Ex-prisoner on hunger strike: 'Stop re-offending' if you don't like prison conditions

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) Advocates of prisoner's rights protested in Bakersfield on Tuesday at the corner of Stockdale Highway and California Avenue.

An Iraq War veteran stopped by the protest to give his opinions on the California state prisons hunger strike. He said he's been to prison for a crime he chose not reveal. He has a surprising message to the over 500 prisoners still involved in the strike.

"Stop re-offending. You don't like the way you're being treated? Don't come back. (I didn't) come back," he said.

In fear of retaliation, everyone Eyewitness News spoke to at the protest asked to remain anonymous.

The protest called for an end to long-term confinement in prison security housing units, also known as "the SHU".

"To get humane treatment, that's all we're asking," said one protester. "I have two nephews in the 'SHU,' so for me it's personal."

Prisoners are demanding change to solitary confinement conditions, better food and more access to the libraries inside prisons.

"Sometimes the food is not edible," a local prison advocate said. "You're in a little cell, you walk three paces and that's it, you hit the wall."

The former prisoner had this rebuttal: "Yes, it's not Burger King, but it's food. It's edible food. I've eaten it, I've sustained on it. You know? The bed, it's not a king-sized bed, the room is not huge. But you have a bed, you have a roof over your head, you have electricity, you have running water."

Prisoners are heading into the 23rd day of the hunger strike.

There were moments during the protest where things got a little heated, but overall, it remained peaceful, and people on both sides of the issue got their message across.