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Prisoners at Private Federal Prison in California Strike Over Food, Medical Care

On November 26, 2001, more than 1,800 prisoners at the Taft Correctional Institution (TCI) refused to report to work in protest of shortcomings in the prison's food and medical care.

TCI, a privately run low-security federal prison operated by Wackenhut, remained on lock down since the first day of the work stoppage. Relatives of TCI prisoners say the work stoppage is just a culmination of several months of building frustration.

"It's rice and beans just about every day," said former prisoner David Salazar, who was released from TCI the day after the strike began. "Even if you like rice and beans, you don't want to eat it every day." Salazar said the meals only occasionally contain meat and then only processed meats.

TCI prisoners have long complained about the substandard food at the prison, but prison official insist the complaints are mere fabrications.

TCI spokesman Terry Craig said had the prisoners not been on lockdown due to the strike, they would be eating meals which include items like pie, cake and cookies. Because they are locked down, they are only receiving three sack lunches every day.

TCI officials also dispute that prisoners do not receive adequate medical care. "They get better medical care than people outside prison," claimed Craig.

But prisoners' relatives tell a different story. Reports of prisoners with untreated dislocated shoulders that were allowed to heal improperly and burns that were left untreated are common. Salazar said he has seen prisoners with rashes, illnesses and broken bones go untreated.

"If somebody gets sick [at TCI], God have mercy on their souls because they probably won't get the help they need," says Andrea Hutto, who's husband, Mark, is incarcerated at TCI. "These guys are supposed to serve time, they are not supposed to let their health deteriorate."

The prison remained on lockdown for over a week, prison spokesman Craig said. "They have tried this before, in smaller groups," Craig said. "But they have never been this united before."

Source: The Californian

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