California Mandela Campaign launches to fight against solitary confinement

January 27, 2023 /

Immigrant Defense Advocates and other organizations launched their California Mandela Campaign to support the California Mandela Act and end solitary confinement in California. 

The California Mandela Act is to implement limits on solitary confinement in jails and prisons, and private immigration detention facilities.  According to the release it will end solitary confinement for pregnant people, individuals with certain disabilities, as well as individuals under 26 and over 59.

“Solitary confinement continues to be used as a weapon against people of color, and to break up organizing efforts inside immigrant detention facilities and beyond. We will continue to stand alongside those who are fighting for their basic human rights inside all carceral facilities in California,” said Lisa Knox, Legal Director at the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice in the release. 

Assemblyman Chris Holden spoke at a press conference to reintroduce this bill. During the conference, Holden said that people will not be allowed to be held in solitary confinement over 15 days and continued to explain that solitary confinement is torture. 

“There are no studies that I’m aware of indicating that solitary confinement is safe or that it makes a correctional environment safer,” said Holden. “In fact, many people enter solitary confinement seemingly healthy but leave broken by the extreme isolation and loneliness.”

Holden explained that education, pro-social opportunities, and career training should be emphasized in California more as opposed to solitary confinement. 

The bill was originally vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom in September of 2022 stating that he was concerned about the safety risks of the bill. 

“Specifically, this bill would categorically prohibit the placement of large portions of the incarcerated population in segregated housing- even if such a placement is to protect the safety of all incarcerated individuals in the institution. I am additionally concerned that the restrictions in this bill could interrupt the rehabilitation efforts of other incarcerated people and the staff at these facilities,” stated Newsom in his veto letter. 

Newsom concluded the veto letter with directing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to create regulations for segregated confinementm, unless the person has been found to be violent in the prison. 

Some of the people organizing to end solitary confinement have been in solitary confinement themselves. 

“Solitary confinement was torture last year, it is torture today and will always be torture. We will not stop fighting until this practice ends in California and everywhere,” stated Dolores Canales, Solitary Survivor and Co-founder of California Families Against Solitary Confinement in the realese. 

According to the campaigns website the bill also is to increase transparency by requiring clear record be kept surrounding solitary confinement. 

Several organizations are invloved with this campaign including: 

  • California Families Against Solitary
  • California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice
  • Disability Rights California
  • Immigrant Defense Advocates
  • NextGen California 
  • Prison Law Office
  • Underground Scholars Initiative
  • UC Berkeley
  • other supporting organizations and sponsors

“Solitary confinement is a pervasive and serious problem across the state. Our clients in prisons and jails suffer every day in cruel and inhumane conditions on account of the excessive, unprincipled use of solitary confinement. A legislative solution is essential to end these harmful, unnecessary practices and to protect human life and dignity,” said Patrick Booth, Staff Attorney for the Prison Law Office in the release. 

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JaNell Gore

Ja'Nell Gore is a student at Cal State Bakersfield. In addition to writing for Kern Sol News she is a poet who loves any chance she has to perform and be with her community.