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ACTION ALERT: Canvass for a Cause to speak out Saturday in support of prison reform

SAN DIEGO -- Once a month, volunteers and staff of Canvass for a Cause (CFAC) fan out across San Diego County and other parts of the state to go door to door in neighborhoods that tended to vote in favor Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California.

Leaders of the organization say they have been very successful getting their message of equality out to the public so they wanted to use their momentum to speak out against another issue that is important to them: the conditions inside of California prisons.

On Saturday, Aug. 27, CFAC is inviting the community to join them for a signature-gathering effort and protest, starting at noon.

CFAC organizers say that prisoners at Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit (PBSHU), a California state prison, have been on a hunger strike to protest the inhumane conditions under which they are kept. According to NPR.com, PBSHU is a solitary isolation unit for some of the state's most dangerous inmates.

"This cell block is a prison-within-a-prison, where inmates are kept in solitary, in tiny cells for all but 30 minutes a day," said Tres Watson, CFAC executive director. "The food, visitation rules, exercise privileges, and other basics are so inadequate that it makes any hope of rehabilitation impossible."

Through the protest and signature-gathering effort, the group hopes to be able to speak out for the prisoners and rally support for prison reform.

Noting that CFAC's mission primarily focuses on supporting LGBT causes, organizers say that this action is in line with its goal of working towards equality.

"This is not a stretch from our mission to support LGBT causes, because gay prisoners - and especially transgender prisoners - are afforded little protection or consideration by guards or inmates," noted Watson. "It also fits in with our goal to reform drug laws: if our prisons weren't packed with minor drug offenders, the prisons would have the room and guards to deal with the remaining prisoners in a humane and sane way."

The group says that it believes Saturday's effort will be successful based on CFAC's recent track-record.

A number of recent events, ranging from the devastating earthquake in Haiti last year to the assault of a gay man in North Park, spurred CFAC organizers into action where they say they were able to raise over $1,000 in a matter of days to support each of the causes.

The group also partnered with the San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality (SAME) to organize a demonstration in support of the "Equality Nine."

Volunteers are asked to meet at noon at the CFAC office, 3705 10th Ave., Suite 3, in Hillcrest. The group will participate in a brief training before carpooling to downtown San Diego for the petition signature gathering effort until 3 pm.

Following that, a protest will take place in front of the NBC studio in Horton Plaza.

The group will resume its monthly "Knock 4 Equality" program on Saturday, Sept. 24, followed by a team at AIDS Walk San Diego on Sunday, Sept. 25. CFAC organizers note that their team raised over $4,000 for last year's walk.

For more information or to get involved with any of CFAC's actions or events, click HERE, e-mail field@canvassforacause.com, or call (619) 630-7750.