State prison officials say some 12,400 California inmates at more than two dozen prisons are participating in a hunger strike to protest conditions behind bars.
The tally provided by the Corrections Department is less than half the amount – 29,000 to 30,000 – that has been cited in published reports of inmates as participating in the event, which has been described as the state’s largest prison inmate protest.
The protest targets conditions faced by prisoners, including prolonged solitary confinement. Prisoners have also filed a federal class action suit against the state claiming a violation of Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
A 2011 protest reportedly drew about 12,000 inmates from about 11 jails, and ended with prison officials saying they voksen kjaerlighet would address the demands but not promising negotiations. Failure to meet prisoner demands prompted the current lawsuit and inflated hunger strike.
On Thursday, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation released figures on how many inmates are participating in the most recent hunger strike.
An inmate is considered on a hunger strike if he or she has missed nine consecutive meals. Since Monday, this figure reflects 12,421 inmates in 24 state prisons and four out-of-state contract facilities, the department said.
In addition, 1,336 inmates are refusing to perform work assignments or attend classes.
Prisoners participating in the hunger strike and refusing to participate in assigned work are in violation of state law.
“I don’t think it helps anything to do this,” newly appointed Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard told The Associated Press. “Much of what they’re asking for is being done. It’s just not being done fast enough for them … The hunger strike actually interferes with the process.”
Prison officials said in a written statement that they were “not identifying how many inmates are or are not participating in specific prisons. The mass hunger strike is organized by prison gangs and publicizing participation levels at specific prisons could put inmates who are not participating in extreme danger.”
Since last October, CDCR said it has conducted 382 case-by-case reviews of inmates housed indefinitely in Security Housing Units, which are isolation units that are a sort of prison-within-a-prison.
As of June 28, 208 inmates housed in SHUs have either been transferred or are approved for transfer to a general population facility, the department said.
Another 115 inmates were placed in the “Step-Down Program,” which prison officials described as an “incentive-based, multi-step program that provides graduated housing, enhanced programs, interpersonal interactions and increased privileges for validated inmates who refrain from criminal gang behavior.”