SOLITARY WATCH: In California, Hundreds Have Been Removed from Solitary Confinement—and Thousands Remain


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

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 reforms.

The SHU, first established in 1989 at Pelican Bay State Prison, was designed to house the “worst-of-the-worst” in close, secure, isolated confinement. Keeping individuals in small, windowless cells for 22 1/2 to 24 hours a day eventually proved to be a convenient solution to deal with individuals exhibiting behavioral or mental health problems and real or suspected gang affiliation as well.

The SHU, once limited to Pelican Bay, has been expanded to a total of four male facilities…

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