Tuesday, July 29, 2008
LANCASTER, Calif. -- Male prisoners in the nation's largest corrections system, long kept segregated by race in an effort to temper violence, will soon be sharing cells with inmates of other ethnicities.
A program aimed at integrating California's prisons for men will begin in coming weeks at two facilities and will be extended to the state's 28 other penitentiaries over the next year or so, officials said.
Segregating prison housing has long been the system's unwritten policy. But after an inmate's civil rights lawsuit went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, a mediated settlement led the state to reverse course despite many inmates' opposition.
Officials now argue that segregation perpetuated racial divisions and that integration would lessen them.
"We believe that once integrated housing is in place, it will ease those tensions and build that tolerance," said Ken Lewis, spokesman for the California State Prison, Los Angeles County, in Lancaster. "The system has to have something in place to give them a push. One day these guys will get out, and they'll have to learn to live among different people. If he can be tolerant in prison, he can be tolerant on the street." [Mark Godsey]