Jul 20 2011

Striking Prisoners Denied Proper Medical Care

TheMomCat and I have been persuaded by long time contributor davidseth’s advocacy to support the California Prisoner’s Hunger Strike (commonly called the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike, though it has spread to other institutions).

What that means for you as readers and contributors is that we’ll be featuring pieces related to the strike as often as we can, even if there is some duplication in content and information.  This doesn’t mean that we’re uninterested in other subjects, but if you have something you’d care to add on the topic we certainly encourage you to do so.

It’s with that in mind I’d like to direct your attention to this post from FDL contributor Kevin Gosztola, who, with Jeff Kaye (Valtin), is now covering the civil liberties/justice/war crime beat (emptywheel and bmaz are now at www.emptywheel.net).

Pelican Bay Prisoner Hunger Strike: Prison Staff Not Following Medical Protocol

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Tuesday July 19, 2011 11:33 am

Prisoners engaged in a hunger strike at Pelican Bay supermax prison have been on strike for more than fifteen days now.  With a growing group of supporters on the outside, the strike against solitary confinement and other conditions in the prison has spread to at least thirteen other prisons. But, those providing support for the prisoners are concerned about the deteriorating physical conditions of the prisoners and whether the prison will be able to provide the prisoners with proper medical care.

Carol Strickman, staff attorney for Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and staff to the mediation team representing the hunger strikers, reports medical protocol is not being followed. They are supposed to be doing “daily assessments after two days and that includes weighing, physical condition, emotional condition, vital signs (such as blood pressure) and hydration status.

Scales for weighing prisoners are not synchronized and sometimes the prison staff weighs prisoners with chains and sometimes without chains. So, the accuracy of information is questionable right now. Additionally, the doctors are supposed to be performing physical exams. Strickman reports, instead of providing physical exams, “The medical staff is doing what I have been told are called drive-by exams, where they stand outside the door with no physical contact and just ask if people are okay, which is basically saying, ‘Are you alive?'”

Strickman further reports “medications are being eliminated entirely or reduced.” Multivitamins and salt tablets were to be provided to prisoners. Prisoners were given a sheet of medical advice on what to do during the strike. Yet, none of the prisoners have been provided with any tablets.

“Many of these prisoners are older and have pre-existing conditions such as advanced lymphoma, congestive heart failure, hypertensive disease, debilitating muscle disease and so on,” Strickman explains. “So for all these reasons every day the situation is becoming more critical.”

News of deterioration of prisoners’ health may lead one to suggest that is what a prisoner gets for engaging in hunger striking or prisoner resistance activity. That may be true, but there is a callousness and inhumanity to such a statement. The prisoners have five core demands and, according to Molly Porzig, Critical Resistance representative in the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, they are asking for “incredibly standard” and “basic” adjustments to prison policy.

I hope this is resolved soon and without permanent damage to the striker’s health.

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