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Report Critical Of Solitary Confinement At California Prisons

SACRAMENTO (KCBS) - California has violated global standards by keeping thousands of inmates in isolation cells, according to an Amnesty International report released Thursday that criticizes conditions at two of the state's maximum security prisons as "cruel and inhuman."

After visiting the prisons, a team led by Angela Wright found isolation units at the Pelican Bay and Corcoran state prisons that violate the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

KCBS' Doug Sovern Reports:

"They include things like access to natural light, fresh air, adequate exercise, rehabilitation programs and so on," Wright said.

"There's an absolute obligation, under international law, for the authorities to treat prisoners humanely, and it's our clear view that the conditions and the length of time in which prisoners are held in isolation breach minimum standards for humane treatment."

Freddie Gray spent 16 years at both facilities because of a robbery conviction, and served almost half of that time in what he described as the cruel torture of isolation of the Security Housing Units.

"They don't feed you right. You don't even get to be able to see the sun or get fresh air," he said.

State corrections officials disputed the Amnesty findings, defending solitary confinement as both humane and at times necessary.

"Unfortunately, there's a small segment of the population who simply will not agree to not engage in violence in our prisons," said Terri McDonald, in charge of operations throughout the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

McDonald noted that other observers have reached different conclusions about solitary confinement in California state prisons.

"We've had several court monitors, and oversight of our facilities for decades. And none of those reports have found our conditions of confinement and segregation to be inhumane," she said.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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