[Ppnews] Prisoners' hunger strike in its third week

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jul 19 13:13:36 EDT 2011


Prisoners' hunger strike in its third week

The inmates are protesting lengthy stays in isolation cells. Prison 
officials say 49 inmates who have lost at least 10 pounds each are 
'being monitored closely.'

By Jack Dolan, Los Angeles Times

July 19, 2011

Reporting from Sacramento

More than 400 inmates at four California prisons are in the third 
week of a hunger strike to protest long, punitive stays in isolation cells.

Prison officials, who refuse to allow reporters into the institutions 
to interview the strikers, said 49 inmates who have lost at least 10 
pounds each are "being monitored closely," including seven at Pelican 
Bay, the maximum-security prison near the Oregon border where the 
hunger strike began.

An inmate at the state prison in Tehachapi in Central California has 
lost 29 pounds, according to Nancy Kincaid, spokeswoman for the 
court-appointed receiver in charge of prison healthcare.

Inmate advocates say thousands of inmates have joined the strike, 
which began July 1. Many are beginning to show dramatic weight loss 
and collapse with the early signs of starvation, they say.

Dozens have been sent to prison infirmaries because of irregular 
heartbeats and fainting, according to a statement issued Monday by a 
group calling itself California Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity, 
which represents attorneys and family members of inmates. "Most have 
lost 20-35 pounds," the statement said.

Major medical problems begin once a hunger striker has lost 18% of 
his or her body weight, according to an article from the Journal of 
the American Medical Assn. that prison officials said they were using 
as a reference for what to expect if the protest continues. 
Life-threatening problems typically begin when a person loses 30% of 
body weight.

How long it takes to reach those stages varies from person to person, 
according to the article.

So far, no inmate has symptoms requiring a trip to emergency clinics 
within prisons or specialized outside medical care, according to an 
email from Kincaid.

Despite repeated assurances that the situation is under control, the 
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation refused The 
Times' request to visit and interview striking inmates.

"At this time, we are not allowing media into the prison due to 
security and safety issues," prison spokesman Oscar Hidalgo said in 
an email. "This hunger strike signifies a disruption in normal 
operation of Pelican Bay and our operations staff are focused 
completely on resolving this issue."

Two inmates at Pelican Bay required intravenous fluids over the 
weekend, according to Kincaid.

During a protest by inmate supporters outside prison headquarters in 
Sacramento on Monday, Maria Moreno, mother of two inmates at Pelican 
Bay, said one of her sons had lost 20 pounds and the other had lost 
13 pounds. Kincaid said both of Moreno's sons began eating again last week.

The inmates are protesting lengthy stays in Security Housing Units, 
known as prisons within the prison, where they are sent for violating 
rules. They are typically kept alone in their cells for 22 hours a 
day, allowed out for medical visits and for exercise in individual 
wire cages on the prison yard.

The only way to get released from the unit, inmates say, is to 
confess that they are prison gang members or offer guards 
incriminating information about others who are gang members. Doing 
that, they say, puts their lives at risk and can put their families in danger.

"There is another way for inmates to be removed from the SHU," 
Hidalgo said in his email. "They can maintain an inactive status from 
any gang involvement for six years."

Inmates and advocates want that policy abolished.

"It is absolutely unconscionable and inhumane for anyone to think 
that solitary confinement for six years is OK," said Linda Evans, an 
organizer for All of Us or None, a group that provides legal services 
to prisoners with children.

<mailto:jack.dolan at latimes.com>jack.dolan at latimes.com

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