dollars into California political campaigns so that they could get more money and more jobs.
Keep in mind that black people, approximately 13% of the U.S. population, make up 40% of the prison population. Keep in mind that the U.S. capitalist economy continues to profit from the incarceration of young men and women—which is why the prison population has increased. The number of prisoners in federal prisons (on weapons, drug, immigration and other convictions) increased a whopping 790% since 1980, according to Human Rights Watch. The U.S. jails more people than any other nation.
We continue to fight for a society where profits have no place in justice and policing and prisons are not used as a tool to subjugate the poor, black and other racial minorities, youth and political revolutionaries.