By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – A bill that would have placed limits on the use of solitary confinement in California jails, prisons and detention facilities was vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday night, representing the defeat of a measure that advocates said would restrict a “torturous” practice.
In a veto message, the governor wrote that he supported limits on solitary confinement but feared the bill would impact the safety of prison staff and inmates.
“Segregated confinement is ripe for reform in the United States – and the same holds true in California,” Gov. Newsom wrote in a veto message. “AB 2632, however, establishes standards that are overly broad and exclusions that could risk the safety of both the staff and incarcerated population within these facilities.”
Gov. Newsom noted that he is directing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to create regulations to limit segregated confinement except in “limited situations.” Advocates of the bill, however, believe a legislative fix remains the right path forward.
“The lack of serious engagement by the governor with legislators on this issue, and his unilateral decision to pursue regulatory changes in prisons and ignore jails and private detention facilities is disappointing,” Hamid Yazdan Panah, advocacy director with Immigrant Defense Advocates, said in a statement to The Center Square. “CDCR in particular has been cited for failing to implement court ordered changes with respect to solitary confinement, so we have little faith in the regulatory process and believe a comprehensive legislative solution is necessary to end torture in our state.”
If AB 2632 was signed into law, it would have prohibited a prison from holding an inmate in solitary confinement for more than 15 consecutive days and no more than 45 days within a 180-day period. The bill would also prohibit prisons from “involuntarily” placing anyone in solitary confinement who is under 26 or over 59, has a mental or physical disability, is pregnant, recently suffered a miscarriage, recently terminated a pregnancy or is in the first eight weeks of postpartum.
Advocates pointed to organizations like the United Nations and the World Health Organization, who have acknowledged the harmful and potentially fatal implications of solitary confinement. The United Nations ratified the Nelson Mandela Rules in 2015, declaring that prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement should be prohibited.
The bill faced pushback from the California State Sheriff’s Association, who argued that the Board of State and Community Corrections is “best situated” to make situations about “best practices” at prisons and detention facilities.
A fiscal analysis estimated the bill would cost hundreds of millions of dollars annually to implement the requirements, which included the need to hire additional staff and expand exercise yards.