The last of 230 inmates who had been refusing meals at the Santa Barbara County Jail accepted lunch Wednesday, officially ending the food strike that began nine days ago. As of Tuesday afternoon, only 27 of the inmates were still involved in the strike. Participants began refusing meals on July 7 to show solidarity with grievances raised about poor conditions at Pelican Bay State Prison, according to Sheriff’s spokesperson Kelly Hoover.
County Jail strikers were also airing grievances that the jail’s new food vendor, Aramark, served too-small portions of bland food. Although the protesters refused Aramark meals for over a week, Hoover said, they had been eating items purchased from the commissary, such as chips and Ramen noodles, and drinking water. Hoover noted that jail medical staff individually monitored inmates who had been refusing meals.
This protest is the third large-scale food strike to occur in California in the past two years. Demands include an end to solitary confinement, adequate and nutritious food, and a modification of gang status criteria, according to the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity’s Facebook page. More than 30,000 inmates in California prisons and jails initially participated in the most recent strike to pressure Governor Jerry Brown and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations to address their list of demands.