Abby Ohlheiser
Atlantic Wire
July 10, 2013

Over 30,000 California prisoners started refusing meals on Monday morning in what might become the biggest hunger strike in California prison history, according to California’s corrections department.

So far, corrections officials have acknowledged that prisoners in two-thirds of the 33 prisons across the state, along with all of the out-of-state private prisons in the system, have missed at least breakfast and lunch on Monday. Corrections officials don’t start calling such a protest a hunger strike until prisoners have missed nine consecutive meals. 2,300 prisoners also refused to go to work or to their classes, they added.

While the California prison system has a less than stellar reputation on a handful of issues — many of which trace back to its astonishing overcrowding — the striking prisoners are focusing their message on improving conditions for those locked in solitary confinement. Last October, Mother Jones published a must-read on solitary in California, written by Shane Bauer, one of the three hikers kept in an Iranian solitary confinement cell for 26 months. Spoiler: Bauer thought California’s conditions were worse.

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