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From Rhode Island to Pelican Bay, People Stand in Solidarity for Human Rights

On July 1st, 2011, prisoners in the Secure Housing Unit (SHU)at Pelican Bay State Prison, CA went on indefinite hunger strike to protest conditions that have been characterized by the UN as "inhumane and degrading."  In the Pelican Bay SHU inmates are typically held for 23 hours a day in solitary confinement, often for years on end; for many the only hope they have of changing their situation is through the process “de-briefing.”*  Throughout the past two weeks the hunger strikers have been joined by thousands of prisoners in at least a third of California’s prisons, along with reported strikers in OH, PA, GA and Canada.  
On July 20th, people in Rhode Island will fast for 24 hours and host public actions in solidarity with the hunger strikers, and to call attention to the human rights violations in American prisons, particularly shining a light on the inhumane practice of long-term solitary confinement, perpetuated in RI’s ACI and in prisons across the country.  

Members of Direct Action for Rights & Equality, including former prisoners and family members of current prisoners, will be in Kennedy Plaza raising awareness from 2-3pm, and will hold a rally at 3:30 pm at the ACI Complex.

“What’s happening in California is an outrageous abuse of human rights,” said John Prince, a member of Direct Action for Rights and Equality and a former inmate at the ACI.  “We’re taking these actions together because it’s important to shine a light on how prisoners are treated, not just in California but across the country.  We need to push people to ask if incarceration is really a solution to the problems in our communities, or another thing that perpetuates them.”

“The purpose of the Hunger Strike is to combat both the…psychological and physical torture, as well as the justifications used of support treatment of the type that lends to prisoners being subjected to a civil death.  Those subjected to indeterminate SHU programs are neglected and deprived of the basic human necessities while withering away in a very isolated and hostile environment,” said Mutope Duguma, a Pelican Bay prisoner in a written statement.

A source with access to the medical condition of the hunger strikers in California, who asked to remain anonymous, told lawyers with the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition that the health of the prisoners is quickly and severely deteriorating.  

The Pelican Bay prisoners’ Five Demands are modest, including: (1) An End to Group Punishment and Administrative Abuse; (2) Abolish the Debriefing* Policy, and Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria; (3) Comply with Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons 2006 Recommendations Regarding an end to Long-Term Solitary Confinement; (4) Provide Adequate Food; (5) Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates.

Rhode Islanders are hosting these events to show solidarity with the Strikers in California, as well as our brothers and sisters at the ACI, and to highlight the link between the struggles of prisoners on the West Coast with the struggle of prisoners across the country.  The SHU is an extreme model of prisoner segregation, but solitary confinement is a widespread issue across the country.  

* The practice of “debriefing,” or offering up information about fellow prisoners particularly in regard to gang status, is often demanded in return for better food or even release from the SHU. Debriefing puts the safety of prisoners and their families at risk, because they are then viewed as “snitches.”

Direct Action for Rights and Equality is a membership organization based in the Southside of Providence. We work for political, economic, racial and social justice.  DARE’s Behind the Walls Prison Committee has been integral in campaigns for voting rights for former inmates, in the recent Unshackling Pregnant Prisoners Legislation and in last years reforms to 32F probation violations.

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R.I. rally participants decry Arizona immigration law

01:00 AM EDT on Friday, July 30, 2010. By Karen Lee Ziner, Journal Staff Writer.

PROVIDENCE -- More than 100 people rallied in a West End park Thursday as part of a National Day of Action against Arizona's controversial new immigration law, and members of the clergy led a small prayer vigil inside the State House.

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R.I. delegation heads to Boston to protest immigration law

01:00 AM EDT on Friday, July 9, 2010

 PROVIDENCE — A local delegation will join Saturday's march and rally in Boston to protest the visit by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who is attending the National Governor's Association Meeting.

Demonstrators are calling for the repeal of Arizona's SB 1070 that Brewer signed into law in April. Organizations throughout the East Coast are sending delegations, according to the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition.

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R.I. modifies law on probationers after four-year campaign

 01:00 AM EDT on Sunday, June 20, 2010. By John Hill. Journal Staff Writer.

PROVIDENCE — People imprisoned for probation violations will be freed if they are cleared of the charge that led to their being sent back to prison under a new law Governor Carcieri allowed to take effect without his signature.

The governor's decision this month capped a four-year effort by supporters to change what they said was an inequity in the state's probation system, one that they said led to people who were found not guilty of crimes, in effect, serving time for them.

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