The California Mandela Act on Solitary Confinement (AB 280/Holden) focuses on one of the most important human rights issues of our time – solitary confinement. AB 280 defines solitary confinement as any period of confinement that exceeds 17 hours in a cell; mandates that facilities document any instance in which solitary is used; places limits on the duration any person can be held in this manner; and bans the use of solitary confinement entirely for certain vulnerable populations – those who recently gave birth, have disabilities, or fall within certain age limits.
A broad coalition of organizations focused on criminal justice, human rights, immigration detention, and disability rights came together to form the California Mandela Campaign and sponsor AB 280. This legislation builds on the growing momentum generated by recent solitary confinement bills that were signed into law in Colorado and New York, and is inspired by the United Nations Nelson Mandela Rules, which make clear that prolonged solitary confinement is torture and can be fatal. During the 2022 legislative session, the California Mandela Act was passed by both houses of the State Legislature, only to be vetoed by the Governor. The coalition isn’t giving up and have worked hard since the Governor’s veto to address the concerns raised in his veto message. AB 280 continues the fight for The California Mandela Act this year.
“Given that California has been a leader on so many social justice issues, it is shocking and disheartening that we have failed to align our solitary confinement policies with accepted minimal international standards. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has continued routine and prolonged use of solitary confinement – a tortuous practice known to erode mental and physical health – and is diametrically opposed to its stated mission. Solitary Confinement must end.”