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Thousands of California Prison Inmates Continue Hunger Strike

By Tuesday, the number of protesting prison inmates across California state prisons was about 29, 000 continuing into the second day of the statewide hunger strike by prisoners.

While at least ten state inmates were placed on medical observation after refusing meals in a hunger strike from July 1, tens of thousands of inmates joined the mass hunger strike to improve prison conditions.

The first ten inmates who started their own hunger strike days ahead of others are at the High Desert State Prison, and being watched by prison medical staff.

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Until Tuesday, the California prison officials have received at least eight demand letters from prisoners demanding cleaner facilities, better food, and greater access to the prison library.

Prison authorities say the protests are principally focused on the conditions of solitary confinement, but except the hunger strike, things were going smoothly. However, around 2000 inmates did not show up for their prison jobs or classes.

According to California law, the state doesn’t accept a hunger strike to be official until inmates skip nine consecutive meals. That would take place if the strike continues till late Wednesday.

The LA Times reports that correction officials said that the month of Ramadan was complicating their count of those who are refusing meals in protest and in those who are observing ritual fasting during daytime following Islamic tenets.

Though, this shouldn’t be confusing as Ramadan does not prescribe Muslims to skip nine consecutive meals as required by the State to count the refusal of meals as official hunger strike.

The protests are occurring at an inopportune moment for the administration as recent federal court decisions declared the California prison system had unconstitutionally poor care of inmates, and if the system was not upgraded it could lead to an epidemic of potentially deadly valley fever.

Recently, state officials agreed to follow the orders of a federal judge to shift 2,600 inmates from the Pleasant Valley and Avenal state prisons.

The hunger strike by prison inmates in California also comes at a time when federal judges have already ordered Governor Jerry Brown to release thousands of prisoners by the end of 2013 to reduce overcrowding. The federal courts have also refused the Governor’s request to delay that order, because they hold that overcrowding as the originating cause of poor conditions and lack of care.

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