More than 40 inmates in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) are eight days into a hunger strike in protest of the small food portions and uncomfortable temperatures inside their facilities.
The inmates began their protest by refusing dinner Christmas Day, and the numbers have dwindled since, as there were 45 participants as of Sunday, according to the Houston Chronicle. TDCJ spokesman Robert Hurst said prison officials are monitoring the situation closely, according to the Associated Press. In addition to the food portions and climate, the inmates are also demanding more recreation time.
“Most of the offenders have items purchased in the commissary in their cells,” Hurst said. “The department is closely monitoring their food intake and will take appropriate action as needed.”
The inmates have been placed in administrative segregation, a non-punitive status meant to keep inmates who might be dangerous away from the general population. The Allred Unit, just south of the Oklahoma border, typically houses 3,722 inmates, nearly 600 of whom were under segregation as of July. (RELATED: What Texas Is Doing With The 6,000 Inmates Displaced By Hurricane Harvey)
The TDCJ stopped using solitary confinement as a punitive measure following an unannounced policy change in September. Officials said they were not morally opposed to the practice, but had found it was unproductive.
“Restrictive housing has been a topic of discussion across the nation for a number of years and as an agency over the last several we’re really looked at ways to reduce it and in such a way that a priority is placed on safety and security,” a TDCJ spokesman said in September. “When reviewing solitary confinement as a policy and practice we determined that as a department we can effectively operate without it.”
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