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Texas prisoners enter week 3 of hunger strike against TDCJ’s solitary confinement practices

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Photo by RODNAE Productions

A group of incarcerated men across several Texas prisons have been on a hunger strike since Jan. 10, the start of the state’s 88th Legislative Session. Now in week three, dozens of them continue the peaceful protest against long-term solitary confinement.

Long-term solitary confinement, also known as restrictive housing, has been used by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice since the mid 80’s to quell gang activity within prisons. But the practice of solitary confinement becomes harmful when inmates are kept in restrictive housing for up to 22 hours a day for an indefinite amount of time.l

A TDCJ spokesperson told TPR that the state has made a considerable effort to reduce the number of inmates in solitary confinement over the last 15 years – from 9,000 to 3,100 today.

The protestors demand that TDCJ adopt changes similar to those implemented by California’s prison system after the 2015 landmark settlement of Ashker v Gov. of California.

How dangerous is affiliated gang activity in Texas prisons? What demands are the incarcerated men making? What are the lasting effects of solitary confinement? How effective is restrictive housing at curbing gang activity?

How has TDCJ responded to this latest hunger strike? Is it likely that the state will reform solitary confinement?


  • Brittany Robertson, independent prison reform advocate and a representative for the men on hunger strike 
  • Michele Deitch, distinguished senior lecturer, and director of the Prison and Jail Innovation Lab – a policy resource center focused on the safe and humane treatment of people in custody at the University of Texas at Austin
  • Keramet Reiter, professor and vice chair of criminology, law & society at the University of California, Irvine

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet@TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Thursday, January 26.

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