Solitary confinement at Pelican Bay targeted in lawsuit
A federal lawsuit filed Thursday seeks to end the prolonged use of solitary confinement in California, calling the practice cruel and unusual punishment.
The lawsuit was filed by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, and lawyers want to pursue the case as a class-action on behalf of inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison who have been in solitary confinement for more than 10 years.
“The prolonged conditions of brutal confinement and isolation such as those at Pelican Bay have rightly been condemned as torture by the international community,” said Jules Lobel, the center's president, in a statement. “These conditions strip prisoners of their basic humanity and cross the line between humane treatment and barbarity.”
The lawsuit said California's practices render the state "an outlier in this country and in the civilized world" by allowing an inmate to "languish, typically alone, in a cramped, concrete, windowless cell" for about 23 hours a day.
Earlier this year officials said they were reviewing their policies with an eye toward reducing the number of inmates in segregated housing units. The decision to place an inmate in segregated housing will be based more on their behavior in prison than just gang affiliation, said Jeffrey Callison, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
In March, inmates and advocates asked the United Nations to investigate solitary confinement in California, which they called "torture." Inmates have also staged hunger strikes to protest prison conditions.
-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento
Photo: A guard tower at Pelican Bay State Prison near Crescent City, Calif. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press