Seven Days in Solitary [8/31/14]

Solitary confinement news roundup: 7 Days in SolitaryThe 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 federal judge approved the state of California’s plan to reduce the solitary confinement of prisoners suffering from mental illness. According to a recent story in The New York Times, about 740 prisoners will be relocated to “less restrictive settings” under the policy revisions. The story notes that the new policies “also provide for improvements in mental health treatment and suicide prevention.”

• The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) issues a release responding to New York City’s new legislation increasing oversight of the use of solitary confinement at Rikers Island. The release quotes Rev. Laura Markle Downton, Director of U.S. prisons policy and program at NRCAT: “Though not an end in itself, we celebrate Mayor de Blasio’s signing of the legislation requiring quarterly data reporting on who is in solitary at Rikers Island and under what conditions, because we recognize it as an important step in the process of ushering in humane alternatives.”

• New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio enacted legislation that will create greater transparency around the use of solitary confinement at Rikers Island and other city jails. According to a recent piece by The New York Times, the law will require the Department of Correction to publish four annual reports detailing the number of individuals held in isolation, the length of time each person is held in isolation, and whether they sustained any injuries or were assaulted during their time in solitary. Despite these measures, the story also states that the law “does not include any provisions that would directly curtail guard brutality. . . or the use of isolation as a punishment.”

• The Treatment Advocacy Center posts a blog entry, “Long Waits for Psych Beds Keeps Many Languishing Behind Bars,” in which it shares the story of Kyle, 24, who was held in solitary confinement for close to six months at the San Diego Central Jail while awaiting treatment for severe mental illness.

• In a blog entry entitled “Criminalization of Mental Illness: It’s a Crime,” the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) briefly touches on the dangers of placing people with psychiatric symptoms in isolation, which the writer likens to “pouring gasoline on a fire.” In its post, NAMI links to its new fact sheet on solitary confinement, as well as to Solitary Watch’s recent story highlighting several videos showing inhumane treatment of prisoners with mental illness by guards.

• The Drug War Chronicle outlines the various ways in which the Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment (REDEEM) Act, introduced earlier this summer by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY), aims to fix the criminal justice system. According to the story, one initiative of the REDEEM act is to restrict the use of solitary confinement on kids, “except in the most extreme circumstances in which it is necessary to protect a juvenile detainee or those around them.”

• The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange publishes an op-ed presenting various international perspectives on the solitary confinement of youth. The piece underscores the severe emotional and psychiatric harm inflicted on kids subjected to the practice, stating, “Social isolation worsens the trauma and mental health issues already prevalent [in] this vulnerable population. It also leads to further withdrawal with negative consequences for reintegration.”

Brandon Palakovic with his mother, Renee Palakovic.

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

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). […]

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

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 […]

Solitary confinement news roundup: 7 Days in Solitary

Seven Days in Solitary [8/24/2014]

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. • Shane Bauer, who has written extensively about solitary confinement for the outlet Mother Jones, was forcibly escorted out of the American Correctional Association conference by armed guards. • […]

City Council Member Daniel Dromm speaks, surrounded by advocates, on the step of City Hall.

New York City Officials and Advocates Push for Change to the “Culture of Brutality” on Rikers Island

Update, 8/22/14:  On Thursday, August 21, the New York City Council passed legislation introduced by Councilman Danny Dromm of Queens that would require corrections officials to release quarterly reports documenting information about inmates being held in solitary confinement at Rikers Island jail. Presenting this information to the New York City Board of Corrections would create increased transparency […]

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Civil Rights Groups Demand Change for Transgender Women Held in Solitary in New York’s Prisons

Update, 8/20/14: Yesterday, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project released a new call to action to “Demand Safer Housing for Trans People in New York State Prisons.” After once again citing our investigation, SLRP tells the story of Synthia China Blast, a transwoman who has spent a decade in isolation in New York’s prisons, with an accompanying video […]

Solitary confinement news roundup: 7 Days in Solitary

Seven Days in Solitary [8/17/2014]

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. • A man who survived three years in solitary confinement in a New Jersey prison has had his lawsuit against the state’s Department of Corrections dismissed, on the grounds […]

Solitary confinement news roundup: 7 Days in Solitary

Seven Days in Solitary [8/10/2014]

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. • According to the latest report published by New York City’s Board of Corrections, more than 90% of those placed in disciplinary segregation at Riker’s Island do not receive […]

Michelle Smith worries about her child, Carey, a transgender woman being held in solitary confinement in a men's prison.

Transgender Women in New York State Prisons Face Solitary Confinement and Sexual Assault

A SOLITARY WATCH INVESTIGATION It was Gay Pride weekend in New York City, but the event’s celebratory spirit was absent from Michelle Scott’s tidy second-floor apartment on a leafy street near Brooklyn College. Her child, Carey Smith, is a transgender woman currently locked up in solitary confinement in Upstate Correctional Facility, a men’s supermax prison […]

A solitary confinement cell in New York State.

Voices from Solitary: Cruel and Unusual Punishment for Transgender Women

Dee Dee is a transgender woman serving a sentence of 60 years to life in New York State, where she has been held in men’s prisons. After being raped twice in general population, she was placed in solitary confinement “for her own protection,” in conditions virtually identical to those used for punishment. In this letter to […]

Prolonged isolation may damage the cerebral cortex, which is "the part of the brain that makes us most human."

What Solitary Confinement Does to the Human Brain

“Loneliness is a destroyer of humanity.”                                                                                                   […]

Solitary confinement news roundup: 7 Days in Solitary

Seven Days in Solitary [8/3/2014]

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. • California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) introduced new policies that limit the use of force against prisoners with mental illness, including establishing strict restrictions on cell extractions from […]

Disturbing footage shows guards were ordered to use excessive force on suicidal prisoner Isaiah Moreno at Denver City Jail.

Videos Show Brutal Treatment of Prisoners with Mental Illness

Recently obtained videos which have been exposed to the public show corrections officers using extreme force on incarcerated people suffering from various forms of mental illness. Attack on a Suicidal Man at Denver City Jail Footage of one such video (shown below), taken in September of last year and later obtained by The Colorado Independent through an […]