NLG Calls on Governor Brown to Meet Striking Prisoners’ Demands

The National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter (NLGSF) calls on California Governor Jerry Brown to immediately meet the demands of the tens of thousands of inmates who are currently on hunger strike. The changes sought are necessary and long overdue. As it stands, the Governor is presiding over and fully responsible for the long-term solitary confinement of hundreds of people, amounting to torture. “Governor Brown should meet the strikers’ demands immediately to comply with human rights law and avoid more deaths in California prisons,” said Michael Flynn, President of the NLGSF.

UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, has said that solitary confinement for more than a few days should be considered torture and completely banned. Yet a 2011 report revealed that hundreds of inmates had been in solitary confinement for a decade or more while dozens had been in for 20 years or more here in California. This is not just a violation of inmates’ civil and human rights, it is, itself, a criminal act.

Ultimate responsibility lies with the Governor. The demands of the hunger strikers should not be controversial nor should they be difficult to implement.

The core demands are as follows:

  1. Eliminate group punishments and administrative abuse.
  2. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria.
  3. Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons recommendations and end long-term solitary confinement.
  4. Provide adequate and nutritious food.
  5. Create and expand constructive programming.

Governor Brown must meet these demands immediately or otherwise begin negotiations immediately. “Federal Courts have already determined that overcrowding in California prisons has caused a health care crisis that amounts to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment, and recent reports of coerced sterilization of hundreds of women in California prisons bring further shame on all Californians,” said Carlos Villarreal, Executive Director of the NLGSF.

So far the the Governor has ignored these issues or attempted to defend the status quo. He must take responsibility for presiding over a prison system that is increasingly in crisis because he, and state officials below him, refuse to respect the basic human rights of incarcerated people.

The National Lawyers Guild is a human rights bar association, in existence for more than 75 years. The NLG is made up of lawyers and other legal workers with chapters in every U.S. state, dedicated to supporting movements for social, racial, and economic justice.

More information at Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity blog.