30,000 California Prisoners Begin Hunger Strike Over Solitary Confinement

Tuesday, 09 Jul 2013 05:48 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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The beginning of a possible hunger strike hit California prisons Monday as 30,000 prisoners refused meals that day, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Although the state’s prison system doesn’t consider a hunger strike official until prisoners miss nine meals, it’s likely this initial refusal of food by prisoners in two-thirds of the state’s prisons, and including four out-of-state locations, will be the real deal, the LA Times said. In addition to skipping meals, about 2,300 prisoners didn’t go to classes or work.

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The strike was apparently instigated by prisoners in solitary confinement, protesting the length of time the state prison officials keep prisoners in isolation, the newspaper said. Prison policies can put inmates in isolation indefinitely if they have possible prison gang affiliations.

The newspaper reported that the striking prisoners want a five-year limitation put on isolation, and also want education and rehab programs. Last year, corrections officials released about 200 prisoners who showed no “gang-related behavior” after reviewing 400 cases, the LA Times said.

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity posted information about the “peaceful” hunger strike and work actions on its Wordpress blog.

“California currently holds nearly 12,000 people in extreme isolation,” the organization said. “Over 3,000 are in Security Housing units (SHU) indefinitely, at a cost of over $60 million per year. The cells have no windows, no access to fresh air or sunlight. The United Nations condemns the use of solitary confinement for more than 15 days as torture.”

The Huffington Post reported that California prisoners held hunger strikes in 2011 over the same problems, with about 12,000 inmates participating.

Stranger.com Blogger Brendan Kiley speculated that the strikes were organized through prison gang networks. “The powers of the prison gangs are being used for collective good—if you consider making conditions better in a state prison system that is so overcrowded and generally dysfunctional that the US Supreme Court has stated it results in 'needless suffering and death' a good,” he wrote.

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