Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) reports on the ongoing practice of Central California prisons staging “gladiator fights” in response hunger strikes and continuing organizing.
Recently leaked videos taken February 14th and 15th show fights between prisoners breaking out in a yard at the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad, CA. After firing tear gas at the fighting prisoners, the video shows COs encircling the prisoners, but not providing aid or intervening.
Officials are referring to the practice as “incremental release.” Guards handpick small numbers of prisoners from rival groups then release them onto a yard together in order to provoke a fight and justify further lockdowns. This practice has been documented at CSP-Corcoran 3C, CTF-Soledad and Pleasant Valley State Prison thus far in recent weeks and as such can only be viewed as a policy-level strategy being deployed by CDCR.
“Gladiator fights are what they have historically done. It’s never really stopped. It’s just increasing.”
– Jose Villareal, a survivor of gladiator fights within CDCR
At CSP-Corcorans 3C facility a prisoner group has been locked down 4 ½ months since such an incident was orchestrated on September 28th. A group of 270 prisoners protested with a 3 week hunger strike in January accompanied by a set of 6 demands (attached).
Family members of prisoners at these facilities have been organizing protests outside CSP – Corcoran on weekends to draw attention to the practice of “gladiator fights” and to call attention to broader issues of indefinite collective punishment and forced separation of families
“It’s hard because we’re both each other’s support system,” Laura told The Appeal. “It hurts me to even talk about it because I have a son and it bothers me that he can’t talk to him, and even hear his voice or anything.”
Families, prisoners and supporters are calling for a cessation of the manipulated violence of “gladiator fights” and an end to the indefinite group punishment and lockdown.
“CDCR is cynical and destructive. Under the guise of making prisoner groups ‘get along,’ they in fact are escalating divisions and trying to break the agreements prisoner groups have already made among themselves to combat racial violence.” – Brooke Terpstra, IWOC support organizer