First, the LA Times:
SACRAMENTO — Officials said 30,000 California inmates refused meals Monday at the start of a prison strike involving two-thirds of the state's 33 lockups, as well as four out-of-state facilities.
Participants refused breakfast and lunch, said corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton. In addition, 2,300 prisoners skipped work or classes, some saying they were sick.
This is impressive on several levels, not least because prison officials are admitting up-front that this is a widespread strike. (California prison officials notoriously lowballed the previous strike numbers—during the first one in July, 2011, they initially said only half a dozen people were striking before being forced to admit the number was closer to 6,000.)
It's also extraordinary that over 30,000 prisoners are striking in two-thirds of the state's prisons—this is a population with limited, slow, and highly surveilled access to communication. But they're pulling it off.
In our interview this weekend in advance of the strike, I asked prisoner-rights advocate Ed Mead how prisoners were coordinating with each other across cell blocks, counties, and states. "That, my friend, is a state secret!" he said and chuckled. "But there's been no prisoner-to-prisoner coordination and no information from their families."
I take this to mean (and other journalists have made the same guess) that prison gang networks are being tapped to organize the strike. They're the only secret and secure way to communicate sensitive information, even into solitary confinement units, where much of the organization has reportedly been happening. The powers of the prison gangs are being used for collective good—if you consider making conditions better in a state prison system that is so overcrowded and generally dysfunctional that the US Supreme Court has stated it results in "needless suffering and death" a good. (You can see one transcribed copy of an "agreement" among gang leaders to cease hostilities and concentrate on the strike—it's startling but heartening to see the Aryan Brotherhood, the Black Guerilla Family, and the Norteños and Sureños working together—over here.)
In other prison strikes, a federal judge has urged President Obama to directly address the hunger strikes at Guantánamo Bay, as well as the force-feeding issue. This is one of the more prominent sentences in today's New York Times:
In a four-page ruling, Judge Gladys Kessler of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, rejected a request by the detainee, Jihad Ahmed Mujstafa Diyab, a 41-year-old Syrian man, to issue an injunction barring the military from forcing him to eat through a gastric tube inserted in his nose after restraining him in a chair.