Men’s Colony inmates join statewide hunger strike
July 12, 2013
Inmates at the California Men’s Colony have joined a statewide hunger strike over the treatment of prisoners, just as state officials are trying to convince the U.S. Supreme Court that prison conditions have improved.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is not identifying how many inmates are participating at specific prisons, but officials said that a total of 12,421 inmates have participated in 24 state prisons and four out of state prisons. The striking inmates have missed nine consecutive meals since Monday.
In addition to those on hunger strikes, 1,336 inmates have refused to complete work assignments or attend educational classes.
The focus of the strikes is a protest of the long-term, solitary lockup of inmates in security housing units, known as the SHU. The Men’s Colony, which is a medium security prison, does not have a SHU.
Prison officials say gang leaders are behind the statewide strikes. Prisons often use the SHU or solitary confinement to extract information on gangs from the prisoners.
Last year, the Department of Corrections revised its SHU confinement policies with the goal of reducing long-term lockup of those who do not engage in gang behavior.
Other prisoners have joined forces with striking gang members to protest the quality of food, mattresses, clothing and other conditions.
The current hunger and work strikes have come at the same time as the state is battling an inmate population reduction order in federal court.
A panel of three federal judges has ordered California to reduce its prison population by 10,000 inmates this year, but state officials petitioned the Supreme Court Wednesday to reverse that order.
In its request for a stay of the inmate population reduction order, Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris said in an address to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy that prison conditions have improved due to realignment of low-risk inmates from state prisons to county jails.
Still, California prisons currently hold about 50 percent more inmates than they were designed to house.