The Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) has agreed to a settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Prison Law Office and their co-counsel on behalf of more than 33,000 people held in state prisons.
Filed in 2012, the landmark case was scheduled to go to trial earlier this month in federal court. The lawsuit asserts that people held in ADC prisons are not provided access to sufficient mental health care, medical care and dental care, resulting in deaths. The suit also alleges excessive use of solitary confinement by the state.
The settlement in Parsons v. Ryan requires the ADC to put in place major measures to rectify extensive inadequacies to its health care program, which a recent press release by the ACLU describes as a “system plagued by long-term and systemic problems that caused numerous deaths and preventable injuries.”
To comply with the settlement, the ADC must meet over 100 health care performance initiatives, including issues like monitoring people “with diabetes, hypertension, and other chronic conditions; care for pregnant prisoners; and dental care.”
The settlement also requires the ADC to implement new restrictions on placing people suffering from mental illness in solitary confinement. The ADC must further grant those with mental illnesses who are held in isolation additional access to mental health treatment and more time outside of their cells.
The ACLU said, “Instead of spending all but six hours a week in their cells, such prisoners will now have at least 19 hours a week outside the cell, and this time must include mental health treatment and other programming.”
The settlement also restricts the use of pepper spray by guards on these people, requiring that it only be used “as a last resort when necessary to prevent serious injury or escape.”
According to The Arizona Republic, the settlement further states that chemical agents should be used only on those deemed “seriously mentally ill” (SMI) in the instance of an “imminent threat.”
The story also notes that the ADC denies the charges in the complaint, maintaining “the settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing or liability.”
The agreement is to stay in effect for a minimum of four years.
The ADC has consented to pay all attorneys’ fees, which amount to $4.9 million, to the ACLU of Arizona and the other parties that filed suit.
The settlement further includes terms allowing for continuous monitoring and oversight by attorneys of the prisoners to ensure the state is in compliance with the new regulations, thereby establishing a system of checks and balances to ensure ADC is compliance with all new regulations.
David Fathi, the Director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project, said, “We hope other states will now find ways to provide adequate medical, mental health, and dental care to their prisoners.”
• Dissident Voice published a profile of Mumia Abu-Jamal and Jeremy Hammond, two political prisoners who have faced time in solitary confinement.
• Undocumented immigrants currently and formerly held at a detention center in Colorado have filed a class-action lawsuit against the private company that runs the facility. The individuals allege that they were threatened with solitary confinement if they refused to assist in cleaning or operating the facility, work for which they were paid less than $1 a day.
• The widow of Colorado’s former prison chief, Tom Clements, urged a candidate in the state’s gubernatorial race to stop using her “family’s loss for [his] personal and political gain.” Her husband was murdered by Evan Ebel in 2013, after he was released directly from solitary confinement.
• Gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have filed a class-action lawsuit against San Bernardino County and its sheriff, claiming that they are kept in isolation on an LGBT-specific unit and denied access to programming that would enable them to secure earlier release dates. One plaintiff said, “I shouldn’t have to choose between my safety and my sexual orientation. That’s pretty much the choice you have to make.”
• Colorado’s Department of Corrections may be considering giving those on death row additional about four hours out of their cells daily, according to one source. In Colorado – and across the country – people on death are held in solitary confinement regardless of their behavior on the inside.
• As part of a settlement agreement reached with Prisoners’ Legal Services, New York’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision will provide much greater protections to children facing solitary confinement following a disciplinary hearing. The settlement also restricts the amount of hours young people can spend in isolation to 18 hours a day during the week and 22 hours a day over the weekend.
Pope Francis Denounces Solitary Confinement, Calls for Prison Conditions That “Respect Human Dignity”
In a wide-ranging speech on Thursday, Pope Francis revealed himself as a passionate criminal justice reformer. His words also suggest that he is familiar with the controversies surrounding solitary confinement and supermax prisons, and strongly opposes their use.
Speaking at the Vatican to representatives of the International Association of Penal Law, the Pope said: “All Christians and people of good will are called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty, be it legal or illegal, in all of its forms, but also for the improvement of prison conditions in respect for the human dignity of those who have been deprived of liberty.”
Previous popes, including John Paul II, have been outspoken opponent of capital punishment. But Francis took his discourse a step further, denouncing sentences of life in prison, and saying that “a life sentence is a hidden death sentence.”
