California prisons will end long-standing policies of segregating prisoners racially, reports the Los Angeles Times. For 25 years, the prisons have segregated the tens of thousands of inmates who arrive each year at reception centers for least their initial 60 days in custody. No other state has a similar policy. Under the new policy, race may still be used as a factor – a white supremacist would probably not be housed with a black inmate – but it will no longer be the primary criterion. Instead, prisoners’ gang affiliations and individual histories will be scrutinized to determine how best to place them to minimize fighting.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5 to 3 this year that the state could segregate prisoners by race only in rare instances. As a result, California will phase out race-based segregation policies over the next two years. The change is expected to bring more racial mixing to the cellblocks and yards of the nation’s largest penal system. “We will start to create an environment where it will be less dangerous in prison for everyone because racism will start to dissipate,” said Bert Deixler, an attorney for the inmate who brought the Supreme Court case. Age, physical characteristics, and reasons for incarceration are among the factors that officials will be considering as they place inmates. Among the 167,000 inmates in California’s 33 prisons, about 29 percent are white, 28 percent black, and 37 percent Latino.