4,000 Prisoners On Hunger Strike In California


Prison officials in California confirmed on Thursday, September 29, that more than 4,000 inmates have been on a hunger strike since Monday.

It’s the second time this year that inmates have refused food to protest a prison system’s use of Security Housing Units — known as “the SHU” — to control prison gangs.

They were also protesting inhumane prison policies, including a policy that allowed nearly half of Pelican Bay’s 1,111 prisoners to be held in solitary confinement for more than ten years. According to the California Department of Corrections, 78 prisoners have been held in solitary confinement for more than 20 years.

Hunger Strike In July

As Care2′s Amelia Thomson DeVeaux wrote here, prisoners at Pelican Bay, a maximum-security prison in northern California, began a hunger strike in July to protest their conditions in the solitary unit.  The strike quickly spread to other prisons, and eight days later, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation admitted that at least 6,600 prisoners in at least 13 of the state’s prisons were refusing food.

After three weeks, prison officials announced that California inmates had ended the hunger strike at Pelican Bay State Prison in Del Norte County, near the California/Oregon border,  when prison officials agreed to a change in SHU policies.

Prison Officials Have Not Made Good On Promises

But now the hunger strike is back on. Prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison’s SHU who led that month-long hunger strike in July say prison officials have not made good on promises to meet their original demands, and that they have no other choice but to go back on strike.

Each day, inmates in the SHU at Pelican Bay get 15 minutes to shower, and a little over an hour to exercise in a concrete yard.

They spend the rest of the day — nearly 23 hours — locked in their cells. No phone calls. No physical contact with visitors. The Department of Corrections says the SHU was designed to punish and control inmates that run prison gangs. Inmates say it’s a form of torture to coerce them to “rat” on other prisoners so they can get out of the SHU.

Pelican Bay and Calipatria State Prison Joining Forces

Prisoners in Pelican Bay are being joined by around 100 prisoners in Calipatria State Prison, located in the southeastern side of California, in their hunger strike this time, say members of the coalition Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity.

From Colorlines:

“Inmates have felt that the California Department of Corrections is not negotiating in good faith,” said Isaac Ontiveros, a member of Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity. “The negotiations that led to the suspension of the strike in July were because prisoners felt like, ‘OK, there’s been a semblance of good faith negotiation.’”

Ontiveros said in the interim, prison inmates reported that not only had those negotiations gone nowhere, but prison guards had also begun intimidating and retaliating against those who had organized or participated in the hunger strike this summer.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation needs to step up and take care of this problem without delay.

Related Stories

Prisoners Near Death In California Hunger Strike

California Prisoners End Hunger Strike

Photo Credit: Al Lucero Jr.


Terry O.
Terry O.6 years ago

British Gas determined that the optimum time for a shower is 7 minutes so 15 minutes is plenty. The prison system needs to control the gangs and take whatever measures are necessary.

Jane L.
Jane L6 years ago

yes, the prisoners are in there for punishment - but they are humans too. There should be no reason to treat them inhumanely because you simply turn into one of them. Every human being deserves (like a plant) fresh sunlight, food, and rest. They deserve respect to say the very least. I'm not advocating luxuries for them, but just a little big of respect and compassion, the bare minimum.

Christine Stewart
Christine S6 years ago

15 minutes to shower? To save water, I take less than 5. I also think they should get to eat what the majority of the world eats every day- rice, with a little bit of vegetables- 3 meals a day. I think they would be on good behavior to get out of jail sooner with such a humble diet.

joe M.
joe MARTINEZ6 years ago

Small goof, the word should be relinquished instead of what you see. Sorry.

joe M.
joe MARTINEZ6 years ago

Prisoners reinquished all previlages rendered to law abiding citizens. Protesting after being fed free,and free medical services, When they elected to break the law they know before hand of the possibilities that conditions may not be a Hilton facility. I suggest harsher treatment be handed out equal to what they elected to inflict upon society. About gangs within the prisons, let themselves control it, the prison population needs to be reduced. At the cost $25 to $30,000.00 per year to house these demanding vermins,coupled to our present economy state dedicts that money can be spend, feeding law abiding citizens.

Alicia N.
Alicia N6 years ago

noted and good luck to those prisoners..........

Patrick F.
Patrick f6 years ago

Gangs and gang mentality is why a lot of these inmates are there in the first place. If they still have the gang mentality and form gangs in prison, then they are clearly not trying to rehabilitate, they are just continuing down the same old road. Part of rehabilitation is changing the way you think about and in society.

Violet D.
Violet De Vitt6 years ago

i believe further investigatin needs to be done to learn thepeticulars of each case. not everyone should have solidary confidment. certanly not for over 6 months. we're not trying to drive people nuts. punish maybe seperate for awhilebut not torture.

Caitlin Fowler
Caitlin F6 years ago

yes everyone should be treated with respect, but these people ae in prison for a reason - to be punished.

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado6 years ago

What a way to live for 20 years without any human contact.