California Prisoners Resume Hunger Strike

Their demands have gone unanswered, so the strike is back on.

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California prisoners resume hunger strike. (Google)

Julianne Hing of ColorLines is reporting that a California prisoner strike that was called off in July is back on again. Prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison's Secure Housing Unit who led a monthlong hunger strike in July say prison officials have failed to deliver on promises to meet their original demands.

Prisoners are demanding an end to abusive practices that include group punishment, administrative abuse and the withholding of food as punishment. They also don't want to be forced to "debrief" prison officials about their fellow inmates' potential status as gang members in exchange for better food or release from Pelican Bay's SHU. (The SHU is a high-security complex where inmates are kept in windowless cells and get just one hour of access a day to outdoor air.)

Inmates and their supporters argue that the prison's corrections policies violate inmates' basic rights. Prisoners refused their meals for nearly a month this summer to demand an end to these abusive practices. The prisoners called off the strike in July after prison officials agreed to meet their demands.

The coalition Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity reported that 6,000 prisoners across several area prisons were participating in the strike over the summer. Since their demands have not been met, the hunger strike has resumed.

If prison officials agreed to their demands, then they should deliver on them. If a timeline was not a part of the earlier negotiations, then the prisoners need to make sure that there is a timeline in future negotiations. We find it interesting that the prisoners are rejecting food to get what they want in the same way that prison officials withheld food from the prisoners to get what they wanted. Talk about using the master's tools to dismantle the master's house.

Some people believe that as a prisoner, you shouldn't have any rights. They have a point, since the prison system is the only place in the United States where slavery is not abolished. Having said that, cruel and unusual punishment is not acceptable, even for prisoners.

Read more at ColorLines.

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