The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says 12,400 inmates are participating in a hunger strike over conditions at their Security Housing Units, or SHU’s.
On Monday, there reports of 30,000 inmates statewide who refused to eat but the department defines a hunger strike as missing nine consecutive meals. That threshold was met today as inmates in 24 prisons and four out-of-state facilities participated.
The strike follows a similar strike two years ago when 11,000 inmates refused to eat over what they say are arbitrary rules on who goes into isolation. Some inmates have spent years in SHU cells with no contact with other people.
Inmates at other prisons say there was no due process in deciding who goes into the SHU’s or how long they stay.
After a legislative hearing, prison officials have reviewed their procedures and several hundred SHU inmates were released into the general prison population. CDCR says the hunger strike is illegal and that the leaders of the demonstration will be disciplined.
They say they are not revealing how many inmates refused to participate saying their safety is at stake. They also say inmates have canteens in their cells, stores of food they can eat. Prison officials said today that those canteens may be taken away to discourage a strike that is a security and safety problem in the institutions.
One lawmaker is siding with the prisoners. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano who chairs the Public Safety Committee said reforms are coming too slowly after he chaired a hearing on the complaints. He urged prison officials to “…make more progress in establishing fair and humane policies in the prisons paid for by California taxpayers.”