The Pope called for a ban on all criminal detention of children, for “special treatment” for elderly people in prison, and for an end to preventive detention, which he called a “hidden, illegal punishment.” More broadly, he denounced “the deplorable conditions of detention that take place in different parts of the world,” which he called an “arbitrary and merciless exercise of power over persons who have been deprived of freedom.”
Francis specifically turned his attention to supermax prisons. His term was carceri di massima sicurezza, which more literally translates to “maximum-security prisons”–but from his emphasis on extreme isolation and its consequences, it is clear that the Pope was referring to the use of solitary confinement. Pope Francis’s statement in full on the subject is as follows (with apologies for a rough translation):
One form of torture is sometimes applied by imprisonment in maximum security prisons. With the motive of providing greater security to the community or special treatment for certain categories of prisoners, its main feature is none other than the isolation. As demonstrated by studies carried out by different human rights bodies, the lack of sensory stimuli , the complete lack of communication and the lack of contact with other human beings, causes physical and emotional suffering such as paranoia, anxiety, depression, and weight loss, and significantly increases the chances of suicide.
This phenomenon is characteristic of high security prisons, but it also occurs in other kinds of prisons, along with other forms of physical and mental torture…These tortures are now administered by not only as a means to achieve a particular purpose, such as confession or denunciation, in the name of national security. They are a genuine surplus of pain that is added to the suffering of detention. In this way, torture takes place not only in clandestine detention centers or in modern concentration camps, but also in prisons, juvenile institutions, psychiatric hospitals, police stations, and other institutions of detention and punishment.
The Pope also warned against seeing prison as a cure for all of society’s ills. “In recent decades there has been a growing conviction that through public punishment it is possible to solve different and disparate social problems, as if for different diseases one could prescribe the same medicine,” he said. In conclusion, he advised that “caution in the application of punishment should be the governing principle of all criminal justice systems,” and that States should not, for any purpose, subvert “respect for the dignity of the human person.”
Pope Francis previously made headlines during his first Holy Week by washing the feet of twelve youth held at a juvenile detention center in Rome while celebrating the mass of the Last Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.
In a papal mass just a few days before his speech on criminal justice, Francis told an assembly of Catholic bishops: “God is not afraid of new things. That is why he is continuously surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways.”
The American Friends Service Committee has a long history of advocating for the rights of the incarcerated, and against injustice and abuse in U.S. prisons, jails, and detention centers. Recently, AFSC released a report called Survivors Speak: Prisoner Testimonies of Torture in United States Prisons and Jails. The document was prepared as a Shadow Report to the official U.S. Periodic Report on its adherence to the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT), which is further explained in this earlier post.
In the executive summary to the report, AFSC writes:
The list of abuses committed against U.S. prisoners is long and deeply distressing: sexual violence, humiliation, unsanitary conditions, extreme temperatures, insufficiently nutritious food, inadequate medical care, isolation, psychological torture, racism, chemical abuse and disproportionate uses of force. These are just a sample of experiences you will read about in these first-hand accounts from individuals living in jails and prisons throughout the United States.
Other civil society shadow reports addressing corrections conditions feature legal analysis, data illustrating the prevalence of ill treatment committed against prisoners and insights from experts. This shadow report supplements those crucial examinations by bringing the human experience to bear. Statistics are helpful in understanding the ways in which the U.S. prison system is fundamentally broken. Yet even the best charts are unable to fully convey the reality of what it is like to live through breaches of CAT obligations. These are their testimonials − verbatim − of inhuman conditions under which they are held, abuses that irrevocably change their lives.
