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Inmates End Hunger Strike at Pelican Bay, Prison Advocates Rally

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — Prisoner rights advocates rallied outside San Francisco's State Building Friday after corrections officials announced that thousands of inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison have ended their second hunger strike after 18 days.

Laura Magnani, a member of the prisoner's mediation team, said the state will review how it confines prisoners in the Secure Housing Unit (SHU).

"I think it's a tremendous victory. I think it's a victory on many levels," Magnani said.

KCBS' Doug Sovern Reports:

But ex-con Manuel LaFontaine said it could take months before any inmates actually get out of solitary confinement.

"The [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] (CDCR) is quick to put someone in isolation and then all of a sudden it takes them a year to look into everyone's cases," LaFontaine said with an accusatory intonation.

He added that hundreds are still on hunger strike at at least two other prisons.

Marie Levin's brother Ronnie has been in solitary at Pelican Bay for 26 years. He lost 40 pounds on this hunger strike. She hopes he'll finally get out of the SHU.

"I pray that he does. I mean, he was unlawfully put in there, so yes, I believe that one day he will get out," she said hopefully.

Prison officials maintain that most of those prisoners in solitary are there for legitimate reasons.

Meanwhile victims' rights groups said those inmates deserve the punishment they've gotten.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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