NEWS: Treating Humans Worse Than Animals: Solitary Confinement in New York Featured on “Democracy Now!”

Reprinted from Democracy Now!

Following the death of two prisoners at New York City’s Rikers Island facility, we look at mounting pressure on jails and prisons to reform their use of solitary confinement. A corrections officer was arrested last week and charged with violating the civil rights of Jason Echevarria, a mentally ill Rikers prisoner who died after eating a packet of detergent given to him when his cell was flooded with sewage. It was the first such arrest in more than a decade. Also last month, Jerome Murdough, a mentally ill homeless veteran, died in a Rikers solitary mental-observation unit where he was supposed to be checked on every 15 minutes. An official told the Associated Press that Murdough “baked to death” after temperatures soared in his cell.

We hear from Echevarria’s father, Ramon, at a protest seeking justice for his son, and speak to former Rikers prisoner Five Mualimmak, who was held in solitary there. And we are joined by two guests from within the prison system calling for reform: Dr. James Gilligan, a psychiatrist who is helping reduce violence in prisons, and Lance Lowry, president of the Texas Correctional Employees, the union which represents Texas prison guards. Lowry is calling on the state to reduce the use of solitary confinement, including on death row. “Zookeepers are not allowed to keep zoo animals in the kind of housing that we put human beings in,” Dr. Gilligan says. “We have created the situation; it is called a self-fulfilling prophecy: We say these are animals, they are going to behave like animals, then we treat them so that they will.”

To watch the video segment or read the full transcript, click here.


  1. In fact the situation with FATCA is only the tip of the icbereg. Many US persons abroad (citzens or green-card holders) are not US tax compliant because to be so would result in negative returns on their retirement pensions and double taxation of their hard-earned wages. Many have other citizenships, and many live in their country of second (or perhaps first) citizenship. The US treats its persons abroad like dirt. Many cannot even maintain bank accounts in the US because of the Patriot Act or other legislation. State governments are denying state-ID and driver’s license renewal to non-military US persons abroad. Many are denied their right to vote or see it abridged (due to caucus physical presence requrements). What about the recent NDAA (National Defence Authorization Act) which essentially authorizes the executive branch and the military to hold anyone indefinitely without trial? In a court case last year, a federal judge upheld the right of Obama to execute a US citizen abroad without trial.


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