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It all began with an amazing victory. In 2005, Judge Thelton Henderson found in Plata v Schwarzenegger on behalf of California's inmates that the California prison system was in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution. That with respect to the health care it provided those it incarcerated. He then ordered the entire California prison medical system placed under a federal receiver.

Fast forward to July, 2013. The medical system is still under the control of a federal receiver - despite attempts by California's Governor, Jerry Brown, to claim that the state has rectified the problems inherent in the original order. Plaintiff's lawyers in Plata are still active, attempting to insure California carries out these constitutionally mandated reforms.

At Pelican Bay, Corcoran and Tehachapi a group of prisoners, despairing over conditions in the SHU (solitary confinement units) at these facilities, have come together to initiate a hunger strike involving an unprecedented 30,000 inmates. It begins on July 8th, making a core five demands.

As days turn into weeks, the number of strikers decline. Yet hundreds of men continue on with the hunger strike. With some having signed forms (advanced medical directives) instructing medical personnel not to resuscitate them, California's politicians and prison administrators are faced with a) negotiating, b) having these people die as they said they would be willing to do, or c) figuring out how to legally force feed them.

Last week they chose the latter.

California authorities won court approval on Monday to force-feed some prisoners on a hunger strike after officials voiced concerns that the inmates may have been coerced into refusing food in a protest against the state's solitary confinement policies.

U.S. District Court Judge Thelton E. Henderson, responding to a request by state authorities, ruled that California prison doctors may force-feed select inmates who are near death, even if they had signed orders asking not to be resuscitated.


 photo to-united-nations-help_zps90e06134.jpg

Those participating in the hunger strike were aghast. Anne Weills, an attorney working with the hunger strikers, wrote in a memo she gave me a copy of last week:

On Monday August 19th, they ((the hunger strikers)) feel incredibly betrayed by Judge Henderson who signed an order that was put before him and signed by attorneys for the Medical Receiver's office, Kamala Harris, the Attorney General... and Donald Spector, the lead attorney in the Plata who heads the Prison Law Office (PLO).

The hunger strikers felt shocked and blindsided by the fact that the order signed by Judge Henderson asserts that there is a presumption that the advanced medical directives that may have been signed by anyone who has been hunger striking since July 8th is invalid because that person may have been coerced to sign by a leader of an alleged gang...

There is not one shred of evidence that has been presented to Judge Henderson that someone has been coerced to sign anything... Where are the declarations of such a person? ... Is this a fraud being perpetrated on an honorable federal judge who trusts the Plata plaintiff's attorneys? Why was there no evidentiary hearing?

My understanding is that there was no evidentiary hearing because all the parties in the Plata lawsuit: the Receiver, the State, and the plaintiff's lawyers. agreed on the order.

But what does the Plata lawsuit have to do with the hunger strikers? Why does the issue even fall under Plata? The order concerns medical treatment of the hunger strikers, and medical treatment falls under the aegis of the Federal Medical Receiver, whose has responsibility under Plata.

Do the plaintiff's lawyers in the Plata case represent the hunger strikers? Only in a very general way, since they represent all prisoners because Plata was a class action suit involving all those incarerated in California state facilities.

Does anyone represent the hunger strikers in this matter? Anne Weills, other attorneys and the Center for Constitutional Rights represent the hunger strikers and other prisoners in their lawsuit, Asker v Brown, challenging California's solitary confinement policy as cruel and unusual punishment. But that does not extend to Plata.

How then did these plaintiff's lawyers come to this "agreement" with the state of California to go before Judge Henderson and ask for this force-feeding order? This is a very good question to which I have no answer. What I do know (having been told by some of the lawyers working with the hunger strikers) is that the Plata lawyers never contacted the hunger strikers' lawyers or the hunger strikers themselves. Not a hint, not a whisper that this was coming.

Blindsided - in so many words.

Outmanuevered - by desperate yet wily California officials and their legal team.

Cold Decked - given a hand to play in court that they could not win.

and

Betrayed, by people who a) are clearly not representing their wishes and b) should, after all, have known better, as their banner proclaims:


Prison Law Office

Protecting the constitutional rights of California prisoners.

One can only assume that the Plata lawyers were brought to this by some kind of incredible pressure applied by California's politicians and prison authorities (as these lawyers certainly are not stupid, we cannot assert incompetence as we otherwise might using Hanlon's Razor. Nor does malice seem plausible).

Today is the 53rd day of the California Prisoner Hunger Strike. The participants seem more committed than ever.

California's officials are desperate for this action to continue to be non-news. The deaths of inmates would interrupt their carefully spun narrative that the entire fifty two days of protest by hundreds of men willing to risk their lives came about because some "gang leaders" decided they would like to get out of solitary.

They'd prefer that tweets like this



not go viral.

 photo la-times-torture-ad_zps437e4df7.jpg

They don't want full-page ads running in the LA Times calling out Brown et al to become commonplace.

Recognition by the public that California is, in fact, torturing people on whim would be, to say the least, counterproductive to Brown's continued attempts to fight with Federal judges to reduce California's prison population. Nor would it aid Brown's latest ploy to demand that the Legislature allocate money from California's shallow reserve to lease additional prison cells.

It's time for Brown's fears to come true.

-----


This is the 2nd part of a two-parter on recent events surrounding the California Prisoners' Hunger Strike.  Part I, published a few days ago, is 200 Protesters. 100 Cops. 50 Days Sans Food. 2 Awesome Speakers. 1 Absymal Governor.

This is also part of a multi-diary series on the California Prisoners' Hunger Strike, beginning in early June, 2013:


Some Dare Call it Torture.

CA Gov. Brown Smacked Down (Again) By Federal Judges... And About to Face Yet Another Prison Crisis.

You Will Never Find a More Wretched Hive of Scum and Villany.

30,000 Prison Voices Speak In California Hunger Strike. MSM: Crickets.

It's Official. CA Bureaucrats Say Prisoners Really On Hunger Strike... and Start Spouting Assholery.

Can You Take One Moment to Stop Torture.

What Do You Do With People Protesting Solitary Confinement? CA Says: Stick 'em Deeper Into Solitary!

There is a Difference, After all, Between Punishment and Torture.

Now They Are Putting Our Children Into Solitary Confinement.

Now Jerry Brown Wants to Force Feed California's Hunger Strikers. Update Already!

200 Protesters. 100 Cops. 50 Days Sans Food. 2 Awesome Speakers. 1 Absymal Governor.

Originally posted to jpmassar on Thu Aug 29, 2013 at 02:34 PM PDT.

Also republished by Occupy Wall Street, California politics, SFKossacks, and Progressive Policy Zone.

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