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Pelican Bay Prisoners Vow Hunger Strike Over Solitary Confinement

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

More from Doug Sovern
  • anonymous

    Lockup (or Lockup Raw), a program taped inside American prisons, shows prisoners being given up to a year (but spoken of as months), sometimes more, often less, in the SHU. The cells are nothing but cement closets. The doors are doors not bars. I know that the crimes the men commited mean they belong in prison. If they commit another crime in prison, such as stabbing or otherwise harming another, then the SHU is the punishment, but not for such long periods of time. Yes punishment IS needed but not torture because that’s what the SHU is.

    • BOB

      Look, they brook the law. TOO bad that they don’ like the conditions. Let them starve to death. It will save the state MONEY!!!!!

      • BOB

        I ment broke

  • Roxy Jimenez

    i have a friend that was in SHU for 9 years… yes it is torture at the hands of the guards who are not overseen by anybody but other guards who have bad attitudes and need to retire.. in fact i think the guards should have to take a 50% cut in pay so the state can save money on those worthless pieces of waste

  • ROSE

    Well lets hope this HUNGER STRIKE works. It has not before and it is a shame what the taxpayers get billed for that prison within a prison. The only way out of the S.H.U is: Parole, Snitch or Die.
    Unless you have a loved one confined there you would not understand the mentality endure on those men.
    The food is not fit for a dog let alone a grown man. It is a crime to bill the taxpayers for the food served to those men. My husband has been inside that hellhole since they opened it in 1989. Something needs to be done to abolish the S.H.U

  • flameforjustice

    Sounds like a accurate discription of solitary confinement to me. Punishment is never easy. The prison is probally exceeding the limits of humane treatment.

  • adam

    DILLIGAF! = Do I Look Like I Give A Fk! Let them die of hunger.

  • Prison Guard 101

    SHU terms are determined by the Institutional Classification Committee and the Chairman is the Warden of the Institution. Length of confinement is determined by the seriousness of the offense. Inmates can garner SHU terms at any institution, not just Pelican Bay, usually by committing violent acts against staff or other inmates. I am quite sure that the inmates involved have done something quite serious to be housed in a SHU (Security Housing Unit). These are not individuals that play well with others.

  • Johnny

    They all can do us tax payer a favor by dying!

  • Tours Martel

    Oh, boo hoo! These “people” are some of the most vicious inmates in the entire world. Yes, it’s tough, but you notice that none of our whiny liberal correspondents even mention the inmates’ victims, or the cruelty visited upon them by the inmates. I suspect that their feel good empathy doesn’t extend that far.

  • AliceB

    Having a hard time understanding what the problem is. This isn’t The Holiday Inn.

  • Darwin

    At last we have found a cure for prison overcrowding! Suicide in prison affects no one on the inside and no one on the outside. What a perfect solution.

  • jeff

    Tough s**t. Maybe this will cause them to think before they commit the crime next time! Maybe if prison were hard there would be less repeat offenders. Until they learn that the behavior that put them behind bars is not acceptable let them rot in solitary for all I care.

  • Zack Debarco

    Rose & Roxy are just con hags that love bad boys. I wouldn’t expect them to have any other point of view.

  • Melissa

    Why don’t you die and save this world from selfish people like yourself

  • bill

    I noticed something. All of these claims are from prisoners. Prisoners said this, prisoners said that. So we are to take their word for it? If they said the guards were pulling them out of their cells every hour and beating them for being on a hunger strike would this be taken as gospel? I have yet to see an article from a non- prisoner who has seen the prison conditions for themselves. These individuals are not in prison for being honest, kind, gentle, moral, etc. If being in a cell with meals brought to your door, free television, the best medical money can buy, the best psychological help money can buy, social interaction with at least 6 other people you are housed with, if that is what we call torture now, then most of the world is being MORE than tortured. Our military does not eat as well as these prisoners. If homeless people on the street knew how well they would be taken care of in prison they would commit a crime just to get there. Should I live on the street going through dumpsters or should I go to prison with a roof over my head, and meals brought to me? Probably 50% of the world live in worse conditions than these prisoners, and most people in America cannot have surgery for a $5 copay. Most people in America do not have the luxury of having a psychologist standing by to be able to talk to. Most people do not have guards standing by to protect them (even if it is from themselves). Inside prison you do not hear the cries of ones being “tortured” you hear laughter and lively banter in the pods. You hear cheering as their sports team score on the television. You hear conversations of life on the streets etc. Most people in the world would say, “If this is torture, sign me up!”
    Final note.. how can you have a cell mate in “solitary confinement”? SHU is NOT solitary confinement.
    Torture seemed to be a little more harsh in the past. Now I guess torture is redefined. I can see it in a movie now. “Talk or I will put you in a cell with no window!!” Boy oh boy that should do it!

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