SF Court Says Race-Based Prison Lockdown Procedure Unconstitutional

In a habeas corpus proceeding challenging the California Department of Corrections’ use of race as a proxy for gang membership for prison lockdowns, a San Francisco trial court agreed with the petitioner (Randolph Haro) that the procedure in place at the Solano prison was unconstitutional. The trial court granted Mr. Haro’s petition and the Department of Corrections appealed.

The Court of Appeal affirmed for procedural reasons, finding no fault with the trial court’s order prohibiting race-based lockdowns except for the failure to provide a procedure for true emergencies where there are specific safety risks for the prisoners and prison staff. The next step is for the Department of Corrections to return to the trial court with a proposed exception to the terms of the trial court’s order, an exception that would be used only when there are serious safety issues.

On appeal, Mr. Haro was represented by Rebekah Evenson and Donald Specter of the Prison Law Office. The Equal Justice Society and a dozen other public interest groups represented by Morrison & Foerster LLP filed an amicus brief in support of Mr. Haro’s position. The MoFo team included Miriam A. Vogel, Benjamin J. Fox, and Hanna Abrams.

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