Advocates for prisoners involved in the recent hunger strikes are linking three inmate suicides to the unsavory prison conditions that prisoners had been protesting when they refused to eat state-issued meals for several weeks.
The group, Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity, says Johnny Owens Vick and Alex Machado were both confined in the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit, while Hozel Alanzo Blanchard was confined in the Calipatria Administrative Segregation Unit. All three men recently committed suicide, and the group claims they were all being retaliated against for participating in the hunger strike.
However, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation brushed off the allegations, stating that none of the three inmates even participated in either hunger strike -- one that ended in July and the second that ended in September. Vick committed suicide 10 days before the second hunger strike started, according to Terry Thornton, spokeswoman with the CDCR.
"It is troubling that this group, which professes to care about inmates, would fabricate information, label it 'news,' and discredit the men and women who work for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation," Thornton said. "Their claim that CDCR is withholding information is outlandish and irresponsible."
Thousands of inmates went on hunger strike for 20 days in July, claiming prison conditions had become inhumane. They wanted better treatment, more access to sunlight, and demanded the CDCR revise its policies on gang identification. Inmates went on strike again in September until the CDCR issued a memo explaining that it was working on meeting prisoners' demands.
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