Celebs Back Calif. Prisoners' Hunger Strike
Jay Leno, Bonnie Raitt, others sign letter to governor
By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 30, 2013 10:27 AM CDT
This Oct. 24, 2012 photo released by NBC shows Jay Leno, host of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," on the set in Burbank, Calif.   (AP Photo/NBC, Paul Drinkwater)

(Newser) – California prisoners have been hunger striking since July 8 to protest the state's use of solitary confinement, and now they have a cohort of celebrities and other big names on their side. In a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown sent yesterday, Gloria Steinem, Jesse Jackson, Bonnie Raitt, Jay Leno, Noam Chomsky, and others called the prison isolation units "extensions of the same inhumanity practiced at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay," the Los Angeles Times reports.

The units are used to control prison gang violence, but the National Religion Campaign Against Torture—which organized the letter to Brown and a related demonstration today—compares them to torture. The group aims to close such units in a dozen states other than California as well. Raitt and other signers have visited California prisons; Raitt's experience "made a profound impact on her," a spokesperson says. Since the protest began, 385 inmates have continuously refused meals and more than 50 have required medical treatment, prison officials say. One hunger striker reportedly started eating again, then committed suicide in his cell; advocacy groups want his death investigated.

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Jul 31, 2013 2:53 PM CDT
I have an idea on how to cure the current prisoner fiasco in California. Lets take a celebrity supporter of the prisoner and let him chose one of the prisoners in solitary and allow him to move in to his extra bedroom for a week or two, if they last that long. One of 2 things will probably happen. The prisoner will be long gone, probably back to his old gang or he could get back into practice by violently mutilating their host and ransacking his home or burning it down. Lets see how many celebs are willing to stand up and be counted. The reason that they're celebs is because they can't hold down a regular job. The movies are, after all, a dream world, where the plot changes from day to day just like the soaps.
Jul 31, 2013 2:18 AM CDT
Here go clueless celebs once more. What do they know about prison and how dangerous it might be for another inmate if the prison doesn't confine violent inmates? I don't know either, but I sure don't think we need to tell prison officials how to run the prisons! If convicts don't like prison conditions, here's a thought--don't commit crimes and you won't land in prison!!!
Jul 30, 2013 12:59 PM CDT
I too back the strikers. What better way to thin out the overcrowded prison population. Maybe a length of rope and a three legged stool in every cell. If these "citizens" were of any use to society they wouldn't be in prison.