Saint Mary's Politics Professor Ron Ahnen has been interviewed by several news outlets about the ongoing hunger strike in California's prison system and the circumstances surrounding the death of an inmate in the Corcoran California State Prison who may have been participating in the strike. The strike by up to 2,000 inmates across the state is to protest several prison policies; in particular, indefinite solitary confinement.
Prison officials have reported the death of 32-year-old Bill "Guero" Sell as a possible suicide. However, inmate supporters and activists from outside the prison disagree with the officials' version of the inmate's death. Sell was serving a life sentence for attempted murder and was awaiting trial for the murder of a cellmate.
This week, an Associated Press story about the inmate's death featured an interview with Ahnen; the article was carried regionally and appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. Ahnen was also interviewed about the 21-day-old strike by KTVU-TV and the American edition of Russia Today.
An associate professor in SMC's politics department, and the director of the College's International Area Studies program, Ahnen's research focuses on human rights, police violence and public security policy in Latin America, Brazil and the United States. He teaches courses on human rights and prison reform, such as “Ending Sentences: Life Behind and Beyond Bars,” "International Relations" and "Just and Unjust Wars."
Ahnen is also president of California Prison Focus - a human rights advocacy group working to abolish the state’s prison system in its present condition. He is part of a mediation group that is lobbying state officials to institute prison reform policies such as establishing a maximum term for solidarity confinement.