As the prison hunger strike enters its third week, California inmates have reportedly collapsed in their cells from deteriorating health conditions, however prison officials are denying that.
The number of inmates striking has been dropping steadily. Two weeks ago more than 12,000 inmates from across the state and in some Southern states had joined the hunger strike. However, as of yesterday, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported that 593 inmates from five state prisons were refusing to eat state-issued meals.
However, the number of those who have starved themselves since Day One of this strike is 495. CDCR counts an inmate as officially on hunger strike when he or she misses nine consecutive meals.
"Last week, one prisoner had a heart attack due to this; luckily
they survived," says Isaac Ontiveros, spokesman for the California Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity. "We got word that prisoners have collapsed and were not
given medical care, and we have seen at Pelican Bay those who are identified as
strike leaders were put in [solitary confinement] with not a lot of clothing and no blankets and the AC was cranked up all the way."
Nancy Kincaid, spokeswoman with the Federal Receivers Office, told us that any reports of a heart attack or prisoners collapsing is untrue. "I assume it's some advocacy group telling you that," she said.
What she did say is that six inmates have gone to the emergency room for rehydration issues, but other than that there have been no significant or serious health conditions reported. Kincaid said that when inmates start to see an 18 percent body weight loss, then there could be some problems. "Right now, only a few have gotten closed to that ."
Inmates resumed the hunger strike after a nearly four weeks of forgoing food back in July. However, this strike is a little different; prisoners are trying to keep the protest going for longer by implementing a "rolling strike," where some inmates take turns eating, which gives them just enough energy to sustain this strike.
"Some have health conditions that are so bad they can't strike for weeks at a
time," Ontiveros told us. "You have strikers with full-blown diabetes and
conditions or health concerns, but still want to
be in solidarity with those in Pelican Bay."
Inmates went back on strike on Sept. 26, claiming the CDCR has not substantially met their demands to improve prison conditions, including more exercise and access to light for those inmates locked in solitary confinement. They are also pushing for fairer policies on identifying gang members in prison.
This strike has been even more dramatic this go around; the CDCR banned the inmates' attorneys from entering the facilities, citing security reasons. Prisoners called on Gov. Jerry Brown for help, but the governor hasn't intervened yet.
Follow us on Twitter at @SFWeekly and @TheSnitchSF