Archives for June 2014

NEWS: Roundup of National News on Solitary Confinement, June 2014

June 23, 2014

A judge denied bail to a friend of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect who is being held in solitary confinement in a Plymouth county jail while he awaits trial on charges of impeding the investigation into the deadly attack.  He is not charged with participating in the bombings or knowing about them in advance.  But judge says he is still a flight risk.

June 19, 2014

A new report says the percentage of incarcerated individuals in Ohio who are members of recognized gangs remains steady at about 16 percent of the overall prison population.  The highest percentage are at the state’s supermax prison in Youngstown.

The keynote speaker at the annual conference of the Chicano Mexicano Prison Project spoke “passionately” about what solitary confinement does physically and psychologically to incarcerated people.

June 18, 2014

A man who is serving a life sentence at the Supermax prison in Florence for the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania has won a federal appeal, giving him the right to visit and correspond with a larger circle of friends and relatives.  He had claimed that restrictions known as special administration measures, or SAMs, that are aimed at preventing communication with terrorists are preventing him from talking with family and friends.

In most episodes of the second season of Orange Is the New Black, solitary confinement looms large.  But will people come to think of it as the new normal?

The Box, a new graphic novel tells the story of a man who, as a teen, spent time in solitary confinement in New York City’s Riker’s Island jail.

West Virginia is beginning a study of its juvenile justice system to find better ways to keep youthful offenders out of detention centers. This was spurred by a lawsuit filed by Mountain State Justice which alleged that the young people at the former Industrial Home for Youth were illegally strip searched, placed in solitary confinement, and denied adequate access to exercise and educational materials. A judge had ordered the home closed.  In his announcement of the study, the governor cited successes in the state Justice Reinvestment Act, which focuses on community-based supervision, risk assessments, investment in drug courts and other community-based treatment options for substance abuse.

A lawsuit has been filed in Missouri in connection with the death of 36-year-old man, who was being held for trial at the Daviess-Dekalb County Regional Jail.  The suit claims that he was beaten severely and shot with a taser gun on multiple occasions and that he was kept in solitary confinement for 12 days in a cell without a toilet, sink or running water so that he was forced to sit in the cell in his feces and urine.

June 17, 2014

In South Africa, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services is being sued for torture-related damages.  Solitary confinement and other torture methods continue despite progressive laws.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is planning to implement new censorship regulations they say are designed to improve clarity about what materials should be considered contraband and which constitute threats to prison security. The rules include censorship of any material deemed “oppositional to authority and society.”  Prisoners’ rights groups say the rules are overly broad and meant as retribution for political organizing as they would most likely be used to target the letters of activists, as well as publications that regularly cover prisoners’ rights.

In a Maryland jail, teens charged as adults face isolation and neglect.  Young people, thought to number in the thousands across the country, are trapped in a kind of purgatory–facing charges in adult court and held in adult facilities, but kept in involuntary lockdown for “their own protection” from the adult prisoners who surround them.

June 16, 2014

Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) is pushing the American Institute of Architects to prohibit the design of spaces that inherently violate human rights in their code of ethics.  The organization is collecting, from formerly and currently incarcerated people, drawings of the spaces in which they experienced solitary confinemen. These will be displayed in UC Berkley’s Wurster Hall Gallery in the fall. The architect behind this effort, says he is not advocating that we put the firms that do prisons out of business but would like it if they would foreground human rights in their work.

June 14, 2014

Man exonerated thanks to DNA evidence after 32 years in Supermax Prison now accused of murder in gambling dispute.

June 13, 2014

A new study, Inventing Terrorists: The Lawfare of Preemptive Prosecution details our government’s post-9/11 strategy in domestic terrorism cases, finding that most were unfairly prosecuted. Included in the discussion of the tactical patterns of preemptive prosecutions, is the pre-trial use of solitary confinement and special administrative measures (SAMS).

June 12, 2014

NYCLU testimony before the New York City Council on the use of solitary confinement in city jails supports the council’s efforts to provide oversight to the practice of punitive segregation and expresses the hope that this will be the first step toward comprehensive reform of the harmful conditions and practices that persist in New York City jails.  It recommends complete abolition of the practice of subjecting human beings to extreme forms of isolation and deprivation.

