The Pelican Bay State Prison is a supermax facility located in California. Because it was intended to house some of California’s most problematic criminals, solitary confinement is commonly used to separate especially dangerous or destructive prisoners. However, according to allegations, this punishment escalated to the point that many inmates had been placed in solitary confinement for years, with little chance of returning to the general population. Prison officials are accused of rarely reviewing the placement of inmates in solitary, leading one man to be separated for a purported 22 years. In 2011, several dozen inmates began refusing to eat any sort of prison food, while another several hundred inmates boycotted the purchase of food from the prison’s canteen. This strike mostly fizzled out after officials agreed to consider the prisoners’ complaints.
In July of 2013 however, prisoners reestablished their strike, apparently unhappy with the actions taken to resolve these issues. According to Tim Phillips, this hunger strike gained the participation of 29,000 prisoners across the state of California. After weeks of refusing to negotiate, prison officials met with several of the strike leaders, and agreed to implement policies that would limit the criteria that could send a prisoner to solitary confinement, and would also make it easier for prisoners to extricate back into the general prison population. The strike ended with just a few dozen original members participating; regardless, a class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of some of the prisoners who remain in solitary confinement.