LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Solitary confinement opponents have filed a lawsuit hoping to get state officials to release thousands of documents about the use of “isolated segregation” in California prisons.
KNX 1070’s Claudia Peschiutta reports activists with California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) are suing the state’s top corrections official for allegedly refusing to publicly disclose data regarding solitary confinement rules, policies, and practices.
The lawsuit against Jeffrey Beard, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), takes aim at the use of what are officially known as Security Housing Units (SHU), “a policy which subjects thousands, probably 11,000 prisoners a year to cruel, degrading treatment,” according to attorney Peter Shea.
The lawsuit claims that CDCR is violating the California Public Records Act and calls for the release of thousands of documents with information about prisoners in isolated segregation and policies and procedures dealing with those inmates.
Starting last July, more than 30,000 inmates in California prisons refused meals in a hunger strike aimed at calling attention to the use of solitary confinement. As a result of the strike, 100 prisoners were released from solitary confinement and 500 more moved closer to being transferred out of SHU, according to CFASC.
Lawmakers in Sacramento also began a series of hearings in February on problems related to the practice of solitary confinement in response to the hunger strike.
Gloria Ferrias, who says her brother Marco has been in solitary confinement for four years, said supporters of prison reform need to continue pressing for answers from the state.
“It hurts, but you have to stay positive or else the system is gonna bring us down and break us,” Ferrias said. “Like their breaking them inside, they’re breaking us outside.”
CDCR spokesperson Terri Thornton would not comment on the lawsuit until the agency received it, but she did deny the practice of “isolated segregation” in state facilities.
“The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation does not have any housing unit that it considers ‘solitary confinement’,” said Thornton.
CDCR officials are in the process of reviewing cases of inmates who received indeterminate placements, according to Peschiutta.