A federal court has ruled that the Indiana Department of Correction was wrong to put a man in solitary confinement for using a computer at the request of prison officials.  He had been asked to download materials at the request of prison librarians.–Inmate-Computer

June 11, 2014

A man with mental illness and a low IQ who was held in solitary cell in the Durango, Colorado city jail claims his psychological condition was worsened and he became suicidal.  Prison officials argue he was in “protective custody” and it was not solitary confinement because he could talk to other men in the cell block through the door.  Advocates point out that individuals who need protection should still be able to participate in programs.

June 9, 2014

The secretary of the Department of Corrections of New Mexico went undercover to experience solitary confinement.  He notes that the most dangerous individuals must be kept in segregation, but other methods, like taking away privileges should be used when punishing those who are less dangerous.  He says that as a result of his time behind bars, the system is already seeing changes.

The ACLU has issued a new report, Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped in Our Shadow Private Prison System, which documents the ACLU’s multi-year investigation into the five CAR facilities (Criminal Alien Requirement contracts) in Texas.  The issues raised include: evidence of shocking abuse and mistreatment, families torn apart, and the excessive use of solitary confinement.

June 8, 2014

The Daily News says that only a very few of the people at the Rikers jail who are mentally ill are in the special mental health unit and receiving needed services.  Efforts to eliminate the use of solitary confinements have led to others being in the general population where there is now more violence.  They argue that “Corrections must give up the illusion that it’s ending solitary until the department actually has the means to manage its … population without it.”

According to U.S. military officials, Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl suffered harsh treatment at the hands of his Taliban captors, including long periods of solitary confinement. They kept him in a metal cage in the dark for weeks after he tried to escape. He is reported to be struggling with emotional issues.

A NY Times editorial praises the recent settlement between the DOJ and Ohio re: juveniles in solitary, supporting treatment as the best alternative.  But a letter to the editor from the Executive Director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance adds the view that the single most effective way to end the practice of solitary confinement for children is keep them out of adult jails and prisons.  Many are tried as adults, sent to adult jails and prisons and put in solitary for their own protection.[%22RI%3A7%22%2C%22RI%3A16%22

June 7, 2014

The solitary confinement units in East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian, Mississippi, privately run by Management and Training Corporation, are described by civil rights lawyers and medical and mental health experts, noting that: the people held in those units spend months in near-total darkness; illnesses go untreated or inappropriately treated; dirt, feces and, occasionally, blood are caked on the walls of cells; and, many individuals were forcibly injected with an  antipsychotic drug, even though they were not acutely psychotic. A lawsuit against the corporation and DOC officials also notes corruption amongst officers and failure to stop violence.  Later this year, a judge will consider whether to grant the plaintiffs class-action status.

June 6, 2014

A report on some of the real stats related to women in prison shows: more than 600% increase since 1980; most of the women are there for non-violent drug related offenses; many are pregnant when admitted to prison; Black and Latina women are most effected; and the women are more likely than men to be the victims of staff sexual abuse.

An article in the Atlantic praises Colorado’s rule restricting solitary confinement for the mentally ill, but warns about the abuse of classifications. The article also discusses the federal standards and the discretion they give to prison officials.

Jails are not part of the solitary confinement bill passed in Colorado.  The ACLU-Colorado now intends to turn its attention to the isolation of mentally ill people in county jails, but acknowledges that a policy change there may be more difficult because practices there are “a hodgepodge of different activities not very well regulated by the state,” and because a shortage of psychiatric beds and a lack of funding for alternative mental-health treatment may put a huge burden on the jails.  The point is made that, “Communities have to find the resources.”

The Colorado governor signed a bill banning the use of solitary confinement for mentally ill people.

June 5, 2014

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously ruled that the American Civil Liberties Union and the Prison Law Office can move forward with a lawsuit against the state of Arizona as a class action. The attorneys had argued that the state had long ignored the mandate to provide adequate health care and that individuals in the prisons have suffered unnecessarily and even died while waiting for basic care.  In addition to seeking adequate medical, mental health, and dental care for Arizona’s prisoners, the lawsuit challenges the state prisons’ use of solitary confinement because of the harm it creates.

Counterpunch features an article on how the US is spreading mass incarceration around the world, exporting systems of abuse in programs that are reflections and extensions of our own internal situation.  Reports of physical and psychological torture, include isolated confinement.  Although the reported reason for this effort is the war on drugs, the reports sees social and political control as  the real reason as many of the people held in these US funded facilities are political prisoners, striking farmers, indigenous leaders, union leaders and human rights advocates.

