California Prison Hunger Strike At a Stalemate; No Policy Changes


California’s prison hunger strike is in its sixth week, apparently headed for stalemate, reports the Los Angeles Times. Corrections officials say it is controlled by violent prison gangs bent on increasing their power. Inmate advocates say spending 23 hours a day in a windowless cell for decades is a form of torture that must end. Without visible progress on the issues, the protest, which began July 8 when 30,000 inmates refused breakfast, has become largely a battle over public perception.

“Being rational seems to have left this debate,” said Jeanne Woodford, who ran the state prison system under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and now teaches atthe University of California Berkeley School of Law. “It’s people who have dug their heels in on both sides.” The official tally of hunger strikers yesterday was 287, including 133 who have refused prison meals for 36 days. Prison administrators said 93 inmates, suffering dehydration and abdominal pain, have required medical attention in the last seven days, including six sent to outside hospitals. Most of the 93 resumed eating. None of the discussions held so far has signaled a change in California’s use of solitary confinement, said participants on both sides.

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