Calif. prisons chief agrees to meet inmate hunger-strike advocates

Aug. 2, 2013 at 7:48 AM

SACRAMENTO, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- California's prisons chief agreed to meet with advocates for inmates staging a nearly 4-week-old hunger strike over conditions in solitary confinement.

Ron Ahnen, president of the Oakland-based group California Prison Focus, called the move "progress," the Los Angeles Times reported.

Ahnen was one of the activists to meet Friday with Jeffrey Beard, Gov. Jerry Brown's appointed head of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Other meeting participants included a representative from the American Friends Service Committee.

The meeting was on the 26th day of the protest, which officials said had about 500 participants Thursday. Of the protesting inmates, 331 have refused meals since the strike began July 8.

Department spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman downplayed the meeting's significance, saying, "You can call it discussions."

From the start, state officials have insisted they would not negotiate with protest leaders, the Times said. Officials said the protest was organized by prison gangs seeking better opportunities to operate within California's penal system.

Last week, lower-level administrators sought feedback from Pelican Bay State Prison protest leaders in a process being developed to review solitary confinement cases.

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