June 4, 2014

Attorneys for a man accused of kidnapping and murder but not yet tried asked the court to have him removed from solitary confinement.  The judge ruled that he should not be treated differently in jail.

June 3, 2014

The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) will issue new standards which prohibit the use of room confinement for discipline, punishment, administrative convenience, retaliation, staffing shortages, or reasons other than as a temporary response to behavior that threatens immediate harm to a youth or others.  The change is expected to have national impact. The revised detention standards also call on JDAI sites to comply with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), to protect the rights of youths with disabilities, and to accommodate those with limited English skills.  JDAI also pledges a reinvestment in juvenile justice into early intervention and better prevention efforts.

In Florida, trial is to begin for mentally ill Muslim man.  Advocates say there are government videos showing FBI informants teaching and pushing the man into committing acts of terrorism.  He was held in solitary confinement for two years before his trial, but is now in the medical area of the Pinellas County jail under suicide watch.

June 2, 2014

A federal judge allowed hundreds of California incarcerated individuals to join a lawsuit (Ashker v. Brown) challenging prolonged solitary confinement in California prisons.  The court also denied the California Correctional Peace Officers Association’s (CCPOA) motion to intervene in the case.  The lawsuit applies only to individuals in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay; people held in isolation at the state’s three other security housing units are not included.  Several articles question if this will bring the end of solitary confinement.

May 30, 2014

A federal court official says that treatment of California’s most severely mentally ill prisoners is haphazard and often inadequate, delivered by a fractured, understaffed system in which doctors discharge patients back to prison because they are afraid not to.  The investigation of conditions at two state psychiatric hospitals and the psychiatric hospitals run within four state prisons was ordered by a judge after he rejected California’s bid to end federal oversight of prison psychiatric care.

In Massachusetts, two men who had been tried as adults and sentenced to life in prison when they were still youth are going before the parole board to ask for their freedom, under a controversial 2013 state Supreme Judicial Court ruling granting dozens of teenagers convicted of murder eligibility for parole.  One of the men had spent 7 of his 20 years in prison in solitary confinement.

May 29, 2014

A bill that would change policies regarding solitary confinement has been passed by the CA state senate.  The bill’s author says it will lead to safer prisons.  But, while it may have some desirable provisions, both people in prison and advocates for their rights oppose this bill because for the first time in history it would put into state law authority for CDCR to place individuals in solitary confinement for mere alleged gang membership without any accompanying serious misconduct.  They would also want it to incorporate a provision that would prohibit CDCR from using the testimony of an informant to place someone in a SHU unless that person’s testimony was corroborated by independent third party evidence.

NEWS: New York City Council Hearing Probes Jail Violence, Mental Health Care

By Jake Pearson, Associated Press. Reprinted from ABC News.

New York City lawmakers peppered correction and health officials with questions about how to reduce violence and better care for a growing mentally ill inmate population in the nation’s second-largest jail system during a specially called oversight hearing Thursday.

In three hours of testimony, the commissioners for the departments of correction and health and mental hygiene detailed both the bureaucratic inner-workings of how their two agencies, tasked respectively with both the custody and health care of roughly 11,000 daily inmates, interact now — and what they can do better to reform a jail system advocates, lawmakers and even the department of correction commissioner himself have called troubled.

“These long-term trends, years in the making, are clearly unacceptable, and reversing them is my top priority,” Department of Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte, who started running the $1 billion agency in April, said of the violence. “But as a correction professional with 40 years’ experience, I must assure you that the process will not be quick. And it will not be easy.”

Their testimony comes following reports by The Associated Press detailing two grisly deaths of inmates with psychological problems on Rikers Island.

DOC statistics show that between 2010 and 2013, use-of-force incidents have increased by 59 percent, from 1,871 to 2,977; slashing and stabbing incidents doubled, from 34 to 58; and assaults on staff jumped by 30 percent, from 500 to 646.

At the same time, the number of inmates with a mental health diagnoses has soared as the jail population has declined, accounting for about 24 percent of the nearly 14,000 inmates in 2007 to about 40 percent of mentally ill inmates today, according to the statistics. Officials estimate that about a third of those inmates suffer from serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Mayor Bill de Blasio last week appointed a task force charged with rethinking how the criminal justice system treats the mentally ill.

Lawmakers argued Thursday the challenges facing reform at Rikers are vast, and include not just safety and mental health measures, but also new facilities, more security staff and bail reform.

