Lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) are urging a federal judge to grant class action status to a lawsuit challenging prolonged solitary confinement in California prisons.
The case, Ashker v. Brown, was filed on behalf of 10 prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison who have spent over 10 years, and as many as 29 years, in solitary confinement.
Three weeks ago, California prisoners, including plaintiffs in Ashker, suspended their third hunger strike protesting their confinement and conditions, after 60 days. More than 500 Pelican Bay prisoners have been isolated in the SHU for over 10 years; more than 200 have been there for over 15 years; and 78 have been isolated in the SHU for more than 20 years.
Class certification will allow remedies in the case to apply to all Pelican Bay SHU prisoners who have been held in solitary confinement for more than 10 years.
“There are hundreds of prisoners at Pelican Bay who have been suffering just as long and in the same appalling conditions as our clients,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Staff Attorney Alexis Agathocleous, one of those who made the argument court on Sept. 26.
“If the length of time prisoners are held in isolation and the conditions they live under are unconstitutional, they are unconstitutional for everyone, not just the 10 named plaintiffs in the suit, and any remedies should apply to everyone affected.”
The lawsuit alleges that prolonged solitary confinement violates Eighth Amendment prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, and that the absence of meaningful review for SHU placement violates the prisoners’ right to due process. SHU prisoners spend 22