Eric’s Background Statement
In order to address any questions concerning my hunger strike it feels like some background is necessary. After 14 days of a hunger strike in April of 06 I began receiving a tray at chow-time without any animal products or byproducts – which I foolishly accepted without question. The protein base of the diet was predominately peanut butter, with some rice and beans making sparse appearances during the first few months. The remainder of the 16 months, peanut butter was the main source. I was able to obtain some products through the jail's commissary to diversify my diet (something I also naively undertook), such as dehydrated refried beans, top-o-ramen noodles, cookies (they use soy lecithin as an emulsifier), tortillas (with “no animal fat” printed on them), and a few non-cheese potato chips available.... At dinner on August 30, 2007, I was informed that i was no longer going to be provided my diet and any issues were to be taken up with the operations commander of the jail using a grievance form (which take, plus or minus, ten work days to receive a reply – on top of it, the following Monday was Labor Day)... With my trial set for September 10, and experiencing a heart condition earlier that spring, I saw a hunger strike at that time to be a large distraction from something on which I wished to focus all my faculties ......I also saw a hunger strike as possibly bringing about a relapse of my heart condition due to lack of exercise – one of the causes I believed initiated the first occurrence – causing another postponement of my trial... Thereafter I subsisted on fresh fruit and bread provided during meals (one piece of fruit at breakfast and lunch, and two pieces – usually - of bread at breakfast and dinner) as well as the items I obtained through the commissary... .... following the experience with my heart in the spring I took exceptional interest in my physical health, to the point where in August I had to drop the exercise down a couple of notches knowing I was soon to go before a jury... the jail staff considerably aided to that end when they stopped providing my diet, citing that it was too expensive, I was selling extra peanut butter (proof I've never seen, nor was I ever written up for any such offense), and finally, that my being provided a diet without animal products was merely a “gentlemen's agreement” with a prior captain. I was no longer being obliged by the new regime... ... through the experience of my trial and the time after I adhered to the physical routine that utilized yoga and exercise one day and qiquong and tai chi the next: taking at last 2 hours every day.... after the end of my trial I discussed with my support group whether or not I was going to address the issue of my diet, which I decided against, citing the concerns for my heart... well, circumstances beyond my control have caused quite a change... on the morning of November 9 I awoke with throbbing pressure in my head and the feeling of a softball sized chunk of rot-iron being ground into the underside of my sternum, as well as the surrounding tissue around my heart – the exact sensations that occurred last spring... at chow I gingerly made it off the bunk, down the stairs to get my piece of fruit and two pieces of bread, upon my return to the cell I realized this was not something to grin and bear, and notified the deputy to contact the medical floor about my chest pains... it took a while but I was down on the medical floor and having my vitals taken around 6:15 am, where after they locked me into a holding room... around 8:15 am they pulled me out and took my vitals again and also ran an EKG, after a quick look-over by the doctor of the printout, he proceeded to tell me that nothing was the matter with me, pericarditis was not what I suffered from now nor last spring and I was to return immediately to my cell... in a speechless stupor of shock I let the floor officer lead me out of the elevator, back to the fourth floor into the cell – soon my mind began to recover from the spasm of insanity I was just subject to... in the spring I distinctly remembered the doctor at the emergency room at UCD coming out at the end of the day to show me my EKG and where the signs of pericarditis were, as well as her backing the medications which the jail staff had prescribed for treatment the day before... just then the deputy came over the speaker over the door and asked if I would like some dayroom, I figured why not, grabbed my towel, and moved to pick my shower shoes off the floor – suddenly something popped into my mind from my body = “you think you're going to do what now?”... I got a little upset thinking on how squatting down to pick up an item would cause such a reaction, then it compounded again – there is still a pain in my chest and I'm back in this cell as if there isn't, something is wrong with this picture... so I put the towel back, slowly descended the stairs, and went to the door to notify the deputies that I required medical attention due to chest pains... as I waited for a response I contacted my attorney leaving a message with these recent developments, then I phoned my partner and informed her of the situation, and after much discussion I came to the decision to engage in a hunger strike... a large factor was my heart issues and the dietary choices I was being subject to, as all the commissary items are high in sodium and dehydrogenated oils... while speaking to my partner a deputy informed me that further medical assistance was not necessary due to my recent diagnosis earlier that morning. Around 11 am I submitted a jail request form notifying the deputies on duty of my hunger strike, the last time I ate was around 8:30 am that morning, which consisted of a banana and two pieces of bread... at 1:15 pm I was called out to control to receive pills. I was offered a Motrin by the nurse, which I refused not knowing it's affect on an empty stomach... at 8pm I was called out again, this time I ended up speaking to a deputy with two stripes on his shoulder and he said the jail had been receiving a number of calls concerning my medical treatment and he had come to see if there was a way to alleviate the situation... I gave him my side of the story and he said that he could get me back down to medical if I believed I needed it.... since I was still having chest pains at that time, I told him I would appreciate it – as we were parting he asked if I was going to continue my hunger strike, I told him that I was because I couldn't see myself going back to eating the high sodium and dehydrogenated items from the commissary as my only source of nutrition... his last comment as we were parting was something to the effect of “that's probably why your heart's having problems...” 20 minutes later I was down in medical having my vitals taken and listening to a doctor tell me that I would be immediately put on the medications received the prior spring and would be getting x-rays taken as well as blood for testing… when I tried to bring up the question of inquiring the origin of this heart problem I was curtly told I was finished and all that was required of me was that my weight be taken on the way out. Once again in a state of shock I stepped onto the scale (162 ½ pounds) and went back to the cell. It wasn't until the next morning that I realized I had lost about 20 pounds since my diet was taken away... ... that was ten days ago. On the morning of the 19th, I weighed in at 147 ½ pounds... ... ...