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Major reform of solitary confinement introduced in California Senate

March 17, 2014

Sacramento, March 17, 2014 – Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, today introduced new legislation to revise and reform solitary confinement conditions and procedures in California’s prisons.

'Inside prisons & out in the streets, support the movement to end solitary confinement' poster“Isolating large numbers of inmates for long periods of time, as we are currently doing, is an expensive and deeply troubling practice that undermines effective rehabilitation and long-term public safety,” Sen. Hancock said.

The legislation is designed to achieve four goals:

  1. Increased oversight and accountability.
  2. Integrity and fair treatment in detention decisions.
  3. Humane conditions in the SHUs (Security Housing Units, or solitary confinement).
  4. Positive incentives for inmates to change their lives.

“There are many, many problems with the current solitary confinement system,” Hancock continued. “It is ineffective at controlling gang behavior in prisons, useless in helping to rehabilitate prisoners, costly to taxpayers and a threat to public safety when inmates are released directly to the streets after years – sometimes decades – of solitary confinement.”

“Isolating large numbers of inmates for long periods of time, as we are currently doing, is an expensive and deeply troubling practice that undermines effective rehabilitation and long-term public safety,” Sen. Hancock said.

Hancock is amending a previously introduced bill, SB 892, to institute specific reforms to the solitary confinement process, including:

  • Establishing independent outside oversight by requiring the Office of the Inspector General to review indeterminate solitary confinement detention cases and to conduct regular reviews of each inmate serving an indeterminate SHU term.
  • Strengthening integrity in the system by requiring CDCR to provide inmates with an advocate throughout the SHU detention process and creating a new position specifically to assist inmates and their families with issues such as visitation rights and access to support networks.
  • Prohibiting the placement of seriously mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement and requiring that every inmate in solitary confinement be evaluated by a mental health professional every 90 days.
  • Establishing “exit roadmaps” by creating individual rehabilitation plans for all SHU inmates and re-entry plans for inmates who may be paroled directly to the street from solitary confinement.
  • Streamlining the “Step Down” program for return to the general prison population and providing inmates with regular reports on how they are progressing.
  • Establishing more humane conditions in solitary confinement by providing inmates with physical and mental stimulation, including opportunities to interact with other inmates and staff, access to educational programs, and creating an incentive program for inmates to earn privileges such as a monthly phone call, photographs or yard time.

“These reforms are necessary to bring California into the mainstream of modern corrections practice,” Sen. Hancock stated. Other states – from Mississippi to Maine – have already significantly reduced the use of solitary confinement. My proposal will strengthen safety, security and stability in the prison system while also creating effective rehabilitation opportunities in a humane environment,” Hancock concluded.

Sen. Loni Hancock chairs the California Senate Public Safety Committee and is co-chairing a series of joint hearings on solitary confinement with Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, who chairs the Assembly Public Safety Committee. She can be reached at State Capitol, Room 2082, Sacramento, CA 95814, 916-651-4009, or at her district office, 1515 Clay St., Suite 2202, Oakland, CA 94612, 510-286-1333. She can also be reached via her website, at http://sd09.senate.ca.gov/contact.

 

One thought on “Major reform of solitary confinement introduced in California Senate

  1. Marilyn

    Paraphrasing Nelson Mandela: To know a country, look into its prisons. Solitary confinement is torture and does not belong in the United States. Ending the practice and finding alternatives will not be easy, but we must.

    Reply

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