UN Human Rights Experts (Again) Push for Access to U.S. Prisons, Call for Solitary Confinement Reform

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez, has repeatedly asked permission to visit U.S. prisons to report on solitary confinement and other prison conditions.

The United Nations’ top experts on the human rights of people in detention are calling on the United States to open the doors of its prisons to an official visit. Juan E. Méndez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, and Seong-Phil Hong, the Chairperson of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, made the request after President […]

UN’s “Mandela Rules” to Set New International Standards for Treatment of Prisoners, Including Limits on Solitary Confinement

The UN's new standards for the treatment of prisoners are named for Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years behind bars.

The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMRs) are being given several long-awaited revisions this year. Among them is a provision that solitary confinement “shall be used only in exceptional cases as a last resort for as short a time as possible and subject to independent review.” The rules also prohibit […]

Irish Court Blocks Suspect’s Extradition to U.S., Citing Risk of Solitary Confinement  

ireland high court

An Irish court has blocked a U.S. extradition request because of the conditions of solitary confinement the accused could face if sent to the United States. Ireland’s High Court determined there was a real risk that Irish citizen Ali Charaf Damache would be incarcerated at the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum (ADX) in Florence, Colorado, and […]

Voices from Solitary: Phantom Souls

[LIFE AT TAMMS ]ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY MARCH 8--FILE-A cell block at the new Tamms Correctional Center in Tamms, Ill., is shown on Feb. 3, 1998, when the facility was dedicated. Illinois' newest and toughest state prison has been designed to isolate the worst inmates from the rest of Illinois' 41,000 prisoners and break them of their violent habits through strict isolation. Tamms will be accepting the first handful of its 500 inmates beginning Monday, March 9, and expects to be at full capacity by the summer. (AP Photo/Mark Christian)

Fifteen years ago, Gerard G. Schultz, Jr., now 38, was convicted of murder in Phoenix, Arizona. He is serving a life sentence and has been in solitary since 2008, when he was transferred from Arizona to Illinois under the Interstate Corrections Compact. In Illinois, he was placed in Tamms Supermax Prison until it was closed […]

Will Lawsuits and Exposés Lead to Reform of Florida’s Brutal Prisons?

Dade-Correctional-Institution

Florida’s prisons have become notorious for their abuse and neglect of the people in their care. Now, as per an agreement between the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Disability Rights Group of Florida, the state will be overhauling its system of treatment for people with mental illness at the Dade Correctional Institution (Dade CI), located […]

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 […]

Voices from ADX: Living “Inside America’s Toughest Prison”

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The New York Times Magazine feature story on the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum, or ADX, in Florence, Colorado, appeared under the headline “Inside America’s Toughest Prison.” In fact, no journalist has been inside ADX for at least 15 years, but 400 men live there, some for years or decades. The story has suddenly spurred interest […]

Officials, Advocates Call for Restrictions on Solitary Confinement in Wisconsin

Advocates Call for Changes to Segregation Practices in Wisconsin

In January of this year, the Wisconsin prison system implemented new policies which will revamp the way in which solitary confinement is used as a correction measure against prisoners violating prison rules. While the Legislature endorsed the changes, guards, people in prison, and prison activists say that it remains unclear whether the adjustments means fewer people will […]

Supreme Court Justice Kennedy: Corrections System Is “Broken” and “Solitary Confinement Literally Drives Men Mad”

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on Monday used long-term solitary confinement as evidence that the “idea of total incarceration just isn’t working.” Solitary “literally drives men mad,” Kennedy said, noting that more humane alternatives are employed elsewhere in the world. Kennedy’s comments were made during a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the 2016 Budget Request for […]

UN Torture Investigator Barred from Visiting American Supermax Prisons

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More than two years ago, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez, asked the U.S. State Department for permission to visit individuals in solitary confinement in supermax prisons and isolation units. He is still waiting for a response. Recently, our colleague Sarah Shourd interviewed Méndez for an article in the Daily Beast that describes his […]