NEWS: Roundup of National New on Isolated Confinement, June/July 2013

Compiled by the CAIC Research Committee

July 5, 2013

Amnesty International is urging California to reform its ‘inhumane’ solitary confinement units before the hunger strike which is planned for July 8, in protest against the failure of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to carry out reforms pledged a year ago. The men planning the hunger strike have said that “Rather than improving, conditions have actually significantly deteriorated.”

July 3, 2013

On July 8th, prisoners at Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit (SHU) and throughout the California prison system will begin a hunger strike, along with work stoppages to compel the Governor and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to end long-term solitary confinement and meet four other core demands.

July 1, 2013

Following the closure of California’s Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) for use as a male facility, the women were sent to Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) which is currently at 174.9 percent capacity, housing approximately1,500 more people than it was designed for. Many of the women are extremely distressed by their conditions of confinement including extended placement in Administrative Segregation (Ad Seg) for sometimes just because they are victimized by other inmates.

June 27, 2013

The California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. this week asked the judge to include it as a party in the Pelican Bay lawsuit over how long the state may keep people incarcerated locked up in solitary confinement. The guards union contends that decisions on who is put into Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit, and how long they are kept there are a matter of security that affects the safety of union members throughout the state prison system.

June 26, 2013

Sarah Shourd, who spent more than a year in solitary confinement in an Iranian prison, has joined Solitary Watch. She is beginning work on a play featuring voices from solitary confinement, which she hopes to present across the country.  The presentations will be followed by meetings with local politicians, prison officials, activists, survivors and their families.

June 24,2013

In a closed meeting last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved a bill that would relax legal restrictions on the transfer of detainees out of the military prison atGuantánamo Bay giving President Obama much greater flexibility as he tries to revive his effort to close the facility. If the bill were to become law, detainees could be sent to the United States for necessary medical treatment, for continued detention in a different prison, or for prosecution. It would also ease statutory limits on transferring detainees to other countries.

Herman Wallace, 71, the subject of the film Herman’s House, has been diagnosed with liver cancer and is currently being held in a locked prison hospital room. Mr. Wallace and Albert Woodfox, two members of the Angola 3, who have been in Solitary Confinement in Louisiana, for more than 40 years have have been fighting for justice for much of that time with the assistance of Amnesty International.

June 21,2013

Legislators in Massachusetts have proposed bills that would stop corrections officers from disciplining inmates with long periods of isolation. The bills would require that people in prison who are facing disciplinary segregation be given a hearing within 15 days of being confined and every 90 days afterward to evaluate behavior. Solitary confinement sentences would be limited to six months for all but the most extraordinary circumstances. Also included in the bills are better access to mental health examinations and more rehabilitation.

June 20, 2013

Over 50 human and civil rights groups around the country have asked the U.S. government to invite Juan Méndez, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture, to visit the United States to examine, among other things, the practice of solitary confinement. Despite Mr. Méndez’s multiple requests to investigate the overuse of solitary confinement in the United States, the U.S. has, to date, failed to extend him an invitation.


June 18 & 21, 2013

In The Lancet medical journal,152 doctors signed a letter in response to the Guantanamo prisoners’ request for outside medical treatment and counsel, asking to be able to visit the prisoners and provide independent health care noting that since the detainees on hunger strike do not trust their military doctors, they are unlikely to comply with current medical advice. Also Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote aletter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, urging the government to “reevaluate the force-feeding … to put in place the most humane policies possible.” However, the practice of force-feeding has apparently not raised medical concerns from the prison doctors themselves.

June 14, 2013

At the fifth World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Madrid, The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) released summary findings about the US’ use of the death penalty, based on missions to California and Louisiana. They conclude that not only the death penalty itself is a violation of human rights but so too is the way it is implemented, which constitutes torture and discrimination. Among the violations noted, was Louisiana’s use of solitary confinement for people sentenced to death.

June 13, 2013

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine declares the Guantanamo force-feeding unethical and urges physicians to resist orders to participate.  It also urges civilian physicians, professional organizations, and licensing boards to support those who do resist.

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has agreed to hear the case of a woman, who spent more than 200 days in segregation over the course of a year of custody at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre.  The case alleges that she was discriminated against based on both her mental illness and her gender, since a treatment facility has existed for a decade serving male inmates, but there is not any such service for women.

June 11, 2013

Less than a month before statewide hunger strikes are set to resume, the California Department of Corrections has instituted a new policy at Pelican Bay State Prison which has resulted in  chronic sleep deprivation for prisoners in solitary confinement. The 2011 strike was called off in response to promises of improvements, but the people in prison gave notice that it would be resumed because those promises have been empty, and prison conditions have actually worsened.

June 9, 2013

A Rastafarian man who spent more than 10 years in segregation for refusing to cut his hair said fears for his health and safety led him to give in last month.  Virginia Department of Corrections grooming policy, which they say is for health and safety reasons, requires that the hair of the men in prison be cut short. Rastafarians in the prison had long opposed the policy on the grounds that it is against their religion. Those who refused to comply were placed in segregation cells — several for more than 10 years.

June 7, 2013

A federal judge has ordered the state of California to provide deaf people in solitary confinement with sign-language interpreters, noting “inmates there are 33 percent more likely to kill themselves.”  The court found that the corrections department has not complied with previous orders issued between 1996 and 2002 and thus is still in violation of the ADA.  However it refused hold the state in contempt, at this time.

Among the topics in the film, Dirty Wars, which opened in NYC today, is a discussion of the US drone killing of Anwar al Awaki, the radical Muslim cleric.  Mention is made of the fact that Mr. al Awaki had been arrested in Yemen at the request of the US and held in solitary confinement for 17 months, which contributed to his increasingly radical opposition to this country.

June 6, 2013

The U.S. Southern Command has requested additional guards for the prison camps at Guantánamo, with the goal of reaching a 2,000-strong staff, because, they say keeping the prisoners in single cell confinement requires the guards to do more work.  They have already gotten medical reinforcements to help deal with the hunger strike — a doctor, nurses, and corpsmen.


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