Gloria Steinem, Jay Leno Protest Solitary Confinement in California

Image: Gloria Steinem, Jay Leno Protest Solitary Confinement in California

Wednesday, 31 Jul 2013 10:17 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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Gloria Steinem has joined celebrities like Jay Leno, Bonnie Raitt, and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson to demand California ends solitary confinement to contain prison gang violence.

They joined in a letter to California Gov. Jerry Brown, claiming the isolation units in state prisons are "extension of the same inhumanity practiced at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay," the Los Angeles Times reported.

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A number of soldiers were convicted for abusing prisoners in Abu Ghraib during the Iraq War in 2003 and 2004, according to ABC News. 

The Guantanamo Bay detention camps, used to house Haitian refugees in the 1990s, now hold detainees connected with the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Fox News.

The National Religion Campaign Against Torture, based in Washington, organized the letter to Brown and a subsequent rally at the state capitol in Sacramento Monday. Local supporters of the prison protesters joined the rally as well.

Richard Killmer, executive director of the anti-torture group, told the Los Angeles Times they are trying to get confinement units in 13 states closed because they believe it is a form of torture.

"I was appalled at this unlimited, indiscriminate use (of isolation) by prison administrators, so I rallied my network," said UCLA psychiatry professor Susan Smalley, one of the anti-solitary confinement supporters.

State corrections spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman told the Los Angeles Times that solitary confinement is necessary in the prison system.
"[It] serves a vital role in state prisons, keeping staff and other inmates safe from the same violent gangs leading the hunger strike and terrorizing communities across California," Hoffman said.

There were 385 inmates involved in a hunger strike that have refused to eat since July 8. Another 176 prisoners are holding shorter protests, the Associated Press reported.

This is the third hunger strike launched since 2011 to protest living conditions in the prison’s security housing units, where 4,500 gang members, gang associates, and serious offenders are held in extreme isolation, many of them for longer than 10 years.

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