Merced County California – Sheriff’s staff  have learned that an inmate hunger strike currently in progress by  a portion of the inmate population at both the Sheriff’s Main Jail and John Latarroca facilities.  It was a scheduled event organized at a state wide level.  California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials were aware of the planned protest about two weeks ago and notified local jail facilities.

It appears that as part of the one day hunger strike, about 10% of in-custody prisoners did not take breakfast, and are choosing not to use the outdoor exercise area.  They also removed their issued clothing and are refusing to appear in court.

Meals, prescribed medication, and mandated outside exercise opportunities are being offered to all prisoners as usual. In-house medical professionals are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Merced County jails and its staff operate in compliance with federal, state and local regulations concerning the housing and welfare of prisoners. Routine inspections from oversight agencies are regularly conducted of all facilities holding prisoners.

On any given day about 695 prisoners are housed in Merced County Jail facilities and another 113 prisoners are on alternative sentencing programs.

Allmercednews was contacted by relatives of Merced County inmates.  One family member said her brother, fiancé and stepfather were incarcerated and are taking part in the hunger strike.  She said today she went to the sheriff’s department to put money on their accounts saw people protesting in front of the office.  She said they are protesting due to “lack of and terrible food” and only receiving only one hot meal a day and an occasional dessert.  She said when inmates go out for exercise, they are released into a “cement box”.

We spoke with Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke about family members concerns.  Sheriff Warnke said the jail staff included a nutritionist who provides a healthy menu for inmates with normal diets, as well as those with special diets for medical and religious needs.

We shared the concerns of inmates family members and he responded, “This isn’t a country club.  If they don’t like being here then quit getting arrested!”  As he stated above, the inmates are provided for by regulated laws and inspected on a routine basis.


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