[Ppnews] Inmate hunger strike expands to more California prisons

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jul 6 12:53:50 EDT 2011


Inmate hunger strike expands to more California prisons

Inmates in at least a third of California's 
prisons are believed to be refusing meals in 
solidarity with maximum-security prisoners at Pelican Bay.

By Sam Quinones, Los Angeles Times

July 6, 2011

Inmates in at least 11 of California's 33 prisons 
are refusing meals in solidarity with a hunger 
strike staged by prisoners in one of the system's 
special maximum-security units, officials said Tuesday.

The strike began Friday when inmates in the 
Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison 
stopped eating meals in protest of conditions 
that they contend are cruel and inhumane.

"There are inmates in at least a third of our 
prisons who are refusing state-issued meals," 
said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the 
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The number of declared strikers at Pelican Bay ­ 
reported Saturday as fewer than two dozen ­ has 
grown but is changing daily, she said. The same is true at other prisons.

Some inmates are refusing all meals, while others 
are rejecting only some, Thornton said. Some were 
eating in visitation rooms and refusing 
state-issued meals in their cells, she said.

Assessing the number of actual strikers "is very challenging," Thornton said.

Prison medical staff are "making checks of every 
single inmate who is refusing meals," she said.

More than 400 prisoners at Pelican Bay are 
believed to be refusing meals, including inmates 
on the prison's general-population yard, said 
Molly Poizig, spokeswoman for the Bay Area-based 
group Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity.

The group had received reports on the strike from 
lawyers and family members visiting inmates over the weekend, she said.

The group's website claims that prison officials 
attempted to head off the strike by promoting a 
Fourth of July menu that included strawberry 
shortcake and ice cream. According to the 
website, the wife of a Security Housing Unit 
inmate said her husband had never had ice cream 
there and "has never seen a strawberry."

Inmates at Calipatria State Prison ­ with more 
than a thousand prisoners ­ were among those 
reported to be refusing meals, Poizig said. 
Prison officials could not be reached for comment.

But Thornton acknowledged that inmates at the 
prison were refusing to eat state-issued meals.

The strike was organized by Security Housing Unit 
inmates at Pelican Bay protesting the 
maximum-security unit's extreme isolation. The 
inmates are also asking for better food, warmer 
clothing and to be allowed one phone call a month.

The Security Housing Unit compound, which 
currently houses 1,100 inmates, is designed to 
isolate prison-gang members or those who've committed crimes while in prison.

The cells have no windows and are soundproofed to 
inhibit communication among inmates. The inmates 
spend 22 1/2 hours a day in their cells, being 
released only an hour a day to walk around a 
small area with high concrete walls.

Prisoner advocates have long complained that 
Security Housing Unit incarceration amounts to 
torture, often leading to mental illness, because 
many inmates spend years in the lockup.

Gang investigators believe the special unit 
reduces the ability of the most predatory 
inmates, particularly prison-gang leaders, to 
control those in other prisons as well as gang members on the street.

Prison administrators are meeting with inmate 
advisory councils to discuss the inmates' complaints, Thornton said.

But "I have not heard there's been any decision" 
to modify policies governing the Security Housing 
Unit, she said. "A lot of those policies have been refined through litigation."

<mailto:sam.quinones at latimes.com>sam.quinones at latimes.com

Copyright © 2011, <http://www.latimes.com/>Los Angeles Times

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