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 v 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.
On one hand, I’m glad to hear that as many as 2500 inmates are going to be released form the SHU. Not only is it widely seen as a form of torture, but with so little access to the outside world, an individual will go crazy, which does nothing to make the inmate a better person. By releasing them from the SHU, these inmates now have access to the same resources, such as the library, better food, and better commissary, as the other inmates.
On the other hand, some of those inmates were in the SHU because it was a way to stop gang violence and minimize riots. Some of the inmates in the SHU were there to keep them alive. Some inmates want to knock off the shot callers or kill off snitches. By locking them up in the SHU, those inmates will still be alive until the end of their sentence.
I also questioned what is going to stop a prison administrator from taking the inmate out of the SHU and putting him back in there two hours later? The only reason they would need is to say, “the inmate is a security risk,” and he’s back in the SHU. Also, if it is safer for the inmate to stay in the SHU, what if he does something purposefully to return to the SHU? Does the CO and administrators send the inmate back? Or will the administrators give that inmate a lesser disciplinary action because he’s been in the SHU, previously, for a long period of time.
Clearly this isnt the end of solitary confinement in California. However, I know that the laws in which the prison is suppose to operate under and the actually rules in which the prison operate under are two separate things.
Let me know what do you think below. Do you think it’s a good thing to minimize solitary confinement?