Hunger strike ends at Utah State Prison, officials say work will continue on conditions

Posted at 3:13 PM, Aug 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-06 17:14:54-04

DRAPER, Utah — Less than a week after it began, a hunger strike among inmates in maximum security at the Utah State Prison has ended.

As of Wednesday, 40 of the 42 inmates who began a hunger strike while being held in the Uinta 2 unit had accepted meal trays, and as of Thursday at noon all 42 inmates had “voluntarily agreed to end their hunger strike at the Utah State Prison,” according to a press release from the Utah Department of Corrections.

The strike began on July 31 when inmates sent a list with six demands, which according to the Department of Corrections called for the relocation of gang leaders currently held in maximum security. All 42 striking inmates are “documented gang members”, according to prison officials.

The ACLU of Utah issued a statement supporting the inmates’ requests for relief from certain conditions, which according to letters to the ACLU from inmates included complaints about the time spent in their cells. The inmates in that level of security reportedly spend 47 of 48 hours in their cell with only their cell mate and are allowed out only three times each week. A lack of access to educational and rehabilitative programs was another concern expressed by inmates noted by the ACLU. Click here for more details.

“We have had enough of these squalid living conditions and would like to be treated with respect and dignity, with the opportunity to better ourselves,” wrote one prisoner, according to the press release from the ACLU.

In Thursday’s press release, the Department of Corrections states that most of the inmates’ demands, “focused on issues the Department has been working on for months–which UDC had communicated  to the inmates as well as several advocacy groups prior to the hunger strike. That work will continue, with the goal of implementing changes in restrictive housing operations as soon as possible while upholding the safety and security of the institution. ”

The department further stated they were grateful for the professional manner in which their officers and medical staff responded to a “challenging situation.”

Throughout the duration of the hunger strike, prison officials continued to offer regularly scheduled meals and health checks to monitor inmates’ vital statistics.

During the strike, several inmates had stockpiled food from the commissary in their cell. At one point, several inmates were relocated and others had privileges reduced due to their behavior. Prison officials said inmates disrupted operations by doing things like covering cells with paper, refusing to submit to handcuffs for transfer to other areas, and damaging sprinklers–causing flooding in cells.