LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — More than two dozen inmates were refusing to eat at Ely State Prison as of Tuesday, according to the Nevada Department of Corrections. The number dropped from approximately 40 from the prior day. 

The hunger strike began on Dec. 1. Inmates are demanding better conditions such as sufficient medical care and food, the 8 News Now Investigators first reported Monday.

“Everybody’s losing pounds, so so far I’ve lost 10 pounds,” Joseph Quinones said in a phone call from the prison. “We’re starting to feel the fatigue. We’re starting to get like the mind cloudiness.”

Quinones is serving time for robbery and burglary. His release is set for November of 2023. He told the 8 News Now Investigators that he had not been outdoors within about a month and has been in solitary confinement.

“I understand prison is prison, and I understand the consequence for my actions. It’s not that we’re crying about being in prison. It’s about the way they’re treating us in prison,” Quinones said. 

Return Strong, a group that includes loved ones of Nevada inmates who advocate for better conditions inside prisons is calling for the following:

  • The end of continued and extended use of solitary confinement, lockdowns, modified lockdowns and de facto solitary confinement
  • The end of correctional abuse
  • The end of group punishment and administrative abuse
  • Due process interference and violations in the grievance process to be addressed
  • Adequate and nutritious food
  • Health and safety concerns to be addressed

“These are things that have gone unchecked for years and they’ve only gotten worse during COVID, Mark Bettencourt, a Return Strong board member, said. “A lot of these were issues pre-pandemic and they continue to be and they continue to get worse and worse and this is in many ways the canary in the coal mine.”

The Department of Corrections is working to resolve the hunger strike and monitoring the health and weight of the inmates, according to a press release issued Monday after the 8 News Now Investigators first reported on the hunger strike.

The Department of Corrections has continuously said staffing is a major issue however the pay rate for correctional officers compared to other law enforcement agencies is low.