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Two prisons now report hunger strikes over gang policy

October 16, 2012 |  7:38 pm

A hunger strike over new prison gang policies has spread to a second institution, involving more than 200 inmates.

By Tuesday, inmates were refusing food at prisons near Tehachapi and Corcoran, part of a protest that began Oct. 10. Corrections officials said many of the striking inmates are objecting to new policies in how gang members are identified for placement in special segregated units, and under what conditions they may be released back into the main population.

"They believe it widens the scope," said Kelly Harrington, associate director of high security for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The new policies, currently under review, create a four-year process for alleged gang members to return to the general population, and spell out circumstances under which prison officials can place inmates into segregation. Harrington said the regulations will be circulated among wardens "in the next week" but are not yet to be implemented.

Currently inmates must refrain from gang-related activity for six years before they may be released from segregated housing. The new policy creates a four-year "step down" program that grants inmates additional access to exercise, food and outside communication if they remain "gang-free."

The hunger strike began seven days ago at California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi, where 135 inmates Tuesday continued to refuse food, down from an initial 300. Corrections officials on Tuesday said an additional 72 inmates at Corcoran State Prison were now also on a hunger strike, having refused nine or more consecutive meals. 

ALSO:

Strikers raise issues with state gang policy

Phone smuggling costs 20 prison workers their jobs

Amnesty International decries long-term segregation in state prisons

--By Paige St. John in Crescent City

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