In 2006 two guards at the California’s High Desert State Prison were attacked by a group of African American prisoners. After the riot was contained, the warden of the prison declared a full lockdown that kept all the African Americans from one wing of the jail locked in their cells for 14 months. Race-based punishment is what this method of control and penalty is called.
They weren’t allowed to go outside, exercise, have prison jobs or attend rehabilitation programs. Everyone who was African American in that wing of the prison had to endure the punishment for something two African American men did.
The state of California announced today that it agreed to renounce its use of race-based punishment as a tool to control people in crowded prisons. This decision comes after a six-year-long lawsuit that was filed in 2008 over the High Desert lockdown. Jeffrey Beard, corrections chief settled with the lawyers of the inmates and this decision was made.
During the trial, the case extended to cover all the prisoners in the entire state that practiced race-based punishment. The agreement and settlement is on its way to a federal judge to get approved.
A staff lawyer at the Prison Law Office, Rebekah Evenson, revealed that this decision represents a success, a tremendous result.
The settlement papers reveal that the state has agreed to a system that will determine each and every prisoner to be locked down. Prisoners on lockdown will be permitted to exercise in the courtyard after two weeks in lockdown. The loss of further privileges such as mail, showers and visits are included with full lockdowns.
Prison officials have admitted that race-based punishment has always been a very important tool to keep violence at a minimum in prisons. They claimed that there is a need to immobilize large sections of the prison population during the investigations for riots.
During one year in the prisons of California, there have been as many as 160 race-based lockdowns. Race-based punishment happens all over the country. California is the first state to take the first step to end race-based punishments.