More than 400 California prisoners are entering the fourth week of hunger strike in protest of what they allege to be cruel and unusual conditions. Dozens have reportedly lost between 20 and 25 pounds as health conditions deteriorate. The prisoners are demanding a number of changes in the prison system already standard practice in other parts of the country, including an end to group punishment, denial of food as punishment, and ending long-term solitary confinement. The strike began in the Pelican Bay maximum security facility near the Oregon border and has drawn the support of thousands of prisoners throughout California. Pelican Bay prisoner Todd Ashker spoke out in an audio recording earlier this month.
Todd Ashker: “We believe that this is our only option of ever trying to make some kind of positive changes here, is through this peaceful protest of hunger strike. And there is a core group of us who are committed to taking this all the way to the death, if necessary. None of us want to do this, but we feel like we have no other option. And we’re just hoping for the best.”
Media groups have criticized California prison officials for barring journalists from meeting with the striking Pelican prisoners, citing “security and safety issues.”