From the News Wires
This is the second lawsuit in three years that has been filed in California by prisoners who have spent years living in extreme isolation.
California has more prisoners and utilizes solitary confinement more than any other prison system in the country.
Both cases assert that long-term solitary confinement violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has denied them meaningful review of their placement, violating their Fourteenth Amendment right to due process.
These lawsuits seek to end indefinite solitary confinement in California, which prisoners claim has brought them serious mental and physical suffering.
Prisoners in solitary are condemned to living in windowless cells, no larger than a typical parking spot, some for up to 20 years without consequential reviews of their placement.
The lawsuit filed by Siegel last week names six death row prisoners suing in San Quentin’s Adjustment Center, claiming they are deprived of basic human needs such as human contact, sunlight, adequate recreation and proper medical care.
“Experts have shown that being in solitary conditions for longer than 15 days causes irreversible psychological damage and constitutes torture,” said Dan Siegel, citing the consensus of many leading experts in the U.S. and around the world.
“Prisoners are human beings, and the law and Constitution state that people should be treated humanely, even in prisons, and have the right to be treated like other prisoners unless for misconduct,” said Siegel.
“Even then, fair procedures are needed to decide who goes in and for how long because indefinite solitary confinement constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.”
The plaintiffs in both cases have been assigned to solitary solely for alleged gang affiliation. The lawsuit asserts that these accusations rely more on perception than actual evidence that a prisoner has participated in gang activity.
According to Siegel, accusations by a prison informant, flashing a gang sign or even greeting a suspected gang member is enough evidence to send an inmate to solitary indefinitely, as long as several decades.
The prisoners claim they are then denied meaningful reviews of the evidence that condemned them to isolation.
“These two lawsuits are part of a growing movement in the US to reign in abuses of law enforcement that have not been seriously examined by courts,” said Carol Strickman, an attorney with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC) representing the plaintiffs in Pelican Bay’s Secure Housing Unit (SHU).
These lawsuits are part a larger movement to challenge the use of indefinite isolation as a punishment, awakened by hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013 that were initiated by prisoners in Pelican Bay’s SHU.
The hunger strikes grew to include 30,000 participants in prisons across the country, including those is San Quentin’s Adjustment Center.
Just last week, US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy fiercely condemned the widespread use of solitary confinement in state prisons, writing that “the penal system has a solitary confinement regime that will bring you to the edge of madness, perhaps to madness itself” if left unchecked by the courts.
Coutesy of the Oakland Post, June 28 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)
The post Lawsuits Challenge Solitary Confinement in State Prisons as “Inhumane and Degrading” appeared first on Ken A. Epstein.
By Ashley Chambers
After months of debate, the City Council unanimously voted this week to create a Department of Race and Equity to address systemic racism and inequality in the City of Oakland.
The council voted at its special budget meeting Monday for full funding of the department, $520,730, to pay for the hiring of a director, program analyst and administrative assistant.
Authored by Councilmember Desley Brooks, the proposal came before the council earlier this year to create the new city department to begin to come to grips with the systemic racism and inequity in city policies and practices that adversely impact communities of color.
Over the past few months, hundreds of community members have come to council meetings to speak in favor of the proposal. They talked about the desperate need for the city to take action to deal with gentrification and the displacement of families, the lack of minority contractors on city projects, failure to enforce tenant protections and persistent underfunding of job programs for reentry, youth, and unemployed residents.
Over 50 organizations and 700 residents have expressed their support for the new department.
Speaking at the Council meeting Monday, Post Publisher Paul Cobb called for the councilmembers to endorse, support and fully fund the Department of Race and Equity.
Cobb read a text message sent to him from community advocate José Dueñas who died last weekend. Backing the new department, Dueñas wrote:
“I think we need to create a coalition of Latinos, African Americans and Asians to discuss how to deal with the inequities in this city and this county.”
“This is just a first step, and the next step to what started out as affirmative action… I still remember how tenacious you (Paul Cobb) were with me (during that time)…We must do that again now.”
Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney, who endorsed the department and fully funded it in her proposed budget, said, “Oakland is changing and we need to have a department to ensure that we continue to respect and honor our diverse population and that we are able to do that proactively.”
She added, “The focus is really about how the city delivers its services to ensure that (local) government is serving all sectors of its residents, and all geographic sectors of the city.”
This victory for the Department of Race and Equity makes Oakland one of few cities around the country, along with Portland and Seattle, that have created departments to ensure equality and fairness for all residents.
Among other issues, the Department of Race and Equity will need to look at unequal enforcement of city zoning policies, said Brooks.
“It’s the planning and the zoning decisions that have allowed for auto body shops to be next door to somebody’s house, that allow for environmental issues to impact communities of color, that allow for West Oakland to have (a higher) asthma rate because of the bad conditions,” she said.
“We need a Department of Race and Equity because we have normalized the conversation of race,” Brooks said. “When you think about the incidents that just happened in South Carolina…we need a Department of Race and Equity because there are systemic issues that unless we address them we will never get to where we need to be.”
Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 28, 2015 (postnewsroup.com)
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