Five years after the U.S. Supreme Court said racial classifications alone couldn’t dictate prisoners’ cell assignments, about 165,000 California inmates are still housed based primarily on race, says the San Francisco Chronicle. Only four of the state’s 30 male prisons have adopted guidelines that consider other factors – including an inmate’s gang affiliation and what crime he committed – when assigning prison cellmates. Even in those prisons, success is hard to measure. That’s in part because the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation does not track the number of racially integrated cells.
Critics say the state has taken too long to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision. “It’s not a simple problem, but progress could be faster,” said Barry Krisberg, a fellow at the University of California Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice. “How can we continue to condone overt segregation in any (state-supported) accommodations? Going into prison in California has, for decades, meant getting inculcated with an extremely racist mentality,” he said. There is no deadline for reforms, and prison officials say they need to change housing procedures slowly. The deficit-ridden state also has no money for the additional training needed for prison staffers to learn the new ways to assign cellmates, said corrections department spokeswoman Terry Thornton.