Prison hunger strikes begin at High Desert

From LA Times, July 5th, 2013
Paige St John

A week before protests in prisons are planned to start statewide, inmates at High Desert State Prison in far Northern California have launched their own hunger strike.

Corrections department officials Friday confirmed that nearly two dozen inmates began refusing meals Monday. By Friday afternoon, that number had dropped to 20.

Department spokeswoman Terry Thornton said the High Desert inmates had presented a list of 30 complaints, all centered on conditions within the prison’s administration segregation unit. Those areas are used not only to house inmates who have violated rules and require greater security, but serve as overflow housing for mentally ill inmates awaiting placement elsewhere.

Thornton would not provide a copy of the prisoners’ list of demands, but said they include “larger food portions, more cleaning supplies, more access to the law library, the ability to purchase more soup, soap, coffee, snacks and food items from the canteen; and more TV channels. They also have concerns about the laundry and want the canteen to stock a wider selection of headphones and ear buds.”

Inmates in California’s supermax prison near the Oregon border, Pelican Bay, have said for months that they intend to launch their own hunger strike starting Monday, largely in protest over the state’s use of indefinite solitary confinement to control prison gangs, and the conditions within those isolation units.

Inmates at other prisons around the state have said they also intend to refuse meals and also to refuse to go to work. State prisons rely on inmate laborers to man their kitchens, laundries and other facilities.

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