NEWS: Roundup of National News on Isolated Confinement, November/December 2013

Compiled by Fran Geteles-Shapiro

December 31, 2013
A teenager accused of masterminding a series of firebombs that went off in four New Jersey synagogues has spent the past two years in solitary confinement, holed up in a tiny, windowless cell waiting for trial, which is scheduled to begin in January. The boy and his family say he is not guilty.
http://www.indoamerican-news.com/?p=22472

December 30, 2013
An investigative team has found that more than three dozen men and women who were mentally ill and drug and alcohol-impaired have died in restraint chairs in county jails from Washington state to Florida.  They attribute this to the shift from hospital and clinic settings to county jails.
http://ht.ly/sabAa

December 29
The new Executive Director of Colorado’s Dept. of Corrections promises changes and transparency, including: dramatic reduction in the numbers of people in AdSeg; reducing number of people released directly from AdSeg into the community; revised criteria for sending individuals to segregation; new approached to how staff respond to disruptive behavior; improved staff accountability; etc.
http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/call7-investigators/department-of-corrections/new-department-of-corrections-executive-director-rick-raemisch-pledges-changes-transparency

December 24
2012 U.S. District Court decision had ruled that the Colorado State Penitentiary violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment by not providing outdoor recreation. Now, a second lawsuit has been filed, seeking class-action status to assure that that decision applies to all the imprisoned people not just the one original plaintiff.  Authorities say several options are under consideration to solve the recreation problem.
http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_24789587/colorado-prisons-could-be-running-out-room-most

December 23
Democracy Now hosted a discussion about the growing number of aging people in prison in the United States who were convicted in the 1960s and 1970s because of their political actions.  Many are seeking compassionate release, clemency or a pardon, due to suffering from illness and/or decades in Solitary Confinement.
http://www.democracynow.org/2013/12/23/time_for_compassion_aging_political_prisoners

December 19
A federal judge will hear closing arguments over whether prolonged solitary confinement violates the rights of the mentally ill.  The same judge had previously decided that mentally ill individuals on death row lack proper care and that the Department of State Hospitals provides them with substandard treatment.
http://www.capradio.org/articles/2013/12/19/judge-considers-solitary-confinement-for-mentally-ill-prisoners/-allows-torture-abuse/

A judge has ruled that people on death row who are being incarcerated in unventilated cells and without access to cool water at Angola Prison are being subjected to “cruel and unusual punishment” and that this violates their 8th Amendment Rights. He ordered prison officials to draw up an action plan to “reduce and maintain the heat index in the Angola death row teirs at or below 88 degrees.” Defendants have argued that this will be a financial hardship, but the judge responded that there “can never be an adequate justification for depriving any person of his constitutional rights.”
http://www.nola.com/crime/baton-rouge/index.ssf/2013/12/angola_prison_heat_death_row_r.html

Organizers announced the launch of a new campaign that “aims to shed light on and end a pattern of human rights and civil liberties abuses in ‘War on Terror’ cases in the criminal justice system” including the extensive use of pre-trial and post-conviction solitary confinement. The campaign, called No Separate Justice, will be marked by an event on January 7 in New York City.
http://solitarywatch.com/2013/12/22/seven-days-solitary-122213/

December 14
The U.S. Justice Department’s Inspector General (OIG) has issued its year-end report which for the first time includes the issue of prisons, and describes a “Growing Crisis in the Federal Prison System.” Among the issues raised are: failure to effectively address the “increasing number of elderly inmates” within the system; mismanagement of the “compassionate release” program; the need to address the mental health of the people it incarcerates and the impact of solitary confinement on those people.  Although the report does not give policy recommendations, the OIG does plan to monitor the effects of a GAO assessment of the use of solitary confinement.
http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/12/government-watchdog-we-have-a-growing-federal-prison-crisis/282341/
http://www.justice.gov/oig/challenges/2013.htm

December 13
Colorado Department of Corrections is now instructing staff that incarcerated people who are determined to have a major mental illness must be sent to a residential treatment program not to administrative segregation.  While praising this effort the ACLU points out that the definition of major mental illness adopted by CDOC is too narrow, with the result that “prisoners with moderate to severe psychiatric needs now constitute a majority of those in administrative segregation.”
http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/2013/12/mentally_ill_prisoners_solitary.php

December 12
The ACLU released a memo from the Colorado DOC announcing a new policy of excluding seriously mentally ill individuals from ad seg. Reforms had begun in January and had included the opening of a residential treatment program at Centennial Correctional Facility in Cañon City and the shut down of a prior program that treated mentally ill incarcerated people while they were held in solitary confinement. While praising this latest step, the ACLU continues to express concern about definitions of mental illness that are too narrow and the understaffing of the treatment program.
http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_24712664/colorado-wont-put-mentally-ill-prisoners-solitary-confinement#ixzz2naHHe3z3

December 11-12
Prison policy prohibits sexual contact between staff and the people whom they guard, yet  in many women’s prisons, those who report rape and other forms of sexual assault by prison personnel are often sent to solitary confinement, as well as being harassed and physically abused or tortured, or being threatened with additional prison time.  The sexual predators are almost never punished.  Solitary Watch also reports increased numbers of women in solitary in some states and that it is a particular issue for women with mental who perform acts of self mutilation.
http://solitarywatch.com/2013/12/12/women-solitary-confinement-sent-solitary-reporting-sexual-assault/
http://solitarywatch.com/2013/12/11/women-solitary-confinement-isolation-degenerates-us-madness/

December 11
Federal judges considering California’s request for more time to reduce prison crowding asked the state in turn to limit how long some mentally ill incarcerated people spend in solitary confinement.  The state offered to limit the time severely mentally ill individuals who have committed no rules violations can be held in isolation to 30 days. When that offer was accepted by the judge in the lawsuit on crowding, the extension was granted.
http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-ff-judge-solitary-confinement-prison-crowding-negotiations-20131211,0,3111292.story#ixzz2nZjJB7km

In a sign-on letter, the Ohio ACLU notes that Ohio’s Juvenile Detention facilities haveone of the highest rates of sexual assault in the nation and  that the children inside are also being kept in solitary confinement for extended periods of time. They are asking the Department of Youth Services (DYS) to: formally declare that juveniles have a right to be free from sexual victimization while inside their detention facilities; and tban the extended seclusion/isolation of juveniles beyond 24 consecutive hours.
http://www.acluohio.org/issue-information/protect-children-from-sexual-abuse-and-extended-solitary-confinement-in-ohio-detention-facilities

December 10
Federal prison officials have begun transferring mentally ill individuals from the Supermax prison in Florence to a prison in Atlanta following a lawsuit that accuses guards of ignoring severe symptoms, denying their existence, or simply making fun of self-destructive symptomatic behaviors.  The attorney handling the lawsuit says the transfer improves the situation, but points out that there are prisons in Missouri and Arizona that are better equipped to handle the needs of the mentally ill.
http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_24688123/feds-moving-mentally-ill-inmates-#ixzz2nZdfQdzs

December 9
A group of men from Pennsylvania, who were held at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Dallas are due in court on charges that they sparked a riot in their unit in 2010 after they barricaded their cell doors and windows with bedding, forcing guards to forcibly remove them.  The men and their advocates claim they were simply staging a peaceful protest designed to draw attention to rampant abuses and deplorable conditions in the security housing unit — from food deprivation to medical neglect – and that the prison guards responded to the protest with horrific violence.  Advocates say the trial could become a crucible in the wider debate over solitary confinement.
http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/12/09/21793945-pennsylvania-solitary-confinement-inmates-charged-with-rioting-due-in-court

A judge has awarded $1,200 to an imprisoned man for the excessive time he spent in solitary confinement at Marcy Correctional Facility. In his statement, the judge said that the state is “absolutely immune” from liability over prison disciplinary actions, but only if all rules and procedures are followed. In this case the hearing officer had improperly denied the man’s request to call a witness.  http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2013/12/judge_awards_prisoner_nearly_1200_for_excessive_time_in_solitary_confinement.html

December 2013
Two British nationals pled guilty to supporting terrorists in Afghanistan through websites that sought to raise cash, recruit fighters and solicit items such as gas masks. The men had fought extradition to the US because of the treatment they would likely receive in prisons here — treatment which is illegal in Britain and the European Union.  But they lost that fight. Since extradition, they have been held in extreme isolation in a supermax prison in Connecticut, and after the guilty plea, will likely face more solitary confinement in the future.  One of the men has Asperger Syndrome; the other reported symptoms of PTSD after he had spent six years in high security prisons in the UK.
http://news.msn.com/crime-justice/2-uk-men-plead-guilty-in-conn-to-supporting-terror
http://www.newstatesman.com/2013/02/impossible-injustice-talha-ahsans-extradition-and-detention

December 5
A 73-year-old grandmother suffering from thyroid cancer, heart problems and bi-polar disorder, who was kept in solitary confinement for 34 days in a New Mexico prison run by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), is suing both the private prison company and Corizon, Inc, the privately run prison healthcare provider. Thelawsuit alleges that prison officials deliberately put her in solitary confinement because she complained that she and other women in the CCA facility were being denied necessary medical care.
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/05/grandmother-cancer-prison-solitary-confinement
http://www.abqjournal.com/316506/opinion/putting-grandma-in-the-hole-doesnt-fit-crime.html

