Today, the parties have agreed on a landmark settlement in the federal class action Ashker v. Governor of California that will effectively 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.
Complete Statement from California Prisoner Representatives:
“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.”