Rina Palta, KPCC
A bunk in the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, CA. (August, 2011)
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed suit in federal court Thursday on behalf of California prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison's Security Housing Units, the most isolated, restrictive prison cells in the state.
Inmates in the SHU (pronounced "shoo") spend 22 and a half hours in their cells each day and have more limited access to other prisoners, visitors, and programming than inmates in the general population. They're mostly kept one person to each cell and exercise once a day in a concrete, enclosed space.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials have said that conditions in the SHU are admitedly restrictive, but with good reason. SHUs are CDCR's primary method for combatting prison gangs, which they say wreak havoc on the prison population and have close ties to criminal street gangs.