Federal judge approves force-feeding of striking California inmates

August 19, 2013

A federal judge has approved a request by California state officials to force feed inmates if necessary as the statewide prison hunger strike continues on.

Thousands of prisoners went on hunger strike more than 40 days ago to protest the conditions of solitary confinement and condemn what activists say is inhumane treatment in the prisons. California Prison Focus, an organization helping the strikers, has a wealth of information regarding the strikers’ demands and details about their experiences.

Approximately 30,000 inmates began fasting as part of the strike, which began July 8. There are now 129 inmates reported to be still on strike. Of those, more than five dozen are believed to have been fasting since the strike began. At least one inmate participating in the strike has died, though California prison officials have said the death of Billy Sell at Corcoran State Prison was suicide. The strike is apparently being led by leaders of four prison gangs who have come together for a common cause.

Don Thompson of the Associated Press has the latest today on the state’s request for permission to force feed the striking inmates.

“Prison policy is to let inmates starve to death if they have signed legally binding do-not-resuscitate requests.

But state corrections officials and a federal receiver who controls inmate medical care received blanket authority from U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco to feed inmates who may be in failing health.

The order includes those who recently signed requests that they not be revived.

Henderson oversees the ongoing lawsuit over inmates’ medical care. The filing Monday came as prison officials and inmates’ attorneys argued over whether strikers should be allowed to voluntarily begin a liquid diet.

‘Patients have a right to refuse medical treatment. They also have a right to refuse food,’ said Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for the receiver’s office.

However, ‘If an inmate gets to the point where he can’t tell us what his wishes are, for instance if he’s found unresponsive in his cell, and we don’t have a DNR, we’re going to get nourishment into him. That’s what doctors do. They’re going to follow their medical ethics,’ Hayhoe said. ‘We’d take any and all measures to sustain their life.’

The process, which prison officials call ‘refeeding,’ could include starting intravenous fluids or snaking feeding tubes through inmates’ noses and into their stomachs.”



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