SACRAMENTO – Senator Loni Hancock and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano will convene a joint hearing of the Public Safety Committees of their respective houses on Wednesday, October 9th, to consider the use of solitary confinement in California’s maximum security prisons in the context of the nearly two-month hunger strike in California prisons this summer.
Sen. Hancock and Asm. Ammiano called for the hearing in response to the issues raised by the hunger strikers, including the use of long-term solitary confinement.
"The hunger strike made us look at these conditions, but they have been problematic for years," Ammiano said. "We want to start looking at other ways to deal with the security needs in our prisons in a way that makes sense from a correctional and a human rights standpoint."
"I want this hearing to look closely at the use of solitary confinement. It has been recognized as an extreme form of punishment that leads to mental illness if used for prolonged periods of time. Other states, from Maine to Mississippi have adopted new policies and practices with good results. Since many of these inmates will eventually complete their sentences and be released into the community, it is in all of our interest to offer rehabilitation while they are incarcerated - not further deterioration," Hancock said.
The hearing will focus on two main issues:
- The conditions of confinement in the state's maximum security prisons.
- Long-term solitary confinement as a prison management strategy – and as an issue of human rights.
The hearing will consist of three panels:
- A description of current conditions in California's maximum security prisons – including testimony from Inspector General Robert A. Barton and Michael Stainer and Kelly Harrington with the Division of Adult Institutions, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
- A look at solitary confinement practices from a national perspective – including testimony from Margaret Winter, associate director of the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Keramet Reiter, assistant professor, University of California, Irvine.
- The effect of segregated confinement on inmates and families, including testimony from Dorsey Nunn, executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children; Dolores Canales, family member of current inmate of the security housing unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay SP; and Steven Czifra, UC Berkeley student, formerly incarcerated in segregated housing units (SHUs).
Wednesday's hearing will be held at 1 p.m. in State Capitol Room 4202, and will include 25 minutes for public testimony.
CONTACT: Carlos Alcalá, Communications Director for Assemblymember Ammiano, (916) 319-2017