Pelican Bay Prison Conditions Spur Hunger Strike


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More than 30,000 California inmates have refused one or more meals to protest solitary confinement conditions at Pelican Bay State Prison, corrections officials told the Los Angeles Times on Monday. This is the third time inmates have refused to eat to draw attention to the use of long-term solitary confinement.

The hunger strike began on Monday when inmates at two-thirds of California’s 33 prisons and all four private prisons for California inmates in other states declined to eat breakfast, according to corrections department spokeswoman Terry Thornton.

Approximately 2,300 inmates refused to attend classes or go to their jobs on Monday and about 2,000 refused to attend on Tuesday.

There are more than 4,500 prisoners held in Security Housing Units at Pelican Bay State Prison near the Oregon border, where the strike was organized, and three other maximum security prisons in California. Most are gang members and gang associates. Some are kept in solitary confinement for extended periods of time, sometimes decades, according to the AP.

The latest strike is in response to failed talks with corrections officials about ending the use of long-term solitary confinement. Prisoners are asking for a five year limit on solitary confinement, education and rehabilitation programs and monthly phone call privileges. The policy changed last year to allow gang associates to work their way out of Security Housing Units, according to Thornton.

This hunger strike is more widespread than the two that occurred two years ago, when about 12,000 inmates refused meals in October 2011 and 7,000 refused meals in July 2011.

There are approximately 133,000 inmates housed in California prisons.