UPDATE: The Department of Corrections issued a press release late Monday afternoon confirming the hunger strike which can be viewed at the bottom of this article.

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Dozens of inmates at the Ely State Prison were on a hunger strike as of Monday, the 8 News Now Investigators have learned.

The maximum-security prison is approximately 300 miles north of Las Vegas and holds some of the state’s death row inmates.

Approximately 40 inmates are participating in the hunger strike which began on Dec. 1, according to Return Strong, a group that includes loved ones of Nevada inmates who advocate for better conditions inside prisons.

“While this group has decided to go on strike now, the conditions they are striking about are being seen across the state,” the group’s executive director, Jodi Hocking, said. “They are currently participating in a peaceful protest regarding the conditions of their confinement.”

Return Strong is requesting an immediate intervention from the state in regards to correctional abuse and violence against prisoners. The group 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

Throughout the past year, numerous inmates have reached out to the 8 News Now Investigators stating they have been placed on lockdown for consistent periods of time, their medical needs have been neglected, and they have been in fear for their safety.

There have been major failures inside Nevada prisons in recent months. 

In September, Director Charles Daniels resigned at the request of Gov. Steve Sisolak after a convicted murderer escaped from Southern Desert Correctional Center. The murderer was later captured. Daniels later claimed that his requests for resources to address security and staffing were ignored. He also claimed that the Sisolak administration pressured him to lie about the series of events surrounding the inmate’s escape. 

In September, two inmates at High Desert State Prison died by suicide within 24 hours. The NDOC medical director advised staff that he was resigning five days later.

In July, the family of Isaiah Sharp filed a lawsuit against NDOC. Sharp was an inmate at High Desert State Prison. Shortly before his release, he was murdered by his cellmate who had issued previous warnings. Sharp’s family was unaware of the details until the 8 News Now Investigators had uncovered what happened.

In December of 2021, there was a riot inside Southern Desert Correctional Center. The department downplayed the incident. The 8 News Now Investigators exposed that inmates took over a unit inside a prison. The warden resigned and several correctional officers face criminal charges.

NDOC has had a long history of struggle with staffing. The department offers a lower salary than nearby law enforcement agencies.

The Department of Corrections issued a press release late Monday afternoon confirming the hunger strike.

The Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) is reporting a hunger strike among some offenders at Ely State Prison.

The strike began Dec. 1, 2022, mostly in protest of the food portions being served but also includes conditions of confinement, property issues and disciplinary sanctions.

Originally, 39 offenders were participating. As of Monday, December 5, 2022, there were 27 offenders who refused food. That number fluctuates daily, as some offenders will receive food one day then return to the strike the following day. Food is made available daily to all participants.

The NDOC is auditing portion sizes at all facilities throughout the state and reviewing the contract with the current food vendor. Additional complaints are also under review.

Participating offenders are being monitored for weight and other health-related statistics.

The NDOC takes seriously the health and welfare of the offenders in its custody and is working to resolve this matter.

NDOC news release