SANTA ANA (CNS) – Hundreds of Orange County Jail inmates went on a hunger strike this past weekend to protest the suspension of visiting hours and hot meal service during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it quickly ended when warm meals were restored, officials said today.
About 300 inmates at the Theo Lacy Facility and another 120 at the Men’s Central Jail in Santa Ana stopped eating Saturday, said Carrie Braun of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
The inmates engaged in the strike demanded that hot meals be served again and family visits resume — both of which ceased mid-March as measures to protect against the spread of coronavirus, Braun said.
Visitors haven’t been allowed as part of coronavirus stay-at-home orders.
Hot meal service stopped because there haven’t been enough inmates qualified to cook in the kitchens; many low-level, non-violent offenders were released to reduce the jail population to allow for social distancing and quarantining, officials explained. There were also complications with sanitizing the “chow halls” where inmates usually congregate to eat meals.
Although family members are still not allowed, and it isn’t clear when they will be able to visit, hot meals are again being served at least once a day and the strike stopped Monday, Braun said.
She said the inmates have resumed eating jail-provided meals.