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Pelican Bay Prisoners Vow Hunger Strike Over Solitary Confinement

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Pelican Bay State Prison

An aerial view of Pelican Bay State Prison in Del Norte County, with the Secure Housing Unit (SHU) shown an X-shaped cluster of white buildings set apart from the rest of the complex. (CDCR)

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Doug began his career as a copy boy at the New York Times, and then...
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CRESCENT CITY, Del Norte County (KCBS) – Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of inmates at California’s most notorious maximum-security prison will begin an indefinite hunger strike Friday to protest what they call inhumane torture.

Organizers of the hunger strike at Pelican Bay State Prison claim officials use solitary confinement and interrogation at the Security Housing Unit, or SHU, a sort of prison within the prison, to coerce inmates into snitching on each other.

“The conditions of confinement inside the SHU are deplorable,” said former prisoner Manuel LaFontaine. “You are put in a six by ten concrete cell with no windows or access to sunlight, with no access to human interaction or contact, only cement being your friend.”

LaFontaine is part of a coalition supporting the inmates, who will refuse to eat.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

Among their demands: end long term solitary confinement and forced interrogation.

Terry Thornton with the State Dept of Corrections and Rehabilitation says the inmates’ accusations of abuse at Pelican Bay simply aren’t true.

“It’s hard to imagine that this kind of thing could occur with so much oversight by the courts and by the office of the inspector general, and by CDCR’s own internal review,” said Thornton.

Thornton says the CDCR will monitor the health of the hunger striking inmates.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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