Force-Feeding Calif. Inmates Not Yet Necessary, Prison Official Says
On Tuesday, a California prison official said the state does not yet need to use its newly approved authority to force-feed inmates who are taking part in a hunger strike, Reuters reports (Kearney, Reuters, 8/20).
In July, 30,000 inmates began refusing meals to protest the use of security housing units for indefinite isolation of certain prisoners as a way to manage prison gangs.
Members of the hunger strike -- organized by inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison -- seek a five-year limit on such isolation, as well as new educational and rehabilitation programs.
As of Monday, 69 inmates had refused prison-issued meals since the strike officially began on July 8.
Sixty-seven other inmates who currently are participating in the strike have refused food for shorter periods of time.
Details of Authority To Force-Feed Inmates
On Monday, a federal judge approved a request from prison officials and the Prison Law Office to have authority to force-feed inmates when they are at risk of "near-term death or great bodily injury" or when they are deemed incompetent to make their own medical decisions.
According to the filing, the "refeeding" process could include:
- Providing intravenous fluids; or
- Using a feeding tube.
The filing also asked that medical officials at the prisons have the authority to override do-not-resuscitate requests that they believe inmates might have been coerced into signing. The filing calls for DNRs signed at or near the beginning of the strike to be automatically invalidated (California Healthline, 8/20).
Force-Feeding Not Yet Necessary, Official Says
On Tuesday, Joyce Hayhoe -- a spokesperson for the federal receiver in charge of overseeing prison health care in California -- said officials requested the authority to force-feed prisoners as a precautionary measure.
She said that while there currently is "no imminent need" to use that authority, "that could change rather quickly" because several inmate have been refusing food for 44 consecutive days.
Comments From Prisoners' Attorney
Carol Strickman -- an attorney who represents several prisoners participating in the hunger strike -- said the order "disturbs" her because it "applies to those people who have signed an advance directive and said they don't want to be force-fed."
She added that if inmates want to enforce their DNR requests, they now will have to file a motion to modify the federal judge's order (Reuters, 8/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.