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Gang members say hunger strike aim is to 'sell drugs, make money'

July 19, 2013|By Paige St. John
  • California lawyers filed statements in federal court from Pelican Bay inmates Javier Zubiate, left, and James Elrod contending that prison gangs are behind hunger strike protests.
California lawyers filed statements in federal court from Pelican Bay… (California Department…)

California prison officials in federal legal filings alleged that the ongoing inmate hunger strike was orchestrated by prison gangs.

Attached to legal filings in U.S. District Court on Thursday, the state included declarations signed by former members of the prison gangs known as Nuestra Familia and the Aryan Brotherhood. The two inmates, both convicted murderers, have agreed to provide information against the gangs in return for being moved out of isolation at Pelican Bay State Prison near the Oregon border.

Inmate Javiar Zubiate, who states he was a second-tier leader of the Nuestra Familia, said he and other gang members went on similar hunger strikes in 2011 because one of the public "leaders" was Antonio Guillen, a Pelican Bay inmate whom Zubiate alleges is the highest ranking "general" within Nuestra Familia.

"To my understanding, the Aryan Brotherhood and the Black Guerilla Family organized the hunger strike, and Nuestra Familia was the last to sign off," Zubiate's sworn statement says. "If you didn't participate, it would be remembered when the time came for promotion."

Guillen is one of four inmates whose name appears on the current protest demand letters from Pelican Bay. He also is one of 10 Pelican Bay inmates who are part of a federal lawsuit over solitary confinement conditions at the prison.

Zubiate and the other inmate informant contend that the chief aim of the hunger strikes is to free gang leaders from isolation at Pelican Bay.

"The goal of the 2011 hunger strikes, from the perspective of the Aryan Brotherhood, was to get out of the [Security Housing Unit] because we knew it would kill the organization," inmate James Elrod's sworn declaration states. "We believed that if we were in the general population, we could sell drugs, make money and develop an influence on the streets."

Corrections officials said 1,235 inmates remained on hunger strike Friday. Four inmates at three prisons Friday refused medical checks, including one who stopped intravenous fluids, according to the court-appointed medical receiver's office

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twitter.com/paigestjohn

paige.stjohn@latimes.com

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