News & Politics

California Prisons Chief Says Desperate, Hunger-Striking Prisoners Are Doing Just Fine

The head of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation took to the Los Angeles Times to say that what you've been told about the hunger strike is all wrong.

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A hunger strike in California prisons over harsh conditions of solitary confinement, abuse and horrid food has made headlines for the past three weeks. But the person running those prisons says the prisoners are treated just fine.

The head of California prisons is warning you: don’t believe the hype about the hunger strike rocking California prisons. Jeffrey Beard, the head of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, took to the Los Angeles Times Op-Ed page today to say that the hunger strike is “dangerous, disruptive and needs to end.”

Beard claims that what you’ve been told--that the prisoners are striking for better conditions and changes to the solitary confinement regimen--is a lie. “Many of those participating in the hunger strike are under extreme pressure to do so from violent prison gangs, which called the strike in an attempt to restore their ability to terrorize fellow prisoners, prison staff and communities throughout California,” Beard writes.

What Beard doesn’t tell you is that the strike was organized by prisoners agitating for more respect and rights. His claims of gang pressure are made without evidence.

And while Beard says that the prisoners do not suffer from solitary confinement, others like Amnesty International disagree. “Over a thousand prisoners continue to be held in indefinite isolation, confined for 22-24 hours per day in small, often windowless cells, and deprived of meaningful human contact.  Hundreds have been held in these ‘Security Housing Units’ for more than ten years,” the human rights group said in July. What's more, these conditions can have a severe impact on the psychological health of inmates. Prolonged confinement like what happens in California prisons can cause insomnia, headaches, nervousness, hallucinations and more. The UN's special rapporteur on torture has said that prolonged confinement for more than 15 days is damaging and should be prohibited. 



Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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