In the days before mass protests swept over California prisons, state officials began increasing the privileges inmates receive in solitary confinement, where those protests were being organized. (See memo here.)
Then when the strike began Monday, a prison official sought to cut by half one of the few types of personal items that inmates in isolation are allowed to keep: books. The memo restricted from 10 to five the books that may be kept by inmates in the security housing unit at Pelican Bay State Prison. That is the unit where protest leaders are housed.
It brought swift objection from lawyers representing Pelican Bay inmates in a federal lawsuit over state policies that allow inmates to be held indefinitely in that isolation unit, some for decades. Some of the plaintiffs in that lawsuit are also leaders of the protest.
"Our clients believe this to be punishment and clearly counter to the amenities that were announced to them on July 2," said attorney Anne Weills. "We will be protesting this directly to CDCR and will call on librarians to assist in their struggle to have more books and periodicals in their cell."