(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — About 1,450 California prisoners participating in a mass hunger strike continued to refuse meals on Thursday, with some inmates alleging that prison officials are trying to break the campaign by blasting cells with cold air, according to lawyers and relatives.
Earlier this month, 30,000 prisoners across 24 California facilities began a hunger strike to call attention to a number of conditions they say are inhumane. The prisoners are demanding changes to policies that allow the jails to hold inmates in solitary confinement indefinitely.
Relatives of some of the inmates participating in the hunger strike have received letters describing prison officials’ attempts to break the resolve of strikers by blasting cold air into the solitary confinement and Administrative Segregation (AD-Seg) units at the maximum-security facility in Pelican Bay.
Terry Thornton, a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, denied those allegations.
“The cells in the security housing units and the administrative segregation unit at Pelican Bay State prison are 72 to 73 degrees,” Thornton told ABC News/Univision. He added that cell-unit temperatures are not something guards or correctional peace officers control.
But an inmate’s lawyer tells The Guardian a different story.
“They are the upping the ante in terms of cold. It’s clearly a tactic to make everything uncomfortable and in essence retaliate for the hunger strike,” Anne Weills, a civil rights attorney who this week visited Pelican Bay, told the Guardian. “They are freezing, these men. I could see them shivering in front of me. I had two sweaters on and I was freezing.”
According to the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, there is an additional legal worker who’s reported about the cold temperatures affecting the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay. The coalition also said at least four relatives of prisoners have reported receiving letters from inmates with stories about cold air being blasted on them.
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Joe Sterling and Darran Simon, CNN
Sara Stewart, CNN
Stephanie Elam, CNN