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Calipatria prison hunger strikers resume eating, get more calls, cable

August 19, 2013|By Paige St. John
  • A 6-week hunger strike at Calipatria State Prison ended last week when 22 inmates resumed eating. Inmate supporters said the warden agreed to expanded TV and canteen privileges.
A 6-week hunger strike at Calipatria State Prison ended last week when 22… (California Department…)

SACRAMENTO -- While inmates in six California prisons continue a 43-day hunger strike over conditions of their incarceration, protesters in one prison resumed eating and as a result received addition television channels, monthly phone calls and a wider variety of food at the prison canteen.

California prison officials insisted the expanded privileges at Calipatria State Prison, near the Mexico border, did not signal a willingness to negotiate with inmates.

"The warden at CAL did not 'reach an agreement' with the hunger strikers," said department spokesman Jeffrey Callison. "The warden simply informed the inmates that local issues would be discussed only after they ceased their involvement in this disturbance."

Inmate advocates said Calipatria Warden Frank Chavez met with protest leaders within that prison on Thursday and, while talking with state corrections officials in Sacramento by phone, agreed to most of their more minor demands. They include adding six channels, including ESPN and PBS, to the television lineup available in segregation units, as well as increasing the variety and amounts of foods available for purchase in the prison canteen.

The warden also agreed within two months to allow inmates in segregation to make a monthly phone call, said Kendra Castaneda, an inmate supporter.

Castaneda said Calipatria officials refused to negotiate on the core issues of the hunger strike -- the state's indefinite use of isolation units and informants to control prison gangs.

Corrections officials said the strike ended Thursday when 22 inmates resumed eating.

The end of the strike at Calipatria leaves 129 inmates in six other prisons continuing to refuse food, 69 of them since July 8. As protesters' health deteriorates, prison medical beds are filling.

According to lawyers for inmates, the state last week moved some 20 hunger strikers out of the remote Pelican Bay State Prison to a prison near Sacramento with greater access to community hospitals. Prison medical officials said the move makes it easier to take care of high-risk hunger strikers.

Hunger strike supporters expressed frustration Monday that prison officials refuse to acknowledge protesters who consume juice or take any other form of nutrition as being on a hunger strike.

"The rules about who is on hunger strike are so severe, they really are pushing the hunger strikers toward starving themselves," said Ron Ahnen, president of California Prison Focus.

ALSO:

L.A. County sheriff seeks ability to release felons

Brown: Prison expansion to cost hundreds of millions

Prison hunger strike appears headed toward stalemate

Twitter: @paigestjohn

paige.stjohn@latimes.com

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