We ask you to reform the use of solitary confinement at California's Secure Housing Units (SHU’s) by insuring that the placement of any prisoner there be based the commission of specific acts rather than on mere association with others. Because of the serious nature of long-term isolation, prisoners should receive full due process, adjudicated by an independent body, when they are considered for transfer into the SHU. There must also be a clear path for prisoners to be released from the SHU that involves a program of specifically defined steps lasting no more than 18 months.
For years, California has imposed long-term isolation on prisoners sent to its Secure Housing Units (SHU’s) to an extent virtually unheard of in other states and countries. The Los Angeles Times (September 5, 2011) reports “U.S. prisons typically reserve solitary confinement for inmates who commit serious offenses behind bars. In California, however, suspected gang members — even those with clean prison records — can be held in isolation indefinitely with no legal recourse. Indeed, hundreds have been kept for more than a decade in 8-by-10-foot cells, with virtually no human contact for nearly 23 hours per day. Dozens have spent more than two decades in solitary, according to state figures. … All but 26 of the 1,056 prisoners isolated in Pelican Bay as of July 1 were being held for their suspected gang affiliations, not for other specific actions or rule violations. Nearly 300 had been there for more than a decade, 78 for more than 20 years.”
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has recently introduced changes in its policies and procedures regarding confinement in the SHU’s, and these changes are the subject of a legislative hearing on February 25, 2013. While the Friends Committee on Legislation of California welcomes change, we believe the new policies fall short of significant reform and that the measures outlined in our petition must be instituted in order to stop the abuse of solitary confinement. We invite you to sign our petition today to let Governor Brown and the new Secretary of the CDCR, Jeffrey Beard, know that you support significant and meaningful reform.
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