The summer of 2013 saw the largest wave of prison hunger strikes in U.S history. Started by prisoners in solitary confinement at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison, the strike grew to 30,000 prisoners at two-thirds of California’s prisons. Inmates used their bodies as the only weapon available for fighting the prison torture and abuse. The strike ended on Sept. 5, 2013, the 60th day for 41 inmates who had continuously refused food and faced imminent death.
California legislators who agreed to hold hearings on the strikers’ demands, and supporters who vowed to keep the pressure on state officials, urged the strikers to spare their lives. In ending the strike for now, the prisoners declared they would remain “100% committed to seeing this protracted struggle for real reform through to a complete victory, even if it requires us to make the ultimate sacrifice.”
Val Carlson is a civil rights attorney in Seattle, and a lifelong activist for social justice. For feedback, contact [email protected].