Wednesday, November 8, 2006
From NYTimes.com: Likening themselves to prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay, a dozen inmates on death row in Texas have staged hunger strikes over the last month to protest what they call abusive conditions, including 23 hours a day of isolation in their cells.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said that the first inmates began refusing food Oct. 8 and that two were still on hunger strikes in the Polunsky prison unit in Livingston, about 45 miles east of the execution unit in Huntsville. The Polunsky Unit houses death-row inmates until their executions. As of Tuesday, one inmate had missed 35 consecutive meals and one 17 meals, but no one has yet been force-fed, said a department spokeswoman, Michelle Lyons.
Two other prisoners who had not eaten since Oct. 8 began taking food Oct. 27 and Nov. 4, Ms. Lyons said, and others abandoned their protests after a short time.
But Vickie McCuistion, program coordinator of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said some inmates had been reported as eating when they were still refusing food. Ms. Lyons said that a prisoner needed to miss nine meals to be considered on hunger strike and that some who had refused meals had eaten snacks at visiting sessions.
“Either conditions will improve, or we will starve to death,” vowed one of the first hunger strikers, Steven Woods, in an Internet posting put up by groups opposed to the death penalty. Since death row was moved from an older and more open facility in 2000, he said, “We lost all our group recreation, art programs, and supplies” in addition to “work programs, televisions and religious services.” Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]