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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pelican Bay Hunger Strike Grows; State Threatens Disciplinary Action

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2011 at 3:45 PM

Hungry for change
  • Hungry for change

The hunger strike at California prisons has grown to include roughly 6,000 inmates, less than 24 hours after prisoners started refusing state-issued meals.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation would not confirm how many inmates have joined the effort, but said they will have those numbers by tomorrow. An inmate is only considered officially on a hunger strike after skipping nine consecutive meals, and tomorrow is the nine-meal mark, said Terry Thornton, spokeswoman with the CDCR.

She did confirm that thousands of inmates from various facilities across the state have been refusing to eat state-issued meals. That's not to say they aren't eating at all; some are munching from their canteens, or the snack food they are allowed to purchase while in prison, Thornton said.

She also confirmed that a memo went out today to inmates, detailing the ramifications they could face should they push on with this hunger strike.

"They could receive loss of credits and loss of privileges," Thornton told us. "Mass disturbances is a rules violation."

The inmates, who went on a hunger strike in the month of July, and resumed yesterday after a monthlong hiatus, say the CDCR has failed to meet their initial demands, including more humane conditions for prisoners in solitary confinement. According to the hunger strikers, 513 of the 1,111 prisoners held at

Pelican Bay have been in solitary confinement for 10 or more years, and

78 have been held for more than 20 years without access to light or open

space for prolonged periods of time. "Just imagine being locked in a bathroom for 24 hours, seven days a week, year after year after year for no legitimate reason," one prisoner said in a statement released today by the California Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity group. 

The CDCR says that those prisoners aren't technically in solitary confinement; they have access to the yard 10 hours a week and they are allowed to watch television and converse with other inmates. "That's not solitary confinement," Thornton said.

Inmates are also claiming that the CDCR is creating a "sham" process to identify gang members to torture them. But Thornton says that the CDCR has already started the process of revamping its gang identification policies, and will have a proposal by the start of next year.

"We have to give our wardens a chance to look at it and give their input," she said. "We're on track with doing everything we said we were doing."

But inmates just aren't satisfied by that.

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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