Inmates on a hunger strike at California’s high-security Pelican Bay State Prison are threatening to starve themselves to death if officials don’t meet their demands for improved conditions, says the San Francisco Chronicle. “They are protesting conditions that they say are torturous and inhumane,” said Molly Porzig of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition in Oakland, which is speaking for the prisoners. “They feel the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will not make any meaningful or long-term change until they start dying, and they’re willing to take it there.”
The hunger strike began last Friday and spread over the weekend to 6,600 inmates in at least 11 of California’s prisons, officials said. As of yesterday, the total was down to 1,700 inmates at seven prisons. Five hundred of the hunger strikers are at Pelican Bay near the Oregon border. A hard-core group of 50 inmates in the highest-security special isolation wing is willing to go without food for as long as it takes, supporters said. The strikers have made five demands, most centering on treatment in isolation units around the state. Foremost among them are abolishing the state’s “debriefing” practice, under which inmates are interviewed about whether they’d like to drop out of prison gangs, and changes in the procedures that officials use to determine whether inmates are in gangs. Prison officials said they would not meet the requests to appease the strikers, and would not force-feed them.