Calif. Prison Hunger Strike Ends at Pelican Bay, Continues Elsewhere

Oct 14, 2011

Prisoners in California’s "supermax" Pelican Bay State Prison have ended their hunger strike after nearly three weeks, according to the prisoner advocate group Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity. The prisoners at Pelican Bay ended their hunger strike after receiving a memo from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) detailing a comprehensive review of every prisoner isolated in the Security Housing Unit simply because they were identified as gang members.

Inmates were protesting being kept in isolation for 22 hours a day as part of a program to hamper gang activity inside prisons. Prisoners, lawyers and prisoner advocates have argued that solitary confinement for long periods of time can lead to post traumatic stress disorder, including hallucinations, depression, anxiety, anger and suicide.

"This is something the prisoners have been asking for and it is the first significant step we’ve seen from the CDCR to address the hunger strikers’ demands," Carol Strickman, a lawyer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children said on the PHSS website. "But as you know, the proof is in the pudding. We’ll see if the CDCR keeps its word regarding this new process."

But Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, told the LA Times, "I don’t think we’ve gotten to that level yet."

She said inmates instead were simply briefed on the review of the SHU policies that the department has been conducting since May, and agreed to end their strike. The new policies should be released publicly in the coming months, Thornton added.

According to the Prisoner Strike Solidarity Group their sources say the hunger strike continues at other California State prisons, including Calipatria and Salinas Valley prisons.

The latest hunger strike drew 4,000 prisoners the last week of September, when it started. But a week later that number had drifted to fewer than 800, according to corrections officials, as the department has moved to isolate participants from the general prison population.