CMC inmates end protest, eat dinner in cafeteria

A group of 1,000 Calfornia Men’s Colony inmates who had gone more than 72 hours without eating ended their protest Thursday night by attending dinner in the prison’s cafeteria.

Medical staff at the prison west of San Luis Obispo spent most of Thursday screening the inmates after they refused to eat meals in the prison’s cafeteria for three straight days.

The screening is part of protocol, according to prison spokesman Lt. Dean Spears, during a verified hunger strike.

Inmates are monitored after they refuse to eat three consecutive meals and medical evaluations are given after 72 hours, he said.

Since Monday, about 1,000 of 6,400 inmates at the prison refused to eat meals in the prison’s cafeteria in a demonstration over a series of grievances, including routine lockdowns, cuts in programs and newly stringent execution of old rules.

The inmates, all of whom are housed in one of four areas of the medium-security facility’s eastern side, continued to attend to their other duties such as work, classes and showing up to doctor’s and dental appointments, Spears said.

He added that the prison’s administration has been in ongoing negotiations with the Men’s Advisory Council, which represents inmates.

Some of the issues inmates are responding to have been in place for a year or more.

Cuts to college-level courses and vocational training programs happened last January, and so-called rolling lockdowns — in which an area of the prison is locked down for an eight-hour shift every other day to free up staff to fill vacant positions — was started last March.

One issue is more recent: The area housing the protesting inmates is overseen by a new captain who has renewed an emphasis with prison staff on enforcing rules and regulations, such as making sure inmates cease whatever they’re doing when an alarm sounds, Spears said Wednesday.

The demonstration by the inmates — which officials have called peaceful and without precedent in its size and organization — had been expected to end Thursday morning but continued until dinnertime.