Leno, other celebs oppose California prison practice

70th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Press Room

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Comedian Jay Leno poses in the press room during the 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills.

Celebrities including Jay Leno and Gloria Steinem have condemned the isolation of inmates to control gang violence at California prisons — a practice that has sparked a hunger strike by hundreds of inmates.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Rev. Jesse Jackson, Bonnie Raitt and Noam Chomsky also signed a letter sent Monday to Gov. Jerry Brown that calls the isolation system inhumane.

A demonstration is planned today at the state Capitol.

Corrections Department spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman says the isolation units serve a "vital role" in protecting prison staff and other inmates from violent gangs. Thousands have been isolated, some for decades.

Prison officials say 385 inmates have continuously refused to eat since July 8, while another 176 have been involved in shorter protests. More than 50 have needed medical care.

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