Seven Days in Solitary [12/25/2016]

Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement

by | December 25, 2016

• The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Allegheny County in Pennsylvania for placing pregnant women in solitary confinement, a practice that is said to put both the mother and her child at risk. According to the lawsuit, some women have been placed in isolation in the Pittsburgh jail for relatively minor rule violations, like having three pairs of shoes instead of the two pairs permitted.

• The Vera Institute of Justice has announced the next five states it will work in under the auspices of its Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative, a project that aims to enable states to reduce their use of solitary confinement. The five states, which were chosen through a competitive process, are Nevada, Minnesota, Utah, Louisiana and Virginia.

The Honolulu Civil Beat explored whether Hawaii prisons overuse solitary confinement. “Most of the islands’ maximum-custody inmates live in special holding cells for up to 23 hours per day,” wrote journalist Rui Kaneya. “The policy bucks a national trend.”

• In the Village Voice, Victoria Law considered what Christmas is like for the thousands of people in solitary confinement in New York’s prisons. “ Instead of opening presents with his family, [Nicholas Zimmerman] will wake to a breakfast tray slid through a slot in his door. He’ll spend most, if not all, of the day inside his cell. Maybe he’ll be allowed out for one hour where he can exercise alone in a caged yard. If he’s really lucky, he’ll also be allowed to shower.”

•  The Christian Science Monitor penned an editorial about finding alternatives to solitary confinement. “States may find that solitary confinement serves a useful purpose in very limited cases. But the ongoing efforts to reduce its use will make facilities more humane while increasing the likelihood that upon release prisoners are better able to function normally in society.”

• Onondaga County in New York is continuing to place children in solitary confinement despite an ongoing lawsuit seeking to stop the practice. There’s really a consensus throughout the country that putting anyone, let alone a 16 or 17-year-old kid, in solitary confinement is wrong,” said Josh Cotter of Legal Services of Central New York, the group that filed the lawsuit three months ago.  “I hoped that our community would recognize that and want to change.  It’s been very disappointing that at this point, they really haven’t.”


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