Approximately 80,000 inmates are held in some form of solitary confinement (SHU, ASU, Ad-Seg, Control Unit) across 44 States. 11,000 of these inmates are held in California State prisons, the vast majority of them are people of color. On May 23, 2011, the United States Supreme Court rendered a decision indicating that the California Prison System was subjecting inmates to Cruel and Unusual Punishment by presiding over "a prison system so overcrowded that it cannot provide anything close to adequate mental or medical health care to its 147,000 inmates," in prisons designed to house just under 80,000 inmates. On March 20, 2012, approximately 400 California prisoners in segregation petitioned the United Nations (UN) to conduct an onsite investigation of the conditions of their imprisonment and issue a decision on whether these conditions violate international law, including the UN Convention Against Torture. The petitions have been submitted to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Voices from SHU

Robbie Riva, CDC# T-49359 (Calipatria State Prison ASU)

"I've been sentenced to solitary confinement with no disciplinary infraction indeterminately. I'm being deprived human contact with my wife and daughter, deprived of my right to an appliance (T.V./Radio), and all the oppression that comes with being in Calipatria State Prison's ASU. Rather than being rehabilitated we are being suppressed and being forced to mental anguish."

Phil Fortman, CDC# B-03557 (Pelican Bay State Prison SHU)

"I have been in SHU isolation for 35 years. I would not treat my worst enemy in such a way as I have been placed in isolation this long. To torture another human being with these horrific conditions should be contrary to what consists of a healthy society."

Michael Reed Dorrough, CDC# D-83611 (Corcoran State Prison)

"I have been housed in isolation for 23 years. Almost daily now I wake up to a feeling of dread. Over the past 5 years I have become convinced that death has to be better than this. This is the kind of hate that threatens to destroy us all. That makes a mockery of democracy. Isolation is horrible and inhumane. It crushes your humanity and faith."


Download an informational brochure about California's widespread use of solitary segregation and its devastating effect on the spiritual, mental health, and physical well-being of prisoners by clicking here.


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"It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones."