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Prison hunger strike numbers decline

October 4, 2011 |  2:14 pm

Pelican Bay State Prison

The number of inmates participating in a hunger strike to protest prison conditions dropped substantially this week, according to figures released by the court-appointed receiver in charge of California inmates' healthcare.

Advocates for the inmates taking part in the hunger strike said Monday that the number of participants had swelled to 12,000, making it possibly the largest such strike in recent U.S. history. 

Figures released Tuesday by California Correctional Health Care Services showed that nearly 12,000 inmates had been under medical monitoring or treatment related to the strike as of Thursday, but that the number dropped to less than 1,300 by Monday. And on Tuesday the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported that there were 1,186 inmates in four prisons on strike.

Jay Donahue, a spokesman with the advocacy group Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, said his group had not seen the new counts when it issued a statement using the 12,000 figure. He attributed the decline to a disciplinary crackdown by corrections officials on participants in the strike, including placing some in segragation units. He also said the action may be a "rolling strike," with groups of inmates taking turns participating.

The inmates are in the second week of a renewed hunger strike to call attention to conditions, including lengthy stints in solitary confinement.


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Photo: Pelican Bay State Prison is one of the facilities where inmates have been staging a hunger strike over conditions in secure housing units. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press