Seven Days in Solitary [9/04/2016]

Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement

by | September 4, 2016

• The federal Bureau of Prisons has announced plans to reduce its use of “double-celling,” a practice in which multiple people are locked up in cramped isolation cells for periods of up to 23 or 24-hours per day. “People confined to solitary develop coping mechanisms–constant pacing is one, very strict routines is another,” said Allan Mills of the Uptown People’s Law Center. “Having a second person, always present, in a very small space with zero privacy, interferes with these coping mechanisms–and one person’s coping mechanism is another person’s irritant.”

• A 17-year-old accused of attempted murder has been charged as an adult – and as a result is currently being held in solitary confinement in a Florida jail. Lawyers for Jaimaijai Mensie are asking that she be released from the psychiatric unit where she is currently being held, and allowed to remain on house arrest with an electronic monitor while she awaits trial.

• New Mexico Secretary of Corrections Gregg Marcantel was interviewed by NPR about his recent appearance on A&E’s “Behind Bars,” and the time he put himself in solitary confinement. “Even within the short span of three days, I began to run out of things to think about and I then began counting cracks on the wall (laughter),” Marcantel explained. “You know, your mind goes everywhere.”

• A regional jail in Washington has improved its treatment of people with mental illness, according to a recently released report by a local advocacy group, Disability Rights Washington. The jail has reduced the number of people sent to solitary by about 60 percent through the creation of three mental health pods, according to jail staff, while also quadrupling the number of mental health providers.

• The sheriff of Dane County, Wisconsin wrote about the “two fully decompensated paranoid schizophrenics sitting in solitary confinement cells in my jails,” and the broader problem of locking up people with mental illness. “Frankly, dogs at the Humane Society are treated better than these two poor souls, both of whom were arrested for minor crimes,” he said.

• The Village Voice published an article about “New York’s Forgotten Female Prison Riot,” which took place at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in 1974. The “rebellion” eventually resulted in a lawsuit, Powell v. Ward, which led to a “binding pledge by prison officials to conduct disciplinary proceedings fairly, to only send truly mentally-ill prisoners to psychiatric hospitals, and with an award to the women of $127,000.”

• Two hunger strikers at the Waupun Correctional Institution in Wisconsin have continued to deteriorate, and are now being force-fed only every 72-hours, according to a press release from outside activists – an irregular feeding routine that may cause the men even greater health problems. LaRon McKinley and Cesar DeLeon have been refusing food for going on 76 days, and are demanding a one-year cap on any form of solitary confinement.


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