In response to communication from DOC Director Harold Clarke
Several news articles have come out in the past few days reporting on statements from the Department of Corrections calling into question both the demands of the hunger strikers and the status of the strike.
Solidarity with Virginia Prison Hunger Strikers is engaging in ongoing efforts to be in touch with prisoners at Red Onion. In addition to mail correspondence, we have made both personal visits and legal calls to prisoners who are not only refusing meals but also showers and recreation time. Although we have had some success in establishing communication, prison officials are actively attempting to block all forms of communication.
There has been a history of organizing at this prison to protest the inhumane conditions since the opening of the prison. Because it was the prisoners themselves who put their bodies on the line to call attention to injustices at Red Onion, it should be the prisoners to whom we listen over the press releases of the Virginia Department of Correction. Given that the VA DOC both failed to acknowledge the hunger strike at the onset and engaged in sending out misinformation, their version of events is suspect.
As of last communication to supporters, the Red Onion hunger strike was reported as ongoing.
Anyone concerned with human rights and the rule of law in Virginia and the US should know that if these serious grievances are not addressed as a result of this action now, it will only result in new acts of protest.
Rather than reject the prisoners' demands as irrelevant or confusing the issues at hand, Director Clarke would do better to accept the demands and begin the process of providing prisoners the basic living conditions for which they call. These demands are largely for Red Onion to follow the DOC’s own protocol.
Prisoners have taken this drastic step and put their health and lives and risk only because other avenues have failed. We honor this call for justice and insist the Clarke and the VA DOC do as well.
Strikers have been separated, isolated, and retaliated against for their act of protest. Solidarity with Virginia Prison Hunger Strikers stands with the strike and will stand with prisoners everywhere so long as they organize and resist.