By Al Jazeera and The Associated Press
A federal judge has approved a request from California and federal officials to force-feed inmates participating in an ongoing hunger strike now entering its seventh week if necessary. The process, which prison officials call “refeeding,” could include starting intravenous fluids or snaking feeding tubes through inmates’ noses and into their stomachs.
Officials said they are particularly concerned about the health of 69 inmates, who are refusing prison-issued meals and have done so since the strike began on July 8 in protest to the state’s holding of gang leaders and other violent inmates in solitary confinement that can last for decades.
Prison officials and attorneys representing the inmates all are increasingly fearful that some inmates will soon die as their vital organs fail. Officials, however, could not say how many inmates, if any, are currently near death.
About 129 inmates in six prisons have participated in the strike since it started. When the strike began, it included nearly 30,000 of the 133,000 inmates in California prisons.
‘Gang power play’
Jeffrey Beard, who is the head of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, has dismissed the strike as a way for gangs to control drug flow among those in the prison population, the Los Angele