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Inmates at another California prison launch hunger strike

October 13, 2012 |  6:01 pm

A mass hunger strike is underway among solitary confinement inmates at one California prison, while a second protest at another facility has stopped.

Corrections officials said they do not know why about 500 inmates started refusing food Wednesday, the same day a prison “end to hostilities” was called by inmate activists who had orchestrated last year’s mass hunger strikes.

The fasting began at opposite ends of the state. Several hundred inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison near the Oregon border refused meals from Wednesday through Friday, but  began eating again Friday night, said Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. About 300 prisoners at California Correctional Institute in Tehachapi, north of Los Angeles, also began refusing meals Wednesday. About 200 of them continued to refuse food Saturday, Thornton said.    

Those fasting are housed in Tehachapi’s high-security segregation unit which, along with Pelican Bay, is the subject of a class-action lawsuit alleging inhumane treatment and subjective policies for holding inmates in severe detention for decades. Conditions in the austere cells, where inmates spend 22 1/2 hours a day with limited options for exercise or rehabilitation, were the root of two much larger hunger strikes last year involving as many as 6,500 inmates. Prisoners this week so far have not aired their grievances or made demands, Thornton said.

The beginning of the current fast coincides with a ceasefire announced by inmate activists housed in segregation at Pelican Bay State Prison, dubbed the Short Corridor Collective. Their two-page treatise calls for “an end to more than 20-30 years of hostilities between our racial groups” while warning against efforts by prison officials to use inmate informants.

Prison officials regard the reference to race as a synonym for the race-based gangs active in California prisons, including the Mexican Mafia, Aryan Brotherhood and 415 KUMI.

Molly Poizig with Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity said Pelican Bay prison officials responded to the ceasefire by asking the 16 Short Corridor inmates whose names appear on the statement to acknowledge gang activity. She attributed the claim to a family member visiting one of those inmates last week.

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--Paige St. John  in Sacramento

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