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USA: Treatment of isolated detainees in California cruel and degrading, says AI

last updated Oct 02, 2012

A new report released by the human rights organisation Amnesty International (AI) condemns the Californian prison system for the excessive use of solitary confinement for prolonged periods. The report “The Edge of Endurance” calls the treatment of approximately 3,000 prisoners cruel and degrading.

Pelican Bay State Prison
Pelican Bay State Prison; Source: Wikimedia Commons (Jelson25)

The detainees held in extreme isolation spend 22 and a half hours a day in cells of about eight square metres with almost no access to natural light, physical exercise, work, rehabilitation programmes and group activities. Outside contact to family, lawyers and medical staff is restricted to conversations behind glass screens. According to AI, 78 prisoners spent over 20 years in complete isolation.


California has the highest rate of suicides in detention facilities with, on average between 2006 and 2010, 34 people per year killing themselves. The AI report is based on access to two facilities – the super maximum security Pelican Bay facility in Northern California and the Corcoran State Prison.


AI has called on the state of California to restrict solitary confinement to cases where the detainees’ behaviour constitutes a severe and on-going threat to the safety of others.


AI News: USA: California authorities urged to end shocking conditions in prison isolation units


Reuters: Rights group: isolation units in California prisons cruel


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