Approximately 30,000 prisoners have entered the third day of what might be the largest hunger strike in California’s history. The strike, which has spread to Washington state, has already left ten prisoners under medical observation. Abby Ohlheiser provides context:
While the California prison system has a less than stellar reputation on a handful of issues–many of which trace back to its astonishing overcrowding–the striking prisoners are focusing their message on improving conditions for those locked in solitary confinement. Last October, Mother Jones published a must-read on solitary in California, written by Shane Bauer, one of the three hikers kept in an Iranian solitary confinement cell for 26 months. Spoiler: Bauer thought California’s conditions were worse.
Julianne Hing adds:
The United Nations has found that just 15 days in solitary confinement violates human rights standards and can do irreperable psychological harm to a person, according to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Yet hundreds of California inmates have been in indefinite isolation for more than a decade, according to Amnesty International.
In California, according to hunger strike protocols released by the Department of Corrections, no prisoner will be forced to eat at any time if he makes it clear in advance that that is his wish. In California, a prisoner has the right to starve himself to death. It shouldn’t have to come to that.