Debra J. Saunders

"Hunger strikes are a long known form of nonviolent protest aimed at bringing attention to a cause, rather than an attempt of suicide," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., wrote in a nod to the theatrics involved. She was writing about Guantanamo Bay, where the military force-feeds conscious hunger strikers.

The California prison system is handling this hunger strike differently. Though Henderson's order allows doctors to force-feed inmates, Hayhoe told me the state will do so only when professionals deem a patient incapable of making a rational decision. Then doctors may "step in and save someone's life."

Hayhoe knows of no permanent organ damage yet. Personnel have been giving hunger strikers Gatorade, as well as vitamins to safeguard their eyesight. Officers make daily rounds to see who needs medical attention. A "hunger strike patient fact sheet" explains how fasting can kill -- which probably accounts for the 99 percent defection rate.

The four leaders of this hunger strike aren't your standard human rights activists. All four have been convicted of murder. The feds named one as an "unindicted co-conspirator" in an indictment targeting the Mexican Mafia prison gang. Another killed a fellow inmate and member of the Aryan Brotherhood.

In a statement, Dolores Canales of Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity huffed that the Henderson order is about "dehumanizing the strikers, delegitimizing their demands, and disrupting the widespread support for the protest coming from the community." Widespread support? In the taxpaying community, there is indeed widespread, if wrongheaded, support for letting inmates starve.

The useful-idiot prison groupie crowd is willing to go there, too.

Debra J. Saunders

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