What follows is a selection of testimonies from the section of the report that deals with prison isolation. Thanks to Bonnie Kerness of AFSC’s Prison Watch program for forwarding this material to Solitary Watch. –Jean Casella
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“None of the locks on cell doors work which resulted in the death of 5 prisoners in one month… We are supposed to get an hour a day outside our cell but that’s not true in Georgia. We gone [sic] months without seeing the sunlight with nothing to read but a bible. Prisoner suicide has tripled and it’s a medical fact that everyone has lost weight in this program.” —J.H., Hayes State Prison, Trion, GA, 2014
“They called it a 23 hour lockdown, but during the hour out, you had no other human contact- not even staff… As you are aware we are made to eat and sleep in a concrete and steel bathroom…In my particular case they never turned off the light. My window was covered on the outside with some type of white plastic so that we could not attempt any type of visual communication with whatever may have been out there.” —D.L., Plymouth County Correctional Facility, Plymouth, MA, 2014
“I have been in solitary since 1998. From 1998-2005 I was held on “High Risk Potential”… which in part includes zero staff and/or inmate contact, no group activities, no program participation, stripped of privileges (e.g. phone, canteen, contact visits, hobby craft, inter alia), and escorted with arm and leg restraints that have a dog leash attached to them during any movement. In 2005 I was removed from the “HRP” status and Disciplinary Segregation, but placed on Administrative Segregation. I’m still stripped of privileges, staff and/or inmate contact, no group activities, no program participation and in-cell confinement for 23 hours a day. I also only get to shower every 3 days.” —G.P., Ely State Prison, Ely, NV, 2014
“First and I feel most importantly is the solitary confinement at the last prison I was at. It is a dungeon like setting. Dark, no windows, you go weeks and months sometimes not seeing light. These are dangerous and unsupervised for the most part. Men are put in these cells with other men which fight and get injured without anyone knowing for hours on end… I have seen several times inmate getting beat while in cuffs or ganged up by a number of officers…” —C.M., Staton Correctional Center, Elmore, AL, 2014
“The conditions were very inhumane…hot, no working vents at all… stuffy and humid…my first cell bugs were biting me all over my body, when I said something about it they (the medical staff) played like I was crazy then finally after constant complaining they gave me Benadryl then moved me and still didn’t clean the cell. They had a light on all day that felt like a rotisserie lamp. It was hard to sleep because of the hot humid cells and constant bugs biting me all day and night…we had no cups to drink the brown colored water that came out of the sinks and toilets. There was constant screaming yelling kicking and banging (with objects on doors to multiply the sound on the doors).” —A.S.A., SCI Dallas Restricted Housing Unit (confinement), Jackson Township, PA 2014
“I have basically been in seg64 housing unit and while being here the guards have tormented and encouraged me to cut myself and even specified jugular, carotid arteries, and have taunted me every time I have cut my wrist arteries, saying that I did not do it to their satisfaction and have threatened to beat me to a pulp.” —G.C., Wapun Correctional Institution, Wapun, WI, 2014
“It’s hard to explain the multitude of little factors that induce stress, anxiety, frustration, and depression…My best attempt to describe prolonged isolation in a supermax prison is that it’s like Chinese water torture. A single drop may not harm you but the millions of little drops of stress, anxiety, uncertainty, depression, and sorrow build up until you can begin to feel your mind breaking. I wish I could explain it better. Maybe then people could understand and wouldn’t allow this hell to continue.” —J.D., Tamms Correctional Center, Tamms IL, 2009
“I’ve been in the (hole) for three years and now so paranoid that I can’t be around people. I can’t even sleep in a cell with someone else even if I knew him all my life. I’ve tried every treatment, medication possible, no help…I am now so paranoid I can’t even be on the yards. Even in a lock [sic] cell, a lock [sic] shower, a lock [sic] rec cage, I’m still paranoid so how is it going to be on the streets when I am around others? I’ve really tried to work on it but nothing at all works even the medications. So all I ask is, is this place really need[ed].” —J.H., Federal Correctional Complex, Oakdale SMU, Oakdale, LA, 2010
“A suicide attempt. That’s what happened to me during my time in solitary. A serious, legitimate suicide attempt. I suffer of [sic] schizophrenia and while I was in segregation all I had to talk to was the voices in my head… While in solitary I was electrocuted due to faulty wiring. After that everything just went downhill for me. Every day I talked to delusions more and more. It got to the point that I did whatever the voices told me. Eventually I decided that was no way to live and chose to try to kill myself. I was found in my room passed out and cover [sic] in blood. The next morning I went right back into trying to kill myself as soon as [sic] woke up. I tried to kill myself by diving into a metal stool… I suffer of brain damage… If I would [sic] had daily conversations with other people, I would have not interacted with delusions. Delusions that led me to try to kill myself.” —D.A., Central New Mexico Correctional Facility, Los Lunas, NM, 2014
“This term [in solitary confinement] I have been in a little over 4 years straight, but overall most of the past 15 years… After doing a substantial amount of time inside alone, then being released is shocking. It is a blast for a few days then the people, colors, sounds, touching, movement, kids, cars, and social interactions become way too much, kind of like over-stimulation of the senses, it gets really uncomfortable around everyone and everything, so much that it usually takes alcohol or drugs to ‘feel’ comfortable.” —R.T., Corcoran State Prison, Corcoran, CA, 2014
“Even now, six months out of the hole I still remain affected. I withdraw from social interaction/setting. I feel frustrated for no apparent reason. Possibly the most damaging aspect of segregation is the sense of powerlessness. You can yell, scream, report misconduct and abuse to prison officials to no avail.” —B.S., Jefferson City Correctional Center, Jefferson City, MO, 2010
• Arizona’s Department of Corrections (ADOC) has agreed to a settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other organizations on behalf of more than 33,000 prisoners. Among other things, the settlement will require the ADOC to put in place new rules for people with mental illness placed in solitary confinement. According to the ACLU, “instead of spending all but six hours a week in their cells, such prisoners will now have a minimum of 19 hours a week outside the cell, and this time must include mental health treatment and other programming.”
