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.SB 61: On January 8, 2013, California State Senator Yee introduced a bill (SB 61) limiting the harmful use of solitary confinement in juvenile facilities.
SB 61 seeks to, among other things, reform the definition of solitary confinement, make sure that solitary confinement is not used as punishment, make sure that juveniles are only held in solitary confinement for the minimum amount of time, establish screenings to identify mental health issues that would be worsened by solitary confinement, and to make staff review daily all juveniles in solitary confinement.
On Tuesday, April 23, the California Senate Committee on Public Safety hosted a hearing to consider SB 61. The bill passed the Public Safety Committee. Next, on Monday, May 13, the bill was considered at a hearing before the Committee on Appropriations where it met approval. It then passed the Senate floor vote with a decisive vote of support, 24-14 on May 29, 2013. Full text of the amended bill can be found here.
Learn more about SB 61 from this fact sheet.
On August 23, 2011, NRCAT supporters joined with 200 other advocates in a witness against prolonged solitary confinement at the California State Capitol and after the witness, many attended the California State Assembly Committee on Public Safety’s hearing about solitary confinement. Rev. Will McGarvey, who testified on behalf of NRCAT and the faith community, spoke out against the detrimental effects of solitary confinement. Additionally, over 600 Californian endorsements of NRCAT’s statement against prolonged solitary confinement were delivered to the Governor’s office the same day.
As a follow up to the issues and recommendations raised during the California State Assembly Committee on Public Safety’s hearing, NRCAT sent packets to all California Assemblymembers and Senators that included Rev. McGarvery's testimony, the over 600 Californian endorsements of NRCAT's statement against prolonged solitary confinement, and model legislation to limit the use of solitary confinement.
Please join us in calling for an end to prolonged solitary confinement in California prisons. Let’s make sure the demand for change intensifies in 2013.
Links to news stories covering the use of solitary confinement in California and developments in reforming the practice are available here.