As the hunger strike over solitary confinement conditions at the Pelican Bay supermax continues in its fourth week, here are a few updates from around the media:
- The Los Angeles Times has an editorial highly critical of the CDCR’s decision not to allow media access to Pelican Bay. The Times writes:
So who’s right? We might have a better handle on that if prison officials weren’t refusing requests by The Times to interview striking inmates. Oscar Hidalgo, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, told Times staff writer Jack Dolan that media weren’t being allowed into Pelican Bay “due to security and safety issues.” We’d be more inclined to believe that, and not that prison officials were trying to avoid adverse publicity, if California’s prisons didn’t have such an extraordinary history of shoddy medical care and inhumane conditions. As it is, we think the public has a right to firsthand accounts of what goes on behind the barbed wire.
- Relatedly, the Sentencing Law & Policy blog has some discussion about whether the CDCR media ban might raise any First Amendment issues.
- CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate says he will seek court orders to force-feed inmates if their medical conditions become dire, KPCC reports. Prison officials walk a fine line with hunger strikes, because prisoners have a right to refuse medical treatment (as well as limited First Amendment rights to protest), but prison officials have a constitutional obligation not to show “deliberate indifference” to any prisoner’s health. KPCC explains:
Inmates have a right to decline food and medical treatment until they’re incapable of making decisions about their health.
A dozen or so inmates have signed advance health directives that order prison medical staff not to feed or treat them – no matter what. But Secretary Cate thinks he can persuade a judge to override those directives. He’ll also seek an order that would apply to any inmate refusing food whose health is in danger.