WARREN, Maine — Eight inmates at the Maine State Prison’s special management unit have refused food for the fourth straight day.
Warden Jeffrey Merrill said the inmates were protesting the prison’s refusal to provide them with radios or television to occupy their time.
Merrill said that those going without food were being monitored by the prison’s medical staff and that the appropriate response would be taken if it becomes necessary to intervene should going without food affect their health.
“I wouldn’t call it a hunger strike because prisoners don’t have to eat if they don’t want to. Right now they are refusing their meals,” Merrill said Thursday.
Merrill said the inmates involved were being offered their meals at the scheduled time but have been refusing them since Monday. Any refusal of meals is documented. When that occurs, inmates are monitored daily by medical and mental health personnel, he said.
Merrill said the special management unit was the prison’s segregation unit and that the individuals involved were being held there because they either violated prison rules or were considered high risk by their behavior. Under prison rules, electronic media are not allowed in the segregation unit, he said.
Radios and televisions are allowed in the prison’s general population as a privilege, although the inmates have to purchase the devices themselves.
“While watching TV they’re not getting into trouble,” Merrill said. “It’s a privilege in the general population.”
Merrill said inmates kept in segregation are returned to the general population when they follow the rules and behave themselves.
“They have to earn their way to get there and they have to earn their way to get out,” Merrill said. “We’d like them to earn their way back to the general population. Most earn their way out, but some don’t follow the rules and regulations and show disrespect to other prisoners and the staff.”