The use of Security Housing Unit (SHU) cells in California has reportedly dropped 65 percent. As of December 2012, the state had 9,870 prisoners in SHU, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented the prisoners. This August there were 3,471.
Of the 1,557 prisoners kept in SHU for 10 or more years, 1,512 have been transferred to general prison housing. At Pelican Bay, all but two of the 513 prisoners held for at least a decade have been removed from the SHU, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The transfers are a result of a lawsuit settlement approved by a federal judge in October 2015, which required changes in a system that had separated inmates from their fellow inmates for extended periods. Sometimes prisoners were isolated 20 years or more based on the prison system’s findings of gang affiliation, the newspaper reported.
Criteria used in some cases were based on tattoos, letters or books they possessed. Under new rules, isolation is for those guilty of assaults, weapons possessions, drug dealing and other serious crimes while in prison.
The settlement allows prisoners who commit violent felonies to be held in SHU for up to 10 years. It also states that inmates can be held longer if they continue to pose a danger to correctional officers or other prisoners.
Deputy press secretary spokeswoman of CDCR Terry Thorton told the Chronicle, “The department has moved from an affiliation-based system to a behavior-based system.”