Take Two for October 8, 2013

Hard time or inhumane? Corcoran prison's SHU - Security Housing Units (Photos)

Corcoran State Prison - KPCC Post

Grant Slater/KPCC

An officer speaks with an inmate as he makes his way around a general population wing of the prison.

Corcoran State Prison - KPCC Post

Grant Slater/KPCC

Guards prepare to search inmates in the prison's general population before they come out on the prison yard. General population inmates spend many hours a day outside or in common indoor spaces.

Corcoran State Prison - KPCC Post

Grant Slater/KPCC

Officer Vickjord walks the floor of the 4B SHU at Corcoran State Prison. The prison started accepting inmates in 1988.

Corcoran State Prison - KPCC Post

Grant Slater/KPCC

Mailboxes hang on the wall for prisoner appeals outside the main holding area in Corcoran State Prison's 4B SHU. Inmates accused of ties to prison gangs face an elaborate step-down rehabilitation process. Few make it out quickly.

Corcoran State Prison - KPCC Post

Grant Slater/KPCC

Officers Vickjord and Mayo stand guard in the excercise yard for inmates incarcerated in the SHU.

Corcoran State Prison - KPCC Post

Grant Slater/KPCC

An officer sits in the administrative center of the 4B SHU at Corcoran State Prison. The operating budget of the prison is $192 million per year.

Corcoran State Prison - KPCC Post

Grant Slater/KPCC

Charles Thomas, Jr., has been in the Security Housing Unit for 17 years. He says the confinement "wears you down mentally."

Corcoran State Prison - KPCC Post

Grant Slater/KPCC

Edward Frias has been in a Security Housing Unit for eight years.

Corcoran State Prison - KPCC Post

Grant Slater/KPCC

The periphery of Corcoran State Prison is made up of two fences crowned with barbed wire with an electric fence in the middle.

Corcoran State Prison - KPCC Post

Grant Slater/KPCC

A holding cell in the 4B SHU at Corcoran State Prison. There are 644 inmates in this high-security wing of the prison.

Corcoran State Prison - KPCC Post

Grant Slater/KPCC

The interior of a cell in the 4B SHU at Corcoran State Prison. Inmates are in these cells most of their day. They rotate to cages outside for three to four hours.

Corcoran State Prison - KPCC Post

Grant Slater/KPCC

General population cells house inmates that are not suspected of ties to prison gangs. There are fewer inmates in general population at Corcoran State Prison than there are inmates in isolation or special needs yards.

Corcoran State Prison - KPCC Post

Grant Slater/KPCC

Inmates aren't allowed to tread past this line in the prison's exercise yard.


This summer, thousands of prisoners in California went on a hunger strike to protest solitary confinement in what's known as Security Housing Units, or the SHU. 

Inmates say the isolated conditions in the SHU are intolerable, and the strike — in part — prompted the legislature to hold hearings tomorrow to look at solitary confinement. But prison officials say the harsh punishment is necessary to deal with the worst of the worst.

KPCC's Rina Palta recently visited the SHU at Corcoran State Prison in the Central Valley, and brings us the debate going on inside the prison walls.


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