Thornton said the department changed its policies last year to give gang associates a way out of the units. About half of the nearly 400 inmates considered so far have been or will be let out of solitary confinement, while another 115 are in a program in which they can work their way out of the units, Thornton said.
A federal judge in April refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by 10 Pelican Bay inmates alleging their living conditions in the isolation units are unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.
Meanwhile, 12 inmates at High Desert State Prison near Susanville continued a separate hunger strike they began July 1 to protest conditions in the administrative segregation unit there. Twenty-three inmates initially refused meals at the prison 185 miles northeast of Sacramento, but about half have resumed eating, Thornton said.