2,500 California Inmates On Hunger Strike, Lancaster on lockdown

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Above: California State Prison in Lancaster remains on partial lockdown after a dining hall riot that state officials say is unrelated to an ongoing hunger strike there and at other prisons. (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations)

SACRAMENTO — The number of California inmates continuing a statewide hunger strike hovered at 2,500 on Tuesday, as prison medical workers worked to finish the first round of health checks.

Corrections officials Tuesday confirmed parts of the California State Prison near Lancaster had been on at least partial lockdown since Saturday. Movement was restricted within the prison following a riot in the dining hall that department spokeswoman Terry Thornton said was “unrelated to the mass hunger strike.”

No significant health issues were reported as some inmates went their ninth day without food, said Liz Gransee, spokeswoman for the medical receiver’s office appointed by federal courts to run California’s prison healthcare system. Full medical checks are not scheduled to begin until protesters go two weeks without eating.

Family members of some of those refusing meals are uneasy with the wait.

“They are already getting sick,” said Elaine Gurule, who visited her two sons at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi over the weekend. Gurule said her sons, participating in the hunger strike that began July 8, were weak and dizzy. She expressed surprise that prison officials had not weighed the inmates, but instead handed them “do not resuscitate” forms to fill out in case they collapse. California’s hunger strike protocol does not include force feeding.

“They’re trying to make it hard on them,” Gurule said.

Prison medical workers by Wednesday should complete an initial assessment of all inmates who are refusing food, Gransee said. The checks include blood pressure and respiration rate readings, but inmates will not be weighed unless staff deem it medically necessary, she said. Medical emergency forms are part of the packets being distributed that also include warnings of the long-term effects of fasting, Gransee said.

Inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison, where organizers of the statewide protest are housed, complained they were unable to pick up a local radio station carrying news. The engineer of KHSU said the station did lose its signal in that area most of the day Friday, because an Internet relay problem.