Image courtesy azprisonsurvivors.blogspot.com 

By Christopher Zoukis

On February 11, 2014 the Public Safety Committees of the California legislature held their second hearing on the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) solitary confinement policies and practices. This hearing was prompted in part due to the massive, and historic, work strike and hunger strike of over 30,000 California state prisoners late last year. The Prison Law Blog stands firmly behind these prisoners in their mission seeking prison reform.

The hearing was titled “CDCR’s Proposed New Policies on Inmate Segregation: The Promise and Imperative of Real Reform,” and was co-chaired by State Senator Loni Hancock (D-Berkley) and State Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco).  Prisoners’ rights attorney Charles Carbone, civil rights attorney Ann Weills, and University of California-Santa Cruz professor Craig Haney were all expected to testify at the hearing on the behalf of prisoners and their plight.  Various CDCR officials were also expected to discuss the department’s management of inmates deemed to be parts of security threat groups (i.e., those believed to be in gangs and others with a history of conduct which makes them more of a threat to prison operations).

While details of the hearing have not yet been widely reported, the initial controversy — outside of the regular black cloud of controversy surrounding solitary confinement and the CDCR — concerned the CDCR’s decision to not allow one of the primary stakeholders to appear: prisoners themselves.  While CDCR prisoners have previously been allowed to testify at legislative hearings, they were not allowed to speak this time.  This was seen as an affront to the very people who are effected the most by the barbaric practice of locking humans up in small cells for months, years, and decades on end.  Evidently, the CDCR felt it most advantageous to their position to not allow the prisoners to testify.  They would be right.  Those of us who have experienced solitary confinement first-hand understand the CDCR’s rationale since we still hold the scars — mental and physical — of such abuse at the hands of our jailers.  This is akin to a unilateral peace “dialogue,” and a sad commentary on CDCR’s view on the important matter of solitary confinement in their prison facilities.

To learn more about the movement to abolish the practice of solitary confinement and the astounding mental and physical damage to those subjected to it, visit SolitaryWatch.org or AbolishSolitary.com.  More information about this hearing on solitary confinement and others, along with the Short Corridor Collective’s (a group of Pelican Bay solitary confinement prisoners) proposals, can be found at https://sfbayview.com/2014/02/solitary-confinement-hearing-feb-11-support-the-prisoner-led-movement-and-their-family-members/.

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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