Issued by the Office of the Chairperson
International League of Peoples’ Struggle
May 24, 2012
“You can judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners.”–Fyodor Dostoevsky
“The day I arrived I was … told that I was at Red Onion now and that if I act up they would kill me and there was nothing anyone could or would do about it.”
–Inmate statement to Human Rights Watch
The International League for Peoples Struggle and our member organizations in 43 countries stand in full solidarity with the brave prisoners at Red Onion State Prison in the State of Virginia who have been on hunger strike for three days. As is clear from their demands reproduced below, the inmates at this isolated prison are striking for the most basic human rights: the right not to be beaten and tortured, the right to sanitation, the right to eat enough calories to survive. In fact, they are demanding no more than that the Virginia Department of Corrections live up to its own written rules and regulations.
We condemn the corporate-owned U.S.news media news, always so eager to track down alleged human rights violations in countries not subservient to U.S. business interests, for suppressing the story of ongoing torture and hunger within the walls of a U.S. prison and the prisoners who are risking their lives to end it. We urge all our member organizations to help break through this wall of media silence and publicize the just struggle of the Red Onion State hunger strikers.
The United States imprisons more people than any other country on earth, and U.S. prisons are little more than concentration camps for the poor. The mass incarceration of over 2 million people in the United States. the majority of them people of color, is among the most grievous human rights violations in the world today.
The issue of mass incarceration in the United States cannot be separated from the systematic racist oppression that denies millions in the African-American and other oppressed communities the right to a job, housing and other basic human rights. The majority of prisoners at Red Onion State Prion, like in most U.S. prisons, have been convicted of crimes of survival. Many have committed no crime at all.
The struggle of prisoners has long been a powerful component of the people’s struggle inside the United States. The legacy of the George Jackson, the Attica brothers, Joanne Little, the San Quentin Six, the Angola Three and so many others who fought against injustice and oppression from the walls of U.S. prisons will never be forgotten. The Red Onion hunger strikers are carrying on their tradition.
We urge people in the United States and all over the world to raise their voices in support of the just demands of the Red Onion State strikers. We call on the Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Virginia Department of Corrections director Harold Clarke to recognize the humanity of the Red Onion State prisoners and meet their just demands and to allow no retaliation against them.
Prof. Jose Maria Sison
International Coordinating Committee
International League of Peoples’ Struggle
We include below the phone numbers and email addresses of the the governor of Virginia, the warden of Red Onion State prison and the top officials in the Virginia prison system as well as a a list of the prisoners’ just demands. We thank SPARC (Supporting Prisoners and Advocating Radical Change) and the Richmond Defenders for freedom, Justice and Equality for providing this information.
Business Phone: 804 674 3118
ROSP Chief Warden Randall Mathena
Business Phone: 276 796 7510
Regional Operations Chief, Western Region Corrections Operations G.K. Washington
Business Phone: 804 674 3118
Gov. Robert McDonnell: 804-786-2211 or email from: www.governor.virginia.gov/AboutTheGovernor/contactGovernor.cfm
Ten Demands of ROSP Hunger Strikers
We (Prisoners at Red Onion State Prison) demand the right to an adequate standard of living while in the custody of the state!
1. We demand fully cooked food, and access to a better quality of fresh fruit and vegetables. In addition, we demand increased portions on our trays, which allows us to meet our basic nutritional needs as defined by VDOC regulations.
2. We demand that every prisoner at ROSP have unrestricted access to complaint and grievance forms and other paperwork we may request.
3. We demand better communication between prisoners and higher- ranking guards. Presently higher-ranking guards invariably take the lower-ranking guards side in disputes between guards and prisoners, forcing the prisoner to act out in order to be heard. We demand that higher- ranking guards take prisoner complaints and grievances into consideration without prejudice.
4. We demand an end to torture in the form of indefinite segregation through the implementation of a fair and transparent process whereby prisoners can earn the right to be released from segregation. We demand that prison officials completely adhere to the security point system, insuring that prisoners are transferred to institutions that correspond with their particular security level.
5. We demand the right to an adequate standard of living, including access to quality materials that we may use to clean our own cells. Presently, we are forced to clean our entire cell, including the inside of our toilets, with a single sponge and our bare hands. This is unsanitary and promotes the spread of disease-carrying bacteria.
6. We demand the right to have 3rd party neutral observers visit and document the condition of the prisons to ensure an end to the corruption amongst prison officials and widespread human rights abuses of prisoners. Internal Affairs and Prison Administrator’s monitoring of prison conditions have not alleviated the dangerous circumstances we are living under while in custody of the state which include, but are not limited to: the threat of undue physical aggression by guards, sexual abuse and retaliatory measures, which violate prison policies and our human rights.
7. We demand to be informed of any and all changes to VDOC/IOP policies as soon as these changes are made.
8. We demand the right to adequate medical care. Our right to medical care is guaranteed under the eight amendment of the constitution, and thus the deliberate indifference of prison officials to our medical needs constitutes a violation of our constitutional rights. In particular, the toothpaste we are forced to purchase in the prison is a danger to our dental health and causes widespread gum disease and associated illnesses.
9. We demand our right as enumerated through VDOC policy, to a monthly haircut. Presently, we have been denied haircuts for nearly three months. We also demand to have our razors changed out on a weekly basis. The current practice of changing out the razors every three weeks leaves prisoners exposed to the risk of dangerous infections and injury.
10. We demand that there be no reprisals for any of the participants in the Hunger Strike. We are simply organizing in the interest of more humane living conditions