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August 8, 2008

Practitioner's Notes: California to Integrate Prisons (At Last)

As recent news articles have described, here and here, the State of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has finally taken tentative steps toward integrating its prisons.  For many years, California had been one of the only states to acknowledge using race to segregate prisoners.  Under former CDCR regulations, prisoners were separated by race in double cells for up to 60 days each time they entered a new correctional facility, on the rationale that the policy prevented violence caused by racial gangs.  The Supreme Court ruled the practice unconstitutional in Johnson v. California, 543 U.S. 499 (2005).  (Proskauer Rose represented the petitioner, an African-American inmate, before the Supreme Court.)

Although more than three years have passed since Johnson was decided, progress has been slow.  The desegregation process has been met with resistance, particularly among inmates who recognize the primacy of race as a determinant of prison social conduct.  The first integrations follow more than a year of education of staff and inmates of the legal requirement and benefits of ending California’s long history of prison racial segregation.  The celling of inmates of different races and ethnic groups follows individualized study of the more than 174,000 California inmates and characterization of them by CDCR staff as “eligible” to be housed in an integrated setting.  Close attention to race-based gang affiliations has driven the classification effort, and violent racists will currently remain segregated.

Sierra Conservation Center and Mule Creek State Prison are the first California institutions to integrate, and there are plans for integration to spread statewise by January.  It is anticipated that all 30 of California’s prisons will make the transition by 2010.

California will surely benefit when its prisons are de-segregated.  First, the official sanction for a discarded policy will be lifted. Second, prisoners will face a world in which race is not an official determinant of fundamental policies such as where and with whom a prisoner will live. Finally, the prospect for an easier transition into a racially mixed culture outside of prison will be enhanced. In short, all sound penalogic policies will be advanced by getting California out of the practice of racially segregating its prisoners.

Bert Deixler

Proskauer Rose

August 8, 2008 at 03:42 PM | Permalink

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Comments

They'll kill each other!

Posted by: Paul | Aug 8, 2008 4:14:24 PM

I don't know if this is a "sure" thing or not.

Posted by: S.cotus | Aug 8, 2008 4:41:24 PM

"In short, all sound penalogic
policies will be advanced by getting
California out of the practice of
racially segregating its prisoners."

One of the most truly naive statements
ever to appear on this site.

CDC guards readily admit that the
prisoners segregate themselves. Guards
often check with the tier bosses to
determine if a certain individual is
OK for housing or a work detail. If the bosses
say "no," then that person is "rolled
out" and placed in another tier. About
90% of the time, the bosses make these
decision based on race.

We'll see just how much protection
Mr. Johnson's firm can provide him once
he publicly turns his back on "his
people" and cells up with another
group.

Posted by: Large County Prosecutor | Aug 8, 2008 5:22:27 PM

It's nice to see this firm using this blog to pat itself on the back. Truly responsible. Also, it's irresponsible to say that CA prisons are segregated. Anyone with even passing knowledge of the Johnson case can't say that with a straight face.

Posted by: anon1 | Aug 8, 2008 10:44:59 PM

If I am to under Mr. Deixler correctly, he thinks California prisoners attitudes will change when the "official sanction" of race based policies are eliminated. Mr. Deixler, why do you think they are in prison in the first place? It surely was not because the state officially sanctioned their crimes.

All this decision will do is increase the opportunity for race based violence. Nothing more. CDCR will make mistakes in their evaluation and now they have less time to do it. Race based gangs who could give a darn about the "education" they are receiving will absolutely take advantage. While Mr. Deixler surely believes in his cause, that does not make him right.

Posted by: David - prosecutor | Aug 9, 2008 2:21:21 PM

I agree. The internet should not be used to hype one's own firm or to make money.

Posted by: Scotus | Aug 10, 2008 9:40:37 PM

"In short, all sound penalogic
policies will be advanced by getting
California out of the practice of
racially segregating its prisoners."

I could be mistaken, but isn't protecting prisoners from violence based on thier race a "sound penalogic policy"?

Posted by: Monty | Aug 11, 2008 10:14:54 AM

I PERSONALLY THINK THAT WILL NOT WORK. THATS LIKE PUTTING A GROUP OF PEOPLE THAT DONT KNOW EACH OTHER AND ASKING THEM TO TRUST EACH OTHER FOR YEARS AND YEARS INMATES HAVE ADAPTED TO THE PRISON HABITAT HOW DO YOU THINK THEY CAN ADJUST BY 2010?

Posted by: jasmine williams | Jul 23, 2009 1:23:17 AM

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