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Hunger strike takes its toll on California prison inmates

September 05, 2013|By Paige St. John
  • The concrete exercise area for inmates in segregation cells at Pelican Bay State Prison. California prisoners have waged a hunger strike in protest of the indefinite use of solitary confinement.
The concrete exercise area for inmates in segregation cells at Pelican… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

SACRAMENTO -- Prison medical officials have reported few serious issues over the duration of California’s two-month-old prison hunger strike, but the frequency of protesters “falling out” -- fainting or requiring medical intervention -- rose this week.

Over the last four days, 32 hunger strikers have required medical attention, mostly fluids through intravenous tubes, daily medical incident reports show. Two inmates have been sent to outside hospitals for stabilization.

The corrections department said 100 inmates continued to refuse food Wednesday, though they were consuming Gatorade, to the tune of about 600 calories a day. Forty of those prisoners had accepted no state-issued meals since July 8, when the hunger strike began.

The state at this point has made no use of a court order allowing involuntary medical care, including feeding, of inmates.

Prison officials two weeks ago began moving the majority of the protesters to a state prison outside Sacramento, built adjacent to Folsom, leaving only the four strike leaders housed in isolation units at Pelican Bay State Prison.

The strikers complained of their handling by the state, alleging icy cold cells, inadequate blankets, and inattentive medical care. They told their lawyers that several dozen of them were moved from Pelican Bay in shackles on a bus that had no medical workers on board. They claimed one inmate collapsed during the ride but was revived with Gatorade.

State prison officials said Wednesday that the protest, which at its start involved 30,000 inmates at two-thirds of the state’s prisons, was now active in only two facilities, though they would not name them. Medical reports on the health of hunger strikers for the last week have been issued at only two prisons, the one outside of Sacramento, and from Calipatria State Prison in Imperial County near the state’s southern border.


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