California inmates have ended a nearly two-month hunger strike to protest the prison system's isolation policies, prison officials said Thursday.
The strike ended after two Democratic state legislators, state Senator Loni Hancock and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, promised to hold public hearings this fall on inmates' allegations that gang leaders are often held for decades in isolation units.
More than 30,000 inmates refused meals when the strike began in early July. By this week the number had dwindled to 100, including 40 who had been on strike continuously since July 8.
A federal judge had recently given authorities permission to force-feed inmates if necessary to save their lives.
All inmates have now begun accepting prison-issued meals, Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard said. "We are pleased this dangerous strike has been called off before any inmates became seriously ill," he said.
He said the department will continue to carry out changes in its policies on sending inmates to Security Housing Units -- which include isolation quarters -- that were started two years ago.
The changes include more limits on which inmates are sent to the isolation units at Pelican Bay, where the strike began, as well as at other prisons. The policies also make it easier for inmates to work their way out of isolation.
Supporters and advocates for the inmates planned a rally Thursday at the California State building in downtown Oakland.
They did not immediately confirm that the strike had ended, but cited a positive response to the inmates' demands, including the pending hearings scheduled by the heads of the state Senate and Assembly public safety committees.
In ending the mass action, during which some participants staved off starvation by drinking sports drinks, prisoners issued a statement saying most of their demands remained unmet.
"We have deemed it to be in the best interest of our cause to suspend our hunger strike action until further notice," said the statement from the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity group.
"To be clear, our peaceful protest of resistance to our continuous subjection to decades of systemic state sanctioned torture via the system's solitary confinement units is far from over," the statement added.
The legislators who have called for hearings said they were happy that none of the strikers died during the extended protests.
"I am gratified that the hunger strike has ended without further sacrifice or risk of human life," state Sen. Hancock said.
"The issues raised by the hunger strike are real -- concerns about the use and conditions of solitary confinement in California's prisons -- and can no longer be ignored," she said.
In July, one inmate who had been participating in the hunger strike died, but corrections officials said that was being investigated as a suicide.
Al Jazeera and wire services