Will California limit solitary confinement?

California lawmakers are considering a major change to the state’s criminal justice system: banning long-term solitary confinement.

Known as the California Mandela Act, a proposal in the state legislature is part of a nationwide campaign to curb the widespread use of solitary confinement amid concerns about the mental health ramifications and apparent racial inequity in its use. The state Senate Appropriations Committee must pass the bill on Thursday to keep it alive.

“Closed solitary confinement is torture,” said Hamid Yazdan Panah, advocacy director for Immigrant Defense Advocates, a Sacramento-based organization that supports the bill. “If we have long accepted that torture is unacceptable in our jails and prisons, then we really need to take this issue seriously.

Assembly Bill 2632 would ban solitary confinement for pregnant women, those under 26, those over 59, and those with certain disabilities or mental disorders. The approach, also called punitive segregation, would apply to state jails, jails and detention facilities.

For everyone else, periods of isolation would be limited to 15 consecutive days and 45 days in any 180-day period. Staff members should also periodically check on the confined person and provide out-of-cell programming for at least four hours a day.

In California, about 4,000 people are in solitary confinement at any given time, and the proposed changes would result in a 70% reduction in that number, Yazdan Panah said.

“We house individuals in a cell the size of a parking space, with no real power outlets, no interaction with other people for long periods of time,” said MP Chris Holden, who presented the project. law. “It is simply unacceptable.”

Holden’s bill is modeled after the New York bill that went into effect this year after a nearly decade-long legislative battle. Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico and at least 10 other states have also limited or banned punitive segregation, despite objections from corrections officials who argue such rollbacks will make jails and prisons less safe. .

A former inmate spent more than a decade in solitary confinement, starting at the age of 16, he recently wrote in The San Francisco Chronicle. A large body of research links the practice to increased risks of self-harm and suicide, deterioration of mental health, and higher rates of death after release.

“I often tell people that I would have preferred a beating to being held in solitary confinement,” former inmate Kevin McCarthy wrote in the newspaper. “The bruises and cuts are healing, but the wounds in my mind and soul are so deep that I don’t believe I will ever fully recover.”

The biggest sticking point of the bill is the cost. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation estimates the state would initially have to spend more than $1 billion to comply with the law, due to a needed increase in programming space, exercise classes and staff.

A separate analysis by proponents of the bill came to a different conclusion – that a reduction in the population in isolation would reduce space and staffing requirements, and therefore result in savings to the state of at least $60 million per year.

Tip of the day comes from Andrew Riley:

“Living in San Francisco for 20 years, my wife and I often needed to escape the noise. Muir Beach in Marin is off the beaten track. It is marshy and calm. Lots of weather and seals. And the sound of the wind. The Pelican Inn is a B&B with a pub and restaurant to ward off the cold with a pint.

I love this place.

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected] We will share more in future editions of the newsletter.


At 86, Mark Braly may be the oldest water polo player in the world. Braly, who lives in Davis and practices on the UC Davis campus, came to the sport just 10 years ago.

“I sometimes score goals, but you always suspect they were the gift of a nice goalkeeper,” Braly told The New York Times. “All the players in the area know my name because they have to constantly shout directions.”

Read the full story in The Times.


Thanks for reading. I will be back tomorrow. — Soumya

Correction: Yesterday’s newsletter said Kenneth Mejia was running for Los Angeles City Attorney. He is a candidate for the post of municipal comptroller.

PS Here today’s mini crosswordand a hint: hoppy beers, for short (4 letters).

Isabella Grullón Paz and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can join the team at [email protected].

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