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Families of hunger striking prisoners in California join protests

Saturday, August 24, 2013 - 01:20

Aug, 24 - As a prison hunger strike against solitary confinement nears the two-month mark in California, families of affected inmates stand united. Mana Rabiee reports.

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It's hard to tell in the candlelight. But the backdrop of this vigil is a prison in Norwalk, California. That's where inmates, among many dozens in prisons across the state, are on a nearly two-month-long hunger strike to protest their solitary confinement. Now, their families are speaking up. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DOLORES CANALES, MOTHER OF A HUNGER STRIKING PRISONER JOHN MARTINEZ, SAYING: "Right now, under federal government law, research chimpanzees are protected from being held in solitary confinement because they're defined as social beings, and it's detrimental to their mental and physical health. So how much more of a social being is my son, or is my friend's husband, or is somebody else's son? I mean, a human being is the most social being that there is." The inmates want prisons to stop housing them in near-isolation for years on end, simply because they're associated with gangs. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LYDIA CARBAJAL, MOTHER OF HUNGER STRIKING PRISONER DEREK CARBAJAL, SAYING: "There's no reason why they should be held in a cage, 23 hours out of the day. I haven't held my son in ten years. I haven't been able to touch him, I have nothing. And it has to stop. I won't lose my son. I will not lose my son." State officials argue solitary confinement helps keep prison gangs in check. But on Friday, a United Nations expert said the practice in the U.S. can amount to "torture".

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Families of hunger striking prisoners in California join protests

Saturday, August 24, 2013 - 01:20