Fight Continues in Courts, Community Rallies

Fight against Indefinite Solitary Confinement Continues in the Courts, Community Rallies in Support

What:  Rally & Hearing in Ashker v. Brown
When:  Wednesday June 4, 1:30 p.m
Where: Oakland Federal Building, 1301 Clay Street, Oakland, CA – Courtroom 2

California prisoners challenging long-term indeterminate sentences in solitary confinement will continue their fight in the courtroom Wednesday afternoon during a status conference in Ashker v. Brown, a federal lawsuit on behalf of prisoners at the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit (SHU). Since the last hearing eight months ago, there has been significant attention focused on the oppressive conditions in Pelican Bay, and just yesterday a federal judge allowed hundreds of imprisoned people to join the lead plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit.

At issue is the use of long-term solitary confinement in Pelican Bay Prison. In the prison’s SHU, prisoners spend 22 ½ to 24 hours a day in tiny, windowless cells without contact visits, telephone calls, or access to programming. While UN standards suggest that more than 15 days in this type of punishment amounts to torture, more than 500 imprisoned people have been held for more than 10 years in these conditions, and for many their sentences in SHU are indefinite.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), the defendants in the case, plan to argue that because of new regulations, the Due Process Claim in the lawsuit should be dismissed. Attorneys for the prisoners disagree, claiming the regulations are insufficient to address the prisoners’ concerns. Plaintiffs’ attorney Jules Lobel of the Center for Constitutional Rights states that “CDCR’s new reforms do not resolve the underlying issues that have led to this lawsuit – indefinite solitary confinement under torturous conditions.” The lawsuit continues the effort led by prisoners who undertook an historic hunger strike last summer to demand an end to indefinite solitary confinement and bring about fundamental changes in the draconian policies used to keep prisoners in solitary. Their peaceful protest garnered unprecedented support, as 30,000 prisoners participated and some refused food for 60 days.

“This lawsuit is an important step in our loved ones’ fight to end the torture of solitary confinement,” said Marie Levin of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, whose brother Sitawa Jaama (Ronnie Dewberry)is one of the lead plaintiffs in the case. Says Levin, “As always, we will be with them every step of the way – in the courts, in the legislative process, or out in the community.  We will use every means available to us, until the torture is ended.”

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