On February 13, men being held in one of the solitary confinement wards at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola were discussing how to get out from under their miserably austere physical conditions. These included broken lights in their cells, no underwear, a single blanket and inadequate heating in record cold temperatures for northern Louisiana. The men also experienced brutal psychological conditions, including no time outside in the yard at all and only limited time out in the hall where they may or may not be lucky enough to make it into the shower in the 15 minutes allotted to them.
They’d been isolated, under-stimulated, living in semi-darkness. They were at the end of their emotional tether. They rejected the only available official route for individuals to resolve grievances within the Louisiana Department of Corrections (LADOC), the Administrative Remedy Procedure, because while officially it can take up to 90 days for a determination, practically it often takes much longer.
Some of the men had some success in the past in getting the prison administration’s attention by refusing meals and gesturing toward a hunger strike, getting positive results, often on the same day. Officially, a strike is acknowledged as such when nine consecutive meals are refused. By law, after the ninth refused meal, LADOC is compelled to notify the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, and must minister to the men with medical care and hear their grievances and demands.
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