Pelican Bay Prison Hunger Strike Spreads: State Says 'Hundreds' of Inmates Now Involved

Categories: Crime, Law & Order
Pelican Bay State Prison
A hunger strike that began Friday in a high-security unit of the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison has spread to one-third of California's state prisons and now involves hundreds of inmates, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Department spokeswoman Terry Thornton stressed that the number of prisoners involved "fluctuates with every meal." State officials don't deem a prisoner to be involved in a true hunger strike until he refuses nine consecutive meals.

While it is unclear whether any prisoners yet meet that standard, Thornton said, "hundreds of inmates overall" are now refusing state-issued food at 11 of California's 33 state prisons. "We're talking about a very small percentage of the prison population," Thornton told SF Weekly.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday that "fewer than two dozen inmates" were involved in the hunger strike. Thornton said that estimate was accurate at the time, but that the number has grown since then.

Activists and inmates say the strike is meant to call attention to inhumane conditions in Pelican Bay's Security Housing Unit (SHU), where dangerous prisoners are lodged in small, windowless cells, often without access to other people or open space for extended periods. Critics of the SHU say that solitary confinement is equivalent to psychological torture, a position that is buttressed by recent scientific research.

Thornton said the strike is being "driven" by gang members, and so far has not affected the population of female inmates. So far, she said, there has been no violence related to inmates' refusal of food.

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Savannah Turke
Savannah Turke

This is horrible! My uncle is serving his time in Pelican Bay State Prison. And not only has he owned up to his mistakes, he has turned a new leaf and made huge changes in his life. He is currently involved in the Hunger Strike for better treatment such as; windows in cells, seeing daylight and not being refused ability to interact with other inmates. Only those of you who do not have an incarcerated family member or friend do not understand how serious the inmates take fair treatment. I love my uncle with all my heart and to say he wouldn't hurt a fly, would be a lie. But none the less he deserves at least daylight! 

Kyle Ross
Kyle Ross

I've had plenty of family go to jail. It's my opinion it should be even more harsh. Prisioners should have NO rights. Why do you think 70% of people who go to jail and get out go back? This "inhumane" bullshit. If you go to jail there is a reason. If you don't like jail don't commit a damn crime. It isn't that fucking hard. If we were in a different country prison, they would only dream of having all the damn privlidges people in american prisons have. Take away everything, and i garentee once they are out, they will never go back. Instead we give them education, cable, money, food, medical attention, a place to live, it is absurd. shut up. 

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