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Second California prison hunger strike ends

Demonstrators hold up a sign during a rally in front of the State Building in San Francisco, Friday, July 1, 2011 to support prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison. Inmates in an isolation unit at Pelican Bay State Prison are on a hunger strike to protest conditions that they describe as inhumane. The unit holds about a third of the 3,100 inmates at the Northern California prison.  (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Paul Sakuma/AP
Demonstrators hold up a sign during a rally in front of the State Building in San Francisco in July to support prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison during the first hunger strike this year.

California prison officials say the second inmate hunger strike this year has ended. It lasted nearly three weeks but unlike the one last summer, this one wasn’t peaceful.

Inmates began refusing food on Sept. 26 to protest conditions in Security Housing Units called “the SHU.” More than 11,000 inmates joined the hunger strike. Some of the prisoners have gone without food for 18 days. They sent the department a letter on Oct. 11, and corrections officials began discussions with the inmates after that.

"I think everyone finally understands that changes to the department's policy does take time," said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton. "Now that the inmates understand this, the department is continuing on the same course that we've been continuing on for all these months."

She said fights broke out on Tuesday among California inmates housed at an Oklahoma prison run by CCA, a firm that operates prisons in several states.

"Fortunately CCA staff did respond and quelled the disturbances. However. 46 inmates did suffer injuries. Thirty were treated locally, 16 taken to area hospitals for treatment. Six of those 16 are still in the hospital and three of those six are still in critical condition," Terry said.

Thornton says corrections is investigating other incidents in which inmates who didn’t join the hunger strike face retaliation by strike organizers or their associates. The hunger strikers want prison officials to ease tough restrictions on inmates in security housing units.

Corrections officials transferred some of the Pelican Bay hunger strikers to Corcoran State Prison yesterday for medical treatment.