Seven Days in Solitary [6/16/13]

by | June 15, 2013

The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts.

•  According to the tally kept by The Miami Herald, 104 of the 166 men held captive at Guantanamo are now on hunger strike, with 44 being force-fed and two hospitalized. The Miami Herald also reports that the House of Representatives, disregarding a White House veto threat, has passed a $638 billion defense bill that would block President Barack Obama from closing the military prison.

•  PBS Frontline reports on the abusive use of solitary confinement in the United States, citing the recent critical findings of two separate investigations by the DOJ (covered by Solitary Watch here) and the GAO (covered by Solitary Watch here), noting that both reports “mark an ‘historic’ level of scrutiny of the use of isolation.”

•  Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity reports that California’s new solitary confinement policy is a “human rights disaster,” stating that “the new program keeps most of the objectionable elements of the old program and adds some new elements which make it even worse.”

•  Cell-Out Arizona reports on AFSC Arizona’s response to a statement made by Charles Ryan, Arizona DOC Director, claiming that solitary confinement doesn’t exist in Arizona prisons. The story states that “this claim demonstrates either a misunderstanding or deliberate obfuscation on Director Ryan’s part of what constitutes solitary confinement.”

•  Cell-Out Arizona reports on racial disparities and prejudice in Arizona supermax prisons, stating that “not only are people of color more likely to end up in prison, but once in an Arizona prison the chances of ending up in long-term isolation are also higher!”

•  BBC News reports on steps that people held in solitary confinement can take to mitigate the potentially psychologically devastating effects of isolation, concluding with the words of a man who who experienced solitary firsthand: “And smile and be happy – and don’t be afraid of anybody.”

•  Huffington Post Live discusses the recent exposures of inhumane conditions in prisons around the country with noted criminal justice and prison reform advocates, including Lois Ahrens of the Real Cost of Prisons Project and Peter Wagner of Prison Policy Initiative.

•  San Francisco Bay View reports that, with weeks before statewide hunger strikes are set to resume, the CDCR has implemented a new policy at Pelican Bay State Prison which requires guards to conduct “welfare checks” on people held in SHU every 30 minutes, resulting in “chronic sleep deprivation for prisoners in solitary confinement.”

•  ArchDaily reports on Roman Mars’ recent discussion on the ethics of architects taking on jobs that call for the design of prisons to hold people in solitary confinement or that contain execution chambers. Solitary Watch covers the “Alternatives to Incarceration / Prison Design Boycott Campaign” in a guest post by Raphael Sperry. 

•  CounterPunch reports on “judicial ignorance and bias” in the case of Ahmed Abu Ali, currently held in government-imposed Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) at ADX, the notorious federal supermax in Colorado.

•  The Associated Press reports that advocacy group The Promise of Justice Initiative has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of three people held on death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, stating that the men “are forced to live in poorly-ventilated cells that lack air conditioning, and average temperatures exceed 95 degrees during the summer.”

•  The Atlantic reports on the recent revelations on “the systemic abuse and neglect of inmates, and especially mentally ill inmates” in prisons around the country, concluding that “in our zeal to dehumanize criminals we have allowed our prisons to become medieval places of unspeakable cruelty so far beyond constitutional norms that they are barely recognizable.” 


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