Inmate on hunger strike dies at California State Prison, Corcoran

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An inmate on a hunger strike at California State Prison, Corcoran has died after refusing food for four days.

A spokesman with California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation confirms that Christian Gomez died Feb. 2. That’s just four days after Gomez began to refuse prison meals to protest conditions in the Administrative Segregation Unit at Corcoran.

Inmates in an isolation unit at Corcoran have been refusing food since December to protest existing conditions at the prison, according to prison officials.

Nancy Kincaid with the federal receiver’s office says Gomez was under medical care before he began refusing food. And once he started fasting, Kincaid says the medical staff monitored him daily.

According to Kincaid, the monitoring would have meant "inmate checks regularly each day to see if they need assistance from a doctor or a nurse, see if they want to be seen and if they have any medical issues, then those are addressed," she said.

Kincaid says the preliminary autopsy shows no sign that Gomez died of starvation.

The fact the Gomez was already receiving medical care before the hunger strike suggests he may have been in poor health.

Prisons place inmates in administrative segregation for disciplinary reasons.

Corrections officials say Gomez was isolated after he used a deadly weapon to attack another inmate. Gomez was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder.

Other inmates in that isolation unit say they’re being kept there months and even years after they’ve served their assigned terms.

They want the prison to end that practice, and are also demanding greater access to the prison’s law library and to legal help.

A letter, addressed to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and submitted to the San Francisco Bay View on Dec. 19, claims to be from three prisoners on the current hunger strike.

"Petitioners have attempted to address the issues brought up in this petition by filing numerous inmate appeals and grievances and requests for interviews to no avail," says the open letter.

"Our constitutional rights under the First, Fifth and 14th Amendments are being violated by CDCR and CSP Corcoran officials."

This story has been updated.

With contributions by Paige Osburn

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