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Attempts for AB 280 to Pass for Modification of Solitary Confinement in CA State Prisons

Posted by Sara Cooper | Oct 27, 2023 | 0 Comments

The United Nations Standard defines solitary confinement as “the confinement of prisoners for 22 hours or more a day without meaningful human contact,” and it is considered “torture” if it last 15 days or more.

But, Prison officials claim that the state does not conduct solitary confinement, despite prison reform advocates protest how many prisoners can be isolated for more than 22 hours a day.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation calls it “restricting housing”, with a previous calling it of “segregated confinement” or “secure housing,” a Sacramento Bee story notes. Advocates have been protesting this practice for decades with the need for it to be reformed.

“I think (CDCR) would like to continue to essentially operate in a world where there is no clear definition of solitary confinement or pretend that it doesn't exist. But it does exist,” said Hamid Yazdan Panah, advocacy director for Immigrant Defense Advocates, in a Sacramento Bee article.

Assembly Bill 280, with its purpose to modify solitary confinement, was viewed this year in the Assembly and shifted to a two-year bill despite similar reforms being vetoed by Newsom in the past.

According to the Sacramento Bee, “Advocates and supportive lawmakers said they are, however, upset when the Newsom administration announced emergency changes that were not satisfactory.”

“The new rules (starting Nov. 1) would give inmates a minimum 20 hours of outside-cell time per week, would narrow the offenses that lead to solitary and would halve the amount of isolation time for those facing disciplinary measures… (and) allow inmates in solitary to earn credits that would cut down their isolation period and add some rehabilitative programming,” wrote the Sacramento Bee.  

CDCR rules state that isolated prisoners are to be given at least 10 hours of outside-cell time each week, resulting in them remaining in their cells for more than 20 hours a day.

However, Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), who had written AB 280, said that more limits should be applied to solitary confinement in California with the restricted living being considered ot be “in a cell for more than 17 hours a day.”

AB 280 also includes being in solitary confinement and living with other prisoners, with the criteria described as “time spent in a cell and contact with persons other (than) custodial staff.”

The bill would also allow incarcerated individuals to spend at least 6 hours a day outside of their cell doing congregate programming and one hour of group recreation.

Panah said AB 280 would create a definition and a framework for the practice, because “there is no singular definition of solitary confinement in the state of California,” mentioned in a Sacramento Bee article.

More updates to come for AB 280.

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