California prison officials to meet with advocates of striking inmates
This post has been updated. See the note below for details.
SACRAMENTO -- California prison officials have agreed to meet with advocates for inmates who are now in their third week of a statewide hunger strike. The discussions are to take place Tuesday in Sacramento.
Though state Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard said California has had “ongoing conversations” with leaders of the prison protest over solitary confinement conditions, Tuesday’s meeting will mark the first time the state has sat down with outside advocates for those inmates since before the protests began July 8.
The discussion will include a top state prison administrator but not Beard himself. “We hope he will eventually talk to us himself,” said Laura Magnani, one of the inmate advocates, from the San Francisco office of the American Friends Service Committee.
Magnani said she was encouraged the state is now willing to resume discussions with those representing the protesting inmates. As of Sunday, the number of hunger strikers had fallen to 1,081, down from more than 30,000 inmates who joined the protest its first day.
[Updated, 4:40 p.m. July 22: On Monday afternoon, the corrections department said the number of hunger strikers had dropped to 986 prisoners in 11 prisons, and 42 who continued to refuse to go to their prison jobs. The medical receiver’s office said two inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison required hydration, and one at North Kern State Prison refused medical attention.]
Beard said he looks for the protest to burn itself out. His hope, he said, is “that they’ll eventually make their point, and get it over, and we can continue to move forward in a positive way.”
Now that inmates have refused meals for two weeks or more, prison physicians are beginning full medical checks of protesters. The court-appointed medical receiver’s office said some inmates are refusing those appointments.
The inmates leading the hunger strike, housed in isolation units at Pelican Bay State Prison, were moved during the first weeks of the protest to smaller, more isolated cells after having their belongings searched and files seized. Though state officials said inmates’ belongings were returned, a lawyer for some of those inmates said legal files remained missing. Amnesty International on Monday put out a call for California corrections officials to revoke sanctions against inmates “for exercising their right to engage in peaceful protest.”
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