Mary Bassett, the department of health and mental hygiene’s commissioner, told lawmakers that mental health and violence in the jails are intertwined. She said correction officers and mental health workers have already begun to discuss certain inmates’ behavior at the end of every tour, being mindful of medical privacy laws, so as to better recognize potential problems before it’s too late.

Officials have started to reform 19 so-called mental observation units, where the recent deaths of two inmates with psychological problems occurred, she said.

Those deaths, reported by The Associated Press, called for top-down change, said City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley.

The AP was first to report on suspicions of a mentally ill former Marine’s February death inside a 101-degree cell. A city official speaking on the condition of anonymity told the AP then that Jerome Murdough “basically baked to death.” His family, who said the veteran suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, plans to file a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit.

Last month, the AP detailed the September 2013 death of 39-year-old inmate Bradley Ballard, whose family said was diagnosed with schizophrenia who died after sexually mutilating himself while locked up alone for seven days. His death was recently ruled a homicide.

Prosecutors are investigating both deaths.

New York University psychiatrist Dr. James Gilligan, who authored a report last year that was critical of the department’s then approach to using solitary confinement for mentally ill inmates, said Thursday the hearing was an encouraging sign that the city was taking the issue seriously.

“I think this is a move toward greater transparency in what’s going on at Rikers Island both with the problems and with the reforms,” he said.

NEWS: Death of Schizophrenic Rikers Inmate Left in Cell Ruled a Homicide

By the Associated Press. Reprinted from

NEW YORK — The death of a seriously mentally ill and diabetic inmate who sexually mutilated himself after seven days in a New York City jail cell has been ruled a homicide, the city medical examiner’s office said Monday.

Spokeswoman Julie Bolcer said the cause of 39-year-old Bradley Ballard’s September 2013 death on Rikers Island was diabetic ketoacidosis with a contributing factor of genital ischemia. Diabetic ketoacidosis occurs when people don’t have enough insulin and the liver breaks down fat instead, which can be fatal. Ischemia occurs when tissues don’t get enough oxygen and die.

Ballard, who family members said had been diagnosed as schizophrenic, was discovered lying in his own feces in a cell with a rubber band tied around his scrotum. He had been confined to his cell in a mental observation unit at Rikers for seven days for making a lewd gesture at a female guard, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Documents obtained by the AP show Ballard was not given his medication for much of the time he spent locked in his cell in a mental observation unit. The documents show he was checked on dozens of times by correction officers but never taken out of his cell until he was found unresponsive.

The Department of Correction, citing a pending and ongoing investigation, declined to comment. The Bronx District Attorney’s Office didn’t immediately comment.

Curtis Griffin, Ballard’s stepfather, said, “It’s hard to believe that things got this bad. You can’t cover these things up. Bradley is not the only one. If they don’t know what their job is they shouldn’t be there.”

Ballard’s death and the death of another inmate who died in an overheated cell have prompted a city lawmaker to schedule an oversight hearing. On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new task force that would overhaul how the corrections system treats the mentally ill.

NEWS: Roundup of National News on Solitary Confinement, May 2014

May 28, 2014
Attorneys for a man who admitted helping to kill a correctional officer at U.S. Penitentiary Atwater in California’s San Joaquin Valley are trying to keep him out of the federal Supermax prison in Florence, Colo. because he has serious mental health problems, including bipolar disorder and an intellectual disability.  The Justice Dept. is arguing that prison assignments are up to the Bureau of Prisons and the judge in the case has no say in the matter.

May 27, 2014
Decades of solitary confinement will continue for a Thoman Silverstein who killed a guard and three other incarcerated men while in prison. The ruling of the 10th Circuit found him too dangerous to release into the general prison population. The man had claimed that his 30 years in solitary has caused him psychological harm so he was seeking a “step-down” to less restrictive conditions of confinement.  He cited his age, the fact that he has committed no disciplinary infraction since 1988, and the fact that staff psychologists gave him a low risk of violence rating. But, deferring to the Bureau of Prisons, the court denied his request, citing his old gang affiliation and the possibility it could be re-activated or the need for protection from the gang is he refuses to rejoin.  The man’s description of his time in solitary is included in the link below.

A woman held on drug charges in the Wichita County Jail in 2012 filed a suit against Wichita County and other entities for allowing her to deliver her baby in solitary confinement without help, resulting in the infant’s death.

