Archives for May 2013

NEWS: Roundup of National News on Isolated Confinement, May 2013

Compiled by the CAIC Research Committee.

May 2013

Numerous advocacy and religious organizations are supporting a sign-on campaign for a letter asking Attorney General Eric Holder to ban the practice of holding youth in federal custody in solitary confinement.

May 30, 2013

The ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Law Offices of Elizabeth Alexander filed a federal lawsuit in May 2013 on behalf of individuals imprisoned at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility (EMCF), describing the for-profit prison as hyper-violent, grotesquely filthy and dangerous.

May 23, 2013

A Cree woman from Saskatchewan who felt she was losing her mind while being held in solitary confinement in federal prisons has settled a lawsuit that claimed she was being treated illegally and inhumanely. But she said being sent into solitary confinement didn’t help her face up to her past–it only increased her sense of hopelessness. In Canada, 23 per cent of the federal prison population is aboriginal, even though aboriginals account for just four per cent of the population.

Advocates for the closing of Guantanamo and the transfer of the men who will not be tried responded to Obama’s speech on national security, welcoming his stated reengagement on Guantanamo and his decision to lift the ban on transfers to Yemen. However they expressed disappointment with his comment that cleared men will only be released “to the greatest extent possible.” And, although Obama pledged to review detainees for transfer, in fact reviews have already happened as is evident in the fact that so many of the men have been “cleared.” Statements of disappointment also note his failure to take any concrete action.;

In Texas, the House tentatively approved Senate Bill 1003, which would require a now-defunct legislative oversight committee to hire an independent party to review solitary confinement conditions in Texas prisons and juvenile lockups.

[Read more…]

NEWS & EVENTS: Board of Correction to Vote on Solitary Reform in New York City Jails

The following is an open letter from the NYC Jails Action Coalition regarding the upcoming vote by the New York City Board of Correction, the body that oversees city jails, on a proposal from JAC that would bring significant reform to solitary confinement practices. Click here for an earlier story on this subject.

Dear Supporters:

Thank you again for urging the New York City Board of Correction (BOC) to adopt rules regarding the use of solitary confinement in the NYC jails. The BOC discussed the Jails Action Coalition (JAC) petition at their May 13, 2013 meeting but delayed making a decision until a specially scheduled meeting now set for June 3, 2013.

On June 3, the BOC will decide between the following:  1) commence rule-making (including consideration of the proposal provided by JAC and any alternatives); 2) reject the JAC petition as premature and appoint a committee to study the issue of use of solitary confinement in the jails; or 3) reject the petition and take no further action.

Please urge the BOC to commence rule-making:

►Send a letter expressing your support for rule-making. (See the attached model letter, which can be sent directly to the Board and/or returned to us for delivery to the Board Members.)

►Attend the BOC meeting at 9 a.m. on June 3.

► Join JAC’s rally before the meeting at 8:15 a.m. at 1 Centre Street.  (See below for all the details.)

[Read more…]

NEWS: Solitary Confinement Is Just Criminal

By Karen Murtagh. Reprinted from the Albany Times-Union.

elmiraThe Times  Union recently published an opinion piece by the president of the prison  guards’ union responding to a published profile of Jeffrey  Rockefeller. Due to a near lifetime of serious mental illness, Rockefeller  landed in prison and spent half of his 40-month incarceration in solitary  confinement — where he ultimately tried to commit suicide.

Contrary to the assertion that solitary confinement (aka “special housing  units”) is used to isolate inmates who are a danger to others and themselves,  less than 16 percent of the 4,500 people in solitary in 2012 were there for  violent behavior.

Brian  Fischer, the recently retired corrections commissioner, has admitted that  “solitary confinement is overused.” The significant reduction or near  elimination of the use of solitary by Mississippi, Colorado, Illinois, Maine,  Ohio and Washington, without any impact on prison safety, belies the statement  that “SHUs are the only mechanism for removing dangerous inmates from the  general population.”

The disconnect here is the failure to differentiate between isolation and  separation. Certain individuals need short-term isolation for their own safety  or the safety of others, but the rationale for such isolation is to prevent  imminent harm, not to impose months, years, or decades of retribution and  mental deterioration.

At least one study has shown that the recidivism rate for those who have been  subjected to solitary confinement is 23 percent higher than those who have not.  More than 95 percent of incarcerated New Yorkers are ultimately released to our  communities. We are all safer when formerly incarcerated individuals lead  productive lives. Spending time in solitary confinement lessens the likelihood  that an individual will be psychologically prepared to do this.

Karen  L. Murtagh is executive director of Prisoners’ Legal  Services of New York.


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