Ten men who have spent between 11 and 22 years in a segregated section of California’s prison system filed a lawsuit to stop the conditions of “isolation, sensory deprivation, lack of social and physical human contact, and environmental deprivation.”
The men are suffering serious mental and physical harm due to their prolonged confinement in the Pelican Bay Segregated Housing Unit, according to the lawsuit.
More than 500 prisoners (about half the population at the Pelican Bay SHU) have been there for more than 10 years. Of those people, 78 have been in the SHU for more than 20 years, according to prison records.
The complaint alleges that the men “languish, typically alone, in a cramped, concrete, windowless cell, for 22½ to 24 hours a day.”
Here are the plaintiffs and their status as listed in the lawsuit:
Jeffrey Franklin is a member of the Black Guerilla Family. He has spent the last 22 years in the Pelican Bay SHU. In 2006, he was denied inactive BGF status based on evidence that he associates with other gang members, shares a common ideology, and attempts to educate the community and other prisoners to his philosophy.
Todd Ashker has spent over 25 years in solitary confinement, and 22 years in the SHU. He was validated as an Aryan Brotherhood member in 1988, and has been denied inactive status based on confidential memoranda from informants and artwork found in his cell. Ashker has never been charged with or disciplined for a proven gang-related act. Authorities told Ashker, unless he renounces his membership in the AB and “divulge all of their secrets to the authorities, he will remain incarcerated in the SHU for the rest of his life.”
George Franco spent 20 years in solitary confinement in the SHU. In 2008, prison officials said Franco is an active Nuestra Familia member based on confidential statements by informants regarding his role within the gang, and the fact that his name appeared on gang rosters found in other prisoners’ cells.
Gabriel Reyes has spent almost 16 years in continuous isolation, and has been kept in the SHU for 14½ years. Reyes is serving a sentence of 25 years to life under the Three Strikes Law. In 2008, prison officials said he was an active Mexican Mafia associate because artwork found in his possession contained gang symbols.
George Ruiz has spent 22 years in the SHU, and the last 28 years in solitary confinement, because prison officials say he is a member of the Mexican Mafia. Ruiz has had no significant rule violations since his incarceration began in 1980. He has only had one disciplinary violation of any kind since 1986. Ruiz is serving a seven year to life sentence and has been eligible for parole since 1993.
Richard Johnson has spent almost 15 years in solitary confinement at the Pelican Bay SHU due to his validation as a BGF member. Johnson’s Third Strike was a drug-related offense. He is serving 33 years to life. He has never incurred a major disciplinary offense in prison.
Danny Troxell has spent over 26 years in solitary confinement, and 22 years in the SHU due to his validation as a member of the AB. Troxell’s only act of violence in the last 30 years involved a fistfight in 1997 in which nobody was seriously injured. He has been eligible for parole since 1996.
Paul Redd has spent almost 33 of the past 35 years in solitary confinement in California and has spent the last 11½ years in Pelican Bay’s SHU. Redd was first validated as a BGF member in 1980 based on six confidential memoranda stating that he had communicated with other BGF prisoners and that his name was on a coded roster found in a validated BGF member’s possession. Over 30 years later, Redd continues to be labeled a gang member based merely on association.
“Of these people, 78 have been in
the SHU for more than 20 years”
Luis Esquivel has spent the last 13 years in solitary confinement in the SHU. He has never incurred a serious disciplinary violation. In 2007, after more than six years in the SHU, Esquivel was determined to be an inactive gang associate, but was nonetheless retained in the SHU. He was revalidated as an active Mexican Mafia associate a year later because he possessed allegedly gang-related Aztec artwork.
Ronnie Dewberry has spent the last 27 years in solitary confinement. He has been repeatedly validated as a BGF member based on his associations and his political, cultural, and historical writings. He has had no major disciplinary infractions since 1995.