Seven Days in Solitary [7/27/14]

Solitary confinement news roundup

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.

 Footage obtained by the Colorado Independent shows excessive force being used against a man who was placed in solitary after exhibiting suicidal behavior. The man was being monitored in his cell before a team of officers entered and proceeded to tase him. The Colorado Independent notes that this episode is representative of many examples of excessive force in Denver’s jails.

• A ruling on July 24th by U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley granted class-action status on behalf of 125,000 people held in California’s prisons in a lawsuit accusing prison officials of racial discrimination. As Reuters reports, during lockdowns men of similar ethnicities are often contained to their cells for days, months or years often without any affiliation to the incident requiring the lockdown. Lawyers representing the men claim these policies violate their Constitutional rights and amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

• In a commentary in Florida Today, Paula Dockery, who served in the Florida legislature for 16 years and was chair of the Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee, begs the question why Florida Governor Rick Scott is not acknowledging and investigating cases of corruption, torture, and murder within the Florida Department of Corrections. Dockery mentions the death of 27-year-old Randall Jordon-Aparo whose body was covered in yellow chemical gas and yelled for help for five days from his solitary cell before dying. Dockery also mentions attempts by prison officials to cover up such cases.

• As Wisconsin Watch reports, Ed Wall, the secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Corrections is concerned about Wisconsin’s use of solitary confinement. Wall writes that solitary “may really just be helping to create a worse behavior problem and habitual threat.” The department is aiming to have a revised policy on its use of solitary by January.

• George Dvorsky writes for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies on “Why Solitary Confinement is the Worst Kind of Psychological Torture.” He writes “Human beings are social creatures. Without the benefit of another person to “bounce off of,” the mind decays; without anything to do, the brain atrophies; and without the ability to see off in the distance, vision fades. Isolation and loss of control breeds anger, anxiety, and hopelessness.”

• On the July 20th episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” a long comedic segment on mass incarceration showed the severity of solitary confinement and its consequences.

Ricky Silva, help in close management, or solitary confinement, in Florida State Prison

Voices from Solitary: Reach Out

The following two poems come from Ricky Silva, who is currently serving a life sentence at Florida State Prison. Silva, 34, has been held in close management, or solitary confinement, for over four years. Regarding the first poem below, entitled “Killed by the Dark,” Silva expresses his sadness and anger at the suicide of another prisoner, also […]

Metropolitan Correctional Center, Photograph Jim Henderson

New Report Highlights Extreme Isolation Endured by Terrorism Suspects

On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) in association with Columbia Law School released a 214-page reported entitled Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions. While the report and accompanying video document a wide range of human and civil rights abuses faced by alleged and convicted terrorists, nearly all of whom are Muslims, […]

Solitary confinement news roundup

Seven Days in Solitary [7/20/14]

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. • 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 […]

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 […]

Columbia-Corrections-600

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 […]

PelicanBay-SHUcell2

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 […]