Prisoners Near Death As 1,700 California Inmates Continue Hunger Strike To Protest Appalling Conditions

Marie Diamond, Think Progress | July 13, 2011

A hunger strike started by prisoners at Pelican Bay to protest appalling conditions has spread across California as inmates at 13 prisons joined in solidarity. The number of inmates refusing food hit a peak of 6,600, and is now estimated at 1,700. They are now in their 13th day of the hunger strike, and relatives are reporting that many are near death but still refusing medical attention.

Pelican Bay is a maximum security facility where inmates are held in windowless isolation cells for more than 22 hours a day, shower once every three days, and can have little or no contact with other prisoners for years and even decades at a time:

A core group of prisoners at Pelican Bay said they were willing to starve to death rather than continue to submit to prison conditions that they call a violation of basic civil and human rights.

“No one wants to die,” James Crawford, a prisoner serving a life sentence for murder and robbery, said in a statement provided by a coalition of prisoners’ rights groups. “Yet under this current system of what amounts to intense torture, what choice do we have?”

The hunger strike comes only weeks after the Supreme Court ordered California to dramatically lower its prisons population, because severe overcrowding was exposing inmates to high levels of violence and disease.

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