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Prisons prepare to integrate cellmates

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Prisons prepare to integrate cellmates Empty Prisons prepare to integrate cellmates

Post by HeadBanger May 29th 2008, 11:52 am

Tanya Schevitz, Chronicle Staff Writer

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

(05-26) 17:02 PDT -- San Quentin State Prison inmate Lexy Good is white, hangs out with whites on the prison exercise yard and must be careful not to associate with blacks and Latinos. No cards, no basketball outside the color lines.

Those are the unwritten inmate rules of prison life. People stick to their own race.

Good, who's doing a short stretch for receiving stolen property, likes it that way.

"We segregate amongst ourselves because I'd rather hang out with white people, and blacks would rather hang out with people of their own race," said Good, 33, of Walnut Creek. "Look at suburbia. Look at Oakland. Look at Beverly Hills. People in society self-segregate."

Soon that may change in the prisons.

San Quentin and 30 or so other state penal facilities are gearing up to carry out a federal court mediation agreement for integrating double cells and ending the use of race as the sole determining factor in making cell assignments.

Men in California's prisons have long been segregated in cells to quell racial tensions.

But Good, along with California's other 155,700 male inmates, may soon be forced to live in a 4-by-9-foot cell with an inmate of a different race.

A 1995 lawsuit filed by a black California inmate, Garrison Johnson, said that the California Department of Corrections' practice of segregating prisoners by race violated his rights. A 2005 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court led to federal court mediation and the agreement that double cells would be desegregated.

While most inmates and correctional officials agree that it is a noble idea, many fear the worst.

"They should be thinking about what kind of war they are going to start," said a San Quentin inmate who identified himself only as S. Styles, 36, of Vallejo. "It is like putting a cat and a dog in a cell together."

Lt. Rudy Luna, assistant to the warden at San Quentin, said there is some concern among prison officials about the change because much of the violence is already based around racial gangs.


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