California has for decades used long-term segregation to combat gang violence in its prisons, says the New York Times. Thousands of inmates said to have gang ties have been sent to solitary confinement for years, or in some cases decades. California corrections officials — prodded by two hunger strikes by inmates last year and the advice of national prison experts — has proposed changes in the gang policy that could decrease the number of inmates in isolation.
Depending on how California moves forward — critics say the changes do not go far enough and have enough loopholes that they may have little effect — it could join a small but increasing number of states that are rethinking the use of long-term solitary confinement, a practice that became common in the U.S. over the past three decades. The changes in California would represent one of the largest shifts in how it handles prison gangs since officials began pulling gang leaders, known as shot-callers, out of the general population in the late 1970s. “California really pioneered the mass segregation of gang members,” said David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project. “So California could start to show the way out.”