May 26, 2014
Report on women in solitary discusses special ways they are affected: it damages relations with their children; it damages the child by not permitting contact or demonstrations of affection; children may be put in foster care; women in solitary are barred from programs that might aid them in preventing children from being taken away permanently; many are rape survivors who continue to be abused; and the possibility of re-traumatization may intensify feelings of anger, depression, anxiety, fear and paranoia.

A man in Northern State Prison in Newark, NJ is suing the state on the grounds that he has been kept in solitary confinement for 8 years, without due process and in violation of his rights against cruel and unusual punishment. He was accused of plotting uprisings in 4 prisons and the assassination of then Newark Mayor Booker, but no changes were ever brought and no evidence present. The trial is scheduled for July.

May 25, 2014
Boy of 15 was put in solitary confinement in a maximum security cell at the Utah State Prison after he pled guilty to participating in an armed robbery and was given two concurrent sentences of 1-15 years.  He pled guilty after what his father says was bad legal advice that he would probably get a light sentence.  His father is concerned that he will be destroyed by the isolation.

May 24, 2014
Immigrants in detention facilities across the country are often coerced into working for $1 a day or less.  Some report that they have been threatened with solitary confinement if they did not work, even when they were ill.  And, at least one woman said she was put in solitary for no reason, but the work gave her a tiny bit of freedom and the opportunity for contact with others.

An article on the relationship between decreased funding for programs for the mentally ill in Colorado and the increases in the percentage of mentally ill people in the prisons, also notes that, once they’re in, people with behavioral-health problems have more trouble getting out.  A study showed they stayed an average of five times longer than other individuals in the prisons.  And, despite the pledges to remove mentally-ill people from isolation because of concerns that it is counterproductive and inhumane, jailers say solitary confinement is still used routinely.

May 21, 2014
The Justice Department has settled its lawsuit against the State of Ohio to end unlawful seclusion of youth in juvenile correctional facilities.  The State Department of Youth Services (DYS) will also ensure that young people in its juvenile facilities receive individualized mental health treatment to prevent and address the conditions and behaviors that led to seclusion.

NY Times article reports that “attacks on health care workers and other civilian staff members at Rikers Island have spiked over the last year, as officials have scaled back their use of punitive measures and expanded treatment for the swelling ranks of mentally ill [people] at the … jail complex.”  They report that violent incidents are up since July 2013 and all but 3 of the 39 incidents involved incarcerated individuals with a mental health diagnosis.  The problems are said to be slowing down reform efforts.  But Mayor De Blasio has vowed to implement reforms including providing more intensive clinical attention to mentally ill people in the jail instead of solitary.

After roughly 10,000 gallons of chemicals leaked into a West Virginia watershed, officials at Charleston’s South Central Jail claimed that the people incarcerated there were given plenty of clean water to drink. But people who were incarcerated there say they were sometimes given too little clean water so they resorted to using contaminated tap water. Many say they suffered a myriad of health problems after exposure to the chemicals in the water supply, but if they asked to see a nurse too many times they could be sent to solitary confinement.

May 20, 2014
Marty Horn, the Former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction and former Secretary of Corrections of Pennsylvania argues that holding Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing in solitary confinement is unjustified because: he has not yet been tried and found guilty; and, the standard for such separation should always be behavior—not affiliation, crime or beliefs. He further argues that means must be found by his jailers to reduce the extreme social isolation he is experiencing to avoid psychological deterioration.

New Mexico’s Department of Corrections Cabinet Secretary Gregg Marcantel, spent 2 days in solitary.  He is now making changes in policy – i.e releasing people who are not dangerous. (60-80 so far.)

An Egyptian-born imam (known as Abu Hamza)was convicted of terrorism charges in New York and faces a life sentence. He was extradited to the US in 2014 with four other terrorism suspects after a long battle in UK and European courts, in which the defendants argued that the long-term solitary confinement they would likely face if convicted amounted to torture. Apparently, the US government, as a concession to the British government, promised not to hold him in solitary confinement at ADX Florence if he were convicted.

May 16, 2014
An Omaha man who went on a killing spree last year shortly after he left prison had been in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day during his final years in custody and was then released with no attempts to help him ease back into society.  According to a state Ombudsman, the isolation might have worsened the man’s already severe mental health problems since in isolation he did not have the same access to mental health services as other people in the prison.  Lawmakers have begun an investigation into the case and whether it reflects larger problems in the state corrections system.

