Seven Days in Solitary [4/13/14]

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.

• A California judge has ruled that the state’s prisons violated the Constitution by using excess force against people with mental illness. State officials will now be required to make additional changes to use-of-force procedures and restrict the use of disciplinary segregation for this vulnerable population.

• A bill drafted last summer in the wake of California’s SHU hunger strikes has successfully passed through the Public Safety Committee by a 4-2 vote. If it becomes law, AB 1652 will sharply limit the number of offenses that can qualify someone for isolation, create a five-year maximum for time spent in the SHU, and end the practice of “gang validation.”  In These Times featured a Q&A with Tom Ammiano, the Assembly member who introduced the bill.

• Seven guards at Taylorsville prison in North Carolina have been let go as a result of an ongoing investigation into the death of a man incarcerated there. Michael Anthony Kerr, who was being held in solitary confinement when he died, had struggled with mental illness.

• The Treatment Advocacy Center has released a report, “The Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails: A State Survey,” including a detailed analysis of the use of solitary confinement.

• According to immigrant justice activists, Tacoma detention center has continued to retaliate against detainees that participated in a recent hunger strike by placing them in isolation. Several prisoners at the SHU at Honolulu’s Federal Detention Center are allegedly also on hunger strike.

• In Colorado, a bill that would prohibit the placement of people with mental illness in solitary confinement has received initial bipartisan support.

• The Executive Director of the National Religious Campaign against Torture has written an open letter  in The Huffington Post to Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., urging him do more to challenge the use of solitary confinement. Jackson spent less than a week in isolation after providing know-your-rights trainings to fellow prisoners.

• An attorney for the Maine Department of Corrections (DOC) has warned that there will be “real consequences” if the state’s Supreme Court does not overturn a previous ruling mandating a higher threshold of evidence for placing someone in solitary. Appellant Franklin Higgins spent about two years in administrative segregation after being indicted by a grand jury, but he was eventually acquitted.

• A circuit court has rejected an appeal from Mark McAdams, currently in long-term administrative segregation in Wyoming, after finding that the conditions on his unit were “not pleasant… [but] not extreme”, and thus did not constitute a breach of due process.

Comments

  1. I’m happy to see that the state of California is taking measures to end the psychological torture of inmates via solitary confinement. Perhaps a more expedient means of addressing this issue is via executive orders mandating at least twenty-one hours of recreational time a week for all inmates, in a setting where they can interact with others. For those inmates with a history of assaulting correctional staff, I would suggest designing a facility that would address the aforementioned, but limit contact with staff.

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