California is basically at the top of the ladder when it comes to progressive policies. Once our state does it, everyone will pretty much follow if it aligns with their official's values and the people's voices. However, even with how much we have advanced with prison reform, we are a progressive state that still uses solitary confinement at high rates to this day, even though other states have banned it completely.
Public opinion typically leans towards the idea that solitary confinement is a wrong and punitive practice within jails and prisons but the understanding of how it works and who it impacts most is a different reality that many are not in awareness of. Populations such as pregnant people or who have recently gave birth to disabled groups to those who are dealing with ageism are disproportionately impacted by solitary confinement. Even if a person experiences it for one day, it is harm that is taken along with them for the rest of their lives.
Research has shown that exposure to solitary confinement horribly impacted disabilities and chronic conditions that prisoners have, putting people's lives at risk more than imagined. There is also demonstration that psychological harms and risks to cardiovascular health based on exposure to solitary confinement. Premature death is also another pattern of this extensive punishment.
Solitary confinement is classified as a form of torture by the United Nations, yet reforms have not been passed by California to get rid of it altogether.
Solitary confinement does not have a shy history in our state. According to Los Angeles Daily News, “It took a massive hunger strike in our prisons a decade ago to bring attention to the issue, yet our prisons are still engaged in this egregious practice. Our jails are no better, and even the private immigration detention facilities in our state routinely keep people on 23 hour lock down for no good reason.”
Recently however, a new law is being reviewed by California legislators on limiting the use of solitary confinement to 15 days, not applying the punishment at all to pregnant people, disabled people, and other vulnerable populations. Assembly Bill 280, a bill called the California Mandla Act by Assemblyperson Chris Holden, would apply to prisons, jails, and private detention centers.
Gov. Newsom vetoed a similar bill last year, despite recognizing that the issue was “ripe for reform.” Newsom directed the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to issue regulations on the issue in 2022, but little has been heard or seen from them. This issue also ignores the need for reform in county jails and private detention facilities according to Los Angeles Daily News.
This act needs to be ensured that disabled prisoners are not deserted into isolation and further damaged by the torture of solitary confinement. Leaving those behind that are already dismissed in other areas of society should not be more disadvantaged while in solitary confinement. The California Mandela Act is a necessary law we need in this state.