A Portland, Maine lawyer said he can cite at least four cases in the last two months where mentally ill people are being arrested and held in solitary confinement for misdemeanors.  In one case, his client called 911 repeatedly, asking to be taken to the hospital because he didn’t have medicine for his schizophrenia. The client was arrested for misuse of the 911 system and violation of conditions of release, both misdemeanors. The client was kept in solitary confinement for 10 days.  According to the State’s Atty. Gen., although there is a statewide procedure on how to deal with maximum security or solitary confinement, when it comes to county jails, it’s up to each of their discretion. – ixzz3264dQwaD

May 14, 2014
Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder, Jr. spoke out against what he described as the unnecessary use of solitary confinement for imprisoned juveniles who suffer from mental illness.  He noted that “solitary confinement can be dangerous, and a serious impediment to the ability of juveniles to succeed once released … [and that] … this practice is particularly detrimental to young people with disabilities – who are at increased risk under these circumstances of negative effects including self-harm and even suicide.”  He promised his department will continue to work to end excessive seclusion of youths with disabilities.

Lawyers for a transgender Georgia woman say that she has served most of her sentence in solitary to keep her “safe” from physical and sexual violence in the prison after she was raped. And, being placed in isolation has prevented her from receiving life and employment counseling as well as recreation time. The director of the Transgender, Gender Variant and Intersex (TGI) Justice Project, sees putting rape victims in solitary as a longer-standing women’s rights issue: the phenomenon of blaming the victim. She is put in lock-up but not the person who perpetrated the act, who still gets to be with his friends. The view is that the victimized individual should at least have a choice about this “protection.”

A man is suing several New Orleans ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials for First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment violations, claiming that they held him in in solitary confinement for five months after beating him and denying him medical treatment for his injuries. He had been arrested for a traffic violation, but then asked to see a lawyer when they demanded that he sign deportation papers.

May 9, 2014
The host of Democracy Now! Amy Goodman, penned an op-ed voicing her opposition to solitary confinement, which was published in several outlets across the country – in Idaho, Illinois and Wisconsin.  She mentions the position of the Texas Correctional Employees calling for reductions in the use of solitary confinement.  And she mentions the work of CAIC on the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act.

People in prison and advocacy groups in California who were involved recent hunger strikes have expressed a position on two bills currently moving through the California state legislature. They support Assembly Bill 1652, which would prohibit the state from placing individuals in solitary confinement simply on the suspicion that they belong to a gang (“gang validation”); they oppose Senate Bill 892, which was designed to achieve more comprehensive reforms, because it neither explicitly prohibits “gang validation” nor indeterminate terms in solitary confinement units.

May 8, 2014
Rep. Cedric Richmond (LA) introduced The Solitary Confinement Study and Reform Act of 2014 to begin the development and implementation of national standards for the use of solitary confinement, which will ensure that it is used infrequently and only under extreme circumstances.

May 6, 2014
Amnesty International USA is calling for another investigation into the deaths of two men in South Jersey’s Burlington County. County prosecutors concluded both men died of “natural causes,” but the Amnesty group claims that conclusion ignores evidence of medical neglect.

May 5, 2014
The Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope and WISDOM, which is lobbying to cut in half the prison rolls in Wisconsin invited legislators to a church event to discuss the practices of the Department of Corrections of holding incarcerated people unnecessarily past their eligible parole dates, and subjecting them to solitary confinement under conditions described as “torture.”  They pointed out that several individuals had fulfilled their requirements for parole and were denied release, while others weren’t provided the programs needed to meet the requirements.  Several legislators promised to investigate.

May 3, 2014
Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR), an organization of health professionals dedicated to human rights advocacy  and outspoken in opposing the use of U.S. medical professionals in interrogations have released a letter to President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel urge them to eliminate all existing procedures allowing for torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees.  They note that the Army Field Manual (especially Appendix M) still includes abusive techniques such as isolation, sleep deprivation, exploitation of fear, attacks against ego or self-esteem, and the creation of feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.

A man who had been kept in solitary confinement 23 hours and 20 minutes a day for more than two years has lost a federal lost his appeal in a lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Corrections.  The court found that his due process rights were violated because prison officials did not review his housing classification status, but also held that the Department of Corrections and 11 named officials were entitled to qualified immunity.

May 2014
An account by a retired CIA officer on the torture and imprisonment of a Vietnamese freedom fighter and the failure by the CIA and the South Vietnamese to break him through years of torture and isolation.


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