Democratic lawmakers on key policy committees say they want to limit California's practice of keeping hundreds of inmates in solitary confinement for years, sometimes decades, as a way of controlling violent prison gangs. They held the first in a planned series of hearings yesterday.

It was in response to an inmate hunger strike this summer that at one point involved more than 30,000 of the 133,000 inmates in state prisons. The inmates were protesting conditions for gang leaders held in isolation at Pelican Bay and three other prisons. Prison officials say they already have changed the rules to limit use of the isolation units.