Pelican Bay families support prisoners

From the January-February 2013 issue of News & Letters:

Pelican Bay families support prisoners

Editor’s note: California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) came together during the prisoners’ 2011 hunger strike initiated by prisoners in Security Housing Unit (SHU). To support the prisoners’ ongoing movement, specifically the Agreement to Cease Hostilities (see Nov.-Dec. 2012 N&L), CFASC organized a bus for various families from Southern California to meet with their loved ones at Pelican Bay. Here are a few statements from participants.

* * *

Dolores Canales: Talking with all the families as we gathered to get on the bus, especially those who had never been to Pelican Bay, or for whom it’s been many years, is overwhelming. It encourages me to get more people up there, to get families united. Some people can afford to come only once a year, if that often, so they are very thankful for this.

We have on this bus people who will be visiting folks on the yard as well as in the SHU. There is every race here. We’re bringing the families together in a way that the prisoners got together inside, issuing an Agreement to End Hostilities. There will be disagreements. The difference is in how you work through them. Since the Agreement has been put out, we said, let’s start working through our differences.

San Francisco members of the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike Support Coalitionwelcome family members on their way to Pelican Bay on Dec. 7, 2012

San Francisco members of the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike Support Coalition
welcome family members on their way to Pelican Bay on Dec. 7, 2012

We wanted to include families of people on the yard, to build hope and reunification. CDC promotes itself as California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation. Family reunion is the biggest part of rehabilitation, giving you something to hope for, something to strive for, to build back family bonds. That is very hard to do when the prison is so far. The distance is overwhelming. One woman on the bus is from San Diego. She has been writing her husband about their two kids, but the distance makes it impossible for them to come. It is almost 1,000 miles one way. Another family told me that to come up to Pelican Bay costs them $500-$600. Because of the distance and the expense, one person on the bus has not seen her loved one for 18 years! It’s a real hardship. They want to visit, they want to be with them, but they can’t. It’s very sad. The last photograph she has of him is from 1995.

There are 55 people on the bus, including many children, the youngest is 11 months old. We have several teens, who have not seen their dads in years. They are not resentful, just hopeful, glad to see their dads. The kids are being so incredibly good. It’s humbling how grateful they are.

Isaac (nine years old): I am very excited about seeing my dad. I am happy about it. We have not seen him for seven years, ever since he’s been sent up there. My father sent me a drawing. It’s of the father from Finding Nemo and a big shark.

Another family member: I’m loving the trip. I’ve never been to San Francisco. It’s a long ride from Glendale. My five-year-old son has never been on a bus ride this long.

A family member: My son does not know I am coming. It will be a surprise. He’s been there for 17 years. He’s already served his sentence, he was supposed to be out, but they are keeping him. They did not want to let him out of the SHU. It’s good to organize these trips. I have another son in Tehachapi whom I’d like to see.

* * *

CFASC is planning fundraisers to organize more trips like this one, as well as actions in support of a renewed hunger strike, which may come about on July 8, 2013, since CDC has not lived up to the agreements they made during the last strike. You can send a contribution to CFASC c/o PBHS, 1904 Franklin St. #507, Oakland, CA 94612.

—Urszula Wislanka

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