Seven Days in Solitary [6/26/2016]

Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement

by | June 26, 2016

• Judge Esla Alcala, a member of Texas’ Court of Criminal Appeals, filed an opinion expressing “great concern” about the use of the death penalty in the state, including automatic placement in solitary on death row. “I have gone to death row and I have seen those cells, and I can’t fathom living in a situation like that. So I think it is facially plausible that that can rise to the level of cruel and unusual if you have essentially been living in a little box for 20 or 30 years.”

• Medium published a video and accompanying article about solitary confinement, called “Our Voices Are Rarely Heard.”

• People held in immigration detention in the Essex County Correctional Facility in New Jersey are being punished with solitary confinement on an inconsistent and excessive basis, according to a recently released report. In 2013, according to the study, 39 percent “of all incidents leading to solitary confinement were related to frustration over jail conditions—whether it be concerns over food, language accessibility, television policies, or desire to speak with federal immigration officials.”

• Writing for Truth-Out, Victoria Law examines the fight against solitary both inside and outside of prison and the aftermath of isolation for those who have experienced it long-term. Brian Nelson spent 23 years in solitary, and is now a prisoners’ rights coordinator for the Uptown People’s Law Center in Chicago. “I get paranoid. I cannot be in a crowded room. I rip my fingernails off until they bleed,” he said.

• Nebraska is due to see new rules with regards to solitary confinement come into effect on July 1. Ombudsman Marshall Lux recently told the Department of Correctional Services Special Investigative Committee that the new policy had some positives changes, but that it doesn’t go far enough. “Once they get that label that they’re a risk, it’s very hard for the inmate to get that erased… that has not changed.”

• The Justice Department has reached a deal with Mississippi that will – for the first time – require a local government to take steps to reduce mass incarceration. Measures incorporated into the agreement with Hinds County include a shift away from solitary confinement.


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