The Supreme Court made the right decision Wednesday in all but overturning California’s policy of housing new prison inmates in cells based on their race. Clearly, the state cannot classify people solely on that basis in the year 2005, and it would be preposterous for state prison officials to continue arguing that there is a compelling reason to do so.
The weekend riot at Chino state prison erupted after two inmates — a Latino and an African American — began fighting in a recreation yard, and others, watching from surrounding dormitories, followed suit, clashing along racial lines that have racked the state prison system for decades, prison officials said Sunday.
In keeping with our progressive notions, the facility was not segregated:
The medium-security facility where the riot occurred — Reception Center West — has 1,381 prisoners in five dormitories.
[Prison spokesman Lt. Mike] Hargrove said prisoners are not normally separated by race in that facility — except after a riot like Saturday’s.
And such violence is nothing new:
Racial violence has beset the California prison system since the 1970s, when gangs like the Mexican Mafia, the Black Guerrilla Family and the Aryan Brotherhood fought for power. Last month in Chino, officers put down a fight between 60 black and Latino inmates in an eating area.
In September 2005, a clash between 270 black and Latino prisoners there left one critically injured. That January, a guard was stabbed to death.
Just tell his family that “it would be preposterous for state prison officials to continue arguing that there is a compelling reason” to segregate inmates on the basis of race.
In recent years, racial fighting has also erupted in the Los Angeles County jail system. In February, more than 2,000 inmates at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic went on a rampage that left one dead and 50 injured. A black inmate was killed in Men’s Central Jail downtown in a racially motivated fight the next week.
And at Pitchess in July, 16 inmates received minor injuries in two brief fights between 1,600 black and Latino inmates.
Preposterous, I say!