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Texas Prisoners On Hunger Strike To Protest Long Solitary Confinements

Texas prisoners have been on a hunger strike to protest indefinite solitary confinement. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice [TDCJ] confirmed that at least 72 people are still starving themselves, the Texas Tribune reports. An activist working with the protesting men believes the number is closer to 120, down from the more than 300 she estimated began refusing food last week. Striking prisoners are medically evaluated daily, and doctors can force feed a prisoner whose condition worsens, said prison spokesperson Amanda Hernandez. “Our protest will remain peaceful and spans all races and religions to improve the conditions for ALL within the confines of the TDCJ,” read a press release from the prisoners compiled by independent activist Brittany Robertson from messages she received from six striking men at three prisons.

Thousands of prisoners are kept in solitary confinement in Texas. In November, more than 500 prisoners had been in isolation for more than a decade. Under TDCJ policy, prisoners are assigned to solitary if they are escape risks, have committed violent assaults or serious offenses in prison, or are confirmed members of dangerous prison gangs. The hunger strike targets the latter. Months before the strike, the starving men sent a proposal to prison officials and state lawmakers to change Texas’ practice of putting — and keeping — prisoners in solitary because they are affiliated with a gang, even if they have had good behavior behind bars. The proposal asked the prison system to shift from a “gang-status” solitary placement to “behavior-based,” and provide clear guidelines and firm timelines on how and when people in solitary would get out.


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