Seven Days in Solitary [6/15/14]
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.
• A federal Court of Appeals has ruled that the Indiana Department of Corrections erred in sending a man to solitary confinement for using a computer after prison officials asked him to pull documents from the internet. The court wrote, “It is more than a little surprising to encounter an argument by a prison system that an inmate may be penalized for obeying an order by the prison’s staff.”
• The New York Times published an editorial in support of a recent settlement which will eventually end the use of solitary confinement in Ohio’s juvenile facilities. The editorial staff also called for implementation of the policy nationwide.
• According to the NY Daily News, nearly 20 incarcerated individuals were attacked on Rikers Island in May – making it the bloodiest month at the jail in more than a decade. Union leaders blame the rise in violence on the reduced use of solitary confinement at the jail.
• In light of recent legislation passed in the state, The Durago Herald profiled a young man whose mental illness was exacerbated by his time in maximum security protective custody.
• The ACLU published a report on privately run immigrant detention centers in Texas. Researchers found that SHU quotas at these facilities are sometimes set as high as “10% of the total contracted prison beds,” which is “nearly double the percentage of prisoners kept in isolated confinement in BOP-managed facilities.” Kevin Gosztola wrote about the report and its findings with regards to solitary confinement here.
• Corrections officers in Bernalillo County, New Mexico are concerned about recent proposals to eliminate disciplinary segregation at the local jail, the Metro Detention Center. CO Union President Stephen Perkins said, “You would sentence our officers to injury by eliminating segregation because basically you become a referee in daily fights.” County Commissioner Art De la Cruz responded, “What’s disappointing to me is that the vast majority are mentally ill. So instead of getting treatment they’re put into segregation where it only exacerbates the problem.”
• A new report by the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency documents the impact of prosecuting certain kids in the state as adults, often automatically. The report also addresses the impact of holding young people in solitary confinement in adult jails and prisons.
• Against the Grain aired an episode about Bobby Sands and other prison hunger strikes, including more recent ones in California and Ohio.
• A federal judge has canceled a hearing about whether to issue an injunction against Connecticut officials, who have been detaining a teenage transgender girl in solitary confinement for about the past two months. The young woman was transferred into prison custody after child welfare officials said she was too violent; a private treatment center in Massachusetts has offered to admit her for treatment, but it is unclear when or if she has been transferred.
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Federal legislation guaranteeing all inmates a specified number of hours per week for recreational time in a communal setting; conjugal visits for inmates; and a uniform standard for cell space would be a framework for addressing staff safety and mental health issues.