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Lawmakers Take Closer Look at State Prison SHUs

Katie Orr
Capital Public Radio

Members of the California legislature are focusing their attention on Security Housing Units within state prisons. Katie Orr has details on a hearing held today in Sacramento.

Lawmakers on the Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committees heard from corrections officials, academics and former inmates on conditions within the Security Housing Units, or SHU’s, in California prisons. About 4,000 inmates are held in the SHUs. Over half are there for alleged gang connections. At the hearing Senator Loni Hancock asked a corrections official if inmates have any legal assistance while they’re being investigated for gang activity. 

"But for the most part, there’s no counsel or advocates or representatives… -Or advisers -… provided through the institutional appeal process. -OK, Let me just say, that seems to me to be a huge problem.”

Corrections officials say they’ve begun reevaluating inmates held in the SHU and some are beginning a “step-down” program to work their way out of isolation. 

The hearings were called after inmates held a two-month-long hunger strike that, at one point, involved 30,000 prisoners.

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