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April 28, 2011

New prisoner suit in California contests race-based lockdowns

As detailed in this new AP article, which is headlined "Group sues California over race-based prison lockdowns," a new lawsuit assails how lockdowns are conducted in the Golden State.  Here are the basics:

California's use of race as a basis for locking prisoners in their cells after fights amounts to illegal discrimination and should be banned, attorneys representing inmates said in a class-action lawsuit filed Wednesday. The policy unfairly punishes innocent inmates simply because they have the same color skin as those involved in the violence, the nonprofit Prison Law Office said in its suit, filed in federal court in Sacramento.

Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said lockdowns are sometimes necessary to protect safety and security. It is not the department's policy to base lockdowns and other restrictions solely on race or ethnicity, she said.

However, a proposed revision to the department's lockdown policy says inmates often organize themselves based on race or geographical area. The policy acknowledges that some uninvolved inmates may be affected, but it is the department's goal to get them back to a normal routine as soon as possible.

Rebekah Evenson, an attorney with the Berkeley-based Prison Law Office, said the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a similar argument in 2005 when it told the state to end its policy of housing inmates based on their race. The high court and other states have found that such race-based policies encourage violence by splitting inmates along racial lines, Evenson said.

April 28, 2011 at 08:53 AM | Permalink

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From the complaint, which is available at: http://www.prisonlaw.com/pdfs/MitchellComplaint.pdf :

During a lockdown – which can last for months or years – prisoners of the affected race are typically locked in their cells twenty-four hours a day, deprived of any outdoor exercise, religious services, visits and even phone calls with family members; all the while, prisoners of other races move freely through their regular activities in the prison.

Each year, CDCR imposes more than 350 race-based lockdowns...

A separate but related violation arises from the excessive length of the lockdowns. CDCR regularly imposes lockdowns that last for months and years, well beyond the time when any “emergency” situation would have passed. Some lockdowns have lasted as long as ten years. In the last two years, four prisons imposed lockdowns lasting longer than a year, and another eight prisons imposed lockdowns lasting longer than 200 days. More than 80 lockdowns in the California prisons lasted longer than 60 days. There is no legitimate penological interest supporting such excessively lengthy lockdowns.

CDCR is vastly out of step with other State prison systems. Most state systems isolate those involved in disruptive behavior, and quickly return all other prisoners to normal programming.

Posted by: James | Apr 28, 2011 5:53:09 PM

Unfortunately we will probably never get past "racial profiling". It seems to find its way into many aspects of our lives both in and out of the prison system. I do believe it can promote violence by setting up barriers and facing people off against one another.

DJ|
Student

Posted by: Diet plan for fatty liver | Apr 29, 2011 12:29:51 AM

how true james. florida has specific "T" buldings with 1 man cells for the ones who like to make trouble. they can be shoved into those and fed though the door. very easily.

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 29, 2011 2:21:15 AM

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