Gang activity is one of the most serious threats to prison safety and security. Gang members who assault other inmates and prison staff are the most violent and predatory in California prisons.
These predators are removed from general population and placed in Security Housing Units (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison and Corcoran State Prison or in Administrative Segregation (Ad Seg) units at each of California’s 32 prisons.
“Isolating these 4,000 inmates who cannot behave within the prison system protects the remaining 137,000 inmates who want to do their prison sentences peacefully,” said James H. Gomez, Director of the California Department of Corrections (CDC). “The difference is 60 to 70 inmates a year who aren’t being killed because these predators are isolated from the rest of the prison population.”
In the 1970s, one out of every 1,800 inmates was killed by another inmate. In the 1980s, one out of every 3,500 inmates was killed by another inmate. In the 1990s, one out of every 12,000 inmates is killed by another inmate. Much of this reduction of violence is a result of isolating violent predators from the rest of the prison population.
Predatory inmates remain in controlled housing until they can prove they can live peacefully with rival gang members. CDC has had a policy since 1984 of integrating rival gang members during constitutionally required exercise periods at all SHU and Ad Seg areas.
Effective prison management requires identifying inmates on an individual basis to determine the appropriate mix to minimize potential violence. It is necessary to evaluate the inmates behavior with rivals in a secure controlled setting before returning them to less restrictive housing where they would associate with larger numbers of inmates, including potential rivals.
Corcoran State Prison will return to this policy within 30 days. It is a man aged and measured process to screen all inmates. Inmates known to be enemies are not placed together in exercise or other environments.
“No one is more concerned about safety in prison than I am,” said Director Gomez. “The success of the system which is aimed at improving safety for all inmates and staff is the proper management of this process by prison staff.”
CDC staff have been provided with pepper gas spray and other non-lethal tools to control outbreaks of violence. The goal is to limit the amount of force to only what is necessary to restore security.