[Pnews] Landmark Agreement Ends Indeterminate Long-Term Solitary Confinement in California

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Sep 1 12:52:53 EDT 2015


  Landmark Agreement Ends Indeterminate Long-Term Solitary Confinement
  in California

/Settlement Reached in California Class Action Suit Moves Out of SHU 
Those There 10 Years or Longer, Ends Solitary Purely Due to Gang Validation/

/September 1, 2015, Oakland – /Today, the parties have agreed on a 
landmark settlement in the federal class action /Ashker v. Governor of 
California / 
willeffectively end indeterminate, long-term solitary confinement in all 
California state prisons. Subject to court approval, the agreement will 
result in a dramatic reduction in the number of people in solitary 
across the state and a new program that could be a model for other 
states going forward. The class action was brought in 2012 on behalf of 
prisoners held in solitary confinement at the Pelican Bay prison, often 
without any violent conduct or serious rule infractions, often for more 
than a decade, and all without any meaningful process for transfer out 
of isolation and back to the general prison population. /Ashker/ argued 
that California’s use of prolonged solitary confinement constitutes 
cruel and unusual punishment and denies prisoners the right to due process.

“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 plaintiffs said in a joint 
“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.”

“Today’s victories are the result of the extraordinary organizing the 
prisoners managed to accomplish despite extreme conditions,” said Center 
for Constitutional Rights President and lead attorney Jules Lobel. “This 
far-reaching settlement represents a major change in California’s cruel 
and unconstitutional solitary confinement system. There is a mounting 
awareness across the nation of the devastating consequences of solitary 
– some key reforms California agreed to will hopefully be a model for 
other states.”

When the case was filed in 2012, more than 500 prisoners had been 
isolated in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay for over 10 
years, and 78 had been there for more than 20 years. They spent 22 ½ to 
24 hours every day in a cramped, concrete, windowless cell, and were 
denied telephone calls, physical contact with visitors, and vocational, 
recreational, and educational programming. Hundreds of other prisoners 
throughout California have been held in similar SHU conditions.

Today’s settlement transforms California’s use of solitary confinement 
from a status-based system to a behavior-based system; prisoners will no 
longer be sent to solitary based solely on gang affiliation, but rather 
based on infraction of specific serious rules violations. It also limits 
the amount of time a prisoner can spend in the Pelican Bay SHU and 
provides a two-year step-down program for transfer from SHU to general 

The agreement creates a new non-solitary but high-security unit for the 
minority of prisoners who have been held in any SHU for more than 10 
years and who have a recent serious rule violation. They will be able to 
interact with other prisoners, have small-group recreation and 
educational and vocational programming, and contact visits.

Extensive expert evidence 
<http://ccrjustice.org/expert-reports-ashker-v-brown> in the case 
established severe physical and psychological harm among California SHU 
prisoners as a result of prolonged solitary confinement. Plaintiffs 
worked with 10 experts in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, 
medicine, prison security and classification, and international human 
rights law. The resulting reports provide an unprecedented and holistic 
analysis of the impact of prolonged solitary confinement on human beings 
and provided guidance in the construction of the settlement reforms.

Federal Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas will oversee these reforms for two 
years, a term that may be extended if the California Department of 
Corrections and Rehabilitation is found to be violating prisoners’ 
constitutional rights.

Representatives of the prisoners who brought this lawsuit and 
plaintiffs’ counsel will meet with CDCR regularly to ensure compliance. 
Plaintiffs’ counsel will receive extensive documentation of the new 
policies and practices and will meet frequently with Judge Vadas to 
oversee the agreement.

“The seeds of this victory are in the unity of the prisoners in their 
peaceful hunger strike of 2011. That courageous and principled protest 
galvanized support on both sides of the prison walls for a legal 
challenge to California's use of solitary confinement,” said Carol 
Strickman, staff attorney at Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, 
which is co-counsel in the case.

/Ashker v. Governor of California/ 
<http://ccrjustice.org/home/what-we-do/our-cases/ashker-v-brown> amended 
an earlier lawsuit filed by Pelican Bay SHU prisoners Todd Ashker and 
Danny Troxell representing themselves. In addition to Legal Services for 
Prisoners with Children, co-counsel in the case are California Prison 
Focus, Siegel & Yee, Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, Christensen O’Connor 
Johnson Kindness ^PLLC ,  Ellenberg & Hull, and the Law Offices of 
Charles Carbone. The case is before Judge Claudia Wilken in the United 
States District Court for the Northern District of California.

Read the settlement submission here 
and a comprehensive summary of the settlement terms here 
All documents in the case are on CCR’s case page 
<https://ccrjustice.org/home/what-we-do/our-cases/ashker-v-brown>. Since 
they cannot speak from prison, CCR is making downloadable video clips 
from the plaintiffs’ depositions available here 

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