Make this page my home page
  1. Drag the home icon in this panel and drop it onto the "house icon" in the tool bar for the browser

  2. Select "Yes" from the popup window and you're done!

Prisoner Treatment Resources

Featured Product Categories

Featured Corrections Product

Most Popular Articles

Prisoner Treatment Article

Print Comment RSS Bookmark

Rights group joins lawsuit over solitary Calif. cells

Attorney: "There is no other state in the country that keeps so many inmates in solitary confinement for so long"

By Paul Elias
The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Todd Ashker and Danny Troxell are among the 78 prisoners who have lived for more than 20 years in notorious solitary confinement cells at a California prison.

Troxell painstakingly crafted a handwritten federal lawsuit on behalf of both convicted killers in December 2009, claiming their prolonged isolation in 80-square-foot, windowless cells at Pelican Bay State Prison for all but 90 minutes a day amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

On Thursday, lawyers for the Center for Constitutional Rights took over the lawsuit and filed a revised case on behalf of hundreds of Pelican Bay prisoners who have served more than 10 years in the prison's so-called security housing unit, known widely as the SHU.

"There is no other state in the country that keeps so many inmates in solitary confinement for so long," said Alexis Agathocleous, a center attorney.

Center president Jules Lobel said lawyers were alerted to the inmates' case during a prisoner hunger strike last year that called attention to conditions at Pelican Bay. At its peak, the strike included 6,600 inmates throughout the state.

California opened Pelican Bay prison in December 1989 along the coast in remote Del Norte County, just south of the Oregon border. It was meant to house the worst of the worst prisoners and includes 1,056 solitary cells. Those prisoners are barred from contact visits and face harsher limits on reading materials, wall decorations and other accoutrements than general population inmates.

The lawsuit filed Thursday alleged the soundproof SHU cells were designed to hold a prisoner for no longer than 18 months. Ashker and Troxell have been housed there almost since its inception.

Ashker killed another inmate in 1990 in what prison officials described as a gang hit and was transferred to Pelican Bay. Troxell was sent there directly after receiving a sentence of 26 years to life for a murder outside prison.

Both have remained in solitary for decades for refusing to renounce ties to the Aryan Brotherhood and answer questions from investigators hungry for inside information about the gang. Both inmates deny gang associations.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says the harsh conditions are justified by the prisoners' behavior inside the system. Many are active and violent gang members.

While not commenting on the lawsuit directly, prison department spokesman Jeffrey Callison said officials have been reviewing its SHU policy for more than a year and plan to implement a behavior-based process for leaving SHU.

"CDCR will increase privileges for inmates housed in a Security Housing Unit who refrain from criminal gang behavior," Callison said.

The CDCR has successfully fought off legal challenges to the SHU before, but many of the past lawsuits were filed and litigated by inmates without lawyers.

Associated PressCopyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


CorrectionsOne comments can only be accessed by verified correctional officers.
Please sign in or register to view or write your own comments below.
Most Commented Articles
1. Report suggests prison gangs are 'good' for prisonsCorrections Article Comments20
2. Ind. law holds teen responsible for murder he did not commitCorrections Article Comments16
3. Drug lords known for beheadings complain about inhumane treatment in prisonCorrections Article Comments14
4. How terminology affects the cycle of recidivismCorrections Article Comments12
5. Md. prison official fired for Facebook joke about COsCorrections Article Comments10
6. Rikers inmates save correctional officer from rape Corrections Article Comments10
7. FBI investigating Tenn. UOF case that led to CO's firingCorrections Article Comments10
8. Inmate who helped save correctional officer from rape beatenCorrections Article Comments9
9. Video: Fla. deputy drags mentally ill inmate through courthouseCorrections Article Comments9
10. Pa. warden blames Family and Medical Leave Act for driving up OTCorrections Article Comments8

Back to previous page