• The Washington Post editorial’s team published an Op-ed in response to the Arizona settlement, entitled “Rethinking solitary confinement.”
• NPR ran a segment on the conditions experienced by children held on Rikers Island, which includes a brief examination of the recent announcement by jail officials that they would end the use of solitary for young people.
• A special legislative committee in Nebraska is continuing to examine the case of Nikko Jenkins, who killed four people in Omaha last summer after being released directly directly from solitary confinement.
• College campuses around the Northeast participated in 7×9, a performance arts vigil designed to create awareness of and generate opposition to the use of solitary confinement in the United States.
• Tessa Murphy of Amnesty International published A Comment is Free Guardian piece entitled, “Solitary confinement is cruel and all too unusual. Why is it only getting worse?”
• Writing for AlterNet, Lynn Stuart Parramore details the story of Michael Anthony Kerr, who died of thirst after spending 35 days in a North Carolina solitary confinement cell.
• A Seattle radio station ran a segment on a special unit in a Washington state prison designed to serve the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities – an alternative to the solitary confinement cells that vulnerable people often face.
The following story comes from Mustafa Zulu, who has been in solitary confinement for most of the past 22 years. He was born and raised in Washington, DC, where he watched both parents struggle with drug addiction. At the age of 16, he was tried as an adult and convicted of murder. He is currently serving a 50+ year sentence at the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. The following comes from a longer autobiographical piece called “Raised by Wolves.” He can be reached by writing Mustafa S.F. Zulu, #06454-041, US Penitentiary Ad Max, PO Box 8500, Florence, CO 81226. –Lauren Denitzio
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My life of solitary confinement begins the first day I enter the jail in 1993. Because it’s a jail for adults, all juveniles were segregated and locked down most of the time while awaiting trial. At 18, I was sent to a prison in Lorton, VA where I was locked down 23 hours a day. Soon I was transferred to the BOP where they sent me to Terre Haute penitentiary in Indiana. I stayed there for six months, where for the first and last time I was in general population.
In 1996, at the age of 19 years old, I was sent to the federal supermax prison here in Florence, Colorado, known as ADX or the new Alcatraz of the Rockies. I wads sent here nearly 20 years ago for an assault on an inmate. Back then the BOP did not have in place proper evaluations to determine if an inmate was suitable to be housed in solitary confinement, such as psychological evaluations etc. which they have now put in place as the result of major law suits. By all measures a 19 year old teenager was and should never be sent to America’s most secure federal supermax prison, where they boost of housing the so-called “worst of the worst”.
But I can tell you first hand, that it’s not only ‘the worst of the worst’ here. There’s also some of the best here, the smartest, strongest, courageous and undefeated men from every class and race. I know, I was raised by some of these so-called wolves.
The hot-tempered teenager I arrived here as nearly two decades ago, who was more schooled in crime than in scholarship and barely literate, is a man now. You could immediately make the logical assumption that throwing me to the wolves or placing me in a University of Crime (ADX), that it would only serve to produce a more calculating criminal. Well, you’d be both right and wrong. I am a better criminal, and in most cases this is all this place does is upgrade your criminal I.Q. and install a deep seated hatred for authority and different races.
But if like myself, one sets out on a path to better themselves that is certainly possible too – no thanks to the BOP and their overemphasis on punishment instead of rehabilitation programs.
Today I’m a better person because of my faith, friendships, and self-determination. There was a few of these so-called ‘worst of the worst’ who was the first to take notice of how young I was and my desire to better myself despite my circumstances. Some of these men have become my mentors, fathers, I never had. They opened my mind to a fascinating world of books where I could welcome into my cell some of the greatest minds in history. I still love most of all to sit in my cell and converse with the ideas of the great minds. The knowledge, virtues and disciplines I’ve learned are my most treasured possessions. History, religion, languages, mathematics, and politics are some of the subjects I’ve excelled at.
