Seven Days in Solitary [7/20/14]

Solitary confinement news roundupThe following roundup features noteworthy news, reports and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts.

Writing in The New York Times, Deborah Jiang-Stein describes journeying to the West Virginia prison where she was born, and discovering she spent the fist year of life in “the hole” with her mother.

The New York Times published an extensive investigation into the physical assaults endured by prisoners with mental illness at the hands of Rikers guards. According to the journalists, many of the prisoners who experience such assaults are in solitary confinement.

At least forty men at the solitary confinement unit in Wisconsin’s state prison have alleged they were abused by correctional officers, according to an investigation by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. One of the men, Marvin Smith, 26, claims that guards “purposely injured his wrists and arms, put him in a choke hold, smashed his face into a cell door and twisted his ankle.”

The Idaho American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a brief in support of a petition to return a 15-year-old boy – currently being held in solitary confinement in an adult county facility – to a juvenile detention center. The young man’s Public Defender commented, “I see him almost every single day and he is deteriorating mentally, emotionally and physically being held in isolation.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation reported on the case of a New Mexico prisoner who received 90 days in solitary confinement for having a Facebook page in his name that his family updated. Shortly after the EFF published the piece, the state’s Corrections Department threw out man’s SHU time and agreed to review the broader policy.

The New Republic published an article about the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) proposed changes to prison obscenity regulations. Both prisoners and advocates have claimed that under the new regulations, people could end up in solitary confinement simply for exercising their First Amendment rights; for example, the CDCR has called to censor any material deemed “oppositional to authority and society.”

The warden at Louisiana’s Angola Prison is considering transferring Black Panther member Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore from solitary confinement into general population – where he has spent the last 28 consecutive years. He continued to express concern about Whitmore’s political beliefs, explaining, “The Black Panther Party advocates violence and racism—I’m not going to let anybody walk around advocating violence and racism.”

CBS San Francisco covered the growing efforts of Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) to end the profession’s role in designing death chambers and supermax facilities. The ADPSR is currently lobbying the American Institute of Architects to such a ban in its professional code of ethics.

The UK’s Telegraph visited a Maine solitary confinement cell and published an article that included video, photos, text and interviews with prisoners formerly locked up in isolation.

Talha Ahsan, the British-born poet who was extradited to the US on terrorism charges a little less than two years ago, was sentenced to time served. As reported here by Solitary Watch’s Jean Casella and James Ridgeway, Ahsan and four others argued unsuccessfully in the European Court of Human Rights that they would endure torture if extradited to America’s supermax facilities. (The sentencing was also covered by The Guardian’s Sadhbh Walshe).

 

Interior of a cell at ADX Florence. Photo from Amnesty International © Private.

Federal Supermax Prison “in Violatation of International Law”: Amnesty International

Many times, on this site and elsewhere, we have referred to supermax prisons and solitary confinement units as “America’s domestic black sites“–places where terrible suffering, even torture, take place on a daily basis, out of site of the public, the press, and in some cases the government’s own meager oversight. At the dark heart of […]

An isolation cell in "the Bing" on Rikers Island. Some 60 percent of the adolescents sent to Rikers have been diagnosed with mental illness. Many end up doing time in solitary.

Teens in Isolation: State Advisers to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission Hold Briefing on Juvenile Solitary Confinement in New York

Johnny Perez was sixteen when he was arrested for weapons possession. New York State automatically charges people ages 16 and over as adults, so the teenager was charged as an adult. Unable to afford the $100,000 bail, he was sent to Rikers Island to await trial. There, he was placed in C-74, the unit for […]

Solitary confinement news roundup

Seven Days in Solitary [7/13/14]

The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts. • California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) has filed a lawsuit against the state’s corrections officials, demanding disclosure of information regarding solitary confinement policies under the California Public Records […]

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Ninety Years Old, Deaf, and in the Hole in a Florida Prison

Elliott “Bud” Yorke, who is incarcerated at Florida’s Columbia Correctional Institution Annex at Lake City, was sent to solitary confinement on June 24. According to prison officials, he was placed in isolation for his own protection after corrections officers observed injuries suggesting that he had been assaulted. Aside from being two months shy of his 90th birthday, Yorke […]

Ashker -- PBSP SHU 3front of cell from inside cell

“We Are Not the Worst of the Worst”: One Year Later, What’s Changed for Pelican Bay’s Hunger Strikers?

On July 8, 2013, 30,000 prisoners refused their meals, launching the largest mass prison hunger strike in U.S. history. One year later, Todd Ashker is marking off his twenty-fourth year in Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit (SHU).  “I’m still alive, kicking and strong in heart and spirit,” he wrote in a June 2014 letter. Ashker […]

Solitary confinement news roundup

Seven Days in Solitary [7/6/2014]

The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts. • The Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) has established a new Administrative Regulation (AR) that eliminates “administrative segregation” in favor of “restrictive housing.”  Maximum security housing status will be limited […]

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New Solitary Confinement Policies in California Bring Small Changes and Raise Big Questions

The latest and largest of three hunger strikes in California prisons began nearly a year ago, on July 8, 2013.  The strike brought international attention to California’s liberal use of indefinite solitary confinement and resulted in legislative hearings and the introduction of bills to curb solitary in both houses of the California state legislature. (Only one […]

Solitary confinement news roundup

Seven Days in Solitary [6/29/14]

The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts. • On the Pacifica Evening News, religious leaders, families of people in prison, and state prison officials went on air to discuss the issue of solitary confinement. • Writing for Pacific Standard […]

A cell at Utah State Prison, Draper’s Uinta 1 facility

Prayers for People in Solitary Confinement

Editor’s Note: The following prayers, along with more than a hundred others, were delivered to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation on Thursday. The same small selection of prayers was printed in Solitary Watch’s latest quarterly print edition, which goes out to some 800 individuals currently in solitary confinement. The complete collection of prayers […]

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What It Means to Be Human: A Philosopher’s Argument Against Solitary Confinement

The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.  –Fyodor Dostoyevsky In recent years, resistance to the widespread use of solitary confinement has gained significant traction in the United States. Opponents of the practice have drawn upon everything from psychology and neuroscience to criminology and economics to show the many […]

Solitary confinement news roundup

Seven Days in Solitary [6/22/14]

The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts. • In The Daily Beast, Solitary Watch contributor Sarah Shourd explores the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s recently proposed “obscenity regulations” – the rules that govern what mail […]

An isolation cell at the Harford County Detention Center. Photo: Aaron Cahall, The Dagger

In a Maryland Jail, Teens Charged As Adults Face Isolation and Neglect

“Trays up!” the CO yells. It’s about 5 am, and breakfast trays are here. I’ve been up since midnight, studying the workbooks that a friend sent to me. When everyone is asleep, and the TV is off, it’s the quietest time, and I can really focus. As I get my tray every morning, I ask […]