Inspiring: Inmates at 11 CA Prisons on Hunger Strike, Protesting Inhumane Solitary Confinement

As we previously noted, inmates of the Secure Housing Unit (i.e., solitary confinement) at California's Pelican Bay State Prison started a hunger strike on July 1 to protest the the cruel and inhumane conditions of their imprisonment.

While noting that the hunger strike is being “organized by prisoners in an unusual show of racial unity,” five key demands are listed by California Prison Focus:

1) Eliminate group punishments; 2) abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria; 3) comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long term solitary confinement; 4) provide adequate food; 5) expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates.

Now, the hunger strike has spread to a total of 11 California prisons -- one-third of the facilities in the state. The LATimesreports that although the exact number of strikers is hard to pin down/is constantly shifting, there are rough estimates:

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.

And that's just at Pelican Bay. So in other words, this is a fairly impressive display of solidarity, and it's obviously starting to garner mainstream news attention.

Prison officials have been predictably less than enthused about the strike. This anecdote is both revealing and depressing:

The [Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity] 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."

A spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation assured the Timesthat prison medical staffers are "making checks of every single inmate who is refusing meals."

AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at July 7, 2011, 4:59am

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