Seven Days in Solitary [11/23/2014]
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.
• At his first news conference devoted exclusively to conditions on Rikers Island, Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced plans to create a $14.8 million “enhanced supervision housing” (EHS) to hold the jail’s 250 “most dangerous” individuals, who would be locked into their cells for as many as 17 hours a day. Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte has said that broader reforms on the use of solitary at the jail are dependent upon the creation of an EHS unit.
• Rikers Island will also open a unit exclusively for trans women, intended to “offer transgender women safe and respectful separation from the general population” without placing them in solitary confinement. LA Weekly published an article about a similar unit housed in Los Angeles’ Central Jail.
• The Center for Constitutional Rights’ Alexis Agathocleous published an Op-ed for MSNBC entitled, “Rampant use of solitary confinement in the US constitutes torture.”
• Five individuals on death row in Virginia have filed a lawsuit challenging their conditions of isolation. The plaintiffs are seeking the same privileges given to another state prisoner on death row, Alfredo Prieto, who successfully challenged his conditions of confinement on due process grounds.
• Fusion has published an investigation into the conditions endured by trans women locked up in US immigration detention– including being placed in solitary confinement. This week, LGBT activists also expressed disappointment with President Obama after he announced a series of administrative actions on immigration. According to an Op-ed published on The Advocate, “many transgender detainees, especially trans women, are asking federal immigration authorities to deport them back to their home countries, often at extreme personal risk, because conditions in the detention upjohn generic xanax facilities are so bad.”
• Los Angeles County officials have agreed to several changes to bring the city’s jails into compliance with federal disability regulations. One individual alleges he was held in disciplinary segregation for four months “because he refused to give up his wheelchair when deputies tried to make him switch to a walker or crutches.”
• A Santa Fe-based attorney is set to file a federal lawsuit on behalf of an individual who has been held in solitary confinement since 2007. Lawyer Jason Flores-Williams said, “The time has come to abolish long-term solitary confinement in America. It is a racist abomination that shocks the conscience and offends any contemporary standards of decency.”
• The US Department of Justice asked a federal court to dismiss its lawsuit against the Terrebonne Parish Juvenile Detention Center in Louisiana, citing improved conditions in the facility. Among other changes, the settlement reached with the County prohibited the use of disciplinary isolation for longer than 72 hours except in extraordinary circumstances.
• A 35-year-old woman has committed suicide inside her solitary cell, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. Victoria Woodrich was in disciplinary segregation at the time of her death.
• A one-time US amateur super heavyweight champion has been held in solitary confinement for several months while he awaits admission to a state mental hospital. He is one of 24 individuals in Tacoma who have faced extensive delays in court-ordered mental health treatment since the summer.
• A Nebraska performance audit has recommended that the state review how it uses solitary confinement to discipline those on the inside. The 134-page report found “that the department lacked clear statutory guidelines as to what constitutes ‘serious or flagrant’ behavior that warrants solitary confinement or a loss of good time.”
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