[Pnews] CA Prisoners Who Continue to Be Held in Solitary Ask Full Ninth Circuit for Review

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Sep 7 11:10:51 EDT 2020


  Prisoners Who Continue to Be Held in Solitary Ask Full Ninth Circuit
  for Review

August 31, 2020

    District Court Found CDCR Had Violated Settlement, but Appellate
    Panel Reversed

August 31, 2020, San Francisco –/ Today, men who sued the state of 
California for imprisoning them in solitary confinement for over a 
decade asked the full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to review a panel 
ruling that reversed a decision that the California Department of 
Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) had violated the terms of a 
settlement agreement in the case. The district court had ruled that CDCR 
violated the settlement when it transferred men imprisoned in Security 
Housing Units (SHU) for over 22 hours-per-day to units in which they 
receive less out-of-cell time than they did in the SHU, as well as when 
it deprived certain people any social interaction with other prisoners. 
But a three-judge appellate panel reversed that decision. The petition 
filed today 
requests that the full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals hear the appeal.

“Keeping prisoners, who have not violated any disciplinary rules, in 
their cells nearly all day long is cruel, contrary to California law and 
federal standards, and represents terrible management of a prison system 
costing over $13 billion per year,” said Sam Miller, cooperating counsel 
with the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The 2015 landmark settlement agreement 
in the class action case was intended to effectively end indefinite 
solitary confinement throughout California prisons, and explicitly 
stated that it settled claims regarding “the conditions of confinement” 
under which those imprisoned in the SHU had long been held. Under the 
agreement, the CDCR agreed to transfer nearly 1,500 people held in the 
SHU to General Population. But hundreds of men have been transferred to 
Level IV facilities where they spend even /more/ time isolated in their 
cells than when they were in the SHU. By contrast, attorneys say people 
in General Population in California prisons are entitled to more than 10 
hours per week out of their cells, and that continuing to confine these 
men for more than 22 hours per day repeats the constitutional violations 
the settlement agreement was intended to remedy. The district court 
found that CDCR had violated the agreement. However, the appellate panel 
held that, because the settlement agreement did not specify that those 
in General Population should receive more time out-of-cell than they did 
in the SHU, CDCR had not violated the agreement. Attorneys say that 
22-hours-per-day locked in one’s cell is not consistent with any 
professional or reasonable definition of “General Population.”

The appellate panel also reversed the district court’s ruling that CDCR 
had violated the settlement agreement in a second way: by denying people 
held for their own safety in “Restricted Custody General Population 
Unit” (RCGP) any group yard and recreation at all, despite the 
settlement requiring that they be able to participate in “group yards” 
and “activity groups.” Instead, CDCR put half of the RCGP prisoners on 
“walk alone status,” where they are denied all group activities. In 
reversing the district court’s ruling that this violated the settlement 
requirement, the appellate panel concluded that, as long as the men 
receive time in “small group yards,” it does not matter “how many, or if 
any, other prisoners [are] in the same group yard.”

“A group of one is not, under any definition, a /group/. It is the 
opposite,” said Miller. “Allowing such an absurd interpretation of the 
plain meaning of a word not only condemns these men to the same 
deprivation they fought so hard to alleviate, it will sanction 
re-interpreting any agreement to undercut the entire purpose it was 
intended to serve.”

Since 1989, California held thousands of prisoners--disproportionately 
Black and Latino men--in extremely prolonged solitary confinement in the 
state’s Security Housing Units (SHU) at Pelican Bay and other prisons, 
based solely upon gang validations--determinations that a federal 
district court found had been made in violation of due process. Many of 
these men were in the SHU for more than twenty eight years. People 
imprisoned in the SHU are held in cramped, concrete, windowless cells, 
and denied telephone calls, contact visits, and vocational, 
recreational, and educational programming. In an evaluation of men held 
indefinitely in the SHU, the Human Rights in Trauma Mental Health Lab at 
Stanford University found they experienced “psychological symptoms 
during their time in SHU [] which have persisted or even worsened while 
in [General Population]” including “hypersensitivity to stimuli, 
anger/irritability, anxiety, insomnia, paranoia, emotional numbing 
and/or dysregulation, obsessive compulsive thoughts and behaviors, and 
problems with concentration, attention, and memory.”

/Ashker v. Governor of California/ amended an earlier lawsuit filed by 
then-Pelican Bay SHU prisoners Todd Ashker and Danny Troxell 
representing themselves. Co-counsel in the case with the Center for 
Constitutional Rights are Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, 
California Prison Focus, Siegel & Yee, Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, Bremer 
Law Group PLLC, Ellenberg & Hull, the Law Offices of Charles Carbone, 
and the Law Office of Matthew Strugar.

For more information, visit the Center for Constitutional Rights’ case 
page <https://ccrjustice.org/home/what-we-do/our-cases/ashker-v-brown>.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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