Today California is taking a step back from its use of one of the harshest measures in criminal justice -- unlimited solitary confinement for gang members and inmates who commit crimes while inside. Now as part of a landmark legal settlement the prison system will enforce strict limits on how long prisoners can spend in isolation, and who goes there in the first place.
The lawsuit prompting this overhaul goes back to 2009, and two convicted killers serving time in the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay Prison in Northern California. Todd Ashker and Danny Troxell were among 78 prisoners who'd been held in solitary housing units (SHUs) for more than 20 years. They said living in concrete "holes" -- as they called them -- for 23 hours a day with minimal human contact was tantamount to torture.