The video is well worth watching to gain further information and insight on the conditions of those held in solitary confinement in Pelican Bay’s SHU and the process of gang validations which keeps them there. The rest of the article provides some great domestic and international updates regarding hunger strikes in California’s prisons and prison resistance and activism. In January the Archives will launch a major multifaceted project that highlights the history of activism to close Control Unit prisons entitled Out of Control: A Fifteen Year Battle Against Control Unit Prisons. The origin of this type of torturous imprisonment began in 1985 when the US Bureau of Prisons permanently locked down USP Marion in Illinois. This book project teams the archives with Nancy Kurshan, one of the founders of the Committee to End the Marion Lockdown (CEML), which was a grassroots collective organized around ending the permanent lockdown in Marion Prison. Keep an eye on our blog and Facebook pages for future updates.


Some Statistics on Solitary Confinement in Pelican Bay SHU*

  • 81,622 Number of prisoners in solitary confinement across the United States in 2005, the last year for which the federal government released data
  • 11,730 Number of inmates held in isolation in California prisons today
  • 7 Percentage of California inmates who are in isolation
  • 39 Percentage of inmate suicides that happen in isolation units
  • 78 Percentage of Security Housing Unit (SHU) inmates not classified as gang “leaders” or “members”
  • $12,317 Extra annual cost to taxpayers for each prisoner in the Pelican Bay SHU
  • 11’7″ x 7’7″ Dimensions of a SHU cell at Pelican Bay
  • 6′ x 8′ Dimensions of the average American home’s walk-in closet
  • 51 Percentage of Pelican Bay SHU inmates who have spent at least five years in isolation
  • 89 Number who have been in solitary for at least 20 years
  • 1 Number who have been there for 42 years

*taken from 42 Years of Solitude by Ryan Jacobs, Mother Jones Blog