The following comes from a July 17 story on the website of Catholic San Francisco.
California’s Catholic bishops are asking state officials to address “the egregious overuse of solitary confinement,” violations of treatment policies of prisoners in secure housing units and threats against prisoners participating in the current prison hunger strike.
Monterey Bishop Richard Garcia, chairman of the restorative justice committee of the California Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement July 12 concerning state policies on prisoner isolation and the escalating hunger strike that has grown to include nearly 10 percent of California’s prison population.
“The California Catholic Bishops and its conference staff have been in dialogue with the (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) for 12 years on the very issues being surfaced now, hoping that they would have been resolved,” Bishop Garcia said. “Sadly, this has not happened. Thus, we raise our voice with all other concerned citizens asking Gov. (Jerry) Brown to appoint an outside oversight committee to address and correct these human rights violations.
The bishops oppose the treatment because it is not restorative, Bishop Garcia said. “Placing humans in isolation in a secure housing unit has no restorative or rehabilitative purpose,” he said. “International human rights standards consider more than 15 days in isolation to be torture. The world is watching California and the United States.”
In their 2000 pastoral letter “Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice,” the California bishops wrote, “We oppose the increasing use of isolation units, especially in the absence of due process, and the monitoring and professional assessment of the effects of such confinement on the mental health of inmates.”
State prison officials said July 15 that 2,572 inmates in 17 state prisons were on a mass hunger strike disturbance, down from 12,421 inmates on July 11. An inmate is considered to be on a hunger strike after he has missed nine consecutive meals.
They declined to give numbers of strikers at affected prisons, saying the mass hunger strike is organized by prison gangs and publicizing participation levels at specific prisons could put inmates who are not participating in extreme danger.
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