Bishop Richard Garcia, chairman of the Restorative Justice Committee of the California Conference of Catholic Bishops and Bishop of the Diocese of Monterey issued the following statement today concerning state policies on prisoner isolation and the escalating nature of a hunger strike that has grown to include nearly 10 percent of California’s prison population:
“As Chair of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops Restorative Justice Committee, we call upon Gov. Brown and Dr. Jeffrey Beard, California Secretary of Correction and Rehabilitation (CDCR), to address the egregious overuse of solitary confinement, violations of CDCR treatment policies of prisoners in the Secure Housing Units (SHU) and threats against prisoners participating in this current non-violent demonstration on the inhumane treatment of human beings.
“The California Catholic Bishops and its conference staff have been in dialogue with the CDCR for 12 years on the very issues being surfaced now, hoping that they would have been resolved. Sadly, this has not happened. Thus, we raise our voice with all other concerned citizens asking Gov. Brown to appoint an outside oversight committee to address and correct these human rights violations.
“We stand opposed to this treatment because it is not restorative. Placing humans in isolation in a Secure Housing Unit (SHU) has no restorative or rehabilitative purpose. International human rights standards consider more than 15 days in isolation to be torture. The world is watching California and the United States.
“The U.S. Catholic Bishops wrote in their pastoral letter, Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice (November 15, 2000), ‘We oppose the increasing use of isolation units, especially in the absence of due process, and the monitoring and professional assessment of the effects of such confinement on the mental health of inmates.’
“We stand ready to assist Gov. Brown in resolving this urgent situation. No one affected by crime is helped when a human being is subjected to this inhumane form of punishment. It is time for change now.”
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