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Prison Inmates End 60-Day Hunger Strike

A protester supporting the prisoner hunger strike on August 12, 2013. (Photo by sarah-ji via Flickr)
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A hunger strike that at one point involved 30,000 inmates is over after 60 days. Only hundred inmates remained on strike as a protest over the practice of solitary confinement for gang members have agreed to end the strike.

The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation issued a statement today that the striking inmates have resumed eating meals. They are now undergoing medical supervision as they slowly return to solid food.

"We are pleased this dangerous strike has been called off before any inmates became seriously ill," state prisons chief Jeffrey Beard said in the statement.

"I'd like to commend my staff and the staff with the federal Receiver's Office for working together to ensure the health and safety of all employees and inmates was a top priority. CDCR will continue to implement the substantive reforms in California's Security Housing Units that we initiated two years ago."

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Inmate representatives are planning to make their own announcement at a public rally Thursday morning in Oakland, the LA Times reports.

The Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective have issued a statement "suspending" the hunger strike, although they said their "peaceful protest of resistance" is "far from over." They added, "Our decision to suspend our third hunger strike in two years does not come lightly" and that they feel, "we've gained a lot of positive ground towards achieving our goals."

Last week, State Senator Loni Hancock and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano announced their intention to hold public hearings on the contested policies, the SolitaryWatch blog.

The state has nearly 4,000 inmates in segregation cells, and according to one expert, another 6,600 in temporary isolation, the L.A. Times reports.

Throughout the hunger strike, many were hospitalized, some lost more than 20 percent of their body weight, and some had to be sent to community hospitals due to complications from resuming eating, according to SolitaryWatch, who also reports that several inmates were transported to California State Prison in Sacramento because the facility is better suited to treat them.

Three weeks into the strike, a hunger striker at Corcoran State Prison, Billy Sell, committed suicide. He was reportedly asking for medical attention before his death but officials have denied that, or that he was even taking part in the strike.

30,000 California Inmates Join Hunger Strike, Could Be Largest Prison Protest In State History