Family members, supporters push for Governor Brown to modify ‘cruel’ prison policies

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Grant Slater/KPCC

A woman in prison garb leads protesters in chants of solidarity with prisoners on a hunger strike outside a state government building in Downtown Los Angeles on Monday morning.

Dozens of relatives and supporters of California prisoners on a hunger strike rallied today in front of the state building in downtown Los Angeles. The activists want Governor Jerry Brown to modify corrections policies they call cruel and inhumane.

Demonstrators are concerned about conditions in isolation areas - or Security Housing Units known as “SHUs." More than a dozen Pelican Bay prisoners began to refuse food about three weeks ago. That number has grown to about a hundred.

Protest organizer Dolores Canales says her 35-year-old son is a SHU inmate at Pelican Bay. She says he believes the hunger strike is a necessary step to end abuses.

“It’s been going on for over 20 years and they’ve utilized every legal process," Canales said. "They’ve taken it all the way in the courts and nobody’s heard. To where now some are willing to take it unto death. Where they’ve already signed medical documentation refusing any kind of assistance whatsoever should they come to die of starvation.”

Inmates' advocates are demanding that facilities provide adequate food, modify gang status criteria that places inmates in isolation and allow constructive programs for prisoners in the SHU. Last week, supporters rejected a settlement proposal from prison officials. They say it wasn’t clear enough.

Hundreds of inmates in several state correctional facilities are refusing to eat.

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