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Letters: The hunger strikers' humanity

August 09, 2013
  • California prisons chief Jeffrey Beard, seen above in June walking into a new correctional healthcare facility in Stockton, has defended his department's treatment of the hunger strikers.
California prisons chief Jeffrey Beard, seen above in June walking into… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)

Re "Hungry for control," Opinion, Aug. 6

Jeffrey Beard, head of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, does a masterful job of presenting a narrow view of the issues underlying the current hunger strike in California prisons.

He avoids the broader issue of the many thousands of persons held in some form of solitary confinement in California, a practice that is widely held to be torture, and describes conditions in the Security Housing Units, or SHUs, quite at odds with those observed by attorneys and human rights activists.

Juan Mendez, the U.N. special rapporteur for torture, has stated that solitary confinement beyond 15 days should be absolutely prohibited. In California prisons, the average length of time in SHU is more than six years.

As a human rights activist and person of faith, I along with many others recognize that the core demands of the hunger strikers are consistent with human rights standards and especially with deeply held religious values.

Virginia Classick

Woodland Hills

Judges and juries have determined that these inmates serve time in prison, but the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation disregards those verdicts when it subjects them to inhumane conditions. The prisoners have nonviolently protested on behalf of their own safety and dignity, but officials have decided effectively to punish them more.

This collective punishment and the use of solitary confinement do not promote corrections or rehabilitation.

Rachel Werther

Seattle

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