California Prison Hunger-Strikers' Families Speak Out

Jorge Rivas/Fusion

Supporters of hunger-striking inmates met at California State Prison, Corcoran, 175 miles north of Los Angeles, on Saturday. Many of the demonstrators were family members of prisoners, and they spoke to ABC News-Univision about how solitary confinement affects the families outside of prison, too.

An estimated 30,000 inmates in California began a hunger strike last week across the state. The prisoners are protesting a number of conditions in prisons run by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) they say are inhumane but at the core of their demands is the end to indefinite solitary confinement.

At issue are the state's high-security "special housing units" (SHUs) where inmates are isolated for 22-24 hours per day. Prisoner advocates say more than 3,000 prisoners in California are held in the isolation units with no human contact and often windowless cells.

The United Nations has found that just 15 days in solitary confinement violates human rights standards yet CDCR has confined men in SHU for decades.

The CDCR released a statement last week alleging the mass hunger strikes are organized by prison gangs and that “inmates identified as leading and perpetuating the disturbance will be subject to disciplinary action.” The number of inmates who have refused nine or more meals fell to 4,487 on Sunday, according to California corrections officials.

But family members of prisoners participating in the hunger strike say those allegations are false. They say inmates have come together to demand some basic human needs like access to natural sunlight, food that hasn’t expired and visits with loved ones that aren’t separated by glass.

Watch the video at the top of the page to hear from family members of inmates in solitary confinement.

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