Prison reform advocates say inmates of the Security Housing Unit of California’s Pelican Bay State Prison have begun a hunger strike, protesting conditions they call inhumane, reports KQED in San Francisco. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation confirmed that some prisoners had refused breakfast.
Pelican Bay houses some of the state’s most hardened criminals; the SHU is for the worst of the worst. A third of that prison’s inmates are in SHU: a warren of sterile, white pods, connected to exercise pens. No windows. No noise. Often, no view of the sky. And no contact allowed with the outside world or the main prison population. Inmates spend more than 23 hours a day in their pods. Reform advocates want more educational materials for the inmates, more visiting time, one photo per year, and an end to the debriefing process inmates endure before leaving the unit. In debriefing, inmates must rat out their criminal accomplices—presumably to ensure they can’t go back to their lives of crime.