An appeals court has ordered California's Pelican Bay State Prison to halt race-based punishment except during riots and other dire emergencies.
The California Court of Appeal on Wednesday ruled that Pelican Bay authorities were wrong to deprive certain ethnic groups privileges such as family visits, outside exercise and religious services during lengthy periods of heightened racial tensions.
The unanimous three-judge panel upheld a lower court ruling in favor of Jose Morales, a Hispanic inmate from Southern California.
Morales filed a lawsuit in 2010 alleging he was denied certain privileges afforded other inmates because of his ethnic classification.
Prison officials argued unsuccessfully that such "partial lockdowns" of certain ethnic groups is a vital tool in combating racial violence.