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Texas Criminals Go on Hunger Strike to Protest State’s Harsh Solitary Confinement Policies

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Texas prisoners are getting scheduled to send a powerful message to lawmakers and prison administrators: We won’t eat until you stop the state’s cruel solitary confinement procedures.

According to a freelance activist who works closely with the men, a group of convicts has been collecting support both inside and outside prison walls for the state to restrict who can be placed in solitary confinement and for how long.

Michele Deitch, director of the Prison and Jail Innovation Lab at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas has some of the strictest solitary confinement laws in the nation. Thousands of prisoners are kept in isolation for forceful periods; the only human contact they receive is the occasional brush of a hand through their food slot as they receive a dinner tray, being handcuffed for frequently irregular trips to the shower, or being restricted to a caged outdoor area for solitary recreation.

Based on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s limited housing or security custody program, 3,141 criminals were kept in solitary confinement in November. At least 500 of them had been there for ten years or longer.

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The prisoners’ main complaint is that, even if they haven’t displayed any disruptive behavior while in custody, they shouldn’t be detained in isolation for years or even decades simply because authorities recognized them as members of prison gangs.

The guys are preparing to conduct a massive hunger strike starting on Tuesday, the opening day of the Texas legislative session, after waiting months for prison authorities or state politicians to respond to their list of requested improvements.