California prisons end race policy
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- California officials agreed Wednesday to end a policy in which it segregated prison inmates after riots based on their race as a way of preventing further violence.
Officers have frequently locked inmates in their cells based on which races were involved in the riot, even if individual inmates of that race were not directly implicated.
The 21-page settlement of a lawsuit first filed in 2008 says future lockdowns may not be imposed or lifted based on race or ethnicity.
Instead, officers can lock down every inmate in an affected area or lock down individual inmates suspected of being involved in the incident or the gangs that were involved.
The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation also agreed to provide inmates with chances for outdoor exercise any time a lockdown lasts longer than 14 days.
The agreement with attorneys representing inmates came after the U.S. Justice Department said in a non-binding court filing last year that the old policy violated the 14th Amendment, which requires equal protection under the law.
State officials did not acknowledge any violation of inmates' constitutional rights as part of the agreement.
"We see this as a tremendous result," Rebekah Evenson, an attorney with the nonprofit Berkeley-based Prison Law Office, said in an email.
Corrections officials did not immediately comment.
The class-action settlement has not been filed with the federal court in Sacramento, nor has a federal judge agreed to its terms. A copy of the settlement was obtained by The Associated Press.
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