Gov. Jerry Brown needs to put an end to solitary confinement in state prisons

It has now been more than a month since California prisoners began a hunger strike to protest the practice of solitary confinement—called Security Housing Unit in prison parlance. So far, one man has died, though officially, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation lists the cause of death as suicide.

There have also been news reports that this hunger strike is orchestrated by a convicted murderer who is high in the hierarchy of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang.

While we are concerned for the safety of both CDCR employees and other prisoners, it’s also worth noting that solitary confinement is a form of torture. Isolation is employed to break down the mental health of those being tortured; the deprivation of human contact for social animals like humans is, frankly, inhumane.

Given the lengthy list of issues with our prison system—the federal receivership of CDCR’s health system, the news last month that female inmates had been coerced into sterilization, and the current difficulty the CDCR has with moving prisoners at risk of contracting valley fever—we’re not inclined to “just trust them” when it comes to prisoner welfare.

Convicted criminals, no matter how heinous the crime, should not be tortured, and solitary confinement meets that definition. We encourage Gov. Jerry Brown to negotiate an end to this hunger strike and to put serious effort into ending or modifying the practice of SHU, so that inmates are not constantly deprived of socialization.

Torturing the “worst of the worst” only makes us worse, and it should not be tolerated.