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We should support the prison hunger strike ("Blog Jammin', July 11) going on in California right now! Those who do not know any better scoff at their demands and coldly state "let them starve" but we need to wake up to the deplorable realities of the prison system in our country and in our backyard at Pelican Bay.

Just look at the news; California is currently under court order to reduce its prison population because conditions have gotten so bad for inmates. It has just been revealed that hundreds of women have been involuntarily sterilized by California prison doctors, and in the Central Valley inmates have been subjected to abject health conditions and vulnerable to what's called valley fever. Prisons are necessary to deal with dangerous members of society but they should not be instruments of torture and depravity, especially not in an evolved democracy like the United States where we have outlawed cruel and unusual punishment in our Constitution.

Prisoners in the hunger strike are not asking to be released. They are calling for very simple and reasonable reforms centered around ending the use of indefinite solitary confinement, which the United Nations and Amnesty International have called torture. Some inmates at Pelican Bay have been languishing for up to 20 years in solitary without any ability to get out.

The hunger strikers simply want to be treated humanely which includes having educational and rehabilitative services alongside access to nutritional food. Our prisons need serious reforms to transition from being purely punitive to actually being in the business of rehabilitation so inmates that want to turn their life around actually have that chance.

Leif Johnson, Arcata

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