Friday, July 12, 2013

California prisoners are going on a hunger strike

Although the United States government often accuses other governments of human rights abuses or violations, there are significant problems in the USA which are just being ignored.

For instance, about 16% of Americans live below the poverty line and about 20% of all American children live in poverty.  The following link points out that the number of poor people in the USA has 'spiked.' That means the number has risen sharply or has risen a lot quickly. http://washington.cbslocal.com/2012/11/15/census-u-s-poverty-rate-spikes-nearly-50-million-americans-affected/

Not one American presidential candidate mentioned those facts during the last election - including Barack Obama.

It also turns out that a huge number of Americans are in jail or were convicted of crimes and are being monitored.  An amazing 1/32 Americans are either in jail or being monitored because they committed a crime.  http://usgovinfo.about.com/cs/censusstatistic/a/aainjail.htm

Furthermore, if we look at the types of people who are going to prison, it turns out that 60% of prisoners in the USA are Black and Latino.  33% of African American men - or one out of three - has spent or will probably spend some time in jail according to the US government. http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/news/2012/03/13/11351/the-top-10-most-startling-facts-about-people-of-color-and-criminal-justice-in-the-united-states/

Furthermore, if we look at how prisoners are treated once they go to jail, we see obviously poor treatment.

Here is an article about prisoners in California who are refusing to eat because they feel that the conditions for prisoners in California are so terrible.

The article:

http://news.yahoo.com/30-000-california-prisoners-refusing-meals-030023796.html

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to refuse - to say 'no' to

a hunger strike - a strike is usually when workers stop working in order to protest poor treatment or to try to gain better wages.  A hunger strike is usually when a prisoner (or prisoners) stops eating food to protest (complain about) poor treatment.

corrections officials - people who work for the prison system.

out-of-state private prisons - believe it or not, America has private prisons.  This means that the prisons are run like businesses.  These are jails run by private companies.  So California sends some of its prisoners out to these private prisons.

2/3 of 33 prisons = 21 prisons

a protest, to protest - a protest is when a group gets together to complain or speak out against something they think is wrong.  To protest is to take this type of action.  The prison authorities are calling what is happening in their prisons a 'protest' and not a 'hunger strike.'

consecutive - one after the other

a less than stellar reputation - a bad reputation, a rotten reputation.  Stellar comes from the word for 'star' or 'stars.'  A stellar reputation is a great reputation.  A less than stellar reputation means  a less than great reputation. 

a handful of issues - a few issues

to trace back to - if you trace a problem back, you'll find the source or the origin of the problem.  The author is saying most of the problems in the California system come from (stem from) overcrowding (too many prisoners).

astonishing - shocking, surprising

those locked in solitary confinement - solitary means alone.  Confinement means to be kept in a small area against your will.  Sometimes prisoners are put all alone into small rooms.

a hiker - someone who likes wandering around in the wilderness.

comprised of - made up of

isolation - being kept alone

to condemn - to say something is wrong

torture - when extreme actions are taken to harm a powerless person

they've outlined demands - they've briefly written down what they feel needs to be changed

modify - change

a gang - a group (in prison people often join gangs for self-protection or to harm others or to make money etc.)

constructive programming - I don't understand all of the demands, but in regard to constructive programming, I think the prisoners want classes or meaningful things to do.

a tally - a count.  A number of things.

a current lawsuit - the prisoners are suing the jail system in California. They have filed legal papers and a judge will determine whether changes will be made. When a person sues another person, usually the person submits (files) a complaint to a judge in a courtroom and tries to receive some money because of something wrong that was supposedly done to the person.  In this case prisoners are suing to change their circumstances.

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Writing/discussion:

Does this information about poverty and the prison system surprise you?

Why is there so much poverty and crime in the USA?

Some people feel that prisoners do not even deserve human rights.  They deserve the bad treatment they are receiving.  How do you feel about this?
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