After Hunger Strikes, Solitary Confinement Reforms Come to California’s Prisons——and Leave Thousands Behind

A corridor in the Pelican Bay SHU, where the hunger strikes began. (Photo: Michael Montgomery/KQED)

Four years ago today, approximately 6,600 people in California prisons launched a hunger strike in protest of long-term solitary confinement. The protest would be the first of three large-scale actions by state prisoners to bring awareness to the issue of long-term solitary confinement. At the epicenter was Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, home of […]

Will Revamped Prison Regulations Reduce Solitary Confinement in California?

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California prison officials have announced a number of changes to state regulations pertaining to the use of solitary confinement and other forms of extreme isolation. The reforms come in the run-up to the fourth year anniversary of the first of three large-scale hunger strikes launched by individuals in the state’s Security Housing Units (SHU) in protest […]

Seven Days in Solitary [6/7/15]

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The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts. • A New Jersey bill hopes to reduce the limits on solitary confinement to no more than two days in a row for 15-year-olds, no more than three for those […]

Voices from Solitary: The Safari from Pelikkkan Bay

A cell in the Pelican Bay SHU, where the writer lived for two decades.

Kijana Tashiri Askari has been in solitary confinement since 1994 after he was “validated” as a member of the Black Guerrilla Family. Until recently in California’s prisons, people who were validated as gang members were sentenced to indeterminate stays in the Security Housing Unit (SHU), where they spent nearly 24 hours in windowless cells. In […]

UN Torture Investigator Barred from Visiting American Supermax Prisons

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More than two years ago, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez, asked the U.S. State Department for permission to visit individuals in solitary confinement in supermax prisons and isolation units. He is still waiting for a response. Recently, our colleague Sarah Shourd interviewed Méndez for an article in the Daily Beast that describes his […]

In California Prisons, Hundreds Have Been Removed from Solitary Confinement———and Thousands Remain

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It has been over three years since the first statewide hunger strike in protest of the California prison systems’ use of solitary confinement. The hunger strike, the first of many to follow, was launched by individuals housed in the state’s Security Housing Units (SHUs). The hunger strikes prompted state Legislative hearings, international scrutiny, and some […]

Working from the Inside Out

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Guest Post by Maya Schenwar Editors’ Note: The following is an excerpt from Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better, a new book by Maya Schenwar. Locked Down, Locked Out shows how “the institution that locks up 2.3 million Americans and decimates poor communities of color is shredding the […]

“A Girl Hung Herself Yesterday”: Deaths in Custody at California Institution for Women

Shadae "Dae Dae" Schmidt, who died in CIW's solitary confinement unit in February.

On July 30, 2014, Margarita Murugia was found hanging in her solitary confinement cell at the California Institution for Women (CIW). “She was there for her own protection, not because she did something,” wrote April Harris, a woman currently incarcerated at CIW. ” Apparently her mom was dying of cancer and they refused to let her […]

In the Story of Jonah, an Urgent Lesson About the Dangers of Solitary Confinement

Billy Sell, Corcoran State Prison in CA. Billy Sell died during last year's prison hunger strike.

Guest Post by Margo Schlanger The following piece originally appeared in September 2013 in Tablet, and is republished here by permission of the author.  Margo Schlanger is a professor of law at the University of Michigan and the former Department of Homeland Security Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. She helped to draft the American […]

Seven Days in Solitary [8/31/14]

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The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts. • A federal judge approved the state of California’s plan to reduce the solitary confinement of prisoners suffering from mental illness. According to a recent story in The New York […]