SAN JOSE -- A weeklong inmate hunger strike at the Santa Clara County Jail protesting long-reduced visiting hours ended Wednesday, and it turns out they might not have been as hungry as advertised.
While about 24 inmates were turning away their regular meals as part of their demonstration, wrappers found during cell cleanup suggests that some of the involved inmates might have eaten items bought from the jail commissary, said Sgt. Kurtis Stenderup of the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office, which oversees the jail.
Stenderup said it was not clear why the demonstration ended, since no concessions were made.
"They just started eating," he said. "Nothing changed."
News of the strike surfaced after relatives of an inmate in the Second East maximum-security tier complained how the dearth of visiting availability was forcing family members to wait as many as nine hours to get some face time. The scarcity existed, they attested, despite the presence of additional visitor rooms that were going unused.
Because of the limited visit opportunity, the relatives, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, said they spent most of their Thanksgiving holiday waiting at the jail.
On Dec. 11 about two dozen male inmates launched the hunger strike, pledging to continue until the visiting hours were expanded.
Stenderup acknowledged that visiting hours in that segment of the jail had been whittled but that the reduction actually happened three years ago after the jail was forced to cut $10 million from its budget. One of the results was a reduction in staffing that compressed visiting hours from a Monday through Friday schedule to one that only involved Saturday and Sunday.
Over the course of the protest, Stenderup said the participating inmates were routinely evaluated by medical staff. None suffered any lasting effects, he said.