California State Prison, Corcoran, California
June 27, 2019-ongoing

Please note: This event is recent or ongoing. We will update this article as the situation unfolds.

At least half of the prisoners in the 3C unit of the California State Prison, Corcoran began a food strike on June 27 in protest of a change in prison policy that would take kitchen jobs away from general population and give them to prisoners in protective custody, according to multiple sources. Prisoners are refusing state-issued “trays” but are instead eating bag lunches provided by the prison.

According to the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), the strike involved approximately 1,000 prisoners.

Terry Thornton, Deputy Press Secretary for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, stated that prisoners at Corcoran were not on a “hunger strike” and are eating “state-issued food,” but did not respond to questions about whether prisoners in the 3C unit are refusing trays or are participating in a “food strike” while still receiving bag lunches.

According to the Corcoran Inmate Family Council (CIFC), officials at Corcoran confirmed to them the existence of a food strike, stating that as of July 12, 2019, half of the population of the 3C unit was refusing breakfast trays but receiving bag lunches. The prison spokesperson was unsure about whether the striking prisoners were accepting dinner trays.

Desiree Mia Gutierrez, whose husband is housed on the 3C unit at Corcoran, stated in an email that more than half of the 3C unit is refusing both breakfast and dinner trays. General population prisoners are concerned about protective custody prisoners lashing out at them by tampering with their food, Gutierrez stated. Prisoners in protective custody “are known to tamper with…food and contaminate it. This is putting GP health at risk.” Striking prisoners are refusing to eat food prepared by the protective custody prisoners and are only eating “sealed” bag lunches, which they consider to be safe.

According to CIFC, the prison confirmed that kitchen jobs were being transferred to those in protective custody, and explained that “the inmate workforce [is] constantly being interrupted by lock-downs on certain yards. If the inmates on those yards do not show up for work in the kitchens (because of the interruptions/lock-downs, etc) it makes it very difficult for the prisons kitchen job(s) to be completed and the food to be prepared.”

According to Gutierrez and another family member who wished to remain anonymous, the decision to appoint all kitchen jobs to those in protective custody followed a “riot” on June 25 involving a fight between members of rival gangs, the Crips and Bloods. Following the fight, the 3C unit was placed on lockdown.

But kitchen workers still go to work regardless of lockdowns, Gutierrez stated, which creates confusion as to whether the prison has a different motivation for the decision. “…Let’s question CDRC regarding critical workers and why do they have a critical workers list” she wrote, referring to the California Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. “Even when a prison is on lockdown critical workers still go to work no matter what!”

A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Desiree Mia Gutierrez as Desiree Mia Bridgetown. (Updated 7/18/19)

Citations:

IWOC (@IWW_IWOC), June 29, 2019. “BREAKING: Approx 1000 ppl inside Corcoran 3C, a max unit in CA, enter their 3rd day refusing tray. A food strike across all racial lines. All their kitchen jobs were taken from them and given to Protective Custody prisoners.#prisonstrike. [Tweet].”  Accessed July 1, 2019.

Corcoran Inmate Family Council (@Corcoraninmatefamilycouncil). July 12, 2019. “HUNGER STRIKE”. [Facebook Post]. Accessed July 17, 2019.

Desiree Mia Gutierrez. Email to Perilous. July 17, 2019.