Conditions in California's isolation prison cells are inhumane, according to a report by Amnesty International, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Currently, there are more than 3,100 inmates living in maximum security segregation units in California prisons. Thousands more live in similar administrative segregation units.
According to the Times, more inmates commit suicide in California prisons than at prisons in any other state, and nearly 50% of those deaths occur among inmates in segregation cells.
According to the report, conditions in isolation cells in California prisons "breach international standards on human treatment."
Tess Murphy -- an Amnesty International observer who assessed conditions in several state prisons last year -- said, "There is no question ... the conditions are among the worst in the nation."
Although state officials say that the average stay in solitary confinement is 6.8 years, the report found that at least 500 prisoners have spent more than 10 years in segregation, while 78 inmates have been in isolation for more than 20 years.
Terri McDonald -- who manages prison operations for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation -- said that segregation units "follow the national standard," adding, "They are clean. They are secure." She said, "We have not been inhumane."
In addition, McDonald noted that the state's prison health care system still is under federal oversight (St. John, Los Angeles Times, 9/27).
About six years ago, a federal judge appointed an overseer to assess the state's prison health care system after determining that an average of one inmate per week died as a result of malpractice or neglect. In April, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation released a plan for reorganizing the state's prisons and ending federal oversight (California Healthline, 9/6).