Protesters rally against solitary confinement as inmates reportedly go on hunger strike
Aug 02, 2019
Protesters gather outside the State Department of Corrections' headquarters in a show of support for inmates on a hunger strike.
Prisoners held in solitary confinement at a Pennsylvania state prison are reportedly on hunger strike, and on Friday — in a rainstorm more than three hours away — a group of protesters rallied outside the Department of Corrections headquarters to support them. In early July, a handful of inmates at the Fayette State Correctional Institution began refusing their meals, DOC spokesperson Maria Finn wrote in an email. The strike lasted for about a week. But since Thursday, another one has been underway, protesters said. Jackson Kusiak, a member of the Human Rights Coalition — which organized the rally — led about 25 attendees in chants of “solidarity, not solitary." Many held signs condemning the practice as torture. They’re calling for an investigation into the prisoners’ health and living conditions and an end to long-term isolation. “Who do we hold accountable?” Dana Lomax-Williams asked into a megaphone. She turned toward a cluster of officers who were stationed nearby. “We just want some answers, that’s all. That’s it. That’s all we want.” Lomax-Williams was held in restrictive housing for some of the time she was incarcerated, she said. doc rally Protesters gather outside the State Department of Corrections' headquarters in a show of support for inmates on a hunger strike. Finn wrote that inmates have access to an internal grievance system and confidential phone line they can use to report alleged abuse or mistreatment. She said SCI Fayette officials deny that a new hunger strike had begun there. Most of the rally-goers were from the Philadelphia area, Kusiak said, and don’t own cars. HRC members donated their vehicles and organized a caravan to Hampden Township, where the DOC’s main offices are located. Though the rain soaked through their signs and clothes, the protesters — many of whom have been fasting for several days — stood in the parking lot for more than an hour. Next Friday, they’ll protest outside Gov. Tom Wolf’s office in Philadelphia, they said, and they may return to Hampden Township the Friday after that. “We are a voice for the voiceless,” Lomax-Williams said. “Right now, that’s what they need us to be.”