David Pratt – California will overhaul its use of solitary confinement in prisons, including ending indefinite solitary, following a lawsuit filed by inmates held in isolation for at least 10 years at the state’s Pelican Bay prison.
As of Tuesday, when the lawsuit was settled, more than 1,100 were still in solitary at Pelican Bay, the state’s toughest prison; 2,858 prisoners were in solitary across California. Under the agreement, that figure could fall by as many as 1,800 inmates statewide.
Under the settlement, prisoners won’t be sent to isolation for “indefinite” periods and gang members won’t get solitary solely for being gang members. The practice of locking someone in a 10X10 room for up to 22 hours a day in isolation, will only be used with inmates found guilty of serious infractions like violence, weapons and narcotics possession, or attempted escape. The state will also create new long-term units, with more privileges than solitary, for those too dangerous for general population.
Human rights activists and organizations call the centuries old practice of solitary confinement torture. Many inmates, across the country, have been kept in isolation for years, if not decades, some strictly as a punitive measure and not because they pose a danger. The rise in the use of solitary confinement in the nation’s prisons coincides with the rise in mass incarceration and it’s symbiotic relationship with the growing private prison industry.
In July, Obama became the first U.S. president to ever visit a federal prison. At the time, he called for reforms to the system and a decrease in mass incarceration…a kinder, gentler police state.
Eddie Conway was a Leader of the Baltimore chapter of the Black Panthers, released from prison on March 4, 2014 after having served 43 years and 11 months.