The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


June 21, 2014

Menu change riles prisoners

COAL TOWNSHIP — The question of whether a hunger strike is going strong after one week at the State Correctional Institution at Coal Township has not been answered.

A woman with a relative locked up in the facility spoke to The Daily Item on the condition that her name and identifying details not be used for fear of retaliation.

The incarcerated relative told her that more than 90 percent of inmates in the all-male prison have gone without food since Monday and there’s “no end in sight.”

“Basically, the food they are serving is not edible in their eyes,” the woman said.

Susan Bensinger, spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections, said she was not aware of a hunger strike at the Coal Township lockup, but acknowledged the inmates there were dismayed over a change in the menu rotation from an eight-week cycle to a four-week cycle.

“I don’t know if they weren’t prepared, but it shocked them,” Bensinger said.

“There was a communication disconnect.”

9 meals is a strike

A hunger strike is classified as inmates missing three full days, or nine full meals, of food, she said.

It is uncommon for a group of inmates, let alone the majority of the prison population, to join together for such a demonstration, she said.

In event of a hunger strike, Bensinger said the prison officials start discussions with the inmate in question and move him into a medical area to ensure he is property monitored for his own health concerns.

He may be force-fed, she said.

“We will not an inmate starve to death,” she said.

Buy food in prison store

Inmates also have an option of purchasing extra food through the commissary if they are not happy with the cafeteria food, Bensinger aid. As of May 31, the Coal Township facility had 2,336 inmates.


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