While Southern California’s supermarket strike was narrowly averted last week, a large-scale hunger strike is returning to Pelican Bay State Prison in Northern California. Launched this past summer by Pelican Bay inmates to protest inhumane prison conditions and widespread penal system abuses, the strike was called off this summer to make room for talks with prison officials, not long after the movement was taken up in solidarity by over 6,000 prisoners in a patchwork of correctional facilities.
According to Colorlines, prisoners were seeking address to a number of issues, primarily the lengthy solitary confinement sentences given as penalties for inmates in Pelican Bay’s security housing unit. Apparently, the talks went nowhere and the situation inside has become bleaker still.
Pelican Bay inmates claim that, not only did their demands go unanswered, but that prison officials have unfairly targeted the hunger strike’s organizers with retaliation and abuse, handing out what are called “115’s,” demerits that can increase incarceration time and are typically reserved for violent or troublesome behavior, over minor infractions. Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity member Isaac Ontiveros explains, “Inmates have felt that the California Department of Corrections is not negotiating in good faith,” and goes on to say conditions have only worsened for inmates.
As of Monday, the prisoners are said to have gone back on their hunger strike. Already, this new call to refuse state food is being taken up in solidarity by 100 prisoners at Southern California’s Calipatria State Prison and 50 at West Valley Detention Center.