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Living 'Death Sentence' at Corcoran State Prison

March 19, 2004

Re "Man Died of Neglect, Inmates Say" (March 15), on the recent inmate death at Corcoran State Prison: According to the article, the decedent was a 72-year-old former Sikh priest who starved himself to death because prison management continuously violated his vegetarian religious practices. And as he wasted away, prison management took no action to halt his hunger strike. I'm not surprised. My own experience with prisons and prison guards betokens an almost hostile attitude toward religion and religious practice. When my son was in a juvenile facility, I asked my parish priest to visit him and counsel him. Twice he went and twice he was rudely turned away.

I wanted my son to have Holy Communion while in prison. I tried taking it to him myself. Prison management refused to let me administer it. They told me the wafer might be drugs. I protested to my elected officials. Finally, under pressure, prison management relented. I was allowed to serve communion to my son with four guards watching. Immediately afterward, the senior guard ordered my son strip-searched because, as he put it, I may have passed him something else.

I almost empathize with the man who starved himself. It's almost better to be dead than to be in such a place.

Dale Andersen

Ladera Ranch

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This is the second time in just a few short weeks that we have read about Corcoran State Prison guards causing deaths of prisoners by neglect or refusing to help. The first was a prisoner bleeding to death because the guards were too busy watching the Super Bowl. Now they have allowed a 72-year-old man to starve himself to death. These people were not sentenced to the death penalty, but their outcomes were the same.

Marilyn Gordon

San Pedro

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