Inmates at California's notorious Pelican Bay State Prison are planning a hunger strike to protest what they say are inhumane conditions of confinement.
The Oakland-based grassroots organization Critical Resistance issued a statement today indicating that the inmates will begin the strike on Friday. Activists and lawyers will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. tomorrow at 1515 Clay St. in Oakland.
The protest is aimed specifically at Pelican Bay's Security Housing Unit (SHU), where prisoners are lodged in small, windowless cells, often without access to other people or open space for extended periods. Pelican Bay is one of a select group of state prisons and one federal prison classified as a "supermax" facility intended to house extremely dangerous inmates.
Advocates for prisoners say a growing body of research indicates that solitary confinement is equivalent to psychological torture. "People who are in prison are already being punished. They are still human beings and should not have to lose their civil and human rights," Karen Shain, an attorney with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, said in the Critical Resistance statement.
For those interested in a close look at life in a supermax, we recommend SF Weekly sister paper Westword staff writer Alan Prendergast's 2007 profile of infamous Colorado inmate Thomas Silverstein.
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