New Report Documents Brutal Treatment of People with Mental Illness in U.S. Prisons and Jails

Capt. Shawn Welch sprays OC spray into the face of Paul Schlosser who is bound in a restraint chair after the inmate, who has an infectious disease, spit at an officer.  June 10, 2012.

“Across the United States, staff working in jails and prisons have used unnecessary, excessive, and even malicious force on prisoners with mental disabilities such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.” This is the conclusion of Callous and Cruel: Use of Force Against Inmates with Mental Disabilities in US Jails and Prisons a Human Rights Watch report […]

In Canada, a Death in Prison Sparks Debate, Lawsuits Over Solitary Confinement

Protesters outside the headquarters of the Correctional Service of Canada in Ottawa in January 2013.

Ashley Smith was just 19 when she died in her solitary confinement cell at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ontario, in October 2007. As she had many times before, Smith tied a ligature around her neck and tightened it. For twenty long minutes, a crowd of prison guards stood watch from outside […]

Women in New York State Prisons Face Solitary Confinement and Shackling While Pregnant or Sick

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What does solitary confinement have to do with reproductive justice? Quite a lot, says a new report about reproductive health care in New York’s women’s prisons. The Correctional Association of New York, a criminal justice policy and advocacy organization, released Reproductive Injustice: The State of Reproductive Health Care for Women in New York State Prisons. […]

Voices from Solitary: Cycle of Despair

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The following essay was written by Anthony Lamar Davis, who has spent approximately six of his past eleven years in prison in solitary confinement in New York’s “Special Housing Units,” or SHUs. In 2008, New York passed a law restricting the use of solitary on people with serious mental illness. The “SHU Exclusion Law” has removed several hundred […]

Corrections Officer Found Guilty in Death in a Rikers Island Solitary Cell

Ramon Echavarria with a picture of his son, Jason, who died on Rikers Island in 2012. Photo: Howard Simmons, NY Daily News

On December 17, a federal jury found a former corrections officer on New York’s Rikers Island guilty of deliberately ignoring the medical needs of a man who died in 2012 while being held in solitary confinement. Terrence Pendergrass was a captain and the supervising corrections officer on duty when Jason Echevarria, a pre-trial detainee with […]

“A Girl Hung Herself Yesterday”: Deaths in Custody at California Institution for Women

Shadae "Dae Dae" Schmidt, who died in CIW's solitary confinement unit in February.

On July 30, 2014, Margarita Murugia was found hanging in her solitary confinement cell at the California Institution for Women (CIW). “She was there for her own protection, not because she did something,” wrote April Harris, a woman currently incarcerated at CIW. ” Apparently her mom was dying of cancer and they refused to let her […]

Arizona Agrees to Settlement to Improve Prison Health Care, Limit Use of Solitary Confinement

(Photo: Tom Tingle / The Republic)

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 […]

Reports Condemn Healthcare and Solitary Confinement in Arizona State Prisons

Arizona Department of Corrections | Solitary confinement | Healthcare

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), along with California-based Prison Law Office and their co-counsel in federal class action lawsuit Parsons v. Ryan, has released a series of 26 reports alleging extensive problems with the Arizona Department of Corrections’ (ADC) healthcare program and its use of solitary confinement. Prison Law Office director Don Specter stated the groups requested the reports from national experts in […]

Pennsylvania Prison System Faces Lawsuit Over Suicide of Young Man with Mental Illness

Brandon Palakovic with his mother, Renee Palakovic.

On July 17, 2012, Brandon Palakovic, 23, committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell while housed in a solitary confinement unit at State Correctional Institution (SCI) Cresson, a Pennsylvania prison that has since closed its doors. Nearly two years later, on July 8, 2014, Palakovic’s parents filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PADOC). […]

Voices from Solitary: What Have You Done to My Brother?

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The author of the following piece, K. Kabasha Griffin-El, is currently part of the general population at Pennsylvania’s SCI Greene. In this reflection, Griffin-El describes visiting his brother, Jerome Griffin, whom he hadn’t seen for more than two decades. Griffin-El has been incarcerated for 19 years and experienced solitary confinement firsthand, but nothing prepared him […]