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Critics Say Force-Feeding Is Violation Of Prisoners’ Rights

Aired 8/21/13 on KPBS News.

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

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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Avatar for user 'joemamma42'

joemamma42 | August 21, 2013 at 4:17 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

I've heard a lot of talk about what the state is going to do about the prisoners, but nothing about what the state is going to do about why the prisoners are going on a hunger strike in the first place. Society likes to place labels on people to make it easier to throw them away and not have to think of them again. These prisons basically have free reign to do what ever they want with little to no oversight. I know from dealing with ex prisoners at Pelican Bay that there is more going on than what the public knows. Things like putting two members of opposing factions in the exercise yard together then betting on who wins.Most people would like to say,, "whatever they deserve what they get for being in there".But when hundreds of prisoners get released each year on DNA evidence we find out that our justice system is not so just. And that not everyone in jail deserves to be there. Anyone who has been to the DMV knows just how dysfunctional our government entities are. The prison/justice system doesn't operate any better. We just like to pretend it does so we can sleep at night.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | August 21, 2013 at 4:38 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

I was going to comment here, but the poster above said it beautifully.

Agree 100%.

Where the hell is the discussion about WHY they are protesting in hunger strike in the first place.

The government and media seem to brush it off as if they don't have valid reasons for this.

They do, and we should listen.

And the government should act to fix the problem, then the nit-wits wouldn't need to worry about feeding tubes.

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | August 22, 2013 at 7:15 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

how many are on strike because of threats from other inmates ?

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | August 22, 2013 at 8:03 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

Their reasons for the hunger strike are their own.
Should we review them on a regular basis? Sure
Should we ensure that the rules are being enforced fairly? Sure
Should we let prisoners dictate policy by refusing to eat? Not even a little bit.

If you don't like being in solitary confinement, consider not being a dangerous criminal, abiding by the rules of the prison you are sentenced to and working on bettering yourself in preparation for return to society.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | August 22, 2013 at 11:51 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

I keep posting these statistics over and over, and I really hope the general American public gets it sometime:

The United States of America has 5% of the world's population, and 25% of the world's prisoners.

There is something very, very wrong here.

Now I realize the people we are talking about in this particular article are likely dangers to society who need to be in prison - PRISON mind you, not human-rights violating solitary confinement for years on end - but we need to have a discussion about the wider out-of-control prison industrial complex in this nation.

People must understand that nothing is free and for every person our country decides to lock-up, that is something else that we are saying is less important to spend that money on.

It may be healthcare, it may be repairing roads and bridges, it may be upgrading our infrastructure to complete with other nations, or it may be - and often is - EDUCATION as President Obama today pointed out in his speech on college tuition costs.

Somewhere along some very flawed line some pay-for-play political hacks decided it's more beneficial to our country to lock-up non-violent low-level offenders for decades than it is to educate our children properly.

That is a recipe for our nation's rapid decline.

And what is most frightening of all - we have so many prisoners now in our prison-state society, so the government can't build prisons fast enough and is turning to "PRIVATE PRISONS".

Companies who make a profit off of taking away people's freedom will now be the same companies detaining and housing these people.

It's in their FINANCIAL BEST INTEREST to make sure the prisoners "slip-up" and remain behind bars as long as possible.

This is a biased, dangerous system.

Every citizen in the United States should be petitioning our law makers at every level to outlaw the use of private prisons in this country.

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