Todd Ashker Inmate-Balance Theory

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Ever since the beginning of the prison system, people could argue that riots were the cause of either the guards being too strict or the guards being too lenient. When analyzing the California hunger strike of 2013, and why so many inmates decided to participate, we can clearly see inmate-balance theory at work. The California hunger strike lead by Todd Ashker is best explained by inmate-balance theory because the criminal justice system was too harsh by giving confirmed gang members life sentences in solitary confinement. Inmate-balance theory can be defined as “maintain[ing] that riots and related forms of collective protest occur when prison officials take abrupt action to reassert control” (Useem and Reisig, p.320). When we take this definition…show more content…
When sentenced to the SHU, inmates are in their cell for 23 hours a day, with 1 hour left to do recreation in a box. Todd Ashker, the leader of the hunger strike, describes how he has not “had a normal face-to-face conversation with another human being in 23 years” (Wallace-Wells). Most of the prisoners kept in the Pelican Bay SHU began exhibiting mental breakdown as a result of the isolation (Wallace-Wells). If prisoners were kept in a normal cell, or at least were able to interact with other humans face-to-face, then they might not have had to resort to the hunger strike. The harsh conditions of the SHU are what made the prisoners decided to nonviolently protest, which further proves the presence of inmate-balance theory. In conclusion, the California hunger strike, led by Todd Ashker, was brought on by the harsh conditions that inmates face while indefinitely imprisoned in solitary confinement. The unfair practice, decided by Judge Thelton Henderson in 1995, was something the prisoners couldn’t do outright to stop, so they turned to non-violent hunger strikes. This is concrete example on why the inmate-balance theory was present in the California hunger strike of 2013- giving confirmed gang members indefinite life sentences in solitary confinement was too harsh, thus needing
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