Seven Days in Solitary [12/1/13]

by | December 1, 2013

Solitary confinement cellThe 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.

• The Los Angeles Times publishes an editorial calling for lawmakers to apply Pelican Bay’s restrictions on solitary confinement at correctional facilities statewide. “As lawmakers prepare for the second half of their two-year session, they ought to work through the various definitional challenges — What constitutes solitary? What qualifies as mental illness? — and put forward a bill to apply the Pelican Bay ban to all California inmates.”

The Nation reports on the embracement of “special administrative measures” (SAMs) by prosecutors “to keep terrorism suspects guilty until proven otherwise” since 9/11. According to the story, “One of the primary mechanisms tilting the scales against the accused is to hold him (or her) in jail before trial and impose so-called [SAMs]. SAMs impose severe and extraordinary restrictions on the defendant’s ability to communicate with anybody outside his prison cell, and impair the ability of his lawyer to represent him.”

• KOB-TV reports that Carol Lester, 73, is suing the New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility in Grants for depriving her of needed cancer medication while held in solitary confinement for 34 days.

• The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE) reports on the ACLU’s request for a ban on solitary confinement in youth facilities, as well as the group’s new report documenting the harm done to children subjected to isolation. According to the story, Amy Fettig, Senior Staff Counsel for the ACLU’s National Prison Project, told JJIE that “about 70,000 young people are being held at any given time in juvenile facilities nationwide and that in many facilities solitary confinement is ‘routine.'”

• Al Jazeera America reports on the Center for American Progress’ new studyDignity Denied, which raises concerns about the solitary confinement of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) immigrant detainees held in U.S. detention facilities. Often placed in isolation as a protective measure, the story notes that use of the practice “actually does more harm than good. The report points to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on torture, who finds the effects of ‘prolonged’ use of solitary confinement – at or above 15 days – may produce irreversible psychological effects.”

ThinkProgress reports on the alarming story of New York teen Kalief Browder, who was held at the notorious Rikers Island without conviction or trial for three years. According to the story, the teen “says he spent more than 400 days in solitary confinement, was deprived of meals, and was assaulted and beaten both by officers and fellow inmates. Browder attempted suicide at least six times. Last month he filed a lawsuit last month against the city and several agencies.”

• As part of its Human Rights Day 2013 campaign, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) shares If the SHU Fits: Voices from Solitary Confinement, a theater piece which “shares voices of survivors of solitary confinement and their loved ones. This resource powerfully weaves together excerpts of letters, blog entries, government reports, and speeches of family members and survivors.”


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