I can now only dream of the difference it would’ve made in my life to be given the type of guidance I’ve learned in prison as a child. What I could’ve accomplished and contributed to society? What if America valued its youth in urban communities enough to build more schools and factories instead of building more prisons or offshoring jobs to take advantage of cheap labor overseas.
In the ghettoes where alot of youth spend most of their time surviving, we are hardly ever exposed to any gratification of the spirit, art, poetry, philosophy and other civilizing influences. Our development are arrested long before we enter the gates of prison.
Lastly, one should never assume that because I’ve used my time wisely to embetter myself, that solitary confinement are anything but places where the human soul is tortured. There is no question that after 20 years solitary confinement has negatively and adversely impacted my mental and emotional well-being and has led to a deterioration of mind and spirit.
Solitary confinement has a cruel way of slowly destroying the logical process of the mind. I’ve witnessed too many friends of mine who was perfectly sane one day, go completely insane the next day! I could never feel secure that this will not happen to me because I work to embetter myself. No, it don’t work that way. This place either destroys you entirely or makes you stronger, but nobody, and I mean nobody, who does an extended stay at the Alcatraz of the Rockies leave here unscathed.
Freedom shares my cell,
Because my mind roams over these walls…
U.S. Government Tells UN Committee on Torture: “There Is No Systematic Use of Solitary Confinement in the United States”
Today, dozens of advocates will travel from around the country to Washington, DC, to take part in what are called “Civil Society Consultations” with representatives of the U.S. government on the subject of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).
As a signatory of CAT, the United States Government is required prepare a “Periodic Report” to the UN’s Committee Against Torture about its adherence to the Convention. In this report, the United States must respond to questions, observations, and recommendations for change issued by the Committee.
The U.S.’s latest Periodic Report, prepared by the State Department and due to be presented in Geneva in November, runs to more than 100 pages. The government addresses 55 separate items raised by the Committee Against Torture, on its conduct in the “war on terror” and also on its civil justice system.
CAT forbids “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person” for the purposes of intimidation, coercion, forced confession, or punishment, “when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”
Unsurprisingly, the United States asserts that it is in all cases in alignment with CAT. It’s safe to say that most of the advocates permitted to testify at the State Department today will differ, to some degree, with that assertion. Some have even created “shadow reports” to the U.S. Periodic Report.
In what is pretty clearly a pro forma review process, each of the 21 representatives of “civil society” will have three minutes to address their concerns to members of the U.S. State, Justice, and Homeland Security Departments, who will then have the opportunity to respond. The entire session will take just two hours.
For advocates working on solitary confinement, the key item comes on page 73 of the U.S. Periodic Report. Amid questions regarding the treatment of immigrants, the death penalty, police brutality, and prison rape, item 37 asks the U.S. government to do the following:
Please describe steps taken to improve the extremely harsh regime imposed on detainees in “super-maximum security prisons”, in particular the practice of prolonged isolation.
The assurances provided by the United States should be read in full, but we are publishing a few choice sections here. For example, the U.S. report insists that the U.S. Constitution, as interpreted by the courts, offers sufficient protection against the ravages of solitary confinement to all people in prison, and especially to children and people with mental illness.
The U.S. Constitution, along with federal and state laws, establishes standards of care to which all inmates are entitled…U.S. courts have interpreted the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution as prohibiting the use of solitary confinement under certain circumstances, especially with regard to inmates with serious mental illness or for juvenile detainees. (Specifically, under the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishments,” correctional facility administrators may not subject inmates to solitary confinement with deliberate indifference to the resulting serious harms, including suicides, suicide attempts, and serious self-injury. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 843 (1970); see also, e.g., Madrid v. Gomez, 889 F. Supp. 1146, 1265 (N.D. Cal. 1995) (using prolonged solitary confinement on prisoners with serious mental illness can be “the mental equivalent of putting an asthmatic in a place with little air to breathe”)…
People with mental, physical, and psychological disabilities are not punished with solitary confinement, the U.S. reports asserts:
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehabilitation Act) restrict and regulate the use of solitary confinement for persons with disabilities. Title II of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. 12132, applies to state actors, while the Rehabilitation Act applies to federal correctional facilities and correctional facilities receiving funds from the federal government. Both statutes prohibit the use of solitary confinement in a manner that discriminates on the basis of disability instead of making reasonable modifications to provide persons with disabilities access to services, programs, and activities, including mental health services. See Pa. Dep’t of Corr. v. Yeskey, 524 U.S. 206, 210 (1998).
