CDCR Set to Defend Policies, Prisoners and Advocates Call for Comprehensive Change
What: Legislative Hearings on CDCR Proposed New Policies on Inmate Segregation
When: 9:30 a.m.
Where: Room 4202 on the fourth floor of the State Capitol annex, Sacramento, CA
Rally to Follow Immediately After the Hearing
Sacramento—Advocates and loved ones of California prisoners will travel across the state on Tuesday to attend a special hearing of the California Public Safety Committee on “new policies” being proposed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Tuesday’s hearing is the second hearing convened in direct response to this past summer’s massive prisoner hunger strike in protest of California’s use of solitary confinement in its notorious prison system. The CDCR will tout so-called reforms in its “Inmate Segregation” policies, and is expected to claim that comprehensive changes to its isolation and anti-gang policies are underway. Advocates, activists, lawyers, and prisoners themselves have reviewed the CDCR’s new policies and will show the department’s changes do little to nothing to diminish the use of extreme isolation. Prisoners and their supporters are calling for elected officials to enact legislation that will comprehensively diminish, if not all together do away with the state’s use of prolonged solitary confinement. A lively rally will be held immediately after the hearing.
“Isolating large numbers of inmates in the SHU for long periods of time is an expensive and deeply troubling practice that undermines effective rehabilitation and long-term public safety,” said state senator Loni Hancock in a press release. “We are working towards meaningful change, and at the end of the day we want to get it right,” continued Hancock, who has spearheaded the hearings along with Assemblyperson Tom Ammiano.
The CDCR has congratulated itself on developing comprehensive changes to is prisoner management and segregation policies, issuing a lengthy and often confusing “revision” of its policies where it claims to have made reforms to how it targets, or “validates” prisoners as members of “security threat groups (STG)” and how a prisoner held indefinitely in solitary confinement could work their way out based on its “step down program (SDP).” Pelican Bay prisoner Antonio Guillen has been held in solitary confinement in Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit (SHU) has reviewed every iteration of the policy. “The new policy outlines who is eligible for validation as a STG member or associate and subsequently placed in the Step Down Program. Which, for all intents and purposes, is the SHU,” said Guillen in a written message. “The way the new STG policy is drafted goes far beyond the practices used to validate prisoners in the past. Under the old process a prisoner could only be validated if he or she was considered a member or associate of the several, so-called “traditional prison gangs.” But under the new STG policy ANYONE can be subjected to this abusive practice, as a wider net has been cast. Thus, making no one safe from the validation process and ensuring and increase in the SHU population.”
Indeed, under the new regulations the CDCR identifies at least 1500 security threat groups and reserves the right to categorize any group of three or more prisoners that “presents a potential threat to the security of the institution.” The new step down program still hinges on prisoners de-briefing – or snitching – in order to be considered for any increase in privileges or the possibility of returning to general population from solitary.
“CDCR’s proposed regulations are just smoke and mirrors.” Say civil right attorney Anne Weills, who will be a panelist at Tuesday’s hearings. “Behind the turgid and confusing language of the CDCR’s documents is the same unconstitutional practice of indefinite detention and solitary confinement. The new policy with its draconian disciplinary matrix gives prison officials almost total discretion to find someone guilty of alleged gang activity, allowing a prisoner to remain in the SHU for the rest of their lives.”