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6,600 California prisoners refused meals

July 6, 2011 |  4:30 pm

Photo: Demonstrators hold up a sign during a rally in front of the State Building in San Francisco on July 1 to support prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison. Inmates in an isolation unit at Pelican Bay State Prison are on a hunger strike to protest conditions that they describe as inhumane. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press State prison officials reported Wednesday that as many as 6,600 inmates took part in a declared hunger strike over the three-day July 4 weekend, but said participation had dropped by more than two-thirds in recent days.
 
On Friday, 6,500 inmates at 13 California prisons and one out-of-state contract prison refused to eat state-issued food, said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
 
The number peaked at 6,600 inmates in 10 state prisons over the weekend, she said. More than 500 inmates refused food at Pelican Bay State prison, she said.
 
By Tuesday, the number of inmates refusing state-issued food had dropped to 2,400, and it was down to 2,100 at nine prisons Wednesday, Thornton said.

The strike began Friday at Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit, the highest-security complex in the state’s 33-facility prison system.
 
Inmates are protesting the maximum-security unit’s extreme isolation. They are also protesting the policy requiring inmates to "debrief" as a condition of leaving the unit. Debriefing involves the inmate informing on the activities of fellow prison-gang members. In addition, inmates have asked for better food, warmer clothing and a phone call a month.

Thornton said prison officials are talking with inmate representatives at the prisons where the strike continues, while medical staff continues to monitor the condition of strikers.

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Photo: Participants hold a banner during a rally Friday at the state building in San Francisco to support  protesting inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

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