News Releases

Mass Hunger Strike Update

SACRAMENTO – As of today, 561 inmates in nine state prisons are on a mass hunger strike disturbance, down from 12,421 inmates on July 11, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). An inmate is considered to be on a hunger strike after he has missed nine consecutive meals.

A total of 385 inmates have been on a mass hunger strike continuously since July 8.

CDCR is also releasing additional information on the death of California State Prison-Corcoran (CSP-Corcoran) inmate Billy Michael Sell, 32, following inaccurate and misleading statements from hunger strike advocates about the circumstances of his death.

The Kings County Sheriff’s Department Office of the Coroner conducted an autopsy and preliminarily ruled his death was a suicide from strangulation; CSP-Corcoran investigators have not found any evidence his suicide was related to his previous participation in the mass hunger strike.

Inmate Sell was admitted on May 28, 1999 from San Luis Obispo County (not Solano County as initially reported) with a life sentence for attempted first-degree murder. He began serving another life sentence consecutively from Sacramento County on June 2, 2006 for aggravated assault by someone serving a life sentence. Inmate Sell was being prosecuted and facing the death penalty in Kings County for the December 16, 2007 murder of his 21-year-old cellmate Reuben Quesada Galasso, who had been stabbed with an inmate-made weapon and strangled to death.

On July 22, CSP-Corcoran officers conducting their 30-minute welfare checks in the Security Housing Unit found inmate Sell unresponsive. He was pronounced dead in the prison’s hospital at 9:32 p.m. Sell was single-celled.

CDCR conducts 30-minute welfare checks not just for inmates on suicide watch, but all inmates in Security Housing Units, Psychiatric Services Units and Administrative Segregation Units. The purpose of the staggered and unpredictable welfare checks is to limit the opportunity an inmate has to commit acts of self-harm and is consistent with American Correctional Association standards.

Inmate Sell was documented as participating in the mass hunger strike when he missed nine consecutive meals on July 11 and was removed from the list when he resumed eating July 21.

In addition to CDCR’s ongoing investigation, the federal Receiver’s staff also investigates all deaths in custody.

CDCR is also investigating the July 27 incident in which a CSP-Corcoran inmate was assaulted by his cellmate because he refused to share food items with other inmates participating in the mass hunger strike. The inmate victim was taken to an outside hospital for treatment of facial fractures. He is expected to be returned to the prison today.

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July 29, 2013
Contact: Terry Thornton or
Jeffrey Callison
(916) 445-4950