Ending years of litigation, hunger strikes and contentious debate, California has agreed to move thousands of state prisoners out of solitary confinement under the terms of a landmark lawsuit settlement, reports the Los Angeles Times. Corrections officials, who have long used indefinite isolation to control violent prison gangs, will cease the practice and return nearly 2,000 inmates to the general population, according to the agreement announced Tuesday. Some of those inmates have been in isolation, without significant human contact, for more than three decades.
California has been among a shrinking number of states that keep inmates isolated on the grounds of gang membership rather than behavior, at a time of increasing national criticism over the use of solitary confinement. The state is not doing away with the practice. About 4,600 prisoners will remain in isolation for shorter terms. Nearly 1,000 others, including hundreds of mentally ill offenders, remain in modified isolation, which means they are allowed more time out of their cells.