California Prison Hunger Strike: 30,000 Inmates Refuse Food, Fake Illness For Third Day Of Protest [VIDEO]

By Philip Ross on July 10, 2013 12:59 PM EDT

california hunger strike
A hunger strike in California state prisons enters its third day as tens of thousands of inmates refuse meals and don’t show up for classes. (Photo: Reuters)

A hunger strike in California state prisons enters its third day as tens of thousands of inmates refuse meals and fake sick to get out of work or prison classes. Nearly 30,000 of the 133,000 inmates in California's prisons are taking part in the hunger strike. The inmates are protesting abusive prison conditions like indefinite solitary confinement.

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The Los Angeles Times reports that inmates in two-thirds of the state's 33 penitentiaries went without breakfast or lunch on Monday and Tuesday. Additionally, prisoners at all four of California's out-of-state private prisons also stiff-armed meals. About 2,000 inmates across the state refused to attend their jobs or classes on Tuesday, a slight decrease from Monday's 2,300 inmates who played hooky.

The protest is organized by a small group of inmates at Pelican bay State Prison in Crescent City, just south of the Oregon state border.

"There's a core group of us who are committed to taking this all the way to the death, if necessary," Todd Ashker, an inmate at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, says in a video about the hunger strike uploaded to YouTube. "None of us want to do this, but we feel like we have no other option."

The video, uploaded by user PBHungerStrike, begins with a black screen overlain by white typing that reads: "On July 8, 2013 CA prisoners will be going on indefinite hunger strike for basic human rights, such as sunlight and human contact."

According to the Chicago Tribune, California has over 4,500 inmates in the solitary confinement system, called the Security Housing Units, or SHU. Some of them are in the SHU for crimes they committed while in prison, and others are there after being identified as gang members.

"Those who commit crimes behind bars are kept in the units for up to five years, while gang members are kept there indeterminately," the Chicago Tribune reports.

Prisoners in the SHU spend 22 to 24 hours a day without interacting with people.

Two years ago, the same group of inmates from Pelican Bay State Prison organized an initial hunger strike to protest abusive prison conditions. USA Today reports that in October 2011, nearly 12,000 prisoners declined meals, and 7,000 refused food in July. Officials said most of the inmates began eating again after a few days.

According to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the state doesn't recognize hunger strikes until prisoners have missed nine straight meals. By the end of Tuesday, the hunger strikers had missed five.

Read more from iScience Times:

Valley Fever: Inmates In Calif. Prisons At Risk Of Deadly Fungal Infection, State Mandates Relocation Of 2,600 Prisoners [VIDEO]

Jodi Arias Suicide Watch: How Does Prison Suicide Watch Work?

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