Oprah Winfrey has joined the 60 Minutes team and for her second story she’s going inside one of America’s most notorious prisons, Pelican Bay State Prison, the only super-max state prison in California. Of the 2000+ prison population at Pelican Bay, 40 percent are serving life sentences. Most inmates have been transferred to Pelican Bay for a history of violence in other prisons. Notorious killer Charles Manson spent 14 months in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay in the late 1990s.
Solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison is monitored 22 hours a day, 7 days a week in Security Housing Units (SHU). Inmates are confined to a 8×10 cell without windows and are given food twice a day through a slot in the door. Over the years, several SHU prisoners have organized hunger strikes to protest the conditions, which many believe can cause mental illness. In May 2017, a major riot at Pelican Bay State Prison which required “lethal force” sent 8 guards and 7 inmates to the hospital. According to prison staff, guards were ambushed by more than 100 inmates. The officers fired a total of 22 shots to stop the attack. Lieutenant Jessica Berg from Pelican Bay State Prison said, “It was extremely scary for all of us,” and added, “Very sickening.” 60 Minutes airs Sundays at 7:30pm on CBS.