Seven Days in Solitary [10/6/13]

by | October 6, 2013

solitary_confinement_cell_auschwitz_1The 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.

• This weeks news has been dominated by the passing of Angola 3 member Herman Wallace, after more than 41 years in solitary and less than three days in the free world. The most comprehensive, ongoing coverage was provided by Democracy Now! Solitary Watch spoke about the case in a feature on the BBC News.

• The Los Angeles Review of Books features Andrew Gumbel’s essay “The Scorched Earth Solution: Solitary Confinement in America.” After this summer’s hunger strike in California, he writes, “we can no longer say that we do not know what is happening under our noses. We are subjecting many thousands of prisoners to unbearable psychic torture day after day after day, at great expense and with no apparent benefit.”

• October 4 marked the one-year anniversary of the highly controversial extradition to the United States of British poet and translator Talha Ahsan. As a letter in The Guardian notes, Ahsan, who has Asberger’s syndrome and had never before set foot in America, has spent that year in extreme isolation in a Connecticut supermax prison, awaiting trial on vague “material support to terrorism” charges.

• According to the Boston Globe, Lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, accused of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombing, are arguing that their client is being unduly held in extreme isolation under “Special Administrative Measures” that prevent him communicating with his family or his legal team.

The Atlantic reports on the case of a “floridly psychotic” man in Florida who spent years in “squalor” at ADX Florence federal supermax without any meaningful mental health care, despite behavior that extended to eating his own feces.

California prison officials this week opened the Security Housing Unit at Corcoran State Prison to reporters, yielding some powerful photographs in the Los Angeles Times of men “exercising” in small cages.

• People with mental illness serving time in Virginia’s notorious supermax prisons are being left behind by the state’s “much-touted incentive-based step-down program” that allows prisoners in solitary to “earn their way out of isolation based on good behavior.” As a result, according to a commentary in the Roanoke Times, those with psychiatric and cognitive disabilities are being permanently “warehoused” in solitary.

Photo Requests from Solitary received additional media attention from American Public Media’s The Story, in a piece titled “In Solitary Confinement, Requesting the Outside World.”

• With an article by Jeanne Theoharis titled “Guantanamo in New York,” The Nation launches a new series on “the abusive treatment of terror suspect on US soil”–which includes extensive use of pre-trial as well as post-conviction solitary confinement.

• The ACLU has released a new video and petition urging Attorney General Eric Holder to end the solitary confinement of children under 18 in the federal prison system.


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