In a showing of solidarity, inmates from around the state of California have joined in with the Pelican Bay Prison hunger strike, which entered its fourth day Thursday.
Nearly 29,000 inmates refused meals Wednesday, and corrections officials told The New York Times that the strike had extended
to two-thirds of the 33 prisons in the state and to all four private out-of-state facilities that California sends its prisoners to.
The hunger strike started at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, Calif., Monday when 30,000 inmates refused meals in a protest against the solitary confinement conditions, food quality, and inadequate rehabilitation and educational programs at the facility.
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The main complaint is that prisoners suspected of having ties to gangs are held in solitary confinement indefinitely, sometimes for decades. Similar strikes broke out in 2011 for the same reason, and at that time California corrections officials promised to use new criteria to evaluate solitary confinement policies, but about 10,000 inmates remain in isolation, according to the Times.
"This could become a very serious situation over time, because it seems we have a substantial group of people who are prepared to see it to the end if they don't get real change," Jules Lobel, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights and the lead lawyer in a federal lawsuit over solitary confinement, told the Times.
Thought outside advocates, state prisoners said Wednesday that corrections officers are threatening to search their cells, confiscate their personal food supply, and move them to solitary confinement if they continue to refuse meals, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Not all inmates participating in the strike are fasting, officials said. Most of them have a stockpile of food bought over time at the prison's commissary.
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