[Pnews] Victory of California prisoners - limit solitary and end use of SHU for gang validation

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Sep 1 12:39:35 EDT 2015


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The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition supports the victory of 
California prisoners in transforming and severely limiting the use of 
solitary confinement by the prison system.

Prisoners in long-term solitary confinement in Pelican Bay, including 
people moved to isolation cells in other prisons achieved a 
groundbreaking legal settlement in their class action suit against the 
state of California today, September 1, 2015. The legal terms 
effectively end indeterminate long-term solitary confinement in 
California prisons.

“This settlement represents a monumental victory for prisoners and an 
important step toward our goal of ending solitary confinement in 
California, and across the country,” reads a statement by prisoner 
representatives.

The prisoners’ victory in this struggle to limit the use of solitary 
confinement was led by the prisoners themselves – by their ability to 
organize massive support for their demands within the prisons, by their 
calling for racial unity in the Agreement to End Hostilities of 2012, 
“The movement began with a foundation of unity based on our Agreement to 
End Hostilities, an agreement between the various ethnic groups in 
California prisons to end the violence between us.”

The prisoners embarked on two hunger strikes in 2011, and another in 
2013 that became the largest prisoner hunger strike in history with over 
30,000 prisoners across California and the country refusing food. In 
2012, they filed this lawsuit against the California Department of 
Corrections and Rehabilitation. Their struggle against solitary is a 
long-standing struggle to abolish a torturous practice that was instated 
to repress and attack the powerful prisoner-led movement in the 1960’s 
and 70’s.

The settlement changes California’s use of solitary confinement by 
limiting the use of punitive isolation to only cases where there has 
been a substantiated serious violation of “behavior.”The prison system 
can no longer send people to the SHU (Segregated Housing Unit) because 
of accusations of gang affiliation or their political ideas and 
interests, which currently account for why many are inside solitary.

The settlement was negotiated with the active participation of prisoner 
representatives, who will continue to participate formally, along with 
their attorneys and the magistrate judge, to monitor implementation of 
the terms of the agreement.

As a coalition dedicated to supporting and amplifying the prisoners’ 
struggle for human rights, PHSS will continue to work against solitary 
confinement in all its forms, to support and ensure that the terms of 
this agreement are implemented, and will fight any potential retaliation 
that the prisoners may face for this victory.

The prisoners’ statement ends with an acknowledgement that this historic 
settlement is just one part of a longer struggle against solitary 
confinement and the system of imprisonment in general. It reads: “We 
celebrate this victory while at the same time, we recognize that 
achieving our goal of fundamentally transforming the criminal justice 
system and stopping the practice of warehousing people in prison will be 
a protracted struggle. We recommit to that fight, and invite you to join 
us.”


https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/
_________________________________________________________________

Complete Statement from California Prisoner Representatives

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*"This settlement represents a monumental victory for prisoners and an 
important step toward our goal of ending solitary confinement in 
California, and across the country.****California’s agreement to abandon 
indeterminate SHU confinement based on gang affiliation demonstrates the 
power of unity and collective action.****This victory was achieved by 
the efforts of people in prison, their families and loved ones, lawyers, 
and outside supporters.****The movement began with a foundation of unity 
based on our Agreement to End Hostilities, an agreement between the 
various ethnic groups in California prisons to end the violence between 
us.****This agreement reaches not only state prisons, but has inspired 
jail detainees, county prisoners and our communities on the street to 
oppose ethnic and racial violence.****From this foundation, the 
prisoners’ human rights movement is awakening the conscience of the 
nation, to recognize that we are fellow human beings.****As the recent 
statements of President Obama and of Justice Kennedy illustrate, the 
nation is turning against solitary confinement. We celebrate this 
victory while at the same time, we recognize that achieving our goal of 
fundamentally transforming the criminal justice system and stopping the 
practice of warehousing people in prison will be a protracted 
struggle.****We recommit to that fight, and invite you to join us."*


*

  ________________________________________________________________

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latimes.com 
<http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-california-will-move-thousands-of-inmates-out-of-solitary-20150901-story.html> 



  California agrees to move thousands of inmates out of solitary confinement

Los Angeles Times - Sept 1, 2015 - Paige St. John
*http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-california-will-move-thousands-of-inmates-out-of-solitary-20150901-story.html*

Ending years of litigation, hunger strikes and contentious debate, 
California has agreed to move thousands of prison inmates out of 
solitary confinement.

A legal settlement announced Tuesday between the state and a core group 
of inmates held in isolation for a decade or more at Pelican Bay State 
Prison calls for the end of the use of solitary confinement to control 
prison gangs.

Instead, the state agreed to create small, high-security units that keep 
its most dangerous inmates in a group setting where they are entitled to 
many of the same privileges as other prisoners: contact visits, phone 
calls and educational and rehabilitation programs.

Corrections spokesman Jeffrey Callison said the state would be able 
to utilize space within existing prisons to relocate the inmates removed 
from solitary.

