After California Prisons Release “Gang Affiliates” From Solitary Confinement, Costs and Violence Levels Drop

Significant reductions in California’s use of solitary confinement in state prisons are expected to save the state millions of dollars, perhaps even more if state lawmakers heed the advice of the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO). Contrary to warnings by Governor Jerry Brown and others, the reductions in isolation also appear to be coinciding with a measurable reduction in violence in California’s prisons. With the state prison system’s use of segregation units down by … [Read more...]

What Can Reforming Solitary Confinement Teach Us About Reducing Mass Incarceration?

Although it would have been hard to believe even several years ago, reform of solitary confinement is starting to look inevitable. For decades, a small movement of the incarcerated and their families, advocates, medical and mental health professionals, and forward-thinking corrections leaders labored against solitary confinement with only rare, incremental, and quiet success. Compare that to the last few years: two of the largest prison systems in the country (California and New York) announced … [Read more...]

California Agrees to Overhaul Use of Solitary Confinement

California has agreed to an overhaul of the use of solitary confinement in its prisons, including strict limits on the prolonged isolation of inmates, as part of a landmark legal settlement filed in federal court on Tuesday. The settlement is expected to sharply reduce the number of inmates held in the state’s isolation units, where nearly 3,000 inmates are often kept alone for more than 22 hours a day in cells that sometimes have no windows, and cap the length of time prisoners can spend … [Read more...]

Advocates Seek to End Solitary Confinement Options for Young Offenders

Daivion Davis, 21, was convicted of second-degree attempted murder and voluntary manslaughter in 2009 after he opened fire in a gang shooting that killed a 16-year-old honors student attending the homecoming football game at Wilson High School in Long Beach. During his time at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar, he made more than three dozen trips to the solitary confinement unit, Davis says. Those stays, he says, ranged from four hours to 17 days. A few times, guards sent him there … [Read more...]

The Archipelago of Pain

e don’t flog people in our prison system, or put them in thumbscrews or stretch them on the rack. We do, however, lock prisoners away in social isolation for 23 hours a day, often for months, years or decades at a time. We prohibit the former and permit the latter because we make a distinction between physical and social pain. But, at the level of the brain where pain really resides, this is a distinction without a difference. Matthew Lieberman of the University of California, Los Angeles, … [Read more...]

At Hearing on Solitary Confinement in California Prisons, Advocates Challenge “Reforms”

e’re here to question the existence and effects of the SHU,” stated California Assembly Member Tom Ammiano recently, “and we don’t think this new proposed policy goes nearly far enough.” Ammiano, who chairs the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee, was speaking at the second joint California Assembly-Senate hearing on the use of solitary confinement, including SHUs (Security Housing Units), in the state’s prisons. Representatives from California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation … [Read more...]

Confronting California’s Abuse of Solitary Confinement

Solitary confinement can eat away at someone’s mind, making mental illness worse and leaving many people depressed, suicidal, hopeless or hallucinating. It’s no place for individuals with mental illness. In 1995, a federal court in California agreed. After a trial exposing the appalling conditions at Pelican Bay—the state’s most notorious, all-isolation, supermax prison and the site of repeated hunger strikes—a federal judge ordered all mentally ill prisoners out of the prison’s security … [Read more...]

One Month After Historic Hunger Strike, California Lawmakers Hold Hearings on Solitary Confinement

Tell us the truth, even if it’s not pleasant,” State Assembly member Tom Ammiano told California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officials, advocates, formerly incarcerated people and family members. On Wednesday, October 9, the California legislature’s Public Safety Committee held the first of several hearings about the use of solitary confinement in California’s prisons. These hearings were prompted by a 60-day hunger strike that rocked California’s prison system this … [Read more...]

Drawing the Line: Architects and Prisons

Architects have been tested immemorially by the question of where to draw the line, and the choices are not exclusively aesthetic. Because buildings have uses and frame and enable particular activities, their ethical aspect is inevitable by simple association. The connection can be fuzzy or clear. Bauhaus grads worked on the plans for Auschwitz, and someone thought hard about the ornamentation on the facade of the Lubyanka. This was unambiguously wrong. So too was the target of the first … [Read more...]

A Prison of Cruelty: End Injustice in Criminal Justice System

When some friends began talking to me about the need for prison reform a few years ago, I was already on the verge of “issue fatigue.” I was already committed to a number of important issues, from abolishing nuclear weapons to reducing carbon emissions, from national immigration reform to the Fair Food Campaign, from care for returning veterans — especially those suffering from moral injury — to promoting a regenerative economy, from seeking equal rights for LGBT persons to opposing our … [Read more...]