In what is being dubbed the largest prison hunger strike in recent history, more than 12,000 inmates from across California and some Southern states have been refusing food for the second consecutive week.
Prisoners in Arizona, Mississippi, and Oklahoma, along with inmates from 12 prisons across California, are skipping state-issued meals to protest what they call inhumane conditions. But, ironically, what's getting inmates through this strike is food.
Prisoners are on a what is being called a "rolling hunger strike," wherein they take turns munching on meals, which gives them just enough energy to sustain this strike, says Jay Donahue, spokesman for the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity.
The hope is to have some inmates refusing meals at all times without worrying about anyone getting sick as some did during the 20-day hunger strike in July. As of last week, some 12,000 were on strike, according to the Federal Receiver's Office.
"I was shocked to see these numbers," Donahue told SF Weekly.
"It's a testimony to the fact that many prisoners -- not just across
California -- are experiencing those conditions -- there is no other
However, data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation contradict Donohue; officials released stats showing the number of inmates refusing to eat has been dropping every day. That could be because the state only considers an inmate on hunger strike when he or she misses nine consecutive meals. So a prisoner who skips two or three meals isn't counted as on hunger strike, says Terry Thornton, spokeswoman with the CDCR.
Inmates resumed the hunger strike last week, claiming the CDCR has not substantially met their demands, including include more sunshine and human contact for prisoners in solitary confinement. They also want sweeping changes to the CDCR's policies on gang identification, something the CDCR says it is working on.
Last week, the CDCR barred attorneys representing the inmates from entering prison facilities, citing security issues. The lawyers called on Gov. Jerry Brown for help, but according to Donahue they have not heard back.
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