Triplicate Staff

Ideas offered for ending hunger strike; state details its current reforms

Advocates for inmates on a hunger strike to protest California's solitary confinement program met with the state prisons chief on Friday as they pushed for an end to practices they say are inhumane.

Mediators who support the protesting inmates issued a statement after the hour-long meeting with Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard, saying they offered ideas for ending the hunger strike and improving prison conditions that currently include indeterminate sentences in isolation units.

"He received us well and listened to our concerns and those of the prisoners and their families," the statement said.

Ron Ahnen, president of California Prison Focus, who was among those who met with Beard, declined to elaborate on the secretary's response to their suggestions.

More than 300 inmates have refused all meals since the strike began on July 8. About 30,000 inmates initially participated.

Corrections officials declined to immediately comment on the specifics of Friday's meeting. But spokesman Jeffrey Callison said before the meeting that Beard intended to explain the changes California has already made to the confinement program.

Those include policy revisions allowing some inmates classified as gang members to be moved out of the units without having to inform on other inmates.

This is the third hunger strike launched since 2011 to protest living conditions in those prison units, where 4,500 gang members, gang associates and serious offenders are held.

The meeting occurred a day after Assemblyman Tom Ammiano released a second statement during this hunger strike criticizing the CDCR.

"To keep anyone in severe isolation for indefinite amounts of time does not meet norms of human rights that civilized countries accept," Ammiano said. "The seriousness of the demands is underscored by the fact that hunger strikers have been at it for more than three weeks now."