Hunger Strikers in CA Prisons must receive appropriate Medical Care
Whether as healthcare providers or concerned lay people, we are issuing this statement to register our concern with reports that the hunger strikers are being denied appropriate medical care. While there has been a concerted attempt by the authorities to censor the strikers, and to keep the strike out of the news, dozens of letters from affected strikers at prisons across the state have reached supporters on the outside.
Such acts of deliberate indifference to a patient's serious medical needs constitute a violation under the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
The people who signed this petition, endorse the following statement made by 100 Health Care Workers (see a list of their names below):
For the third time in three years, thousands of people incarcerated in California are on hunger strike, protesting the widespread use of punitive long-term solitary confinement—"long-term" meaning up to thirty continuous years or more—in the so-called Security Housing Units (SHUs).
The current strike began on July 8. As of this date (August 14), a minimum of 200 strikers have fasted for the duration and risk permanent bodily damage or death. Over 30,000 have abstained from eating for shorter periods.
Two years ago, when the 2011 California prison hunger strikes mobilized over 12,000 people at their peak, the state agreed to make significant improvements in prison conditions. However, the state has not carried through on most promised changes, particularly regarding use of long term and indefinite isolation.
As healthcare providers, we are issuing this statement to register our concern with reports that the hunger strikers are being denied appropriate medical care. While there has been a concerted attempt by the authorities to censor the strikers, and to keep the strike out of the news, dozens of letters from affected strikers at prisons across the state have reached supporters on the outside. These letters repeat similar details of medical neglect and abuse:
Medications are being withheld in an attempt to coerce those on strike into abandoning their protest.
In one case, a patient with heart failure has had his medications discontinued on the dubious assertion that he doesn't need them because he's on a hunger strike.
Prison medical staff are required to monitor the health and weigh those on strike. Yet, we hear that many institutions are violating this protocol.
There are also reports that nurses who are required to conduct daily checks are simply advising strikers to drink a lot of water. In other cases, physicians have been dismissive of patient complaints, and patients in need have been refused care and have been ignored—in some cases, even mocked by the very healthcare practitioners they are supposed to be able to depend upon for care.
Some strikers have told the prison authorities that they are refusing solid foods only. Nonetheless, the CDCR refuses to provide them with liquid sustenance other than water, and guards have even confiscated any such liquids that they had in their cells.
Many strikers have indicated that they are not being provided with medical release forms, which they need to send to their loved ones and family members, or to outside supporters, so that these people on can access their medical records.
Several strikers have been reclassified as "not on hunger strike" because they have been accused of having food in their cells. This means that they "have to start over" and go nine consecutive meals before being considered on hunger strike again—regardless of whether or not they have in fact broken their strike. Determining who is on hunger strike in such an arbitrary manner means that prisoners who may not have eaten for weeks will be dropped off the list for medical oversight.
Similar denial of appropriate medical monitoring and medications occurred during the 2011 prisoners' hunger strikes, and led concerned medical professionals to issue a statement condemning such coercive neglect/abuse as both unethical and illegal under California Penal Code Section 673.
Furthermore, such acts of deliberate indifference to a patient's serious medical needs constitute a violation under the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
Today, we, the undersigned, tragically find ourselves having to echo the statement of two years ago. We register our grave concern about the above allegations, and strongly urge Receiver J. Clark Kelso, and the California Medical Board, to immediately investigate these claims. We also urge the CDCR to ensure that:
(1) no hunger striker be threatened with, or punished through, the denial of medical care;
(2) no hunger striker be denied liquids, vitamins or any other form of sustenance they are willing to take; and,
(3) all hunger strikers receive appropriate medical care.
We further demand that all medical professionals uphold their code of ethics and maintain the highest standards of care for all their patients—be they incarcerated or not.
Finally, we call upon Governor Jerry Brown and Jeffrey Beard, Secretary of the CDCR, to immediately enter into good-faith negotiations with the prisoner representatives, and to respond to their demands, in order to end this crisis before lives are lost.
(1) The prisoners’ original five core demands are:
1. End Group Punishment & Administrative Abuse;
2. Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria;
3. Comply with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 Recommendations Regarding an End to Long-Term Solitary Confinement;
4. Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food;
5. Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates.
These are elaborated in more detail on the Prisoner Hungerstrike Coalition website at http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/the-prisoners-demands-2/.
