This is Martha. She travelled 9 hrs from San Diego to attend today’s public hearing about solitary confinement in CA prisons at the state capitol, Sacramento. Her brother Luis Esquivel has been in the secure housing unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay for 13 years.

I asked to take a photo because her T-shirt caught me eye. I admire her use of his portrait. The California Department of Corrections has never granted Martha visiting rights; she has not seen her brother in 13 years.

#stoptortureca #insteadofprisons


This morning, I had the opportunity to speak to my church about the fight to abolish solitary confinement. Then we all prayed together for people fighting inside and out. I want to share what we prayed about with you. If you are a praying person, I am asking you to pray. If you are part of a faith community, I encourage you to bring this to your community for communal prayer. Whether you are religious or spiritual or neither, I am asking you to join the fight to abolish solitary confinement. 

“Good morning, Church!

I’m so happy that we’re going to be praying for prisoners in solitary confinement this morning. This is a struggle I became involved about one year ago today, when 30,000 prisoners went on hunger strike to protest the practice of solitary confinement in California prisons. Prisoners in and out of the SHU starved themselves for 60 days. One prisoner died from starvation, all of them now have lasting health issues as a result of their nonviolent protest, and many of them were retaliated against by the California Department of Corrections for participating. After all, the whole point of putting prisoners in solitary confinement is to keep them from organizing! 

This was the largest prisoner hunger strike in American history, and it brought international attention to the abuses of the California prison system. See, America is an outlier internationally in it’s use of solitary confinement, and California is an outlier in the United States in it’s extreme use of the practice. The UN defines any more than 14 days in solitary as torture. The average stay in solitary in California is six years. There are prisoners in California who have been in solitary confinement for 40 years. Can you imagine? That’s 40 years without sunlight. 40 years without being touched by another human being. 40 years alone in 7 by 11 foot cell. We know that this is torture. But why is it so important that the church not only speak out against these human rights abuses, but actively pray and care for SHU prisoners and their families? 

Because as the Church, we are called to proclaim God’s truth in the face of the devil’s lies. Now, when I say the devil, I’m of course speaking about white supremacist capitalist imperialist patriarchy. The logic of the State is that some people in our community are disposable, that they don’t matter, that they should be killed or disappeared for the good of society. That is a lie. We can fight against this lie spiritually by praying for prisoners in solitary confinement, and for their families and loved ones. By praying together today, we are saying to the prisoners, "You still matter. We have not forgotten you, God has not forgotten you, and you are not alone.” To their families, who are made to feel ashamed that their loved one is “the worst of the worst,” who are told, “you deserve what you get,” we are saying, “We are here with you, God is here with you, and we demand better on your behalf, in the name of Jesus.” By praying together today, we are saying to the state, and to the prison industrial complex, “We know you are lying to us, and as people of God, we are going to expose your lies and we are going to tell the truth. We are going to love each other when you tell us to hate and fear each other. We are going to remember and care for each other when you tell us to forget each other. We are going to remember our humanity when you tell us we are not human. We are going to keep fighting against your white supremacist capitalist imperialist patriarchy, and even when you tell us that we have no hope in the face of your power, we know that with God on our side, we are going to win. We will be free!" 

Thank you so much for praying with me today, and please keep the prisoners, their families, and those fighting against the prison industrial complex in your prayers every day.”