California Prison Hunger Strike
The third of inmates in California prisons are conducting a hunger strike to protest the policy of solitary confinement. Recent reports show that many inmates who are in their third week of the strike, have shown dramatic weight loss and collapse from hunger, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The protesting prisoners, who are more active in the Pelican Bay State Prison, Corcoran State Prison and the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi, have refused meals since July 1, according to the KPCC radio. Many of the protesters are in solitary confinement, known as Security Housing Units (SHU).
They have five basic requirements (through Prisons.org)
1. “Delete group punishment” and instead of enforcing individual responsibility.
2. Abolition of information policies, which dictate that SHU prisoners can be released only in the regular prison population if they provide information about gang activity.
3. Adapt prisons comply with the recommendations of the U.S. safety and abuse in prisons (2006) to end the long-term isolation.
4. “Providing adequate food” and sanitary conditions in solitary confinement.
5. Has the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to expand and provide education and other privileges for SHU inmates.
Estimates of the number of prisoners on strike vary. Los Angeles Times, puts the number of protesters at about 400, while the New York Times reports that some 2,000 prisoners in California are under medical supervision. The Huffington Post reports that about 1,500 prisoners are involved. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation SolitaryWatch.com said that at least 6600 prisoners refused meals.
One of the Pelican Bay prisoners protesting, Todd Ashker told the New York Times, “We believe that our only option always trying to make some positive change here is through this hunger strike is a group … of us who are committed to take this all the way to the death if necessary. ”
The protest comes after a Supreme Court decision in May that ordered California to reduce the prison population by 30,000 inmates, but is not related to overcrowding.
Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for Prison told the New York Times that gang members are leading the hunger strike, which reinforces the need to isolate them. Both the Los Angeles Times and KPCC requested to visit the SHU at Pelican Bay. Officials refused.
Prison advocates have created a blog to keep the public updated on the movement of a hunger strike.