(2) California Penal Code Section 673: “It shall be unlawful to use in the reformatories, institutions, jails, state hospitals or any other state, county, or city institution any cruel, corporal or unusual punishment or to inflict any treatment or allow any lack of care whatever which would injure or impair the health of the prisoner, inmate, or person confined; and punishment by the use of the strait jacket, gag, thumbscrew, shower bath or the tricing up of a prisoner, inmate or person confined is hereby prohibited. Any person who violates the provisions of this section or who aids, abets, or attempts in any way to contribute to the violation of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”
The complete text of the 2011 Medical Providers’ Statement can be found online at http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/medical-professionals-support-the-hunger-strike/
Please note that all organizational affiliations are being listed for identification purposes only.
- Henry Abrons MD; Berkeley
- Everett D. Allen MD; Crescent City
- Nada Ashkar; Diploma in Acupuncture, CSCMA member, CTCMPAO candidate; Toronto, Canada
- Lindsay Baukert BSN, RN; Nurse, Practitioner Student; University of Pennsylvania
- Michaela Beder MD; New York City
- Nazila Bettache MD CM; Montreal, Canada
- Iris Biblowitz RN; San Francisco, Calif.
- Lydia Ould Brahim MSc(a); Nursing Candidate, 2015, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
- Nathan P. Brimmer EMT-B, RN; Portland, Ore.
- Sweena Burroughs FNP; Berkeley, Calif.
- Nora Butler Burke; coordinator, ASTT(e)Q, Montréal, Quebec, Canada
- Leah Jo Carnine PA-S2; Phoenix, Ariz.
- Catherine Carter BSN, RN; Virginia
- Diane Chamberlin FNP
- Claudia Chaufan MD, PhD; Associate Professor of Sociology and Health Policy, University of California San Francisco
- Daisy Chen; Sanctuary Health Collective, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Mardge Cohen MD; Boston, Mass.
- Josh Connor; medical student
- Therese A. Coupez; LAc, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM), San Francisco, Calif.
- William C. Davis DO, MDiv
- Olivia deBree RN
- James Deutsch MD, PhD, FRCPC, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Canada
- Mandeep Dhillon; Emergency Medicine Staff, Orizaba, Veracruz, Mexico
- Giselle Dias MA; Psychotherapist, London, Ontario, Canada
- Michael Duncan RPA-C; Medical Director, Vocal, N.Y.
- Mark Eisenberg MD; Massachusetts General Hospital, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
- Amie Fishman MPH; San Francisco
- Margaret Flowers MD; Congressional Fellow, Physicians for National Health Program
- Eric Fryxell MD; Southeast Community Health Center, Inc., Columbus, Ohio
- Anne-Marie Gallant, RN BSc, Health Justice Collective, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
- Miriam Garfinkle MD; Toronto, Canada
- Ritika Goel MD MPH; Toronto, Canada
- Warren Gold MD; Professor of Medicine Emeritus UCSF Medical School, San Francisco, Calif.
- David Goldberg MD; Director, Section of Preventive Medicine; Past Medical Staff President, John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County
- Elliot Goodenough; Fourth year medical student, Philadelphia, Penn.
- Eleanor Gottesman MD; Cleveland, Ohio
- Catherine P. Gros RN; Clinical Nurse Specialist, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
- Lana Habash MD; Boston Medical Center; Boston, Mass.
- Gregory Harper PhD, CCHT
- Sue Harris; co-director Peoples Video Network, New York City
- Khati Hendry MD
- Elizabeth Hillman BSN, CPM; Baltimore, Md.
- Wendy Hounsel RN, RH(AHG); Eugene, Ore.
- Helen Hudson RN, MSc(a); Montreal, Canada
- Farha Najah Hussain MSc(a); Speech-Language Pathologist, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
- David Ingleby PhD; Mental Health researcher, Professor at Centre for Social Science and Global Health, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Jonathan Irwin EMT-OR; Nursing Student
- Brian Jack MD; Chair, Department of Family Medicine; Boston Medical Center
- Lara Jirmanus MD
- Marcia Katz; Family Physician, Heartland Health Centers, Chicago, Ill.
- Zak Kirwood; Medical Assistant, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England
- Jim Kratzer MD
- Paige Kruza; Master of Public Health student, UC Berkeley School of Public Health
- Terry Kupers MD
- Peter Kusnierczyk FNP; San Francisco, Calif.
- Kate Lammers MFT Trainee
- Catherine Landry; physical rehabilitation therapist and osteopathy student, Montréal, Canada
- Bob Lederer; Host of “Health Action,” WBAI, Pacifica Radio, New York
- Vicki Legion; San Francisco, Calif.
