300,000 California prisoners are refusing food in what appears to be a state-wide hunger strike in response to the policy of solitary confinement, with an additional 2,300 inmates refusing to report for prison classes or work detail, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The strike, a protest against prison rules which allow for indefinite isolation of suspected gang members, has spread from Pelican Bay State Prison to 22 of California’s 33 jails, as well as four institutions in other states. The strikers demand a five-year moratorium on the policy, as well as an end to collective punishment, access to nutritious food, and increased privileges including weekly phone calls and photos from the outside world, according to a petition signed by the strike’s ringleaders.
Despite the size of the demonstration, it is the policy of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to officially declare a hunger strike only after an inmate has missed nine meals.
The strike comes in the wake of controversy over the force-feeding of detainees on hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay.