Prison officials are enacting new rules that they say will make California the first state to recognize that inmates can quit prison gangs and put that lifestyle behind them. However, gang associates would have to steer clear of gang activities for about a decade to qualify for less restrictive prison rules, while gang leaders would have to behave for a minimum of 14 years.
The draft regulations made public Friday are the latest changes to rules that keep some gang members locked in special isolation units at Pelican Bay in far Northern California and other prisons for years. As many as 30,000 inmates have joined widespread hunger strikes to protest the prolonged isolation. Prison officials consider more than 2,800 of California's nearly 134,000 inmates to be gang members or associates.