50% of solitary confinement inmates reviewed under CDCR’s pilot program are recommended for release to general population

WTF CDCR 3.13.13

More than half of the solitary confinement inmates reviewed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation since October have been recommended for release to the general population, raising concerns about the fairness of the state’s past gang validation policies and the practice of holding “gang associates” in isolation for years.

Since CDCR launched its new “Security Threat Group” pilot program in October, state prison officials have been reviewing the case files of inmates held in Security Housing Units (SHU) or solitary confinement due to their alleged “association” with prison gangs.

Read more: Roundup: Testimonies on California’s solitary confinement policies, Secure Housing Unit (SHU) step-down program & revised gang validation criteria

Of the 144 cases assessed under the new standards, more than half or 75 inmates have been recommended for release to the generation population, according to Michael Stainer, CDCR’s Deputy Director of the Division of Adult Institutions. Another 55 inmates have been identified for participation of the new step-down program in which SHU inmates with “good behavior” can “earn their way” out of solitary confinement in 4 years, and 17 inmates will remain in the SHU because of “self-proclaimed safety concerns”.

“Based on the current review, a high percentage of the SHU inmates are being recommended for release into the general population, and that would appear to say that this evidence with the old policy was flawed,” said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano at the Public Safety Committee hearing on Feb. 25. “My concern is that there is a good number of prisoners who’ve been in the SHU for so many, many years, and then only is it now that we’re saying perhaps that was a mistake or that there could be some redemption.”

Stainer, however, insisted that the high percentage of SHU inmates being recommended for release does not mean that CDCR’s old gang validation and management policies were flawed.

“The fact we release 75 of the offenders we reviewed – over 50% – to the general population…does that mean our prior policy was flawed? I want to say unequivocally no,” said Stainer. “We are applying the criteria of our pilot program to [the] review of these offenders and if they don’t have any serious criminal activity that would result in a serious rule violation that would result in their placement in the SHU program based upon the act itself, then they would be qualified within the last 4 years to be approved for release to the general population where they’ll be monitored.”

CDCR officials assured lawmakers that the case files of all the 5,000-plus inmates held in Security Housing Units will be reviewed within 2 years.

At the public hearing in Sacramento, prisoner rights advocates and families of inmates held in solitary confinement complained about the “excruciating” slow pace of CDCR’s review.

One woman read a letter written by her husband, who has been held in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison for 26 years:

“I went to classification the other day and asked them where I stood in terms of the step-down program. Has my filed been reviewed? What step…am I likely to end up in? They told me my file had not yet been reviewed and to justify the delay that they were reviewing the files of those who have been in the SHU the longest. When I told them that I had been in the SHU since 1987 – for 26 years – they got all quiet, glanced down to my file for a second, and they quickly looked up and said, ‘Well, we should be getting to you soon.'”

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10 Comments on “50% of solitary confinement inmates reviewed under CDCR’s pilot program are recommended for release to general population

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