December 4
An article in The Nation magazine reports that “hunger strikes are erupting around the world” especially among imprisoned people who fast to protest abuse, unjust imprisonment and inhumane conditions.  It notes that solitary confinement is often a critical issue, referring to hunger strikes in Israel, California and Guantanamo.  One horrible reaction to such strikes has been force feeding – implemented in Guantanamo and approved by judges in California.  On the other hand, some small gains are noted: release of some Palestinian hunger strikers in Israel; legislators promise to investigate conditions in CA prisons; and President Obama being forced to re-open the question of closing Guantanamo.
http://www.thenation.com/article/177464/starving-justice?page=0,1

An article in The Nation magazine reports that “hunger strikes are erupting around the world” especially among imprisoned people who fast to protest abuse, unjust imprisonment and inhumane conditions.  It notes that solitary confinement is often a critical issue, referring to hunger strikes in Israel, California and Guantanamo.  One horrible reaction to such strikes has been force feeding – implemented in Guantanamo and approved by judges in California.  On the other hand, some small gains are noted: release of some Palestinian hunger strikers in Israel; legislators promise to investigate conditions in CA prisons; and President Obama being forced to re-open the question of closing Guantanamo.
http://www.thenation.com/article/177464/starving-justice?page=0,1

November 20
The ACLU is offering a new tool produced by the Stop Solitary campaign, “Alone & Afraid” which is a briefer on the use of solitary confinement in youth facilities. It covers the law, standards, and science that you can use to argue against the practice. Also noted is their toolkit that covers solitary for kids in the adult system.
https://www.aclu.org/files/assets/Alone%20and%20Afraid%20COMPLETE%20FINAL.pdf
https://www.aclu.org/criminal-law-reform-prisoners-rights/no-child-left-alone-resources
https://www.aclu.org/files/assets/toolkit_juvenile_solitary_briefing_paper_final.pdf

November 19
A powerful new report from Detention Watch Network, “Expose and Close One Year Later: The Absence of Accountability in Immigration Detention” reports that in 2012, 300 people on average were held in solitary confinement per day, 11 percent of whom had mental health issues.  New ICE guidelines are not in line with UN guidance or the standards in the proposed Senate immigration bill: they do not prohibit the use of solitary for individuals with mental illnesses; they do not set specific time limits for solitary; they continue to permit the use of solitary as a kind of “protective custody”; and do not provide for effective action against facilities that violate them.http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/sites/detentionwatchnetwork.org/files/expose_and_close_one_year_later.pdf

In 1995, after a trial which exposed the appalling conditions at Pelican Bay, a federal court ordered all mentally ill individuals out of that prison’s security housing unit (SHU). But the decision did not apply to CA’s other prisons. Hearings have begun in a new case, Coleman v. Brown, aimed at getting all mentally ill people in California out of solitary confinement.
https://www.aclu.org/blog/prisoners-rights/confronting-californias-abuse-solitary

November 15
In many if not most states, individuals who have been sentenced to death are automatically placed in solitary confinement. However, a recent Virginia federal court decision holds that automatic and indefinite placement of a death-sentenced person in solitary is a deprivation of liberty without due process of law, and such individuals are entitled to a classification process similar to that used for non-capital incarcerated people.
https://www.aclu.org/blog/prisoners-rights-capital-punishment/death-row-not-constitution-free-zone

November 6
Moazzam Begg, who spent 20 months in solitary confinement in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and was released without charge in Jan. 2005, describes his time in solitary: “I think I am a very sane, strong person but twice I lost control of my senses … I screamed and shouted and punched and kicked the walls and swore and cried.”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/10261853/What-its-like-to-be-detained-in-Guantanamo-Bay.html

November 5
A report, entitled Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the “War on Terror,” written for The Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and the Open Society Foundations (OSF), by a task force of medical professionals, ethicists and legal experts, calls on President Obama to issue an executive order outlawing torture and other abusive techniques currently in use in the military’s Army Field Manual on interrogations and calls on the Department of Defense to rewrite the Army Field Manual in accordance with such an executive order.  Although the 2006 manual was touted as reforming “extreme interrogation” techniques and eliminating torture, it continues to permit the use of extreme isolation or “segregation,” for interrogation purposes, as part of its Fear Up and Ego Down techniques, aimed at producing both debility and dependency.
http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2013/11/05/blue-ribbon-task-force-says-army-field-manual-on-interrogation-allows-torture-abuse/

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