Through sobs, Nina Fernandez described a vastly different version of events from those shared by Nevada prison officials as to why her son and dozens of others have been on hunger strike at a maximum-security prison for more than a week, the Associated Press reports. The Nevada Department of Corrections has said the protest was prompted in large part by complaints about inadequate meal portions from a new food vendor, Aramark Correctional Services. Prisoners at Ely State Prison stopped eating on Dec. 1. Fernandez said her son Sean Harvell, 35, told her the protest was over what he called unsafe and inhumane living conditions.
Harvell alleges physical abuse by prison staff, excessive lockdowns and unreasonably long periods of solitary confinement, in addition to the food concerns.
On Friday, a corrections official maintained that meal portions led to the strike at the prison about 250 miles north of Las Vegas. “I’m unaware of rights being violated,” said Brian Williams, deputy director of the state Department of Corrections, adding that the agency is “going to do what’s in the best interest of the offenders.” Williams was questioned by prison reform advocates and reporters outside a state-run transitional housing facility in Las Vegas. About a dozen people had gathered to show support for the Ely prisoners on the ninth day of their hunger strike. The state said two dozen people were participating in the hunger strike as of Friday morning. Of those, 19 have refused food for nine straight days. Fernandez quoted her son, who has been incarcerated at Ely since late 2016, as saying, "Mom, if I never make it out, just know I loved you." She said, "That’s sad to say as a parent that your child came to you like that.”