Likewise, according to the report, children cannot be placed in solitary confinement (or at least, “only as a last resort”:
PREA [Prison Rape Elimination Act] restricts the use of solitary confinement for juvenile inmates and inmates who are the victims of sexual violence. Under implementing regulations, juveniles “may be isolated from others only as a last resort when less restrictive measures are inadequate to keep them and other residents safe, and then only until an alternative means of keeping all residents safe can be arranged.” 28 C.F.R. 115.342. The regulations also set time limits and other limitations on the use of solitary confinement on juvenile inmates. With regard to adult inmates at high risk for sexual victimization, the regulations establish conditions on placement in segregated housing and provide that if such inmates are placed in segregated housing, they are to have access to programs, education, work opportunities, and other services to the extent possible. 28 C.F.R. 115.43(a)-(b).
In fact, there is “no systematic use of solitary confinement in the United States” at all! Not even at the notorious federal supermax, ADX.
As stated in a letter of November 30, 2011, responding to a request from the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, “[t]here is no systematic use of solitary confinement in the United States.” Noting that the Special Rapporteur had cited the U.S. Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum (ADX) facility as an example of a facility that places inmates in solitary confinement, the letter provided information including the following:
Security requirements at the ADX mandate restrictive procedures for movement of inmates and physical interaction with staff. For security reasons, inmates in General Population spend most of their day in individual cells. They are not deprived, however, of human interaction. Inmates can speak with (but not touch) one another in the recreation yards, and can communicate with the inmates housed on either side of their cells. The Warden, Associate Wardens, Captain, and Department Heads perform weekly rounds so they can visit with each inmate. Correctional Officers perform regular rounds throughout all three shifts on a daily basis. A member of an inmate’s Unit Team visits him every day, Monday through Friday, except on holidays. Inmates receive regular visits from medical staff, education staff, religious services staff, and mental health staff, and upon request if needed. In addition, General Population inmates are permitted five non-contact social visits per month and two fifteen-minute phone calls. Inmates in less restrictive housing units are permitted even more social visits and phone calls. Inmates can also send and receive personal correspondence.
Virtually everything we have published in the last five years on Solitary Watch refutes these assurances. So do the lives of the thousands of men, women, and children who have been driven to despair, to madness, to self-harm, or to suicide–all by a practice which, according to their government, is neither cruel, inhumane, degrading, or torturous.
• At a Nebraska legislative committee, two ombudsmen testified that they feared Nikko Jenkins would become violent if released, and attempted for years to get him treatment and assistance transitioning. Their pleas were ignored. Jenkins, who had spent three and a half years in solitary confinement, killed four people within ten days of getting released.
• A 36-year-old Florida serving 22 months for tax fraud was found dead in her solitary confinement cell on October 1, just days after she wrote letters home specifying that a guard had threatened to kill her. Lawyers for the family have requested an investigation be conducted by the Department of Justice.
• Writing for PS Mag, Lauren Kirchner explores “Why Solitary Confinement Hurts Juveniles More Than Adults.”
• At a New York City Council hearing, Council member Daniel Dromm made reference to last week’s New Yorker story about Kalief Browder, who spent nearly 800 days in solitary confinement after being wrongly accused of stealing a backpack. “Officials on Rikers subjected this child to torture. There’s no other way to put it,” he said. Meanwhile, the New York Times editorial board called for federal oversight of Rikers Island.
• In past years at least three individuals have died at Bridgewater State Hospital, Massachusetts’ prison for those with mental illness, as a result of being strapped to bed and placed in almost complete isolation, according to the Boston Globe. Bradley Burns, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, spent about 16 months completely immobilized before he died of a heart arrhythmia likely brought on by his medications and the restraints.
• A federal lawsuit filed against Vermont prison officials details the case of “Patient A,” who was meant to serve a 21-day sentence on a parole violation but ended up spending seven months in solitary confinement. According to the lawsuit, the man “suffered significant physical and psychological harm … including psychotic breaks, malnutrition and weight loss, bruises and trauma from uses of force,”
• The Epoch Times published an article about the No Separate Justice campaign and the conditions of confinement endured by terrorism suspects.
• October 10 was the 12th World Day Against the Death Penalty. In this video, Dr. Terry Kupers explains “how the decision to move death row to solitary confinement units in many prisons has compounded mental health issues among prisoners – a clear violation of human rights standards.”