California to End Solitary Confinement as Prison Gang Control Method; Thousands Expected to Be Moved

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In 2013, solitary confinement inmate Javier Zubiate stands in the concrete recreation area at Pelican Bay State Prison in far Northern California. (Credit: Los Angeles Times)

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Ending years of litigation, hunger strikes and contentious debate, California has agreed to move thousands of prison inmates out of solitary confinement.

A legal settlement announced Tuesday between the state and a core group of inmates held in isolation for a decade or more at Pelican Bay State Prison calls for the end of the use of solitary confinement to control prison gangs.

Instead, the state agreed to create small, high-security units that keep its most dangerous inmates in a group setting where they are entitled to many of the same privileges as other prisoners: contact visits, phone calls and educational and rehabilitation programs.

Corrections spokesman Jeffrey Callison said the state would be able to utilize space within existing prisons to relocate the inmates removed from solitary.

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