Charles Carbone, Prisoner Rights Lawyer Attorney, California | Justice for Prisoners | get inmates out of prison

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Charles Carbone interviewed on KQED radio
KQED, September 2015:
Major Development in Pelican Bay Solitary Confinement Case
Listen to Charles Carbone being interviewed by Michael Krasny regarding a major development in Pelican Bay Solitary Confinement Case

Mother Jones article about Charles Carbone, Prisoners rights lawyer in California
MOTHER JONES, September 2015:
Inside the Landmark Court Case That Will End Indefinite Solitary Confinement in California
"It is a really big deal—and something that we hope will act as a tipping point," said attorney Charles Carbone, co-counsel on the suit. "I am hoping what we did here in California not only cures the issue of solitary confinement and the practice of isolating prisoners, but also starts or leads a larger conversation about the prison epidemic."

The California Report produced by KQED interviewed Charles Carbone about Prisoners in California
The California Report, produced by KQED, May 2014:
Listen to Charles Carbone talking about California prisoners being released. Things are changing for prisoners with life-sentences in California - record number of prisoners who have been serving 20 to 30 years to life are getting released.

Charles Carbone Prisoner rights lawyer in California on YouTube
YouTube, February 2014:
View Charles Carbone giving testimony in Sacramento in front of the Assembly and Senate Public Safety committee, California State Legislature, regarding the treatment of prisoners and the prison hunger strike.

San Francisco Chronicle interviewed Charles Carbone about Pelican Bay SHU.

"SHU critics dismiss the policy as window dressing that fails to make substantial changes. Thousands of inmates are still locked in isolation for their tattoos, artwork, written material and actions prison officials associate with gang activity. Further, they argue the step-down process still requires 'cooperation' with gang investigations and it still requires many years for release from isolated cells."

'It's not 'dramatic' unless you are referring to a Greek tragedy,' said Charles Carbone, a San Francisco lawyer representing Ashker and other Pelican Bay SHU inmates in a federal lawsuit alleging their living conditions are cruel and unusual punishment. 'The reforms are actually an expansion of power by prison officials to place more prisoners in solitary confinement, thereby permitting bigger abuses of power with more people locked away in isolation for potentially decades."

Carbone alleges that new policy expands the definitions of gang activity, which will result in more inmates getting sent off to a SHU.

Los Angeles Times interivewed Charles Carbone, California lawyer for prisoners.

"Many of those in SHU are 'the guards don't like,' prisoner rights attorney Charles Carbone told me. 'The rules are so flimsy that if the department wants someone validated, they will get validated."

Mother Jones article about Charles Carbone, Prisoners rights lawyer in California
MOTHER JONES, November/December 2012:

"Pennington's lawyer, Charles Carbone, says his 'impeccable prison record' should have him on track for parole. But there is no chance of that - four years ago Pennington was 'validated' by prison staff as an associate of a prison gang."

NY Times article referring to Charles Carbone, Callifornia Prisoners lawyer
NY TIMES, September 2012

In one case, said Charles Carbone, a prisoner's rights lawyer in San Francisco, evidence used to validate an inmate included a copy of an ancient Chinese military text, 'The Art of War,' found in his cell.

NPR article containing reference to Charles Carbone, California Prisoner rights lawyer

"Lira eventually won a judgment in U.S. District Court against the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in part for psychological damage he suffered while locked in isolation.

In Ernesto's case, I think it's very emblematic of the fact that people can be placed in solitary confinement for the littlest of reasons: for having a drawing, for having an address in an address book, without confirming or denying whether that address was used for furthering gang activity," said Charles Carbone, an attorney who has represented dozens of Pelican Bay inmates."

Los Angeles Times article containing comments from Charles Carbone, Prisoner rights attorney in California
LOS ANGELES TIMES, September 2011
“But Charles Carbone, a San Francisco prisoner-rights attorney, said he knew of no case that had directly tested whether the six-year minimum is "arbitrary on its face."

The hunger-striking inmates at Pelican Bay agreed to start eating after three weeks — the point at which serious health problems typically begin — in exchange for warm hats, wall calendars and a promise from prison officials to reconsider the isolation regulations.”

National Public Radio article with attorney Charles Carbone on Prisoner Rights in California
“Prisoner rights advocates are skeptical about the department's evolving strategy for the Security Housing Units."

Attorney Charles Carbone, who has been involved in numerous inmate lawsuits over conditions in the special units, says the plan could lead to improvements, but only if it is fully funded and implemented with close supervision by stakeholders outside the corrections system. Otherwise, Carbone says, the outcome simply could be more inmates locked in isolation.

‘We wouldn't be fixing anything,’ he said. ‘We would worsen the problem.’"

San Francisco Chronoicle interviewed Charles Carbone lawyer about prisoner rights in California
“He has accepted full responsibility for the crime, discussed the causes - his youth, drug abuse, family turmoil and falling in with the wrong crowd - and satisfied a prison psychologist that he had no current mental problems and posed a low risk of future violence, the court said.

Kaplan also reads books to blind inmates as part of a program at the state prison in Vacaville, said his lawyer, Charles Carbone.

‘If anyone has benefited from being in prison, it's Mr. Kaplan,’ he said.”

Daily Journal articles with reference to Charles Carbone California lawyer on Prisoner rights
“Increasingly, American prison inmates are under private lock and key. More than 16 percent of federal prisoners were held in privately operated prisons by the end of 2008, a 6 percent rise since 2000. The private companies in the field lobby cash-strapped governments with claims they can do the job more cheaply. Only about 3 percent of California's 160,000 state inmates are in privately run prisons, but that number is likely to rise.

‘The private prison industry's pitch is getting some resonance in Sacramento,’ said another of the plaintiff's lawyers in Monday's case, inmate rights attorney Charles F. Carbone of San Francisco.

Carbone said the Schwarzenegger administration, beset by inmate litigation over crowded cellblocks and an underwater budget, is considering privatizing new inmate medical centers and other correctional facilities.”

St. Paul Pioneer Press spoke with Charles Carbone California Prisoner lawyer about prison collect calls
"It's a gouging of family members, those who have never committed a crime."

Charles Carbone on prisoner collect calls.

NPR spoke to Charles Carbone on prison rights attorney
"Charles Carbone is a prisoner rights attorney whose handled dozens of prisoner cases."

SF Weekly featured Charles Carbone on the cover of an issue dedicated to parole matters and life prisoner inmates
SF WEEKLY - 2007
Read entire article of Charles Carbone featured as the cover story in SF Weekly on an issue dedicated to parole matters and life inmates.

ABC News had Charles Carbone featured on the issue of prison overcrowding
ABC NEWS - 2007
Charles was featured in a nightly broadcast of SF's ABC affiliate on the issue of prison overcrowding.

NY Times interviewed Charles Carbone, California lawyer for prisoner rights about prisoner who paints using colors from M&M candies
"He has been in solitary confinement in a small concrete cell for almost two decades. He paints with a brush he created with plastic wrap, foil and his own hair. He makes paint by leaching the colors from M&M’s in little plastic containers that once held packets of grape jelly. His canvases are postcards.

It is not clear whether the prison will stop Mr. Johnson from creating paintings. In a recent postcard to his mother, Mr. Johnson wrote that prison officials have stopped him from mailing his art to his family, friends and supporters.

A lawyer for Mr. Johnson, Charles Carbone, said he was considering bringing a legal challenge."

Read entire article "Prison Disciplines Inmate Who Paints With M&Ms".

Long Beach Press Telegram interviewed prisoner rights attorney Charles Carbone
"In a move that could make thousands of prisoners eligible for shorter sentences and flood the courts with appeals for new trials, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down a key part of California's sentencing law. The court ruled in a 6-3 vote that a California law allowing judges to impose stricter sentences based on facts not presented to a jury at trial was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruling sends a message to the lower courts that juries, not judges, must decide the length of a prisoner's sentence. Prisoner rights attorney Charles Carbone called the decision monumental and said it could re-shape the criminal justice system in California."

Press Democrat interviewed Charles Carbon, prisoner rights lawyer in California
"The San Francisco Chronicle reported Woodford was leaving because the governor would not give her the job permanently. ‘It's yet another correctional administrator jumping off a sinking ship,’ said Charles Carbon, a lawyer for California Prison Focus, a prisoner rights group."

Associated Press interviewed Charles Carbone, attorney for California prisoner rights
"Charles Carbone, an attorney for the California Prison Focus, a prisoner rights advocacy group, said officials need to better define the term ‘sex offender’ so those who don't pose a threat to communities are allowed to return home. But, he added, ‘everyone recognizes that you have to err on the side of caution.’ "

San Francisco Chronicle interviewed Charles Carbone, prisoner rights attorney
Advocates for prisoners' rights said the policy switch put added pressure on already overcrowded prisons and ballooning prison budgets.

Charles Carbone, an attorney with California Prison Focus in San Francisco, said sending violators back to prison "doesn't serve public safety, and it absolutely doesn't save taxpayers money."

"Most parolees are violating their paroles on minor drug offenses and minor reporting offenses," he said Saturday. "They are not doing armed robberies and such."

New York Daily News contacted Charles Carbone regarding opinion of Michael Jackson going to prison
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS – November 2005
The New York Daily News reports Michael Jackson would face at least three years in prison if convicted of molesting a 12-year-old, but any jail time could be a death sentence. "Among the rank-and-file, child molesters fall below rapists," said Charles Carbone, a lawyer with California Prison Focus. "In prison culture, a child molester is the worst of the worst." Donald Specter, director of the California Prison Law Office added, "Michael Jackson would have a tough time in prison, no question about it."

NPR spoke with Charles Carbone, California lawyer, about Jewish prisoners
"Prisons are one of the most racially unfriendly environments in the country," Carbone said. "It's especially difficult for Jewish prisoners who are seen as white, but due to their history and culture, they're obviously non-white."

It is too soon to predict the outcome of the suit, said Carbone, whose organization has represented other inmates with similar complaints. But if successful, Liebb's suit could severely challenge the way cultural definitions are assigned in prisons.

"If it's a victorious case, it will definitely have a precedence in the California court system," Carbone said. "Counting other prison systems, which typically learn by watching, it will have a far-reaching effect in judicial prejudices." The practice of racial segregation within prisons also is legal, and to many, is the easiest way to promote safety within prisons, Carbone said.
"They realize inmates segregate themselves according to race," Carbone said. "Institutions have a 'conquer and divide' approach to race. If blacks are fighting Latinos, there's a recognition that prisoners will not share a commonality - they will fight amongst themselves."

ABC News spoke with Charles Carbone about Pelican Bay riot
ABC NEWS – January 2006
Charles Carbone: "It makes profound sense to let the cameras roll and to document whatever kind of misconduct or altercation or assault may be taking place on prison grounds."
But surveillance cameras can also protect guards. Case in point -- a massive riot at Pelican Bay six years ago. One inmate raises a knife to stab another. The tape proves the tower officer was justified in firing a fatal shot.

Associated Press interviewed Charles Carbone, human rights attorney in California about prisons
Charles Carbone, a human rights attorney in California, attributes the trend to the hefty price tag that comes with such restrictive prisons. He said they tend to be much more expensive since paid employees maintain the facility instead of inmates and prison trusties. The California Prison Focus organization estimates that a super maximum-security prison in California costs $57,000 per prisoner per year, compared to $26,000 per inmate in a regular prison. "There's also going to be a cost increase because of all these mental health issues," Carbone said. "It costs money to take care of these prisoners."

Associated Press spoke with Charles Carbone about California prisons and the Mexican Mafia
But a lawyer who has represented some Mexican Mafia members in lawsuits over conditions at the Pelican Bay prison say the Department of Corrections is overreacting.

"I think the department is hypersensitive and somewhat paranoid when it comes to any innocuous communication or transfer of money between inmates," attorney Charles Carbone said, adding that the Mafia's strength has diminished in recent years.

San Luis Obispo newspaper interviewed Charles Carbone, California prisoner rights lawyer
"The investigation is ongoing and we encourage full cooperation," Charles Carbone, a prisoner-rights lawyer retained by Riley's family, said in a written statement. "We welcome information or contact from anyone who might help solve Mike's death while in the care of Salinas correctional officers."

San Jose Mercury News interviewed Charles Carbone, a prisoner-rights attorney in San Francisco
All of this points to a trend, says Charles Carbone, a prisoner-rights attorney with California Prison Focus.

"You're creating an organizational culture that is hostile to your inmate population," he explains. Inmate services, medical treatment and use of force may indirectly affect one another, Carbone says, when they contribute to a negative environment.

