C.F. Villa, Excerpt from “California Elegy”

On July 1st, 2013, California inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison ignited a hunger strike to call attention to the inhumane conditions in the state’s Security Housing Units (SHUs). At the height of the hunger strike, July 8th 2013, two-thirds of the state’s 33 prisons and 4 out-of-state prisons participated: 30,000 inmates refused meals; 2,300 refused work and school assignments. On September 5th, 2013, the strike ended. The plea to stop torture in the isolation units resulted in 4 inmate deaths: Johnny Owen Vick, Hozel Alanzo Blanchard, Christian Gomez, Billy Seal. What was it that brought US Senators, California legislators, advocates, inmates, lawyers to the bargaining table? How in tune are you to the term “psychological torture”? Not your ordinary run-of-the-mill torture, but state-sanctioned, Governor-approved, guard-enforced, prison officials’ hands-on torture?

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