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Critics Say Force-Feeding Is Violation Of Prisoners’ Rights

Critics are wondering if California prison officials would rather force feed inmates who are on a hunger strike rather than negotiate with them.

Photo credit: California Department of Corrections

Pelican Bay State Prison houses some of its inmates in Security Housing Units.

— California prison officials are defending their decision to get a court order allowing them to force feed inmates who are on a hunger strike.

Critics said the new policy violates prisoners' rights.

Tens of thousands of California prisoners began a hunger strike on July 8 to protest the practice of placing hundreds of inmates in solitary confinement for years at a time. Only 45 remain.

Prison officials said inmates have the right to refuse food and medical treatment but argue that life-saving measures like force-feeding are appropriate if a prisoner is no longer capable of making medical decisions.

University of San Diego sociologist Thomas Reifer said the new policy is disturbing because of the human rights issue, but also for another reason.

"What's the incentive for California to negotiate with these prisoners and address the condition which have led these people to strike in the first place," Reifer said.

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