The US state of California must make substantial changes to their prison isolation units and halt the inhuman suffering of thousands of prisoners, Amnesty International said in a new report out today.
Over 1,000 prisoners are held in the SHU at Pelican Bay State Prison, a remote facility where most prisoners are confined alone in cells which have no windows to the outside or direct access to natural light. SHU prisoners are isolated both within prison and from meaningful contacts with the outside world: contact with correctional staff is kept to a minimum, and consultations with medical, mental health and other staff routinely take place behind barriers; all visits, including family and legal visits, are also non-contact, with prisoners separated from their visitors behind a glass screen.
Amnesty International considers that the conditions of isolation and other deprivations imposed on prisoners in California’s SHU units breach international standards on humane treatment. The cumulative effects of such conditions, particularly when imposed for prolonged or indefinite periods, and the severe environmental deprivation in Pelican Bay SHU, in particular, amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, in violation of international law.