By Sam Stanton
Six weeks after thousands of California state prison inmates began a hunger strike, the state has gone to court for permission to feed any who may be at risk of dying.
The move comes as the number of hunger strikers has dwindled dramatically, with 69 who have refused meals since the protest began and a total of 129 currently refusing meals.
A federal judge agreed to the request this afternoon, which gives the state permission to "refeed" an inmate by providing IV fluids or nourishment or take other life-saving measures if an inmate is at risk of death.
The corrections department joined in the request and the attorneys for the inmates did not oppose it.
"The health and safety of inmates is our top priority and we are working with the Receiver's Office and with inmates' attorneys from the Prison Law Office to ensure that doctors are making decisions on proper care and treatment of hunger strikers, many of whom are participating due to threats and intimidation by prison gang leaders," corrections spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said in a statement today.
Joyce Hayhoe, spokeswoman for the receiver, said no inmates currently are believed to be at risk of death but that officials wanted the flexibility to act if necessary.
Inmates who have been striking have received Gatorade and other liquids but have refused meals.