Reduce Isolation Time for Inmates

Pelican Bay State Prison

Target: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Goal: Give California inmates more opportunities to socialize and leave their isolation units

Prisoners in California’s solitary confinement recently went on a hunger strike, protesting their horrid conditions. In 2012, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation promised that reforms will come to the penitentiaries. They stated that there would be more opportunities out of isolation, but many of these prisoners haven’t even been moved out of their cells. Five hundred prisoners have spent more than 10 years in isolation at Pelican Bay State Prison and 78 of these prisoners have stayed in isolation for over 20 years. Instead, measures have been taken that seem to punish these prisoners for voicing their opinions. Thirty-minute checks into the cells conducted by guards, including during the night, have been issued. The psychological impact of losing sleep and being in isolation for 22 hours every day is crippling and does nothing to rehabilitate prisoners.

Now that the hunger strike is underway, many officials suspect that this will be the largest hunger strike in California state history. Not only are these prisoners refusing food, but some are refusing to do their work assignments. Prison officials are now bracing for a long-term hunger strike. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation states that it will not recognize this movement as a strike until inmates have gone without food for nine days. The Supreme Court is also looking upon this case in contempt, as it ordered California to reduce the number of prisoners by 10,000 at the end of 2013 — this quota still has not been met. Conditions have unfortunately not improved; recently the spread of valley fever forced 2,000 inmates to be moved for their health and safety.

California Isolation Infograph, courtesy of Amnesty International

A ‘step-down’ program has been implemented for prisoners to earn their way into leaving the isolation units. However, a criteria must be met and even if those prisoners are cleared to start the program, they remain in isolation for their first two years.  Demand that these prisoners get more time out of their cells. Give them opportunities to socialize with other inmates and get reacquainted with society.


Dear California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation,

I implore you to reduce the amount of time your inmates spend in isolation. Twenty-two hours a day does not produce a well balanced person, nor will it produce a rehabilitated citizen. As seen through the hunger strike, the inmates feel that they have been robbed since the department promised reforms would happen. The ‘step-down’ program is unfair as the first two years into the program the inmate is still in isolation.

The purpose of a prison should be to rehabilitate and hope that inmates will become well-meaning citizens when they leave the penitentiary. There are severe psychological impacts to the psyche if a person remains in isolation for even a short time. Imagine the consequences when they stay in isolation for 10 or even 20 years with nothing to do and no one to talk to. To build a better future these inmates must be given opportunities to socialize and time in isolation must be shortened drastically.


[Your Name Here]

Photocredit: California Department of Corrections and Recreation via Wikimedia Commons

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