- Carolyn Levine; retired, Director, Public Health Clinic Services, Muscatine, Iowa
- Judith Lienhard RN; Silverton Hospital, Portland, Ore.
- Abby Lippman; PhD, Professor Emerita, McGill University, Montréal, Québec
- Cadelba Lomeli-Loibl RN; Oakland, CA
- Kara MacLeod; DrPH Candidate, UC Berkeley School of Public Health
Abeer Majeed; Primary Care Physician, Toronto
- Dana McCabe; Nurse practitioner, Boston, Mass.
- David McLanahan MD; Clinical Associate Professor of Surgery, University of Washington School of Medicine
- Howard Minkoff MD; Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Hercules Morphopoulos DDS; Kensington, Calif.
- Baijayanta Mukhopadhyay MD; Timmins, Ontario, Canada
- Nick Paretsky Housekeeper; University Hospital, University of Missouri – Columbia
- Thea Patterson RN; Joseph M. Smith Community Health Center, Waltham, Mass.
- Robert M. Peck MD; FACC Associate Professor of Medicine, Keck/USC School of Medicine
- Melissa Pickles; Resident Psychiatrist, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Kara Pravdo BSN, RN; Philadelphia, Penn.
- Ryan E. Pryor CPM, RN, BSN; Philadelphia, Penn.
- Nanky Rai MPH; Toronto, Canada, medical student
- Sarah Reaburn RN; Inuvik NT, Canada
- Ash Robbins RN; Philadelphia, Penn.
- Susan Rosenthal, MD; International Health Workers for People Over Profit (IHWPOP); Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- Suzanne Ross PhD; Clinical Psychologist, New York
- Liz Samuels MD, MPH
- Marc Sapir MD, MPH; Ambulatory Care Division, Alameda Health Services
Katherine Schaff; UC Berkeley Doctor of Public Health student with 10+ years of public health experience
- Carrie Schiff RN; San Francisco, Calif.
- Sophie Schoen RN; Montreal, Canada
- Sonia Semenic RN PhD; Montreal, Quebec, Canada
- Alan Shafer MA, MFT; San Francisco, CA
- Samir Shaheen-Hussain MD; Acute-Care Pediatrician and member of the Health Justice Collective, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
- Prateeksha Sharma; Executive director, Handsadhwani Foundation, Faridabad, India
- Heidi Lee Sinclair MD, MPH; New Orleans, La.
- Tolbert Small MD; Sojourner Truth Medical Clinic, Oakland, Calif.
- Shireen Soofi; Sanctuary Health, Coast Salish Territories
- Linda Spangler MD; Ambulatory Care Division Alameda Health Services
- Jean-Luc St-Amour; nursing student, Montreal, Quebec
- William Steinsmith MD; San Francisco, CA
- Nancy Stoller; PhD, Co-Founder, Jail and Prison Health Committee and Member, Governing Council, American Public Health Association
- Gregory Tewksbury; Chair, Ethical Action Committee, Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture
- Trent Tripp PT, MSPT; Phoenix, Ariz.
- William Wallin MD; Oakland, Calif.
- Li-hsia Wang MD; Berkeley, Calif.
- Dahlia Wasfi MD; Denver , Colo.
- Amina Watson MD
- Corey Weinstein MD
- Scott Weinstein RN; Montreal, Quebec, Canada
- Shawn Westfahl; Mutual Aid Street Medics, Philadelphia, Penn.
- Laura Whitehorn; former senior editor, POZ magazine
- Fred Wilkinson MD; Emergency Department (retired) Kaiser Permanente Group, Oakland, Calif.
- Kay Will RN; palliative care, hospice nurse
- Wilson Will PhD in Anthropology of Medicine, John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.
- Donna Willmott MPH
- JM Wong RN; Seattle, Wash.
- Meghan Woods MDPGY-1; San Francisco General Hospital Family and Community Medicine
- Susan Woolhouse MD; MClSc, CCFP, South Riverdale Community Health Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- Lorin Young; Resident Psychiatrist, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
- Tanya L. Zakrison; Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of Trauma and Surgical Critical Care, Ryder Trauma Center, University of Miami
This statement has also been endorsed by Sanctuary Health Collective (Coast Salish Territories), the Melbourne Anarchist Black Cross and the National Jericho Movement.
See for more background-information also: http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/letter-from-a-doctor/