Here Are the Conditions Spurring 29,000 California Prisoners to Hunger Strike

Solitary confinement in California also appears to fall disproportionately on Latino prisoners. SHU assignments disproportionately affect Latinos. In Pelican Bay, 85 percent of SHU occupants were Latino in 2011, according to the CCR's lawsuit. Latinos make up 41 percent of California’s prison population.

SHU assignments are an administrative act and are not part of a person’s court-ordered sentence. According to the California Department of Corrections, an inmate's assignment to the SHU is “a result of being involved in prison gang activity. Leaders of notorious gangs such as Aryan Brotherhood, Nuestra Familia, and Mexican Mafia are housed in the SHU.”

But the CCR argues that gang affiliation is assessed without considering whether a prisoner ever was actually involved in gang activity.

The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition is organizing a large demonstration at the California State Prison, Corcoran, on July 13. Families of those affected by high security isolation units are expected to attend.

"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 participating in the hunger strike, says in the pro-prisoner coalition's YouTube video. "None of us want to do this, but we feel like we have no other option."

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