Lawsuit Filed against California for Pelican Bay Decades-Long Solitary Confinement
The Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a lawsuit against the State of California, alleging that holding prisoners in solitary confinement for decades is unconstitutional as “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Coverage of the suit is at the Guardian.
The Guardian article points out that more than 500 of the prisoners held in Pelican Bay’s secure housing unit (SHU) have been there for more than a decade.
While a person must be convicted in court to be sent to prison, no such requirement exists for prison officials to send prisoners to the SHU, where they spend at least 22 hours a day locked in cells and are kept under conditions of extreme isolation.
From the Guardian article:
Gabriel Reyes – sentenced to 25 years to life after burglarizing an uninhabited building – was allegedly denied a telephone call home when his stepfather died because he had been allowed a telephone call months earlier when his biological father passed away. Reyes has not hugged his daughters in nearly two decades.
The primary reason prisoners remain in the SHU, according to the suit, is their refusal or inability to “debrief” administrators on the gang activity of other inmates; essentially providing officials with every piece of information they have on the violent gang they are accused of being linked to.
According to the plaintiffs’ complaint, the requirement “condition[s] release from inhumane conditions on cooperation with prison officials in a manner that places prisoners and their families in significant danger of retaliation”.
Gabriel Reyes story is described in more detail in a column published in today’s SF Chronicle.