• Gawker published a letter from Ray Jasper, who is scheduled to be put to death by the state of Texas on March 19. With regards to solitary confinement he writes, “If a prisoner refuses to work and be a slave, they will do their time in isolation as a punishment. You have thousands of people with a lot of prison time that have no choice but to make money for the government or live in isolation. The affects of prison isolation literally drive people crazy. Who can be isolated from human contact and not lose their mind?”
• Amnesty International released a videotaped statement from Leontine (“Teenie”) Rogers, whose husband Brent Miller was killed at Angola prison in April 1972. Two members of the “Angola 3” – Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox – were later convicted of the murder, and subsequently endured decades in solitary confinement. Woodfox remains locked up in isolation today, and in the video Rogers pleads for his release. “I am speaking out now because I don’t want another innocent man to die in prison.”
• The ACLU of Montana, on behalf of Disability Rights Montana, issued a letter to the Department of Corrections and Department of Public Heath and Human Services outlining how the state has failed people will mental illnesses . A year-long investigation into the conditions at Montana State Prison revealed that “prisoners with mental illness are routinely subjected to months or years of solitary confinement and ‘behavior modification plans’ that deprive them of clothing, working toilets, bedding and proper food.”
• According to The Denver Post, at least nine federal prison guards on staff in Florence, Colorado have committed suicide since 1994.
• New York Times columnist David Brooks published an Op-ed naming solitary confinement as a form of torture – a permitted “social pain” as harmful as the “physical pain” abuses prohibited by law. He writes, “when you put people in prison, you are imposing pain on them. But that doesn’t mean you have to gouge out the nourishment that humans need for health, which is social, emotional and relational.”
• In an interview on Democracy Now, Angela Davis argued that the fight to abolish solitary confinement must be part of a broader struggle to abolish prisons: “One can look at solitary confinement as a microcosm of the whole system, solitary confinement within a prison. The prison is solitary confinement within the society. And how can one expect to create any kind of rehabilitation, which unfortunately prisons still claim that they rehabilitate, in the context of the kind of isolation that happens in these institutions?”
• Former Solitary Watch reporter Katie Rose Quandt appeared on KTNF radio to discuss her work on solitary confinement for Mother Jones.
• Medium, in conjunction with the Center for Investigative Reporting, published a series of pieces about teens in solitary confinement on Riker’s Island: an article that explores why young people are locked up alone in the NYC’s jails; an animated video that tells the story of young person who spent almost a year in isolation; and a former guard’s photos of life in “the box”.
• The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange inaugurated a series on juvenile solitary confinement with an article outlining how states across the nation place young people in isolation, which was followed by a piece on teens in solitary confinement in New Jersey.
• NPR hosted a 40-minute segment on solitary confinement. Guests included Benjamin Wallace-Wells, author of a recent New York Magazine article about the origins of the California hunger strike, as well as Professor Craig Haney, who has been studying the psychological impact of solitary confinement for over 30 years.
It didn’t take much reading between the lines to decipher the central message of last week’s Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on solitary confinement. Lawmakers and witnesses alike appeared to agree: There are people in solitary confinement in American prisons who just don’t belong there. And then, there are other people who do. In taking this […]
This post is the third in a series of pieces Solitary Watch is publishing as part of a new project calling for people held in solitary confinement to write on various proposed themes (read the first and second entries here and here). Our first suggested theme, “A Day in the Life,” calls for writers to describe a day in his […]
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. • Federal investigators have determined that the state of Pennsylvania violated both the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment and the American with Disabilities Act, by placing people with […]
The following post is a chapter from an unpublished book by Mary Buser, who worked in various capacities in the mental health system on Rikers Island. In Buser’s own words: “I worked in the Rikers Mental Health Department as a psychiatric social worker for five and a half years, leaving Rikers in 2000. I started off as a student intern […]
According to reports this morning from inside the U.S. Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) in Florence, CO, eight to nine people held in the super-secret H-Unit are on hunger strike and are being force-fed. While run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the unit has strong FBI involvement in its management. In November of […]
This post is the second in a series of pieces Solitary Watch is publishing as part of a new project calling for people held in solitary confinement to write on various proposed themes. As mentioned in our introduction to this series, our first suggested theme, “A Day in the Life,” calls for writers to describe a day in his […]
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 high-profile hearing on solitary confinement will be held on Tuesday, February 25, by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, chaired by […]
Under pressure from a lawsuit brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of three people held in long-term solitary confinement, New York has agreed to a set of changes to its use of solitary and other forms of extreme isolation in state prisons. The agreement, announced on Wednesday, would bar certain vulnerable populations from isolated confinement, while […]
This post is the first in a series of pieces Solitary Watch will be publishing for a new project calling for people held in solitary confinement to write on various proposed themes. For these pieces, Solitary Watch periodically suggests a specific theme for regular project participants to reflect on in their writings. For each individual […]
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. • At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Robert King of the Angola 3, University of California Santa Cruz Professor Craig Haney and […]
“We’re here to question the existence and effects of the SHU,” stated California Assembly Member Tom Ammiano on Tuesday, “and we don’t think this new proposed policy goes nearly far enough.” Ammiano, who chairs the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee, was speaking at the second joint California Assembly-Senate hearing on the use of solitary confinement, including SHUs (Security Housing […]
Seven Months After Historic Prison Hunger Strike, Opponents of Solitary Confinement in California Prepare for a Hearing and Gauge the Pace of Change
Tomorrow, California lawmakers will hold a hearing about the use of solitary confinement inside its state prison system. February marks seven months since people incarcerated throughout California embarked on the mass hunger strike that has drawn legislative attention to prison conditions. Just under two weeks ago, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) released new proposed regulations […]