Seven Days in Solitary [6/12/2016]
Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement
• On the Marshall Project, Andrew Cohen explores the ongoing lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and its reform-minded secretary, John Wetzel. Lawyers for Arthur Johnson, an incarcerated man with intellectual disabilities who has spent the last 36 years in solitary confinement in the state’s prisons, allege that Johnson’s conditions of confinement violate the 8th amendment ban on “cruel and unusual punishment.”
• A group of peace activists finished their planned walk from Chicago to Thomson, Illinois, to protest the imminent opening of the nation’s second federal supermax. “This would be the largest concentration of solitary confinement in the U.S.,” said participant Tim Meadors. “Being in a cell 23 hours a day doesn’t pacify anyone; it leads to more violence in society because they don’t know how to cope.”
• An article traces the differences in how Colorado and Wisconsin are working to reduce the use of solitary. “Colorado’s decision to curtail the use of solitary confinement — which the state of Wisconsin has begun to do — offers lessons for the Badger State that Raemisch is uniquely positioned to offer,” writes journalist Dee Hall.
• New York’s State Assembly passed a bill known as “Kalief’s Law,” a reference to the young man who committed suicide after spending three years on Rikers Island awaiting trial, most of it in solitary confinement. If the State Senate follows in suit, the bill will help ensure that people arrested receive a speedy trial.
• As Los Angeles County phases out the use of solitary confinement for incarcerated children, the probation department has been tasked with reimagining what can be done with the special housing units. At Camp Joseph Scott in Santa Clarita, a group of girls painted a mural in the SHU to bring light to a block that used to hold people in isolation.
• After agreeing to hear his case, the Supreme Court has announced that it will not consider the Eight Amendment issues raised by Bobby Moore. The Court will “only whether the standard that Texas had used to determine Moore’s intellectual disability should disqualify him from execution,” according to Mother Jones.
• A local outlet examined the cases of the ten individuals on Kansas’ death row, who are all held in solitary confinement. “Most of the cells are 83 square feet — about the size of a small bedroom — and have concrete walls and floors, one small window and a solid door so that inmates are unable to look through bars to visit with other inmates.”
• Controversy has sprung up around the legacy of Derrick Schofield, who announced his resignation last week as the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Corrections. While Schofield cut the number of people held in long-term solitary, some staff believe the move led to an increase in violence on the inside, and criticized the “tier management” approach Schofield implemented to manage the deteriorating situation.
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