- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - A federal judge heard arguments Thursday from an attorney for inmates held in isolation at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison who are seeking to expand their lawsuit alleging cruel and unusual punishment to include inmates who were transferred elsewhere.

Attorneys for the inmates say in court papers that some inmates have been transferred to the California Correctional Institute in Tehachapi, where they are in solitary confinement under substantially similar inhumane conditions.

They say expanding the lawsuit against the state to include them and any similarly situated prisoners around California makes sense because their claims are closely connected to those of the Pelican Bay inmates and would spare the court the time and expense of another lawsuit.

State officials counter that having to consider inmates outside Pelican Bay so late in the legal process would put the state at a disadvantage in the case. They also say the court had previously confined the lawsuit to inmates in the isolation unit at Pelican Bay.

California prison isolation units have drawn widespread attention in recent years as thousands of inmates statewide have gone on hunger strikes to protest the conditions.

The inmates who are held in the units, many of them gang members, are allowed out of their cells for fewer than two hours a day and don’t receive contact visits, phone calls or other amenities offered other prisoners. Many prisoners have been held in such conditions for a decade or longer.

Prison officials used to require a renunciation of gang membership to get out of the units but have more recently relaxed those rules.

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