Seven Days in Solitary [4/17/2016]
Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement
• The US Field Army Manual on interrogation lists a technique called “separation,” or solitary confinement. In recently released talking points obtained through a Freedom of Information request, the Office of the Secretary of Defense noted that solitary does not fit the definition of cruel and unusual punishment, “as it is a technique used extensively in US prisons and does not ‘shock the conscience’,”
• The Department of Justice has closed its investigation into the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, after the state was found to have made significant improvements in the use of solitary for people with serious mental illness or intellectual disabilities. Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta said, “We commend the state for beginning to reform its system to ensure that prisoners with serious mental illness and intellectual disabilities receive care, rather than suffer harm.”
• Activists, family members and formerly incarcerated people went to Albany to advocate for the passage of the Humane Alternatives to Long Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act. If passed, the bill would place strict limits on the number of days people could spend in isolation and create additional due process protections for people on the inside.
• Under a new Texas Department of Criminal Justice policy, people in prison who are found to have active social media accounts could end up in solitary confinement for 45 days. Having a third party run the account – like a family member – is also a violation of the rules.
• Tribeca premiered “Solitary,” a film shot entirely in Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison. The festival also featured a virtual reality project that enables viewers to be immersed in an isolation cell for nine minutes.
• The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia are conducting an investigation into the treatment of LGBT people in the state’s prisons. The investigation comes after several trans people, including Ky Peterson and Ashley Diamond, have been denied hormone treatment and placed in solitary confinement, allegedly for their own protection.
• The National Commission of Correctional Health Care, which represents physicians who work in prisons, issued a statement on solitary calling for a 15-day ban on its use. “Correctional health professionals should not condone or participate in cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment of adults or juveniles in custody,” the statement also notes.
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