In several men’s prisons across California, colored signs hang above cell doors: blue for black inmates, white for white, red, green or pink for Hispanic, yellow for everyone else.
Though it’s not an official policy, at least five California state prisons have a color-coding system.
On any given day, the color of a sign could mean the difference between an inmate exercising in the prison yard or being confined to their cell. When prisoners attack guards or other inmates, California allows its corrections officers to restrict all prisoners of that same race or ethnicity to prevent further violence.
Prison officials have said such moves can be necessary in a system plagued by some of the worst race-based gang violence in the country. Just last week, at least four inmates were taken to the hospital after a fight broke out between over 60 black and Hispanic inmates in a Los Angeles jail.
The labels “provide visual cues that allow prison officials to
prevent race-based victimization, reduce race-based violence, and
prevent thefts and assaults,” wrote the California Department of
Corrections and Rehabilitation, in response to a lawsuit.