Jose H. Villarreal was scheduled be released from Pelican Bay State Prison in California on December 19th, 2016 after serving a sixteen year sentence. We received word from Jose in mid-December that his release date had been pushed back to January 2nd, 2017, for unknown reasons. We just received a letter from Jose dated January 3rd, stating that his release date had been pushed back again to TODAY, January 6th. We are anxiously awaiting to hear from Jose to see if he was indeed released today or if they continue to push back his release for no reason.
We want to do one last call out for folks to contribute to the post-release support fundraiser for Jose! Sixteen years is a long time to be locked up, and as much as serving time in prison is its own struggle, the post-release period is sure to bring its own struggles as well. One thing we can do to stand with this comrade is to raise some money to help him start his new life with us on the outside. Once he gets settled he has some big plans for what lies ahead! Some of Jose’s goals for the future include working with Chican@ youth, creating a community art space and help Chican@ and prisoner writers and artists get their work out into the world!
Jose is a 41 year old Chicano prisoner, currently being held at the infamous California State Prison – Pelican Bay, a prison that sits in the far northwest corner of California in the town of Crescent City.Pelican Bay State Prison sits just north of one of the most beautiful redwood forests, but you’d never know this if you were in a 6’ x 9’ windowless cell, subject to 23 and a half hours of lockdown a day in the Security Housing Unit (SHU).
Jose spent the majority of his sentence in the SHU, only having been moved back into General Population almost one year ago. During his time in the SHU Jose tapped into something within him and found a revolutionary spirit that kept him working hard with other prisoners held captive in the SHU to expose just what horrific conditions they were faced with every day.
Over the years, Jose has developed as a great writer, artist and organizer and he is dedicated to using his skills to create change. He and other Pelican Bay prisoners took part in three different hunger strikes to protest and put an end to long term solitary confinement. These hunger strikes at Pelican Bay inspired other California prisoners to join the hunger strike movement, a movement that contributed to substantial changes being made in solitary confinement practices in California. Jose wrote about these hunger strikes and the prisoner movement in a great piece titled “The Lumpen Has Stood Up!” which you can check out here.
Jose’s writings have appeared in California Prison Focus, The Rock, SF Bayview, Poor Magazine, and 4strugglemag. Some of these radical publications have also featured Jose’s art. He was so honored to have one of his pieces of art in the 2015 Certain Days calendar, a wonderful project that comes out each year as a benefit for Political Prisoners. Jose Villarreal has become a familiar name within the modern day prison movement through his writing, art and will to stand up for fellow prisoners at Pelican Bay and nationwide.
There are those of us outside of prison that have gotten to know Jose as such a person of conviction and integrity, whose work ethic is inspiring. We have transcribed his articles, poems, book reviews and essays to get his words out there. We have celebrated his art that always has such a revolutionary pulse. We have also found each other. We have come together and now we are asking for you to join us in an effort to raise some post-release funds for Jose.
Here is a quote from one of Jose’s most recent articles: “Having been one of the many who have been let out of the control units (SHU), I can say that there is some victory in this development, but there is much work to be done outside the SHU and still a ways to go before victory is complete.”
Remember that every single donation counts. Donate what you can and please pass this along. Thank you so much for your support!
PS – Be sure to check out the first Update on the crowd funding site, and take a look at all the gifts that are being offered if you donate to this fundraising effort!