Following three peaceful prisoner hunger strikes over the past several years in protest to conditions of torture in California prisons, legislators have taken notice, introducing legislation to restrict the use of solitary confinement, including Assembly Bill 1652. Assembly Bill 1652 is designed to bring significant changes to California's use of solitary confinement. The bill passed its first hurdle by a 4 to 2 vote (with one abstention) in the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee last week and now moves to Appropriations. News coverage is available here.
AB1652 would prohibit the use of solitary except for 14 very serious offenses, and would effectively end the bitterly contested practice of “gang validation” that has led to thousands of prisoners serving indefinite sentences in solitary based merely on association with other prisoners.
In addition, Senator Loni Hancock introduced legislation on March 17, 2014, that would reform the state's use of solitary confinement. Two highlights of the bill are that it would prohibit placing people with mental illness in solitary confinement and it would require the Office of Inspector General to conduct regular reviews of all individuals with indeterminate SHU terms.
In addition, in February 2014, SB 970 was introduced to limit the use of solitary confinement for juveniles in California. NRCAT’s letter of support for SB 970 is available here.
Hunger Strike: On Monday July 8, 2013, over 30,000 incarcerated people in California began their third peaceful hunger strike to protest the inhumane conditions of their confinement in long-term isolation. On September 5, the hunger strike was suspended. See the press release from NRCAT. To learn more about the hunger strike go here. As a result of the historic hunger strike in California prisons this summer, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and State Senator Loni Hancock committed to host a series of hearings and legislation to address conditions of solitary confinement.
The first of such hearings was held on Wednesday, October 9 in Sacramento. To view powerful excerpts from the hearing compiled by Lucas Guilkey and shared by the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, visit here. For the hearing in its entirety here, go to "Joint Informational Hearing on Segregation Policies in California Prisons" dated October 9, 2013.
The second of such hearings was held on Tuesday, February 11 in Sacramento.
Links to news stories covering the use of solitary confinement in California and developments to confront its use are available here.