SACRAMENTO (AP) — California inmates have ended a nearly two-month hunger strike to protest the prison system’s isolation policies, prison officials said Thursday.
All inmates began accepting prison-issued meals, Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard said.
More than 30,000 inmates had been refusing meals when the strike began in early July. By this week the number had dwindled to 100 strikers, including 40 who had been on strike continuously since July 8.
The strike ended after two Democratic state legislators promised to hold hearings this fall on inmates’ complaints that gang leaders are often held for decades in isolation units.
A federal judge also recently gave authorities permission to force-feed inmates if necessary to save their lives. However, even the hard-core strikers had been accepting vitamins and electrolyte drinks during their fast.
“We are pleased this dangerous strike has been called off before any inmates became seriously ill,” Beard said in a statement.
He said the department will continue to carry out changes in its policies over sending inmates to Security Housing Units that were started two years ago.
The changes include more limits on which inmates are sent to the housing units at Pelican Bay, where the strike began, and at other prisons. The policies also make it easier for inmates also can work their way out of the isolation units.
Supporters and advocates for the inmates planned a rally Thursday morning at the California State building in downtown Oakland.
They did not immediately confirm that the strike had ended but cited a positive response to the inmates’ demands, including the pending hearings scheduled by the heads of the state Senate and Assembly public safety committees.
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