Transcript: Opening remarks by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano at the joint legislative hearing on solitary confinement in California – Oct. 9, 2013

Partial transcript of opening remarks by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) at the joint legislative hearing on “Segregation Policies in California Prisons: Current Conditions and Implications on Prison Management and Human Rights” on Oct. 9, 2013:

…Recently at the beginning of this year – February or so – we did visit Pelican Bay and I hope through these hearings we can find a common among the stakeholders to implement, you know, whatever policy changes may be necessary.

You know, I’m older. I don’t want lip service. I want real testimony from those who are the most concerned and, if necessary, I want legislation from these hearings.

I’m not particularly thrilled with the process of solitary confinement. I’d like to hear what CDCR [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] has to say in regard to the justification for it. I know that sometimes, in fairness, they’re between a rock and a hard place. However, you know, many, many of the situations that have been described to the Senator and I are beyond the pale, of people being in the SHU for 25 and 30 years.

The hearings that we have previously resulted in what I thought were some cosmetic changes, not changes that have the kind of depth and substance that we’re seeking. So, you know, spare us today. Tell us the truth even if it’s not pleasant because maybe working together we can come up with a solution to what I think has been a very, very aberrant policy attitude on the part of the CDCR. I’m not saying everybody there is a bad person or any of that, but there’s real people and real families and are we really doing the right thing?

So today, we’ll hear from the Inspector General, who is charged with overseeing the state correctional system, and from representatives from CDCR who will provide us with the physical descriptions of the conditions of segregated confinement. Next, we’ll hear from the academic speakers, including the Associate Director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project. And finally, we’ll hear from a former inmate of the SHU at Corcoran and Pelican Bay state prisons. And then we will be able to take some public comment.

And we know that we do have a line of communication, as member of both houses, with the Governor and we want to translate what happens today to the Governor and the Governor’s staff.

Both of us, in general, have been very supportive of the Realignment issues. But of course, rehabilitation, I think, is one of the top issues for us.

There will be, as I mentioned, a select committee meeting in the future of the Assembly in regard to prison overcrowding, and I hope many of you who have expressed interests in this hearing will continue that interest by attending some of those select committee meetings.

So with that, first on our agenda is Robert A. Barton, Inspector General; Michael Stainer, Director Division of Adult Institutions; and Kelly Harrington, Deputy Director of Division of Adult Institutions…

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