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Sep 5, 20

Lane County Jail Hunger Strike Enters Week Eleven As Call Made for Strike

Lane County Mutual Aid publishes an open letter from former hunger striker calling for a general prison/jail work strike and canteen boycott while detailing systemic abuse.

Eugene, OR – As the positive Covid-19 infection rate and death toll grows within incarceration facilities in Oregon, the Lane County Jail Hunger Strike endures, entering Week Eleven as of Sunday, August 30th. The relay strike has involved between 20 and 25 pre-trial detainees in Lane County Jail.

LCMA is currently unsure of the total number of incarcerated people on strike because communication with those inside has become difficult, as they suspect their strike support hotline was blocked by the jail for their organizing efforts. Yet, despite these obstructions, LCMA is in contact with one hunger striker who has refused food for 40 consecutive days and is aware of two other strikers who have been refusing food for over three weeks.

While the hunger strike was initially instigated to demand Covid-19 precautions within the jail (such as guards wearing masks, proper cleaning and sanitary practices, social distancing, and adequate quarantine measures), after the jail conceded to these demands (or else adopted them after the second confirmed Covid-19 case within the jail), the hunger strike has grown to encompass larger, more systemic demands.

They are as follows:

– the release of all pre-trial and medically vulnerable detainees

– the right to a fair and speedy trial

– the drastic reduction of excessive bail

– the right to in-person, behind-glass social visitations with friends and family

– the right to in-person, behind-glass visitations with lawyers at the behest of either lawyers or detainees

– the reinstatement of religious services

Strikers have made the connection between ongoing demands for police and prison reform in the struggle against police and prison violence and adequate preventative measures that would save lives of incarcerated people in the immediate future. Since incarcerated people are 500% more likely to contract Covid-19 and are 300% more likely to die from it, only releasing people from incarceration will be enough, they argue, to save the lives of those who are locked up with the prospect of death.

Yet, because of Covid-19, trial dates in Lane County are continually postponed and the limits of pre-trial detention are expanded, abuses which risk turning pre-trial detention into a death sentence. Detainees allege that this revocation of constitutionally protected rights constitutes a manipulation on behalf of the county to force detainees into accepting plea deals, regardless of guilt, innocence, or justice.

Call for General Prison/Jail Work Strike and Commissary Boycott

Lane County Mutual Aid also received and published an Open Letter from a former Lane County Jail Hunger Striker calling for a general prison / jail work strike and commissary boycott to supplement the hunger strike, amplify the demands, and put further pressure on the hierarchy of Oregon’s justice system. The letter additionally lists all of the systemic abuses in the jail. Here is video footage of the former striker reading the letter. Here is the full text of the letter. The issues and abuses that are raised in the letter include Food, Diversity Training, Excessive Bail, Emergency Alert System, Work Strike, the Impeachment of Sheriff Cliff Harold, Beds, Price-Gouging, Due Process, and Fair Trials.

According to data from the state of Oregon’s Covid-19 tracking in Department of Corrections Facilities and data from the Marshall Project’s state-by-state look at Coronavirus in prisons, almost 750 incarcerated people in the state of Oregon have tested positive for Covid-19, at a ratio of 5 positive cases per 100 prisoners, after deadly outbreaks in six Oregon incarceration facilities. Five incarcerated people have died in custody.

In March of 2020, Disability Rights Oregon, ACLU of Oregon, Oregon Justice Resource Center, Partnership for Safety & Justice, Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and Sponsors Justice Reimagined all urged the state of Oregon to drastically reduce incarcerated populations as protections against Covid-19. In June of 2020, a group of Oregon lawmakers urged Governor Kate Brown to commute the sentences of 2,000 incarcerated people as protections against Covid-19. Of the 24,000 people incarcerated in Oregon, Brown only released 57.

For more information, see @eughungerstrike on Twitter and @lanecountymutualaid on Instagram. Here is a complete press package with video interviews from strikers, past press releases, and more information.

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