The practice in California of placing gang members, gang associates and serious offenders in isolation, where the inmate is all by him/herself 23 hours a day, is coming under attack from celebrities such as Jay Leno, Gloria Steinem, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Bonnie Raitt, Peter Coyote and Noam Chomsky.
Roughly 4,500 prisoners are being held in isolation to prevent gang violence in the prisons, some as long as ten years, and 385 inmates have been on a hunger strike since July 8, while 176 more have been on shorter hunger strikes.
Jackson, Bonnie Raitt, Peter Coyote and Noam Chomsky also were signatories to a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown that called the isolation units “extensions of the same inhumanity practiced at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Raitt’s spokeswoman said Raitt once performed at San Quentin and it “made a profound impact on her.”
The inmates protesting claim that the only way for them to leave the units is to be “debriefed,” which entails informing on other gang members, and that leaves them open to revenge for “snitching.”
State corrections spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman defended the practice, saying that isolation units “serve a vital role in state prisons, keeping staff and other inmates safe from the same violent gangs leading the hunger strike and terrorizing communities across California.”