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Prison officials say hunger strike ends at Pelican Bay

July 21, 2011 |  1:14 pm

Dozens of inmates at Pelican Bay prison have ended a hunger strike that begun nearly three weeks ago, according to a statement released Thursday morning by Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate.

The prisoners, whose demands included an end to a policy that requires them to inform on gang members in order to be released from solitary confinement, agreed to start eating again in exchange for "cold-weather caps, wall calendars and some educational opportunities," Cate's statement said.

While the strike began at Pelican Bay, California's highest security prison, it spread to other institutions. As of Wednesday night, a spokeswoman for the receiver in charge of prison healthcare said the medical staff was monitoring more than 700 hunger strikers at four institutions.

POLL: Californians would rather ease penalties than pay more for prisons

Jay Donahue, a spokesman for prison-rights advocates supporting the strikers, said he had no "indication or confirmation" that the strike was over and prison administrators would not say whether the strike continued at the other lockups.

Prison officials, who refuse to allow reporters access to the strikers, said Monday that 49 inmates had lost at least 10 pounds each.

An inmate at the state prison in Tehachapi in Central California has lost 29 pounds, according to Nancy Kincaid, spokeswoman for the court-appointed receiver in charge of prison healthcare.

Inmate advocates said many were beginning to show dramatic weight loss and collapse with the early signs of starvation. Dozens have been sent to prison infirmaries because of irregular heartbeats and fainting, according to a statement issued Monday by a group calling itself California Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity, which represents attorneys and family members of inmates. "Most have lost 20-35 pounds," the statement said.


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-- Jack Dolan in Sacramento

Photo: Delores Canales, left, and other demonstrators gather outside the Ronald Reagan Building in downtown Los Angeles in support of the California prisoners participating in a hunger strike. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times