Officials: Inmate appears to have hanged self; not connected to hunger strike

CORCORAN, Calif. (AP) — California prison officials are investigating a death of an inmate as an apparent suicide by hanging that they say had no connection to a system-wide hunger strike.

Corocoran Prison inmate Billy Sell was pronounced dead Monday after being found unresponsive in his security housing unit. Prison officials said they are awaiting the Kings County coroner's report to announce an official cause of death.

Prisoner advocates and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation disagree over whether Sell was participating in a hunger strike to protest living conditions in the security housing units.

The strike is now in its third week. Prison officials say 601 inmates at 9 prisons were continuing to refuse state-issued food.

It's the third hunger strike prisoners have called since 2011 to draw attention to solitary confinement cells.