California prisons agree to end race-based lockdowns

Corcoran State Prison
Guard towers line the western perimeter of Corcoran State Prison in Corcoran, Calif., in this 2000 photo.
(Eric Paul Zamora / Fresno Bee)

In settling a federal civil rights suit, California prisons agreed Wednesday to no longer base lockdowns on inmates’ race or ethnicity.

The suit, filed in 2008 on behalf of male prisoners, alleged that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation violates inmates’ constitutional rights by imposing excessively long modified programs and lockdowns.

Corrections officials have said in the past that segregation units are needed in maximum-security lockups to control prison gangs responsible for violence and crime.

Under the settlement, “lockdowns or modified programs may be (1) imposed on all inmates, and lifted from all inmates in the affected area, or (2) imposed and lifted from inmates in the affected area based on individualized threat assessments.” 


Furthermore, if a modified program or lockdown lasts more than 14 days, the warden is required under the settlement to start giving outdoor activity to the affected inmates.

“We see this as a tremendous result,” said Rebekah Evenson, one of the attorneys representing inmates.

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