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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : Prison Strike on Conjugal Visits Ends

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A strike by 1,000 state prison inmates--who refused to leave their cells in protest of proposed restrictions on conjugal visits--ended peacefully Thursday morning, prison officials said.

The maximum-security inmates, who launched the strike Sunday evening, finally left their cells to go to breakfast, said Dean Crenshaw, spokesman for the state prison at Lancaster. Some of the inmates had abandoned the strike earlier.

“Everything’s back to normal,” Crenshaw said. “All of the inmates returned to their work assignments, classes and regular activities.”

The inmates staged their nonviolent action to protest a proposal by James H. Gomez, director of the California Department of Corrections. The proposal would eliminate unsupervised visits--private overnight stays with spouses in small bungalows on prison grounds--for inmates serving time for murder, spousal abuse and a variety of sex crimes.

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The new restrictions will be the subject of an April 27 public hearing in Sacramento. Until then, inmates and their families may comment on the plan in writing.

To show their opposition, the inmates in the prison’s C block refused to report to work assignments and gave up dining hall meals and recreation. Prison officials said the prisoners--representing about one-fourth of the prison’s population--apparently ate soup and snack foods they had purchased at the canteen prior to the strike.

But by Wednesday morning, about a third of the striking inmates had ended their protest and resumed meals. The remainder gave up the strike on Thursday morning.

The protest did not spread to any of California’s 28 other prisons, said Bill Gengler, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections in Sacramento.

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“It’s very quiet in the prisons,” he said. “Obviously, the inmates are aware that this regulation has been filed, but there have been no incidents similar to the one at Lancaster.”


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