Ending racial hostilities in California prisons, as proposed by a coalition of Pelican Bay prisoners, would not solve all of the system’s problems, but it would be a “dramatic step in the right direction,” says a law professor.
“Were the structure of racial hostility in the prison system to disappear, people would no longer have to waste their efforts on stoking unhealthy and counterproductive hatred and mutual harm, but could be free to associate with whom they choose and to spend their energies on positive personal self-development,” said law professor Sharon Dolovich, University California at Los Angeles.
In October, an interracial group of prisoners sought to change how incarcerated men and women treat each other by writing and distributing an Agreement to End Hostilities. The letter calls for an end of violence between racial groups in California prisons and jails.
“If we really want to bring about substantive changes…now is the time for us to collectively seize this moment in time, and put an end to more that 20-30 years of hostilities between our racial groups,” the letter reads.
“On its face it appears to be an incredibly positive action that provides reason for hope and it should be supported by everyone involved in efforts to correct the horrendous problems that exist in the system,” said actor and activist Mike Farrell in an email to the San Quentin News. “But, I think evidence of positive action, especially evidence that can be verified, can and should be promoted by those of us outside the system and will be invaluable in getting media attention,” Farrell added.
“If indeed the people housed in California prisons were to heed the call of this letter and end racial hostilities, it would be transformative”
Men in segregation statewide put aside their difference to work in unity with men they weren’t used to getting along with, wrote Kendra Castaneda, who is married to one of the men who started the effort in Pelican Bay, in the San Francisco Bay View.
On Oct. 10, the Los Angeles Youth Justice Coalition led a rally to initiate a “cease fire in the streets” to correspond with the end of hostilities inside the prison. The rally began at 10 a.m. outside the LA County Men’s Jail with representatives from the Fair Chance Project, LA Community Action Network, FACTS (Families to Amend California Three Strikes), California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement, Homies Unidos, California Faith Action, Coalition to Stop Sheriff Violence and Gender Justice LA, reports Castaneda.
Prisoners in Calipatria State Prison, Corcoran, Pelican Bay, and Tehachapi have put aside their differences to be in unity, reports Castaneda.
The Agreement letter reads, “We must all hold strong to our mutual agreement from this point on and focus our time, attention, and energy on mutual causes beneficial to all of us (i.e., prisoners) and our best interests.”
“If indeed the people housed in California prisons were to heed the call of this letter and end racial hostilities, it would be transformative,” said Dolovich. “My strong sense is that many of the most dangerous and destructive aspects of life in GP (General Population) units in the California prisons are related to the determination of some prisoners to enforce, with violence if necessary, a set of unnecessary rules mandating racial segregation and racial enmity. This increased freedom to define their own priorities and agendas would be a huge net benefit for its own sake, and would also reduce the stress and trauma that people in custody experience on a daily basis.”