[Pnews] To this day, the CDCr continues to claim that decades in the SHU does not constitute solitary confinement

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Oct 10 12:50:56 EDT 2013

  /(To this day, the CDCr continues to claim that decades in the SHU
  does not constitute solitary confinement - cm)/

  Joint Hearing Addresses Use of Solitary Confinement in Calif. Prisons

Thursday, October 10, 2013


    * Mental Health

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At a joint hearing of the Assembly and Senate Public Safety Committees 
on Wednesday, lawmakers examined the state's use of security housing 
units for indefinite isolation of prisoners, the /Sacramento Bee/ 

The hearing follows a two-month inmate hunger strike protesting the 
practice (White, /Sacramento Bee/, 10/9).

      Background on Hunger Strike

In July, 30,000 inmates began refusing meals as part of the protest.

Members of the hunger strike -- organized by inmates at Pelican Bay 
State Prison -- sought a five-year limit on such isolation, as well as 
new educational and rehabilitation programs.

Prisoners called off the strike 
in early September (/California Healthline/ 

Prisoners' advocates now are pushing the state to:

    * End the use of indefinite terms in solitary confinement;
    * Change the criteria for identifying inmates who are gang members; and
    * Reform the process by which prisoners can renounce gang activity
      and be released from solitary confinement.

      Lawmakers' Comments

At the hearing on Wednesday, Senate Public Safety Committee Chair Loni 
Hancock (D-Berkeley) said, "[T]he issues that were raised during the 
hunger strike are real, and concern about the conditions in California's 
supermax prisons cannot be ignored."

Lawmakers also said they lack information from the California Department 
of Corrections and Rehabilitation related to security housing units, 

    * The rate of nonviolent offenders placed in solitary confinement;
    * Data on attempted suicides that take place in solitary confinement
      (/Sacramento Bee/, 10/9);
    * The number of inmates who left solitary confinement with a mental
      health condition; and
    * How inmates who spent time in solitary confinement fared after
      being released from prison (Calefati, /Contra Costa Times/
      <http://www.contracostatimes.com/rss/ci_24277584>, 10/9).

Hancock said that there is "very little useful and well-organized data 
that answers the questions policymakers need to make decisions, and as a 
result, it seems that there is very little practice informed by an 
understanding of actual outcomes."

Assembly Public Safety Committee Chair Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) 
said the policies allowing extended stays in security housing units were 
"beyond the pale" (/Sacramento Bee/, 10/9).

Early next year, Hancock and Ammiano are expected to introduce 
legislation to reduce or end the use of solitary confinement in state 
prisons (/Contra Costa Times/, 10/9).

      Comments From Prisoner Advocates

During the hearing, prisoners' advocates testified that the use of 
solitary confinement can lead to long-lasting problems for inmates, 
including mental illnesses.

Margaret Winter -- head of the American Civil Liberties Union's National 
Prison Project -- said prisoners "subjected to prolonged social 
isolation" undergo "extreme psychic punishment and pain."

In addition, UC-Irvine professor Keramet Reiter said prisoners held in 
isolation could have a harder time assimilating back into a community 
after their release (Bernstein, /Reuters/ 

      CDCR Response

During the hearing, Michael Stainer -- director of CDCR's Division of 
Adult Institutions -- said the use of solitary confinement is necessary 
to regulate prison gang activity and protect other inmates.

However, he noted that the department has begun implementing a new pilot 
program that "addresses individual behavior and individual 
accountability" when determining whether to remove prisoners from 
solitary confinement.

"We are reviewing inmates every week, and some are being retained [in 
solitary] based on behaviors and some are being released based upon lack 
of those behaviors," Stainer added (/Sacramento Bee/, 10/9).

In response to lawmakers' questions about data, Stainer said CDCR does 
not have the resources to track the effects of solitary confinement on 
prisoners (Palta, "KPCC News 
KPCC, 10/9).

Meanwhile, Stainer acknowledged that prisoners had been disciplined for 
taking part in the hunger strike, which he described as a "mass 
disturbance" (/Reuters/, 10/9).

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