Archives for August 2013

NEWS: Roundup of National News on Isolated Confinement, July/August 2013

Compiled by the CAIC Research Committee.

August 13, 2013

An article in a Pakistani newspaper, asks the question of whether force feeding is ‘torture’ or humane treatment. While a senior medical advisor at Guantanamo insists that it is done to save lives, he acknowledges that quite a few of the hunger strikers have been taken to the hospital to be resuscitated.

August 12, 2013

In Britain, a former MI6 officer is on hunger strike in support of Guantanamo Bay prisoner Shaker Aamer.  He said he is motivated by shame at his former employer which he said supported policies including torture and detention without trial.

August 8, 2013

The mediation team working on behalf of the CA hunger strikers was able to speak to representatives of the prisoners at Pelican Bay. They report that, despite increasingly abusive treatment, the prisoners remain steadfast in continuing their protest, and stated clearly that “this peaceful protest is not about them—it is about making real, fundamental changes to an incredibly unjust system.” The representatives also said that they are incredibly inspired by all the support they’ve received.

Pat Nolan, the conservative evangelist and former prisoner who is now Vice President of Prison Fellowship, the nation’s largest prison reform group, says, “Putting someone in solitary is a fate worse than death … nothing, other than murdering a guard, can possibly justify putting them in these conditions that drive them mad.”

August 6, 2013

Jeffrey Beard, the head of California’s Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation, writes in an Op-Ed, that the hunger strike is a gang power play by convicted murderers who are putting lives at risk to advance their own agenda of violence. He also claims that many of those participating in the hunger strike are under extreme pressure to do so from violent prison gangs. Solitary Watch raises some questions about his statements.,0,636927.story

August 3, 2013

Advocates for prisoners on hunger strike to protest California’s solitary confinement program met with the state prisons chief as they pushed for an end to practices they say are inhumane.  A corrections spokesperson said the agency will review the group’s policy suggestions.

August 2, 2013

The California Assembly is considering a bill which would impose strict limits on the solitary confinement of youth.  The bill was already passed the Senate.

July 31, 2013

The group of 9 young, undocumented immigrants originally brought to this country as children have been jailed by Homeland Security after they walked from the Mexican side of the border in Nogales to the U.S. immigration offices, where they sought to re-enter the U.S. legally.  Currently 6 of them are in solitary confinement as punishment for the hunger strike they undertook in protest against the denial of telephone access to their lawyers and family.

July 23, 2013

The ACLU of Colorado issues Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Colorado’s continued warehousing of mentally ill prisoners in solitary confinement, a report detailing the findings of a study which showed that the percentage of Colorado prisoners in solitary confinement who are classified as mentally ill has risen. Many of the seriously mentally ill prisoners had been held in isolation for longer than one year, and some for longer than four years.  They recommend: barring mentally ill prisoners from extended periods of isolation; involvement of mental health staff in disciplinary decisions; extended out of cell time; and eliminating the shortage of mental health staff.

NEWS: New York Promised Help for Mentally Ill in Prison – But Still Sticks Many in Solitary

By Christie Thompson. Excerpted from Pro Publica.

ht_amir_hall_390x260When Amir Hall entered New York state prison for a parole violation in November 2009, he came with a long list of psychological problems. Hall arrived at the prison from a state psychiatric hospital, after he had tried to suffocate himself. Hospital staff diagnosed Hall with serious depression.  

In Mid-State prison, Hall was in and out of solitary confinement for fighting with other inmates and other rule violations. After throwing Kool-Aid at an officer, he was sentenced to seven months in solitary at Great Meadow Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in upstate New York.

Hall did not want to be moved. When his mother and grandmother visited him that spring, Hall warned them: If he didn’t get out of prison soon, he would not be coming home.

A grainy tape of Hall’s transfer on June 18, 2010, shows prison guards spraying chemicals into his cell, forcing him to come out. He barely says a word as he is made to strip, shower, bend over and cough. His head drops, his shoulders slump. His face is blank and expressionless. He stares at his hands, except for a few furtive glances at the silent guards wearing gas masks and riot gear.

“There was somebody who looked defeated, like the life was beat out of him,” said his sister Shaleah Hall. “I don’t know who that person was. The person in that video was not my brother.”

Multiple studies have shown that isolation can damage inmates’ minds, particularly those already struggling with mental illness. In recent years, New York state has led the way in implementing policies to protect troubled inmates from the trauma of solitary confinement.

A 2007 federal court order required New York to provide inmates with “serious” mental illness more treatment while in solitary. And a follow-up law enacted in 2011 all but bans such inmates from being put there altogether.

But something odd has happened: Since protections were first added, the number of inmates diagnosed with severe mental illness has dropped. The number of inmates diagnosed with “serious” mental illness is down 33 percent since 2007, compared to a 13 percent decrease in the state’s prison population.

A larger portion of inmates flagged for mental issues are now being given more modest diagnoses, such as adjustment disorders or minor mood disorders.

It’s unclear what exactly is driving the drop in “serious” diagnoses. But “whenever you draw a magic line, and somebody gets all these rights above it and none below it,” said Jack Beck, director of the Prison Visiting Project for the nonprofit Correctional Association of New York, “you create an incentive to push people below.” The association was one of a coalition of organizations that called for the change in policy.

The New York Office of Mental Health says the decrease reflects improvements to the screening process. Efforts to base diagnoses on firmer evidence “has resulted in somewhat fewer, but better-substantiated diagnoses” of serious mental illness, said a spokesman for the office in an emailed statement.

In Hall’s case, prison mental health staff never labeled his problems as “serious.”

Instead, they repeatedly downgraded his diagnosis. After three months in solitary — during which Hall was put on suicide watch twice — they changed his status to a level for inmates who have experienced “at least six months of psychiatric stability.”

Two weeks after his diagnosis was downgraded, and two days after he was transferred to solitary at Great Meadow, guards found Hall in his cell hanging from a bed sheet…

Read the full article here.


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