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Advocates for inmates on hunger strike offer Calif. prison chief ideas to improve conditions

Advocates for inmates on a hunger strike to protest California's solitary confinement program met with the state prisons chief on Friday as they pushed for an end to practices they say are inhumane.

Mediators who support the protesting inmates issued a statement after the hour-long meeting with Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard, saying they offered ideas for ending the hunger strike and improving prison conditions that include indeterminate sentences in isolation units.

"He received us well and listened to our concerns and those of the prisoners and their families," the statement said.

Ron Ahnen, president of California Prison Focus, who was among those who met with Beard, declined to elaborate on the secretary's response to their suggestions.

More than 300 inmates have refused all meals since the strike began on July 8. About 30,000 inmates initially participated.

Corrections officials declined to immediately comment on the specifics of Friday's meeting. But spokesman Jeffrey Callison said before the meeting that Beard intended to explain the changes California has already made to the confinement program.

Those include policy revisions allowing some inmates classified as gang members to be moved out of the units without having to inform on other inmates.

This is the third hunger strike launched since 2011 to protest living conditions in those prison units, where 4,500 gang members, gang associates and serious offenders are held.

The meeting occurred shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling paving the way for the early release of nearly 10,000 California inmates. A majority of the court rejected Gov. Jerry Brown's emergency request to halt a lower court's directive for the early release of prisoners, which is intended to ease severe overcrowding at California's 33 adult prisons.

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