EUREKA – Woodford County Jail inmate Kevin Johnson’s eight-day hunger strike ended on Oct. 31 when the jail decided to allow Johnson access to the books that have been mailed to him.
Johnson and Tyler Lang were arrested Aug. 14 for possession of burglary tools and have been at the Woodford County Jail ever since. Johnson went on a hunger strike Oct. 23 because the jail would not let him read the books that supporters mailed to him.
Jail head Michael Waterworth said he allowed Johnson and Lang access to books on Oct. 31 “because I was told to do so.”
Woodford County Sheriff Jim Pierceall did not return a message left Monday afternoon asking for his comments.
Johnson and Lang’s supporters have a website called www.supportkevinandtyler.com. They claim the book ban was implemented within hours after a book wish list was posted on the site, a claim that Waterworth denies. Waterworth said it had been a long-standing jail policy not to allow inmates to receive mailed books until their release and that inmates had access to books from the jail library.
Waterworth also said supporters’ phone calls to the jail had no impact on the decision to reverse the decision on books.
The website, on the other hand, said the ban had been lifted due to a public outcry supporting Johnson and Lang’s right to read.
“Thanks to everyone who stood up to this unjust denial of a prisoner’s basic right to read. This is a victory not just for Kevin and Tyler, but to everyone confined in Woodford County Jail and beyond,” the website reads.
The website has re-posted their book wish lists.
It reported that Johnson lost close to 20 pounds over the course of the hunger strike. Waterworth said this claim was one of many “half-truths” on the site.
According to the website, Johnson, of Brentwood, Cal., has been active since the mid-2000s in animal rights campaigns, including vegan outreach, anti-vivisection demonstrations and a tour with the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd. The website states Lang, of Los Angeles, Cal., also an animal rights activist, was arrested in 2009 on misdemeanor charges for his participation in home demonstrations against vivisection at UCLA. The site says Lang was sued by several companies in 2011 and 2012 for protests against their key executives, and was most recently active with Empty Cages Los Angeles, a group that protests against airliners that ship primates to laboratories for testing.
The website claims the pair’s arrest was made because of their history with animal activism.
Waterworth said their animal activism had nothing to do with their arrest or their treatment at the Woodford County Jail.
“That’s a belief that they’re entitled to,” he said.