[Pnews] Historic settlement to end CA indefinite solitary confinement finalized in court

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jan 27 15:27:22 EST 2016

*Historic settlement to end CA indefinite solitary confinement finalized 
in court*
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition
January 27, 2016*

OAKLAND - On Tuesday, Federal Judge Claudia Wilken approved the final 
agreement to end indefinite solitary confinement in California calling 
it humane, innovative and fair. Prisoners celebrated the settlement 
agreement, whose terms were agreed on last September, claiming it as a 
victory that bolstered their struggle for human rights.

Anne Weills, one of the attorneys representing the prisoners, pointed 
out that “what was missing from the courtroom were all the prisoners who 
risked their lives in the hunger strikes of 2011 and 2013.” She went on 
to say, “Yes, our litigation team did the best we could to bring our 
clients out of indefinite solitary confinement and into the light of day 
– but there is no doubt that we could not have gotten where we have with 
this settlement without the leadership of the brilliant, courageous, 
fearless and enlightened men in the Short Corridor at Pelican Bay who in 
2011 set this all in motion.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights released data showing the agreement 
has already led to the transfer of hundreds of prisoners from segregated 
housing units back to the state's general prison population.

Between preliminary approval of the California settlement in October 
2015 and January 22, 2016, 686 out of a total of 1,813 prisoners 
entitled to reviews under the settlement have been reviewed for release 
into the general prisoner population; 546 of the prisoners reviewed, 
nearly 80 percent, have been cleared for release into general 
population; and 437 have actually been released from solitary 
confinement. The vast majority of prisoners who have been reviewed but 
not cleared are awaiting a higher-level prison review; most are expected 
to be released into general population as well. The settlement requires 
all first-level reviews to be complete within one year.

Jules Lobel, the attorney representing the Center for Constitutional 
Rights said “we look forward to the full implementation of all its terms.”

One of the longtime prisoner organizers, Mutope Duguma, cautions, “The 
power of the legal support and the family/community support is what 
literally humanized us prisoners to the rest of the world.  The 
countless families and friends did a remarkable job in representing us 
from an emotional and human perspective and our legal support 
represented our civil and human rights, and together they both 
re-humanized us as men and women. This is what made it possible for us 
to be able to demand such a settlement. It is with this family, 
community, and legal support that we demand accountable implementation 
of the settlement. We know what works so let’s stay the course.”

A recently released letter written by one of the main representatives of 
the prisoners asks that prisoners “Monitor and report on the functional 
implementation of prison conditions and CDCr employees, holding their 
feet to the ground and letting CDCr employees know that they are not 
above the Ashker v. Brown Settlement Agreement.”

The settlement transforms California’s use of solitary confinement from 
a status-based system, in which prisoners were isolated indefinitely 
based on vague and unsubstantiated allegations of gang affiliation, to a 
behavior-based system, in which solitary confinement is used only as 
punishment for serious rule infractions and only for determinate periods 
of time. It also limits the total amount of time a prisoner can spend in 
the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison. The 
settlement includes a two-year monitoring period, which may be extended 
if the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is found 
to be violating prisoners’ constitutional rights or the settlement terms.

When the case was filed in 2012 on behalf of prisoners in Pelican Bay, 
more than 500 of them had been isolated in the SHU 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, and the 
settlement applies to all of them.

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