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Prisons to Curtail Racial Segregation

State officials will phase in a new policy in which race will be considered along with gang ties and personal histories in assigning housing.

December 20, 2005|Jill Leovy | Times Staff Writer

In fact, Johnson's lawsuit was a direct challenge to the idea that prisoners were safer if housed with those of their own race, Deixler said.

Prison segregation policies are flawed because a great deal of underworld violence occurs between people of the same race, Deixler argued. Rivalries between the predominantly black Crips and Bloods, for example, claim numerous lives on the street, he said.

Deixler's client was a black man jailed for murder in 1987 who was not a member of any gang, court papers said. Being housed with other black men, most of whom belonged to gangs, left Johnson feeling defenseless -- unable to form alliances with prisoners who, like himself, were unaffiliated with gangs.

"He was a lone wolf who did not have a prospect for having protection," Deixler said. He sought an integrated prison setting because he wanted peers who would back him against the black gang members he found so menacing, he added.

Deixler, an attorney with the law firm Proskauer Rose who handled the case without pay, praised corrections Secretary Roderick Q. Hickman for helping to engineer the settlement.

The corrections department leadership was "engaged and thoughtful," in designing a plan for desegregating prison facilities without compromising safety, he said.

Johnson remains housed with an African American cellmate, Deixler said.

But Deixler added that Johnson has been promised a cellmate of a different race upon his next transfer.

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