The latest wave of California inmate hunger strikes sweeping the prison system is breaking like the previous protests.
On Friday there were reportedly 1,235 inmates refusing state-issued food across 14 prisons as the hunger strike entered its 12th day. The number has dropped substantially from the initial 30,000 inmates who refused meals on July 8 — the strike’s first day.
It was also reported that 42 inmates continue to refuse go to work — the number dropped from 2,300. This could be attributed to the inmates returning to work or being replaced in their job assignments, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesperson Terry Thornton said.
The hunger strike is primarily calling for an end to long-term solitary confinement and the release of inmates, who have been labeled prison gang members, to be released back into the general population.
Officials state the hunger strike is led by gang leaders who wield influential power over the prison population and their subordinates.
The latest hunger strike was sparked after its coordinators housed in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit deemed the CDCR lacking in an effort to change gang management policies that have kept them in the SHU for longer than 10 years. There were two hunger strikes launched in 2011 that initiated the protests against long-term solitary confinement.
Those two hunger strikes also started with thousands of inmates protesting and slowly trickled to an end after about three weeks.
Like the second hunger strike in September 2011, the leaders of what officials are calling a mass disturbance have been segregated from the rest of the population. And just like the last time, the inmates are claiming that cold air blasted is blasted into their rooms.
Thornton denied the claim, stating that temperatures in Pelican Bay’s SHU and Administrative Segregation Units were 72 to 73 degrees.
And like the last hunger strike, an attorney has been temporarily denied from visiting her inmate clients while an investigation is being conducted to check whether there have been any violations of prison safety laws.
Medical monitoring continues for the striking inmates and treatment is given for those who allow it.
“They’re educating all of the participants about the potential effects of prolonged fasting,” said Liz Gransee, a public information officer for California Correctional Health Care Services.
Earlier this week, a Pelican Bay inmate was sent to another prison for a higher level of care while two others were sent to an outside facility for observation. Those two inmates were discharged back to the prison. One of those inmates began refusing to receive lab tests and hydration and will be sent to another prison for a higher level of care.
There were three other inmates at North Kern State Prison who refused to come out of their cells to be weighed and have their vital signs checked. They will continue to be monitored, Gransee said.
“We don’t know why they’re telling us no,” said Gransee.
A handful of other inmates have also been treated.
The prison can intervene and treat an inmate who refuses medical treatment once they have lost consciousness if they signed an agreement during their initial reception into prison allowing the prison to do so.
Next week, mandatory visits by a primary care provider will be scheduled for those who have remained on a hunger strike for at least 14 days.
By day 14, inmates who have starved themselves may begin feeling dizzy, have difficulty standing, lose their thirst and feel sensations of being cold and weak according to the prison’s health care services.