Hundreds of California prisoners locked in stark segregation units could be transferred to regular prison cells under new policies being developed by state corrections officials, reports California Watch. The transfers could include inmates who have been held for decades at Pelican Bay State Prison's windowless Security Housing Unit, which was the center of two recent hunger strikes that drew participation from thousands of inmates.
Officials from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation are planning to review the files of every prisoner now housed in the state's four Security Housing Units. They will retroactively apply new criteria determining who is placed in the facilities and for how long, according to an Oct. 13 memo from corrections Undersecretary Scott Kernan, who retired last week. “Those who no longer meet the criteria would be released from the SHU (Security Housing Unit),” states the memo, which also was signed by representatives of four advocacy groups and distributed to inmates. some 79 percent of the inmates being held in the special units are classified as prison gang associates rather than full-fledged members. Kernan said a new policy was needed to move some of those inmates out of Security Housing Units to make room for other prisoners who pose a greater security threat. Former corrections officials say the transfer could extend to hundreds of prisoners if the department uses a criteria that focuses largely on an inmate’s behavior.