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Utah Prisoners Protest Through Hunger Strike

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Inmates at the Utah State Prison in Draper are protesting their living conditions through a hunger strike.

Inmates at the Utah State Prison in Draper are participating in a hunger strike to protest their living conditions.

About 30 of the 42 maximum-security prisoners have written complaints to the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.

“This group of prisoners have organized this strike in response as a way to express their political views and their objection to the conditions of their incarceration,” said Leah Farrell, staff attorney for the ACLU.

Farrell said some of the prisoners' concerns include a lack of cleaning supplies for their cells, a lack of therapeutic or educational programming and the length of time they are forced to be in their cells with only one person.

“These men recognize that the length of time that they are spending in this restricted housing is having mental and psychological effects on them, making them feel paranoid when they’re maybe released into general housing, and just generally taking a severe toll on their mental state,” Farrell said.

Farrell said there are scientific studies that show solitary prison conditions have effects not only on the prisoners, but on the correctional officers and on the communities to where they will be released.

“And there’s just basic justice in our values that are grounded in the constitutional rights of these men that we don’t subject people to inhumane conditions when they’re in prison,” Farrell said.

Farrell said the ACLU of Utah hopes the Department of Corrections will make a good-faith effort to address the prisoners’ concerns. She said judging from conversations between her organization and the department, it is moving in the direction of re-evaluating and possibly minimizing its use of restrictive housing.