Inmates at Oakland’s Glenn Dyer Jail entered day six of a hunger strike Friday in hopes of starting a discussion on how to improve conditions in the facility.
More than a third of the inmates at Glenn Dyer Jail —125 out of the 412 — were participating in the hunger strike during the last count on Tuesday, according to Alameda County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Ray Kelly. Inmates at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin are set to join the strike on Sunday.
Alameda County Sheriff’s Office is currently denying all allegations that the conditions at Glenn Dyer Jail violate law, but Kelly said that the agency is open to organizing a meeting with inmates to talk about their concerns.
“Things are still in the works, because it’s so early in the strike,” Kelly said.
Among the main concerns of the inmates, most of whom belong to the organizing group Prisoners United, are the jail’s policies on administrative segregation, or the practice of single-cell confinement for up to 23 hours a day.
Kelly said administrative segregation is necessary to ensure safety by removing exceptionally violent offenders from the general jail population or by separating members of rival gangs from one another to prevent fights.
The practice is legally defined as different from solitary confinement, which, unlike administrative segregation, involves inmates being placed in a completely enclosed cell “void of human interaction, human sounds, human noise,” Kelly said.
But activist Jose Valle, who has been in contact with inmates inside the jail as part of his work with community organizing group Silicon Valley De-bug, said that he regards the two forms of confinement as essentially the same.
“Literally we are being silenced,” wrote members of Prisoners United in a letter to Silicon Valley De-bug. “We have been deprived from all forms of social oxygen, with no contact with another human being for weeks at a time.”
A letter from an inmate participating in the strike alleges an environment in which he is frequently denied his legally required three hours of weekly exercise time and is served the same meal for dinner for days on end.
“We are locked in our cells all day,” wrote the inmate, who did not provide his name for fear of retaliation.
For now, as the inmates await a potential meeting with higher-ups at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, they are being monitored daily by Glenn Dyer Jail medical staff to ensure that their health is not jeopardy, according to Kelly.