• The American Civil Liberties Union released 26 reports alleging extensive abuses in Arizona’s prisons, including claims that individuals are being placed in solitary confinement because prison beds elsewhere are full. A federal class-action lawsuit against the state’s Department of Corrections is set to go to trial next month.
• The Bronx Defenders, a criminal defense nonprofit in New York City, released a report documenting the conditions their clients experienced in solitary confinement on Rikers Island. Nearly 60 individuals were interviewed for the report, entitled “Voices from the Box”, including one 18-year-old placed in isolation for over 1,000 days. (Reported on by The Village Voice, WNYC, others)
• Mayor Bill DeBlasio signed into law a bill that mandates New York City correctional authorities to publish quarterly data on the use of solitary confinement at Rikers Island. The bill also requires the city to release other information, including attempted suicides in isolation and the use of enhanced restraints. Meanwhile, Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte announced new reforms at Rikers, including in the use of solitary confinement.
• The mother of Bradley Ballard, who died in isolation on Rikers Island in September 2013, has filed a lawsuit against the city and correctional officials, as well as a contractor that provides medical services at the jail and several medical personnel. The one-year anniversary of Ballard’s death was marked by a Jails Action Coalition vigil in front of the Bronx District Attorney’s office.
• The recent death of another individual held in isolation on Rikers Island has been ruled accidental. Jerome Murdough, who struggled with mental illness, died this past February when temperatures in his cell rose to over 100 degrees.
• The family of a man who died while in solitary confinement in a San Diego County jail in March 2013 has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in federal court. Bernard Victorianne, 28, swallowed a bag of drugs while he was being arrested for a DUI. Jail staff allegedly placed him in isolation, rather than the jail’s medication-observation unit, despite knowing he had consumed the drugs and “obvious signs of overdose.”
• Sarah Shourd, a contributing editor at Solitary Watch, published an article on Guernica entitled “Torture Chambers of the Mind.” She writes that the “majority of people subjected to prolonged isolation are not there for violent acts, but petty prison infractions like talking back to a guard, walking too slow or possessing contraband.”
• Jose Padilla, a US citizen once held as an “enemy combatant” at a South Carolina military prison, has been resentenced to 21 years on a 2007 terrorism conviction. A federal appeals court had previously ruled his original 17-year sentence too lenient, but prosecutors agreed not to seek more than 30 years if Padilla’s lawyers agreed not to utilize records documenting what he endured while in military custody. Padilla has claimed he was tortured for the three and a half years he was held in South Carolina, including through the use of sensory deprivation, “truth serums” and extreme isolation; in 2012 the Supreme Court declined to reinstate a lawsuit filed against US officials.
The following comes from Timothy Trujillo, 35, who has been incarcerated at California Correctional Institution (CCI) in Tehachapi close to 15 years, approximately four of which he has been held in the SHU (Security Housing Unit), or solitary confinement, on 23-hour-a-day-lockdown. According to his stepfather, Trujillo has spent his time in prison seeking “to expand his […]
Across the United States, even prisoners who have not been placed in solitary confinement or any form of “segregation” can be subjected to a “lockdown” in which they may be held in solitary-like conditions, confined to their cells nearly round-the-clock. Brief lockdowns are a common occurrence, and lockdowns lasting months or more are not unusual. Individuals […]
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. • The American Civil Liberties Union has submitted letters to the Michigan Department of Corrections alleging widespread human rights violations at the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Washtenaw; […]
This story was funded by the Alicia Patterson Foundation. It originally appeared on CounterPunch, which has generously given Solitary Watch permission to republish it. “While waiting for an officer to handcuff and escort me back to the cell that awaited me after showering, I sat on the floor holding a razor used for shaving,” W writes to […]
This post is the next in a series of pieces Solitary Watch is publishing as part of a project calling for people held in solitary confinement to write on various proposed themes. Our first suggested theme, “A Day in the Life,” calls for writers to describe a day in his or her life in solitary confinement (read previous […]
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 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 […]
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). […]
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 […]
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. • […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]