Oct 01 2012

Amnesty International Finds California State Prison SHUs in Violation of International Law in New Report

California’s controversial Security Housing Units or SHUsare the subject of a scathing new report by Amnesty International documenting the abysmal conditions facing the 3,000 state inmates who are kept, sometimes for years, in solitary confinement. The report, entitled “The Edge of Endurance: Prison Conditions in California’s Security Housing Units,” alleges that SHUs while nominally used to segregate the most violent and disruptive members of the prison population, are often employed to house mentally ill inmates or those guilty of only minor rule violations. Prisoners unfortunate enough to find themselves placed in a SHU can expect more than 20 hours a day confined to a cell with little natural light, an hour or two outdoors in a walled concrete yard for exercise, and a complete lack of human contact. Amnesty finds that California’s SHUs may be in violation of international law and treaties the US has signed such as the UN Convention Against Torture.

In 2011, SHU prisoners at Pelican Bay, one of the two state prisons examined by the report, staged a hunger strike protesting the conditions of their incarceration. The action attracted widespread international media attention and spread to prisons around the state, at one point involving an estimated 6,000 inmates. The result was a modest victory for the prisoners who managed to win some small concessions from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, even as the use of SHUs and solitary confinement continues.

Speaking about his incarceration at Pelican Bay, an unnamed prisoner quoted in the report had this to say, “With no goals to strive for, or hope for release out of isolation, I can sum up our existence in the SHU with two words, ‘soul-crushing’.”

GUEST: Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of Amnesty International

Visit www.amnestyusa.org for more information.

Click here to download Amnesty’s report.

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