Inmates, advocates demand change as US prison hunger strike enters 3rd week

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For the third time in two years, California inmates are refusing food to protest what they say are inhumane conditions. Inmates are starving themselves to change the state's practice of indefinite solitary confinement. The protest is centered on California's use of security housing units, or SHUs. SHUs are small, windowless cells that inmates say are part of a system of state-sponsored torture. The strike started July 8th with SHU inmates in Pelican Bay State Prison located in Northern California. At it's peak, more than 30-thousand inmates were refusing food. Now prison officials say the number has dropped to less than one thousand. But inmate advocates say the officials are intentionally downplaying the strike to make it look less severe. Prison officials have moved strike leaders into deeper isolation known as administrative segregation. Lawyers say officials have removed legal papers from cells and barred an attorney from meeting with inmates. Despite this, inmates are putting out the message that the strike is far from over. Mitchell Giovannini says his brother-in-law has been in a Pelican Bay SHU for more than 20 years. Giovannini says state officials need to agree to the inmates' demands, which mainly involve an end to indefinite solitary confinement. Advocates say the inmates continue to pursue a class-action lawsuit against the state of California. The lawsuit contends solitary confinement is a violation of prisoners' constitutional rights against cruel and unusual punishment.

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