Judge rules racial-based prison lockdowns are illegal
Saturday, December 21, 2002
(12-21) 16:38 PST SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) --
California prison officials say they will appeal a Del Norte County court ruling that declares their longtime practice of racial and ethnic lockdowns to be unconstitutional.
California Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Heimerich said Friday the agency's appeal is based on previous "extensive backing from the courts to house prisoners the way we house them."
Del Norte Superior Court Judge Robert Weir ruled earlier this month that confining inmates to their cells because of their race is unconstitutional, and also declared that segregating inmates as they relax, shower or work creates a "culture of separation" that incites violence.
Prisoner-rights advocates, critical of segregating inmates to relieve racial tension, say the ruling could provoke major changes in how California controls inmates.
Inmate Aaron Escalera of Orange County, serving an 11-year sentence for second-degree murder, sued the Department of Corrections and the warden at Pelican Bay State Prison, saying authorities targeted him for lockdown because he was a Hispanic from Southern California.
He says after a 2000 prison riot he and other Hispanics from Southern California were confined to their cells for nearly six weeks. Twelve other inmates, black and Hispanic, joined in Escalera's suit.
Weir, in his Dec. 10 ruling, gave the department 90 days to prepare a new lockdown plan.
©2002 Associated Press