"Two deaths in any calendar year for a county jail is a significant number," the attorney says. "Three or more deaths per year that can be attributed to use of force or excessive force show a pattern that should be a cause for alarm." In Santa Clara County, there have been three in just over six months.

San Francisco Chronicle interviewed Charles Carbone, lawyer in San Francisco specializing in Prisoner rights
Soledad, Monterey County -- They arrive in the dead of night, parking alongside a frontage road with no name.
Prisoners families should not be treated like criminals to visit their loved ones in prison, Charles Carbone, an attorney with California Prison Focus.

Charles Carbone mentioned in the Oakland Tribune Inside Bayarea paper talking about inmate rights
"The hope is that this will keep thousands of people out of SHUs," said Charles Carbone, a San Francisco attorney who represents the inmate-rights group California Prison Focus. "It's been a system that's been prone to abuse and this settlement should change that."

The lawsuit was filed 10 years ago by Steve Castillo, a prisoner who is serving a 35-year sentence for attempted murder and has spent a decade in the secured housing unit at Pelican Bay State Prison near Crescent City.

"Prisons in California are one of the most racially charged environments on the planet," said Charles Carbone, a lawyer with California Prison Focus, a San Francisco prisoners rights group. "When you have a state that embraces and institutionalizes race, you end up prolonging and exacerbating racial divides."

Carbone said one California prison is so preoccupied with race that it keeps a separate pair of hair clippers for prisoners of each racial group.

"When these people return to society, they tend to hold more bias than when they arrived," he said.

Charles Carbone interviewed on American Radio Works about Prisoner rights in 2004
Charles Carbone: Well, the debriefing process puts inmates in harm's way. And it needlessly puts inmates in harm's way because it says to them, "The only real way out of the gang is to snitch on your friends, to snitch on the people who are immediately around you, and people who have proven to be very violent and very capable of violent behavior." So it's a sure way for the prisoner to make a lot of enemies.

Carbone says California should copy states, like Connecticut, that allow gang members to drop out and leave the supermax without becoming informants. He says that would address another weakness in the Pelican Bay program: a large majority of gang members refuse to debrief and remain in the SHU without access to rehabilitation programs. But prison staff say they have to require inmates to debrief, otherwise some men might pretend to leave the gang in order to infiltrate the program. Pelican Bay Warden Rich Kirkland says the prison is only asking inmates to come clean.

Asian Week article interviewed Charles Carbone
ASIAN WEEK – March 2003
Asian American Studies Denied to San Quentin Inmates

“The department has so many rules,” Carbone said. “If you were a correctional officer and you were to walk into any cell, you would find something in there that's going to violate a rule. They identified these guys as troublemakers because they were advocating reforms for the San Quentin public programs — specifically to have ethnic studies classes added to the curriculum.

"The problem is that they don't want prisoners to have any say in formulating departmental policy, so any time prisoners speak up and say they're going to assert their rights, it's going to be a threat to the institution,” Carbone argues. “The prison doesn't care if San Quentin prison has Asian studies or not. They care about having the sole discretion over the nature of the curriculum and this is not subject to negotiation."

San Francisco Chronicle interivewed Charles Carbone, a San Francisco attorney for prisoner rights.
"The way it is now, you don't actually have to do anything wrong ... you just have to associate with the wrong people," said Charles Carbone, a San Francisco attorney aiding the hunger strikers."

Los Angeles Times interivewed Charles Carbone, lawyer for Prisoner Rights
LA TIMES – April 2002
"It's a gouging of family members, those who have never committed a crime," said Charles Carbone, a lawyer with Prison Focus, a prisoner rights group in San Francisco.

Inmates and their families have few options. Regular contact is possible only through highly restricted visits and phone calls out, which must be made by inmates, either collect or with special calling cards.

San Francisco Chronicle interviewed Charles Carbone, California attorney for prisoner rights
"Right now, the phone companies are taking advantage of a vulnerable community,'' said UCAN's Charles Carbone. "They're saying it's OK to bilk families of prisoners and overcharge them because they're a vulnerable community and they probably won't do anything about it. That's not right.''

UCAN's Carbone said California should follow Virginia's lead and consider lowering the surcharges and getting rid of the bidding system.

"The families of prisoners shouldn't be going broke just trying to stay in contact,'' Carbone said. "If nothing else, the cost of the calls should be tied to the cost of providing the service.''


Image of prisoners playing a game of checkers from their prison cell doors