Success: California to End Indefinite Solitary Confinement

A bird is perched on barbed wire that surrounds the Jilava prison near Bucharest

Target: Jules Lobel, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights

Goal: Thank plaintiffs and their council for winning the battle to end indefinite solitary confinement in California.

A settlement has been reached to fundamentally change all aspects of California’s solitary confinement and immediately release inmates who have been in prolonged isolation after a hard-fought lawsuit against the state. This settlement is a huge success for activists who believe solitary confinement is inhumane and for the thousands of California prisoners currently in isolation.

Solitary confinement has been on the forefront of activism for prison reform due to its devastating effects on those in isolation. Thanks to the support from activists, the legal work of the Center for Constitutional Rights and it’s President–Jules Lobel–who acted as lead attorney on the case, the state is finally making the necessary reforms in a system that has left inmates psychologically damaged and suicidal.

The plaintiffs in this monumental case were Todd Ashker and Danny Troxell, inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison who each spent over a decade in solitary confinement. Solitary confinement places inmates in a small dark chamber where they spend 23 hours a day with no sunlight or human contact. Inmates in California’s overcrowded jails were chosen for solitary confinement based off supposed gang affiliation, which could be something as simple as possession of artwork that contained gang symbols.  Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on inhumane or degrading punishment, has compared solitary confinement to torture.

The settlement will immediately release prisoners who spent more than 10 years in prolonged isolation, put an end to indeterminate-length sentences in solitary confinement, and ensure that inmates are no longer placed in solitary confinement for their gang affiliations without other causes. The state is creating high-security units that allow group activity, rather than total isolation, for prisoners considered too dangerous to stay in the main prison blocks.

Prison reform activists have been paving the way for what is being praised as a landmark lawsuit settlement and a game-changer for the prison system. Sign this petition to show your support and appreciation for prison-reform activists, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Pelican Bay inmates who led this lawsuit and Jules Lobel, the lead attorney who fought it for them.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Jules Lobel,

Thanks to your hard-fought litigation, California is finally making much-needed reform in a damaging practice. The Ashker v. Brown settlement is a huge victory for those seeking prison reforms and a life changer for the inmates who will be released from solitary confinement. Extended isolation is a cruel practice that no human being deserves. You gave a voice to the voiceless–to those who have had their rights stripped away from them. You fought on the forefront of a battle that prison reform activists have been seeking to win.

I agree with your stance that we should get rid of solitary confinement entirely, but thanks to your perseverance, thousands of inmates will be freed from their torturous conditions. Although the fight isn’t completely over, this massive victory is the beginning of the end for solitary confinement in California and a model for other solitary confinement states to follow.

I thank you and the Center for Constitutional Rights and the plaintiffs for taking a stand and forcing California to reconsider an ineffective and inhumane practice.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Bogdan Cristel

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