Santa Clara Jail inmates go on hunger strike to protest inhumane treatment

© Robert Galbraith
Inmates at jail facilities in Santa Clara County, California, have joined a nationwide prison strike that began on September 9, starting a two-week hunger strike of their own in protest of solitary confinement, prisoner exploitation and other policies.

Santa Clara County inmates said in a statement that they wish an end to "placement in solitary confinement when there exists no serious rule violation to merit such placement," long-term and indefinite solitary confinement, and solitary confinement "based solely on gang allegations, affiliation, validation, etc."

The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office was sued in November 2015 for its solitary confinement practices. The Prison Law Office alleged that the Sheriff's Office is "using solitary confinement to isolate hundreds of men and women in tiny, concrete jail cells as small as six by seen feet for months or years at a time" in violation of the US Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment. In addition. the lawsuit alleged ongoing guard brutality and substandard health care.

"They isolate me by removing any form of social oxygen," one anonymous inmate told San Jose Inside. "I come out by myself, I do not interact with nobody else, no card playing, no nothing. When we go out in the yard, we come out one person at a time. We’re in our cells by ourselves. But they’re saying this isn’t solitary. They’re saying this doesn’t count."

Santa Clara County is still negotiating a settlement with the Prison Law Office over jail conditions, San Jose Inside reported.

Santa Clara inmates are also protesting"meaningless classification reviews and biased appeal process." This classification system, inmates say, can limit visitation rights or access to training and other resources available in jail. One inmate told San Jose Inside that he has filed many grievances over the system, to no avail.

Inmates also allege that they are offered inadequate clothing that does not allow for proper hygiene. In addition, they call for an end to "jail profiteering and exploitation of prisoners and their families through contract bidding of commissary vendors based on kick-backs and political incentives for campaign contributions."

Furthermore, they allege an inadequate amount of resources that are designed to help prisoners stay out of jail upon their release — such as education, self-help treatment, work, and other activities — and a "misappropriation of Inmate Welfare Funds."

"Our plan of action is to inspire, enlighten, and unite as many Santa Clara County prisoners as possible in order to engage in a peaceful protest in the form of an organized hunger strike," inmates said in a statement. "In addition, we are reaching out to Prison Law Office, Silicon Valley De-Bug, and other outside agencies and individuals for assistance and support, so we are not alone and we have a voice from the outside."

On September 9, more than 72,000 inmate laborers in 22 states refused to work, according to Popular Resistance. Unpaid and under-paid prison labor in California accounted for $207 million in revenue and $58 million in profit in 2014-2015, according to the California Prison Industry Authority Board.

"The financial losses to the California prison system were as much as $636,068 in revenue, or $156,736 in profit, for every day of the prison strike," Popular Resistance reported last week.