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Solitary Confinement Abuse Rampant in California Prisons

Ricky Gray has been in solitary confinement since 2006, despite having a violence-free prison record and no major disciplinary infractions.

Shane Bauer’s excellent Mother Jones article on solitary confinement—which tells Gray's story—is the latest addition to a long line of depressing indictments of the draconian methods practiced in California prison system. Bauer’s research suggests that nearly 12,000 Californian inmates are currently housed in some form of isolation, with 3,809 of these serving an indeterminate sentence. David Barneburg, the institutional gang investigator for California’s Pelican Bay prison, claims that segregating gang members through solitary confinement is the only way to keep prisons from being overrun by racial conflict and killings. Despite this the rate of violent incidents in California prisons has risen almost 20 percent in the 23 years Pelican Bay has been in operation.  

In 2006 Ricky Gray was validated as a member of the Black Guerrilla Family (a gang classified as a ‘security threat group that, according to Californian prison officials, operates within the state’s prisons.) In order to make the official classification the state of California requires at least three pieces of evidence pointing towards gang membership with at least one of these showing a ‘direct link’ between the prisoner in question and a validated gang member.

But the state doesn't seem to have met this standard in Gray's case. A review ordered by a sympathetic warden found that many of the informants in Gray’s case didn’t even know Gray. Two alleged informants signed sworn affidavits documenting that they were never interviewed about Gray and hadn’t even met the guard who compiled the original statements.

But before action could be taken, the sympathetic warden in charge of Gray’s review moved on, leaving it up to the initial gang investigator to choose to overturn the validation status. After he refused to do so, Gray took the case to court where it was ruled that;

A prisoner has no constitutionally guaranteed immunity from being falsely or wrongfully accused of conduct which may result in the deprivation of a protected liberty interest.

Bauer suggests that this is merely another way of saying that "it is not illegal for prison authorities to lie in order to lock somebody away in solitary."

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    A prisoner has no constitutionally guaranteed immunity from being falsely or wrongfully accused of conduct which may result in the deprivation of a protected liberty interest.

    Holy hell.

  • R C Dean||

    OK, fine, nobody has immunity from being accused.

    But that doesn't really get to actually depriving someone of a protected liberty interest on the basis of known false testimony, does it?

  • John||

    Procedures were followed. The law in this country is sick with procedure. Creatures like the judge in this case absolve themselves of any moral responsibility by mindlessly seeing if the procedures were followed. It is hard to figure out whether this guy was maltreated. So she doesn't do it. It is easy to just see if the procedures were followed and not worry.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Solitary? May I get a good book and a glass of tea? Please?

  • Enough About Palin||

    Were I in prison, that's what I'd want. I have no interest in interacting with my fellow prisoners.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    But prison guards are altruistic citizens who care only about protecting the public.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    I have always had an abiding ...discomfort... about anyone who would put himself in prison for a living. I first realized that when a friend became a prison guard and later told me he could get me a job there. I recoiled in horror at the idea, much to my own surprise.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Even more than being a cop, prison guards MUST be willing to exert their authority over others. They're the worst sort of person alive.

  • Mensan||

    They strongly and vocally dislike being called guards. I have been told that it is degrading, insulting, and derogatory to their authority. They prefer to be called corrections officers. I make sure to always call them guards.

  • John||

    The judge who wrote that opinion leaving an innocent person in solitary was a Clinton appointee. Stanford Law, partner at a large law firm. In other words, totally and completely removed from reality. How do you leave a guy in solitary and just write "no right not to be falsely accused"?

  • Loki||

    A prisoner has no constitutionally guaranteed immunity from being falsely or wrongfully accused of conduct which may result in the deprivation of a protected liberty interest.

    What the...? I don't even... HUH??!!!?

    I realize that convicted felons do lose some rights, such as the right to vote, but what the fuck?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    A prisoner has no constitutionally guaranteed immunity from being falsely or wrongfully accused of conduct which may result in the deprivation of a protected liberty interest.

    Tulpa, is that you?

  • John||

    Question. If a big hated flyover state like Mississippi ran a prison system like California does, would the major media be more interested in talking about it?

  • T||

    Practically speaking, California is the only state than could afford to run their prison system. It would bankrupt anybody else, including Texas, as it's about to do to California.

    I full well realize Texas has it's own history of seriously fucked up prisons, but in this as in so much else, Cali wins the prize for sheer WTF.

  • tarran||

    If a big hated flyover state like Mississippi ran a prison system like California does,

    They wouldn't. Look at the way they ignored the controversy with 'Doctor' Steven Hayne. It's been years since Radley Balko exposed that guy committing tens of felonies and perjuries and yet very little has changed.

  • John||

    True. And there have been similiar scandals in Oklahoma and Texas.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    I realize that prison abuse is important and all, but where the fuck are the evening links?

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    As long as it is adequately comfortable, clean and the food is acceptable and the guards don't rape, I would rather do time in confinement than deal with a bunch of racial fuckwads and buttrape. If any of those conditions are unavailable than the legal system and Tulpa's "rule of law" can go to hell.

  • ||

    This is torture. I don't know if any of these people deserve to be tortured, but it is torture. It destroys minds in days, not weeks.

  • Robert||

    Am I missing something here? Solitary confinement = private accommodation, while other forms of confinement = semi-private room. And being forced to share a room with a convicted criminal is considered better than being locked up alone?

  • Mendelism||

    And after a decade when you start to lose the ability to speak and develop mental disorders that the prisons ignore (or even better, use an a further excuse to keep you in isolation), I understand from this article that you won't be allowed to change your mind about this or get any recourse.

    Humans are social animals, even the misanthropes among us will go crazy if we're alone for too long. As callmeishmael says above, this is torture.

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