Prison standards

The crowded rooms were reportedly so cold that the occupants had to wear all their clothing at night. Rodents and cockroaches were common. Ventilation and sanitation were negligible.

These were among the findings of a US federal judge who last week ordered that two California prisons - Folsom and San Quentin - upgrade conditions in their ''segregated'' cells occupied by problem prisoners.

The ruling is not by itself unique. Similar rules have been imposed in other prison jurisdictions. But the ruling vividly underscores the need for continuing vigilance of conditions in the overcrowded prison systems found in the United States.

Most occupants of segregated cells are put there precisely because they can't be handled in regular cellblocks. Some are there for their personal safety. But cell conditions should be humane. Many of the prisoners may not themselves be models of ideal manhood or womanhood. But that is all the more reason for insisting on decent living conditions in prisons. Prisoners need to know that there are high standards for a civilized society - whether or not they are yet proving such standards.

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