California Prisons Agree to Scale Back Solitary Confinement

1 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

California Prisons Agree to Scale Back Solitary Confinement.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California is ending its unlimited isolation of imprisoned gang leaders, restricting a practice that once kept hundreds of inmates in notorious segregation units for a decade or longer. LOS ANGELES — California has agreed to an overhaul of its use of solitary confinement in its prisons, including strict limits on the prolonged isolation of inmates, as part of a legal settlement filed in federal court on Tuesday.SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Attorneys representing inmates held for years, sometimes decades, in California’s notorious isolation cells plan to announce Tuesday what they say is a major development in a lawsuit challenging the practice. Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard tells The Associated Press that California is agreeing to segregate only inmates who commit new crimes behind bars. Court records show that no agreement from that discussion has yet been filed, but several individuals on both sides of the litigation said one is imminent. “It’s been on the verge to be finalized for quite awhile,” said Jeffrey Callison, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The lawsuit contends that holding inmates in 80-square-foot, soundproofed and windowless cells for all but about 90 minutes each day at Pelican Bay State Prison amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. State officials say they have used solitary confinement to help control gangs inside the prisons, sending identified gang members to isolation units and keeping them there indefinitely, sometimes for decades.

Only inmates found guilty of serious prison rule violations — like violence against other prisoners, weapons possession or escape — will be sent to isolation. People are warehoused in these places, and now that’s going to change.” A specialized unit will also be created for inmates deemed too dangerous to return to the general population, where they will be allowed more education and social opportunities than are available in solitary.

Lobel said he hoped the establishment of the unit would provide “a model for other states in the future as an alternative to solitary confinement.” The suicide of Kalief Browder in June, after nearly two years in isolation at New York City’s Rikers Island, brought renewed attention to young people in solitary confinement. California corrections officials have said isolation was critical to control violence in prisons and to limit gang influence on the streets, where proceeds from drug sales are funneled back into inmate accounts. By 2012, Todd Ashker and Danny Troxell were among 78 prisoners confined in Pelican Bay’s isolation unit for more than 20 years, though Troxell has since been moved to another prison.

Since the hunger strikes began in 2011, inmates in long-term isolation had already won several concessions, like calendars for the walls in their cells. They are reviewing each inmate’s case to see if they can be transferred out of the segregation units or if they qualify for a program that lets them gradually earn their way out by behaving and avoiding gang activity. Prisoners who have been held in solitary for at least 10 years are expected to be released immediately with few exceptions, lawyers for the plaintiffs said.

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