LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Twenty-four inmates continued their hunger strike Friday at the Ely State Prison, with 19 of them having not eaten in 9 days, according to the Nevada Department of Corrections.
There are conflicting reports on the exact number with different information coming from the department and a prisoner-advocacy group. The inmates are demanding better medical care and living conditions.
Nina Fernandez’s son is refusing food, demanding change. Her son is serving time for stealing a car along with a habitual criminal charge,
“As a parent, it kills me,” Fernandez said Friday. “He said, ‘Mom if I never make it out, just know I loved you.’ That’s sad to say to a parent for your child to come to you and say something like that, that’s terrible.”
As the 8 News Now Investigators first reported, the hunger strike began on Dec. 1. Numerous inmates have said they lack basic care inside state prisons.
“How concerned is the department about the hunger strike?” 8 News Now Investigator Vanessa Murphy asked Brian Williams, the department’s deputy director of programs.
“Very concerned,” Williams said.
“As someone who’s part of leadership here, are Nevada state prisons in a crisis?” Murphy asked.
“I don’t say crisis. We are understaffed,” he said. “We don’t have the resources to do the things that we need to do, but we are working through that.”
Loved ones of inmates and advocacy groups like Return Strong want an outside agency to step in.
“The whole big thing is getting the help that we need for our inmates speaking out, getting the help our voices need to be heard,” Fernandez said.
NDOC announced Friday it would clarify the process of disciplinary action against inmates. It marks a small step in a state agency with major failures: an escaped prisoner, inmate suicides and murders and a riot, which was downplayed until the 8 News Now Investigators exposed it.
“Can we have a promise from you that you’ll be more transparent that the Department will be more transparent?” Murphy asked Williams.
“I believe we are being transparent,” he said.
Fernandez does not believe what NDOC is telling the public.
“I think it’s all lies. I’m sorry. I really do,” she said.
NDOC said it is working to resolve the hunger strike and monitoring the health and weight of inmates, like Fernandez’s son.
“We are listening to these offenders and want to fix those areas where we may have been inconsistent,” acting director William Gittere said in a statement Friday.
“Some of the claims are false, but some of them have merit, and we want to correct them.”