Jamestown, Ca — The Sierra Conservation Center will be one of the first two prisons in the state to implement a new interracial housing policy.
In 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is unlawful to use race as the primary determining factor in where an inmate is housed in a state prison. SCC and the Mule Creek State Prison in Ione have been selected by California to be the first two institutions to pioneer the new procedures.
Having inmates of the same ethnicity housed in the same quarters has been done by officials in the past in an effort to eliminate violence and riots within the institution walls.
?In the prisons, for the most part, there is a lot more racism,? says Captain Kenny Calhoun with SCC. ?The inmates do segregate themselves by race, so there is some concern among some of the inmates that there could be more fights.?
Xavier Francis Cervin is currently serving time at SCC for DUI charges, and says that he has heard mixed responses from inmates about the new rule. ?It doesn´t really affect me in any way,? says Cervin. They can put an African-American with me, a Native American, a Southerner, or a Caucasian, it doesn´t make any difference. I´m still going to do my time.?
Cervin describes himself as a ?Northern Hispanic? and adds that it will take time for some to get used to living in the same quarters with those who are not of the same ethnicity. ?It is going to create some friction and a lot of problems,? adds Cervin. ?I´m not walking around with plugs in my ears, I hear things. But, we´re not the ones that are making the decisions, so we have to go with the flow.?
James Armand is an African American inmate and is pleased to see the changes go into effect. ?It should have been done,? says Armand. ?A man is a man. I don´t see why anyone should be segregated. Segregation passed a long time ago.?
Jeff Kress, a Caucasian, has been in the prison system for 13 years and is currently serving his fifth term. He has many more concerns about the new policy. ?There are prison politics that go way back,? says Kress. ?The politics that dictate that we live together are for our safety. If some ethnic group jumps one guy, then the rest of us are going to have to retaliate so that we get our respect and let them know that we aren´t going to be pushed around.?
Captain Calhoun says that the changes will not occur overnight, and that there will be a transition period.
We´re not going to do mass moves,? adds Calhoun. ?The inmates that are already housed will stay in their cells and just be moved through attrition. As their cell or bed becomes empty, someone else will move in there.?
When asked about the long term implications, inmate Kress was more positive about the transition. ?Over time, I think it might work,? he says. ?But it is going to be a long time, and through a lot of struggles. I think the institution is going to go through a lot of growing pains to get where it wants to go.?
Written by BJ Hansen