A spokesperson with California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has confirmed that an inmate on a hunger strike at Corcoran State Prison died on Feb. 2 after refusing food for four days.
Gomez began fasting to protest conditions in the Administration Segregation Unit at Corcoran. Over thirty inmates housed in the isolation unit at Corcoran had also been refusing food since January for the same reason. On Feb. 13, all inmates resumed eating, according to CDCR’s spokesperson Terry Thornton.
Correctional Healthcare Service spokeswoman Nancy Kincaid said nothing in the preliminary autopsy suggests starvation was the cause of death. Gomez was under medical care prior to hunger strike, suggesting he may have been in poor health which was further complicated by fasting.
Once he started missing meals, Kincaid said, the medical staff monitored him daily. The effects of starvation typically start to show in the third week of fasting, but someone who is diabetic or has other health complications is going to feel the impacts quicker, she said.
Gomez was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder. He was placed in the segregation unit to await disciplinary decisions following a January battery assault on an inmate with a deadly weapon.
Isaac Ontiveros, spokesperson for the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition, said inmates in Corcoran’s segregation unit report being kept in “horrendous conditions” for months after they’ve served their assigned terms. In an open letter to CDCR’s Director Mathew Cate and Corcoran Chief Deputy Warden C. Gipson last December, strikers listed demands that included access to educational and rehabilitative programming, adequate and timely medical care, and timely hearings on their cases and petitions.
Thornton said revisions to its policies regarding security threat group management and changes to the gang validation process is nearly complete. He anticipates the revision will go out for legislators and inmate advocacy groups to review near the end of this month.