RALEIGH, N.C. — Administrators at a North Carolina prison are monitoring a hunger strike by inmates demanding better medical care and living conditions.
Some inmates at Central Prison in Raleigh began skipping meals July 16 after issuing a list of demands that included access to law books, toilet brushes and supplies for cleaning cell walls and windows. They also want to be allowed to shower without wearing restraints.
Prison spokeswoman Pam Walker said Friday morning the number refusing meals had fallen to seven. After lunch, she said only one of the original hunger strikers was still refusing to eat, though the number has fluctuated as inmates either join or drop out of the protest.
The names of the inmates participating have not been released.
Walker said all those involved are being held on “control status” due to past disciplinary infractions. Commonly referred to as solitary confinement, inmates in control status spend 23 hours a day alone in their cells and then one hour alone in an outdoor recreation cage.
Walker said rumors that the strike is spreading to other prisons around the state are not true.
Medical staffers at Central are monitoring those not eating and Walker said they will “intervene” if necessary. She declined repeated requests to clarify whether that intervention could include forced tube feedings.
“They cannot get into specific interventions as they depend on the inmate’s own individual medical needs,” Walker said of prison administrators. “We will strongly advocate for patient compliance in his own self-care regarding his health.”
A copy of the handwritten list of inmate demands released to The Associated Press had portions blacked out for what Walker said were “security issues.”
What appears to be a full version of the demands has been posted on the internet by inmate rights activists, along with a call for a protest to be held outside the prison at 1 p.m. Sunday to show solidarity with the hunger strikers.
Central Prison is a maximum security facility housing about 1,000 inmates, including those on North Carolina’s death row. Walker said administrator Kenneth E. Lassiter wouldn’t consider changes at the prison until the hunger strike is over.
“After the refusal to eat ends, the warden will address concerns with the inmates,” Walker said.