Solitary Confinement Abuse Rampant in California Prisons

Part-time Bob Dylan muse

Ricky Gray has been in solitary confinement since 2006, despite
having a violence-free prison record and no major disciplinary

Shane Bauer’s excellent Mother Jones article
on solitary confinement
—which tells Gray’s story—is the latest
addition to a long line of depressing
of the draconian methods practiced in California
prison system. Bauer’s research suggests that nearly 12,000
Californian inmates are currently housed in some form of isolation,
with 3,809 of these serving an indeterminate sentence. David
Barneburg, the institutional gang investigator for California’s
Pelican Bay prison, claims that segregating gang members through
solitary confinement is the only way to keep prisons from being
overrun by racial conflict and killings. Despite this the rate of
violent incidents in California prisons has risen almost 20 percent
in the 23 years Pelican Bay has been in operation.  

In 2006 Ricky Gray was validated as a member of the Black
Guerrilla Family (a gang classified as a ‘security threat
group that, according to Californian prison
officials, operates within the state’s prisons.) In order to make
the official classification the state of California requires at
least three pieces of evidence pointing towards gang membership
with at least one of these showing a ‘direct link’ between the
prisoner in question and a validated gang member.

But the state doesn’t seem to have met this standard in Gray’s
case. A review ordered by a sympathetic warden found that many
of the informants in Gray’s case didn’t even know Gray. Two alleged
informants signed sworn affidavits documenting that they were never
interviewed about Gray and hadn’t even met the guard who compiled
the original statements.

But before action could be taken, the sympathetic warden in
charge of Gray’s review moved on, leaving it up to the initial gang
investigator to choose to overturn the validation status. After he
refused to do so, Gray took the case to court where it was
ruled that

A prisoner has no constitutionally guaranteed immunity from
being falsely or wrongfully accused of conduct which may result in
the deprivation of a protected liberty interest.

Bauer suggests that

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