Seven Days in Solitary [12/22/13]
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.
• Capital Public Radio reports on court hearings in Sacramento, CA, where U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton of Sacramento decided that people with mental illness on death row and in the general population receive substandard mental health treatment from Department of State Hospitals.
• The Nation‘s David Mizner reports on the universal trend of hunger striking as an act of resistance in the modern era, the majority of strikes completed by prisoners as a form of protest against abuse and inhumane conditions.
• CBCnews reports that a jury ruled that the death of Ashley Smith in 2007 was a homicide. As Smith choked herself to death while in solitary confinement, prison guards outside of the cell were ordered by their superiors to not enter the cell as long as she was breathing. The jury recommended that staff should not have to seek authorization to intervene in a crisis situation, along with many other recommendations attempting to better the mental health standards in Canadian prisons.
• A federal judge in Baton Rouge ruled that individuals held in isolation on death row in Louisiana’s Angola Prison are “being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment,” after enduring excessive heat from lack of ventilation, along with the inability to access cool water, according to the Times-Picayune. Further, the Judge, Brian A. Jackson, ordered that the temperature of the facility be monitored and reported every two hours.
• According to the Denver Post, three men held in solitary at Colorado State Penitentiary sued Colorado DOC for depriving them of the ability to exercise. “The lawsuit says inmates must spend 23 hours a day in cells that measure approximately 80 square feet and are allowed to exercise in a cell that is only 90 square feet.”
• The Atlantic reports that the Colorado Department of Corrections issued a memo telling all state wardens that “inmates with ‘major mental illnesses’ can no longer be sent to solitary confinement.” However, the Colorado DOC’s definition of ‘major mental illness’ might be too narrow to make a big enough impact on the population of prisoners in solitary.
• Organizers announced the launch of a new campaign that “aims to shed light on and end a pattern of human rights and civil liberties abuses in ‘War on Terror’ cases in the criminal justice system” including the extensive use of pre-trial and post-conviction solitary confinement. The campaign, called No Separate Justice, will be marked by an event on January 7 in New York City.
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