Seven Days in Solitary [8/21/2016]

Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement

by | August 21, 2016

• addressed the use of solitary for kids held in the city’s jails; in 2015, juveniles at Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center were placed in punitive segregation 41 times, for an average of 32 days. “It was the worst time of my life,” said Donyea Phillips, who tried to commit suicide during an 11-month stint in isolation at the age of 16.

• A trans woman being held in administrative segregation, an indefinite form of solitary confinement, committed suicide in a Florida prison. Stacy Lorraine Naber had filed a lawsuit last spring with the help the ACLU in an effort to change her name legally; she was being held at the Dade Correctional Institution when she died.

• Two lawsuits are proceeding against the Sandoval County Detention Center in New Mexico, both alleging that the jail mistreated women with mental health issues, by holding them in isolation and failing to offer them appropriate medical care. One complaint, about the case of Sharon Vanwagner, states that she was experiencing psychosis and delusions when she “was kept for months in solitary confinement in a constantly lit cell, naked except for a “suicide smock.”

• A young woman committed suicide in her Arizona prison cell just weeks after her 18th birthday, even though the state’s Department of Corrections had been notified about her deteriorating mental health, according to the Phoenix New Times. Mariam Abdullah was being held in solitary confinement at the time, and according to her attorney had not been receiving out-of-cell exercise time, programming or mental health services.

The LA Times published an editorial entitled, “The end to abusive solitary confinement of juveniles in California is finally in sight.” A bill to end the state’s use of isolation for children passed the State Assembly and was expected to move through the Senate and be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

• The Richmond Times-Dispatch published an article about LGBT people at the Pamunkey Regional Jail being held in 23-hour isolation. “This has taken a major toll on my mental state and it is all uncivil towards transgender/Gender dysphoria offenders,” said one transwoman, Lacy Ferguson-Hernandez, in court documents. “I am no different from anyone else. Why am I forced to be locked down because of what I was born.”

• The Houston Chronicle profiled a voluntary program run by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which enables people who have been categorized as gang-affiliated a chance to renounce their alleged gang links, take classes, acquire privileges and eventually be integrated back into general population. Officials say the program “has slashed the number of gang members in segregated custody by 61 percent over the past decade.”


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