California Prison Guards Allegedly Retaliate Against Hunger Strike
Prison officials are trying to break a hunger strike involving thousands of California inmates by “blasting cells with cold air, confiscating legal documents and, in one case, banning lawyers, according to legal representatives and relatives,” The Guardian reports.
The action is in retaliation for a strike that entered its 12th day Friday. Lawyers say the striking inmates’ health is being endangered by the prison officials’ actions. Roughly 30,000 prisoners in 33 jails began the hunger strike on July 8. It is the biggest such strike in the state’s history, protesting solitary confinement and other prison conditions, some of which inmates say amounts to torture.
California holds about 12,000 inmates in extreme isolation at any given time. Some have been in windowless cells, known as security housing units or SHUs, for decades. Guards say the tactic is essential for combatting prison gang violence. That claim has been disputed.
— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
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Anne Weills, a civil rights attorney who this week visited Pelican Bay state prison, which is at the heart of the protest, said the temperature at the prison had been deliberately lowered. “They are the upping the ante in terms of cold. It’s clearly a tactic to make everything uncomfortable and in essence retaliate for the hunger strike,” she said. “They are freezing, these men. I could see them shivering in front of me. I had two sweaters on and I was freezing.”
The cold was badly affecting smaller, thinner prisoners with little body fat, especially those weakened by their fast, she said. “They are suffering. This puts them at risk of hypothermia.”
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