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Reporters denied access to California prison hunger strikers

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A solitary confinement unit at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison

California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is denying media access to hunger strikers in its prisons, officials said.

As of Sunday, about 1,000 inmates were still on a hunger strike in protest of prolonged isolation for inmates with ties to prison gangs, KPCC public radio, Pasadena, reported.

Prison officials have denied reporters access to inmates participating in the hunger strike, as well as tours of Security Housing Units, where inmates are held in isolation for up to 22 hours a day, KPCC said.

“There are a lot of staffing resources being used to manage this mass hunger strike and maintain the safety and security of our institutions,” department spokeswoman Terry Thornton said. “When this is concluded we can resume having reporters visits our institutions.”

“They just seem so paranoid to let any information out about what’s going on,” said Jim Ewert with the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

Ewert said Department of Corrections’ decision to ban media during the hunger strike, which is now in its third week, prevents the public from making inform decisions on the situation.

“I’m not saying the public should side one way or the other,” Ewert said, “but at least people can make an informed decision about whether the protesters have a legitimate beef or not. But right now, the public can’t.”

Meanwhile, Amnesty International accused California prison authorities Monday of violating international human rights laws by punishing hunger-striking inmates.

“Prisoners seeking an end to inhumane conditions should not be subjected to punitive measures for exercising their right to engage in peaceful protest,” said Angela Wright, an Amnesty International researcher in the United States. “Prolonged isolation under conditions which can only be described as cruel and inhumane treatment is prohibited under international law.”


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