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California Prison Hunger Strike Ends

California Prison Hunger Strike

First Posted: 07/21/11 06:13 PM ET Updated: 09/20/11 06:12 AM ET

Prison officials announced Thursday that California inmates have ended a statewide hunger strike that began three weeks ago at Pelican Bay State Prison in Del Norte County.

The inmates organized the strike in protest over conditions and policies within the facility. More than 6,600 inmates at 13 prisons throughout California were involved in the movement at its peak, according to the Chronicle.

Inmates had begun to show signs of dramatic weight loss and some even collapsed from starvation, the LA Times reported Tuesday.

The protests came in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that ruled California's overcrowded prisons constituted "cruel and unusual punishment" and required the state to dramatically reduce its prisoner population. But according to The Huffington Post, the hunger strike was not related to living conditions and instead focused on the specific treatment of certain groups of offenders.

HuffPost reported:

In June, the Pelican Bay inmates provided prison officials advance warning of their intent to begin a hunger strike and made six key demands, including that the prison reform its policies on long-term solitary confinement.

...

The prisoners also called for an end to a policy allowing indefinite detention in the isolation unit for inmates suspected of continued involvement in gang activity. Gang-affiliated prisoners can be released from the unit if they "debrief," or provide information on other gang members.

The strike itself was facilitated by gang networks throughout the state, prison officials said. Prison rights activists supporting the movement disputed such claims, using a blog to advocate on behalf of the inmates.

Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate said in a statement Thursday that the participating prisoners ended their strike in exchange for "cold-weather caps, wall calendars and some educational opportunities." The Chronicle reported that authorities said the inmates involved "better understood" plans to examine certain policies in question.

"Hunger strikes are a dangerous and ineffective way for prisoners to attempt to negotiate," Cate added in his statement.

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Filed by Carly Schwartz  |