This week I read on SF Bay Review that California State and local prison have been forced to limit their use of solitary confinement units, or SHU. This is thanks to a settlement reached in the Ashker vs Brown federal class action suit.
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of prisoners held in Pelican Bay State Prison’s infamous Security Housing Units (SHU) for more than 10 years, where they spend 23 hours a day or more in their cells with little to no access to family visits, outdoor time or any kind of programming.
I’m glad to hear that as many as 2500 inmates are going to be released from the SHU. Solitary confinement is widely deemed a form of torture. Limited access to the outside world will make an individual go crazy. If prisons are supposed to reform inmates, then SHU does nothing to make the inmate a better person. As the inmates are released from SHU, they now have access to resources such as the library. They also receive better food and better commissary, just as the other inmates have.
However, SHU was also a way to control and minimize gang violence and riots. Other SHU inmates were there to keep them from committing suicide or being killed. There are some inmates that want to “knock off” the shot callers and kill off snitches. Locking up inmates is a form of protective custody and those inmates will still be alive until the end of their sentences.
On the other hand, if SHU is supposed to keep inmates safer, what happens when inmates decide they want to go back to SHU? Most of them purposely violate rules just to go back in, how does that make prison safer? Will the CO and administrators send them back because of their actions? Perhaps the administrators should give them a lesser disciplinary action because of their previous extended time in SHU. There are also prison administrators that want inmates to stay in SHU. What’s keeping them from pulling an inmate out of SHU and then sending him back in two hours? It’s easy for them to justify their wrongdoings; all that is required of them is to say that “the inmate is a security risk.”
Either way, this clearly isn’t the end of solitary confinement in California. I have firsthand knowledge of prison rules disobeying the law. The prison camp does not always operate as the law requires.
Let me know what do you think below. Do you think it’s a good thing to minimize solitary confinement?