California prisons revamp isolation cells policy


BY PAUL ELIAS, Associated Press

This undated photo released by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation shows inmate Todd Ashker. Prison officials tossed convicted killer Todd Ashker into California's notorious Security Housing Unit 25 years ago after “validating” him as a member of the Aryan Brotherhood gang. He's still there today, along with some 2,000 other SHU prisoners classified as gang member or associates serving indeterminate sentences in windowless cells in almost complete isolation. Photo: Associated Press / SF

This undated photo released by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation shows inmate Todd Ashker. Prison officials tossed convicted killer Todd Ashker into California‘s notorious Security Housing Unit 25 years ago after “validating” him as a member of the Aryan Brotherhood gang. He’s still there today, along with some 2,000 other SHU prisoners classified as gang member or associates serving indeterminate sentences in windowless cells in almost complete isolation. Photo: Associated Press / SF
Prison officials tossed convicted killer Todd Ashker into California’s notorious Security Housing Unit 25 years ago after “validating” him as a member of the Aryan Brotherhood gang.He’s still there today, along with some 2,000 other SHU prisoners classified as gang member or associates serving indeterminate sentences in windowless cells in almost complete isolation.

They say their only way out of the 8-foot by 10-foot cells with few creature comforts for many is to inform on other gang members, which they say is really no choice because they face deadly retaliation if they do “debrief.”

A recent system-wide hunger strike by 6,000 inmates called attention to the living conditions of the thousands of prisoners held in the units. But the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says they are the worst of the worst — inmates who when not isolated threaten other inmates and run gang and drug operations from inside prison walls.

Nonetheless, CDCR is in the midst of what it calls a “dramatic” policy shift in how it determines who belongs in isolation and what SHU inmates need to do to return to the general population. It intends to review the case file of thousands of SHU inmates to determine if they should be transferred to better living conditions.

Since October, CDCR officials have reviewed 88 SHU cases and decided that 58 SHU inmates will be transferred. Another 25 have been placed in a “step-down” program and can work for their transfer to the general population.

Continue Reading @ SFGate

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