But the majority of the several thousand gang-associated prisoners who 
have been either kept in isolation a decade or more, or have gone at 
least two years without a major rule violation, are to be moved back to 
the general prison population.

Solitary confinement as it is run now, before the settlement, remains 
reserved for those who commit crimes while behind bars, with set 
sentences that can run no longer than five years, the maximum penalty 
for murder in prison, apart from criminal sentences imposed by a judge.

Lawyers for prisoners in the class-action case say the settlement sets 
the tone for similar changes elsewhere in the nation. "This is a 
dramatic step forward," said Jules Lobel, lead attorney in the case and 
head of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The state prison guard union, which had unsuccessfully attempted to 
intervene in the case, was "concerned."

"In our view California will return to the prison environment of the 
'70s and '80s when inmate-on-inmate homicides were at the highest levels 
and staff were killed," Nichol Gomez-Pryde, spokeswoman for the 
California Correctional Peace Officers Assn., said Monday in 
anticipation of the settlement.

California once led the nation in the use of solitary confinement but 
that position is now held by Texas.

According to the corrections department, California currently has some 
6,400 inmates in isolation units, a number that steadily shrank for two 
years as the state changed its criteria for behavior that is considered 
gang activity and began removing prisoners who no longer met those 
standards.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times <http://www.latimes.com>

*


____________________________________________________________________________

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/02/us/solitary-confinement-california-prisons.html?_r=0* 



  California Prisons Agree to Scale Back Solitary Confinement

Ian Lovett - Sept 1, 2015

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.

The settlement is expected to sharply reduce the number of inmates held 
in isolation in the state, after several years in which tens of 
thousands of prisoners took part in hunger strikes to protest the use of 
solitary confinement, lawyers for the inmates say.

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.

But under the agreement, which settles a lawsuit brought by inmates held 
in isolation for at least 10 years at Pelican Bay State Prison 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/04/health/solitary-confinement-mental-illness.html?_r=0> 
in far Nnorthern California, the state will no longer use solitary 
confinement to separate gang members from the general population. Only 
inmates found guilty of serious prison rule violations — like violence 
against other prisoners, weapons possession or escape — will be sent to 
isolation.

In addition, those sent to the isolation units known as security housing 
— where inmates are often kept alone inside their cells for more than 22 
hours a day — will be held there for limited periods not to exceed 10 
years, lawyer said.

“This brings California in line with more modern national prison 
practices,” said Jules Lobel, the president of the Center for 
Constitutional Rights and a law professor at the University of 
Pittsburgh, who was the lead lawyer in the lawsuit. “People have been 
kept in solitary confinement for outrageously long periods of time. 
That’s one of the problems in the U.S. 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. Mr. 
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.”

Solitary confinement has come under increasing scrutiny across the 
country, as research has revealed the effects of long-term isolation on 
the psyche.

The suicide of Kalief Browder 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/09/nyregion/kalief-browder-held-at-rikers-island-for-3-years-without-trial-commits-suicide.html> 
in June, after nearly two years in isolation at New York City’s Rikers 
Island, brought renewed attention to young people in solitary 
confinement. That same month, Justice Anthony Kennedy of the Supreme 
Court seemed to invite a constitutional challenge 
<http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2015/08/11/us/politics/ap-us-supreme-court-solitary-confinement.html> 
to prolonged solitary confinement.

No state has housed more prisoners in solitary confinement, or kept them 
there for longer, than California, according to the Center for 
Constitutional Rights. As of Monday, 2,858 prisoners were in solitary 
housing units across the state. More than 1,100 were in Pelican Bay, the 
state’s toughest prison, where the isolation cells do not have windows.

The lawsuit settled on Tuesday argued that the long-term isolation 
constituted a form of cruel and unusual punishment, and violated the 
prisoners’ Eighth Amendment rights.

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. And the number of those held for over a decade in solitary 
confinement at Pelican Bay has dropped to 62 from more than 300 in 2012.

The settlement will probably push those numbers down even more, as the 
state moves away from policies that have used solitary confinement to 
help curb gangs.

All inmates who were sent to solitary confinement because of gang 
affiliations will have their cases reviewed within a year; unless they 
have committed another offense, they will be released to the general 
population. 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.

In the future, after serving sentences in isolation, gang members will 
enter a two-year program, during which they will be allowed more 
privileges, before re-entering the general population. (In the past, 
inmates complained that they were named as gang members based on small 
scraps of evidence, like whether their name showed up on another 
prisoner’s list, and once named, they said, it was very difficult to 
disprove.)

And no one will be held in isolation units for more than 10 consecutive 
years, except in rare cases, which will be subject to review by a 
magistrate judge, the lawyers said.

“This settlement represents a monumental victory for prisoners and an 
important step toward our goal of ending solitary confinement in 
California, and across the country,” the inmates who brought the lawsuit 
said in a written statement released by their lawyers. “The prisoners’ 
human rights movement is awakening the conscience of the nation to 
recognize that we are fellow human beings.”

-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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