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.