Support builds for US prison hunger strike
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Advocates are mobilizing across California to protect inmates taking part in a statewide hunger strike. Relatives of the inmates are organizing rallies to bring awareness to what they say are the tortuous conditions in California's security housing units or SHUs. Family members want inmates to know that they have their support when it comes to their fight to end indefinite solitary confinement. The actions come after the death of Billy Sell, an inmate being held in a solitary cell in Corcoran State Prison. The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition says Sell was taking part in the strike and had requested medical attention several days before his death. However, prison officials say Sell was not refusing food at the time of his death. Officials also say that they are investigating Sell's death as a possible suicide. But inmate advocates say they don't believe what the officials are saying. With the strike now entering its third week, family members say their support is more crucial than ever. They say the remote location of Pelican Bay makes it difficult to see their loved ones in person. Advocates say they're angered that state officials have remained silent throughout the strike. They say officials have refused to meet with groups that want to find alternatives to indefinite isolation. Families say officials could end the strike by just agreeing that indefinite solitary confinement is a violation of human rights. This is the third hunger strike in California in the past two years. Inmates say they are prepared to do whatever it takes to force California to close the SHUs for good.