Seven Days in Solitary [01/08/2017]

Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement

by | January 8, 2017

•  A 32-year-old man held in solitary confinement at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correction Center has been on hunger strike for about two months. “When in in the SHU, a person is always cuffed outside the cell. They make us stand with our back to the door and place our hands through a slot before and after leaving so they can take the cuffs on and off,” writes incarcerated activist and alleged hacker Martin Gottesfeld. “It’s dehumanizing. No matter what any prison official tries to tell us about other reasons, that’s exactly the point.”

•  The Justice Department has endorsed an ongoing lawsuit to end the placement of 16 and 17-year-olds in solitary confinement in a New York county jail. The original lawsuit, which was filed in September, alleges that the Onondaga County Justice Center violates the constitution by placing teenagers in 23-hour isolation. (Covered by and others).

•  The Boston Globe published an editorial calling for a Massachusetts state investigation “into whether prison officials may have circumvented a state policy against placing mentally ill prisoners into solitary confinement.” The editorial follows a recently published investigation, which found that prison officials had put several people with documented histories of mental illness into solitary after changing or downgrading their diagnoses.

•  A Rhode Island legislative commission heard that 39 people with mental illness had spent time in solitary in the state’s prisons between 2014 and 2015. According to an article in the Providence Journal, “the prisoners in segregation suffered from bipolar disorder, borderline personality, severe depression, anxiety, and a host of other mental illnesses, Brian Adae, a lawyer with the Rhode Island Disability Law Center, told the 19-member Special Legislative Commission to Study and Assess the Use of Solitary Confinement in Rhode Island.”

•  A Pennsylvania man who spent 37 years in solitary confinement has finally been released into general population. Arthur Johnson, 64, sued the prison system last year on the grounds that his extended time in isolation violated his constitutional rights.

•  President Barack Obama published an article in the Harvard Law Review outlining “The President’s Role in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform.” He specifically addressed his efforts to reduce the use of solitary confinement in the United States, noting, “I believe strongly that solitary confinement is overused and can be counterproductive.”


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