Prison authorities in California warn that hunger-striking inmates could face disciplinary action for “mass disturbances.”
The hunger strike launched by California’s prison inmates on Monday marks the “largest prison hunger strike in California history.” According to prisoner advocates, the hunger strikers are protesting “the state’s inhumane solitary confinement practices, which can include locking inmates in isolated cells for up to 23 hours a day.”
The protesters are also refusing their work assignments, which, according to state correctional officials, is a “violation of state law.” They released a statement which said:
Participating in a mass disturbance and refusing to participate in a work assignment are violations of state law, and any participating inmates will receive disciplinary action.
Jeffrey Callison, a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman said that any inmate who joins in the strike could, “lead to loss of privileges, loss of credits.” However, he did not go into detail as to what types of privileges could be taken away. According to the department, the strike is being led by the prison gangs and that “mass hunger strikes, work stoppages and other disruptions” had the potential to “affect safety and security behind bars.”
According to Yahoo News:
The Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity group said on its website on Thursday that about 30,000 inmates were participating, a figure higher than numbers cited by officials.
Corrections officials had said that more than 30,000 of California’s 132,800 inmates began refusing food on Monday and continued to decline meals through the week, with nearly 29,000 participating on Wednesday.
On Thursday, officials said 12,421 prisoners in 24 state prisons and four out-of-state facilities had missed nine straight meals, a benchmark required for officials to recognize in a hunger strike. They did not say whether any other prisoners may have been participating but had missed fewer meals
The hunger strike was organized by a small group of inmates at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison. The group released a statment on Monday through the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition which said:
We are presently out of alternative options for achieving the long overdue reform to this system and, specifically, an end to state-sanctioned torture. Now we have to put our lives on the line via indefinite hunger strike to force CDCR [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] to do what’s right.
We are certain that we will prevail…. the only questions being: How many will die starvation-related deaths before state officials sign the agreement? The world is watching!
The demands from the prisoners who are on strike call for state officials to:
1) stop punishing groups for the actions of individuals
2) stop rewarding those who provide information on others
3) improve nutrition
4) institute constructive programs for those in solitary confinement
5) end long-term solitary confinement
Photo: AP/Rich Pedroncelli