California authorities have sent independent monitors into nine prisons to keep watch on an inmate hunger strike that soon will enter its third week, the Los Angeles Times reports. More than 630 prisoners are continuing to refuse meals; infirmaries treated six for conditions including dehydration, dizziness, and disorientation. A lawyer for inmates said corrections officers were parading popcorn, cheeseburgers, and other food before hunger strikers. The protest began July 8 with 30,000 participants protesting the state’s use of indefinite solitary confinement to control prison gangs. They seek a five-year limit on isolation and want corrections authorities to stop pushing inmates to become informants in order to leave isolation.
A top corrections official this week held a conference call with strike leaders. He gave them a memo that spells out how the state intends to review the cases of 4,500 inmates already in isolation. The draft says prisoners who associate with gangs but are not members, will be reviewed first, starting with those confined the longest. Todd Ashker, 50, is the most outspoken of the inmate organizers and is considered the legal brains behind the strike. Some prisoner-rights advocates describe the intense and sometimes volatile man as a brilliant champion for California’s 130,000 prisoners.