SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — More than 100 inmates at the Santa Clara County Jail are refusing to eat in protest of solitary confinement, a practice they believe is cruel.
Organizers of the hunger strike that started this week said some inmates spend 23 hours out of every day in a small, cramped cell with little, if any, human contact.
“If you can’t have any type of contact with anybody that’s solitary,” explained Silicon Valley Debug spokesperson Jose Valle. “They’re all alone, in isolation with no access to a shower at times and definitely no access to another human being.”
According to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office, more than 125 inmates have refused to eat over the first three days of a planned two-week hunger strike.
The inmates wrote an open letter to the community describing conditions inside the jail as “harsh” and “unfair.”
They want the sheriff’s office to limit the use of solitary confinement, reform the inmate classification system and give inmates greater access to education programs.
“One could say, ‘Do the crime, do the time,'” said Valle. “But at the end of the day, these guys are fathers. They’re brothers. They’re sons.”
A spokesperson for the sheriffs department said that most of the inmates in question are maximum security inmates and have been classified as such for good reason (either they have been charged with murder or were involved in gangs).
The spokesperson said isolating those inmates from the rest of the population helps keep them and others safe. He also added that medical personnel were monitoring all of the inmates participating in the hunger strike.