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This Is America? Men Tortured in Solitary for Having the Wrong Tattoo or Political Books

The only evidence needed to get someone thrown in solitary is a tattoo, letter, photo or piece of political material.

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At the time the case had been brought to court in 1993, Pelican Bay had only been operating for four years. The judge may not have imagined that some of the plaintiffs who had been held for the entirety of those four years would remain in solitary confinement for another 20 years and counting.

Legislative Hearings

Last summer, 30,000 inmates across the California’s prisons launched the largest hunger strike in the state's history, lasting 60 days and causing the death of one man. 

Prisoners only resumed eating after the State Assembly and Senate agreed to hold legislative hearings to address what they said could “no longer be ignored."

At the first hearing held on 9 October, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, chair of the Assembly's Public Safety Committee, promised that, “I don't want lip service. I want real testimony from those who are the most concerned, and if necessary, I want legislation from these hearings.”

Weills and Reiter are hopeful that the legislature is finally paying attention and expect the hearings to produce a tangible outcome that may reform the practice of solitary confinement in California's prisons.

It appears that if genuine reform is indeed on the horizon, it will have been pushed through by the unlikely figures that disappeared into the dark hole of a small concrete cell.

Charlotte Silver is an independent journalist based in San Francisco. She writes for Al Jazeera English, Inter Press Service, Truthout, the Electronic Intifada and other publications. Follow her on Twitter @CharESilver.
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