As new hunger strike begins, prison officials investigate advocates
Michael Montgomery/California WatchThe current prison hunger strike is being led by inmates housed in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit.
Just days after thousands of California inmates renewed a hunger strike, two Bay Area attorneys closely involved in mediation efforts got a surprise: They were under investigation by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for allegations of misconduct and unspecified security threats.
The attorneys – Marilyn McMahon, executive director of California Prison Focus, and Carol Strickman of Legal Services for Prisoners With Children – have been banned from state institutions until the investigation is resolved, according to temporary exclusion orders signed by Corrections Undersecretary Scott Kernan on Sept. 29.
The investigation will determine whether the attorneys “violated the laws and policies governing the safe operations of institutions within the CDCR,” the order states.
The document does not provide details about the allegations. It cites a section from the California Code of Regulations that reads:
“Committing an act that jeopardizes the life of a person, violates the security of the facility, constitutes a misdemeanor or a felony, or is a reoccurrence of previous violations shall result in a one-year to lifetime exclusion depending on the severity of the offense in question.”
Corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton confirmed the department had banned “some specific attorneys” from one facility for alleged misconduct. She declined further comment, citing an ongoing investigation.
The move is another indication that the corrections department intends to handle the current protest differently from an earlier hunger strike, which ended July 20 after officials agreed to some concessions, including a review of policies governing the state’s controversial Security Housing Units, where some inmates have spent decades housed alone in windowless cells.
Since then, strike leaders have accused corrections officials of failing to carry out their promises. Continue reading