Transcript: Jules Lobel on the class action lawsuit challenging prolonged solitary confinement in California prisons

Remarks by Jules Lobel, President for the Center for Constitutional Rights, on the Ruiz v. Brown class action lawsuit challenging California’s use of prolonged solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison

(Telephone press briefing held on May 31, 2012) 

“The lawsuit we filed today is based on 4 basic propositions.

“First, that it is a shockingly long period of time to keep human beings locked up in harsh solitary confinement for decades, [deny] people basic human rights and dignity in violation of international standards of civilized treatment. California has not kept one or two or a handful of prisoners in these conditions for many, many years but over 500 prisoners at Pelican Bay for more than 10 years.

Read more: Lawsuit challenges California’s prolonged solitary confinement policy 

“Second, it is unjustified and a violation of the Constitution to place and retain for years prisoners in such conditions simply because they are allegedly associated or affiliated with a prison gang – even if they have never engaged in any violent or other misconduct on behalf of that gang.

“A number of our plaintiffs have been retained simply because they have photographs in their cell or drawings in their cell, which California says has some relationship to a gang, or because they have spoken to people who they say are gang members or because their name appeared on some list of gang members in supposedly good standing in prison cells that they have no idea who it is.

“Third, the extreme conditions at Pelican Bay where the cells have no windows, where there are no telephone calls allowed, where there is nothing in the recreation cell but a ball, where people cannot get parole even if they have no disciplinary violations. Just without any penological justification and it’s purely punitive.

“And finally, the defense does not provide any meaningful review in violation of the due process clause for these prisoners to get out of solitary confinement. Nor do the prisoners have any way of getting out except debriefing, in effect becoming an informant, or to die.

“To put and keep people in these crushing conditions for decades in order to coerce them to provide information on others, which is what the debriefing process requires, is something that the international society considers torture and is beyond the pale for any civilized nation.

“This is a major case challenging prolonged solitary confinement in this country and how it’s practiced in California. And we at the Center for Constitutional Rights hope that it will strike a major blow against the continued use of this type of prolonged solitary confinement both in California and throughout the country.”



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