SACRAMENTO (Reuters) - California authorities sought federal court permission to force feed some state prison inmates on Monday, six weeks into a hunger strike to protest the state's solitary confinement policies, court documents showed.
Some 136 California inmates are currently refusing food as part of a strike begun July 8 to demand an end to a policy of housing inmates believed to be associated with gangs in near-isolation for years. Some 69 of the striking inmates have refused food continuously since the strike began.
California policy currently prohibits force feeding of inmates on a hunger strike if they have signed medical orders refusing resuscitation in the event they lose consciousness or experience heart failure.
But officials went to court on Monday to ask for permission to ignore these "do-not-resuscitate" orders for inmates who signed them during the hunger strike or just prior to it, citing concerns that some inmates may have been coerced into participating in the strike.
Lawyers for the hunger strikers could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday, but in the past have denied that participants were being coerced.
The move comes as hundreds of inmates have fallen ill after weeks of refusing food for the hunger strike, which at its peak drew 30,000 participants although numbers have since dwindled substantially.
"This is so our doctors, when they see an inmate near death, will know that they can step in and do anything," said Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for the federal receiver.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Leslie Gevirtz)
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