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California Prisoners End Hunger Strike But There's Still Some Confusion Over Terms of Agreement

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Photo by Thomas Hawk via flickr.
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Inmates in California have ended their nearly three-week hunger strike as a protest against prison conditions and policies over who ends up in — or who gets released from — solitary confinement in the system's high-security Security Housing Unit.

What is clear is that the strike has ended. What is not clear are the terms of agreement that ended the strike.

Carol Strickman, a lawyer who negotiated on behalf of the prisoners, told the New York Times that the department had agreed to review the cases of prisoners who are in solitary confinement because someone else in prison had claimed that they were gang-affiliated — which is one way that prisoners can get out of solitary confinement.

"This is the first time the prisoners had heard that kind of review was in the works," Strickman told the New York Times. "That new information, I believe, convinced them to end the hunger strike."

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However, the state department is telling reporters that they haven't agreed to anything new. Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, told the Los Angeles Times that the department had not agreed to the kind of review described by Strickman: "I don't think we've gotten to that level yet."

Thornton said inmates were merely briefed on the review of the Security Housing Unit policies that the department has been conducting since May, which are supposed to be released soon.

This is the second hunger strike prisoners have gone on this year over Security Housing Unit policies, but activists said that they were frustrated with the slow pace of continuing talks after the first strike, so they prisoners began striking again in September.

The strike started out with 4,252 inmates its first three days, but that number dwindled down to 580 inmates, according to a release from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The release also said that the department had not been contacted about the strike until October 11.

The release also mentioned that the state is investigating "allegations of threats or retaliation against inmates for not participating in the hunger strike." Strickman is one of the attorneys being targeted in that investigation, according to California Watch.