Seven Days in Solitary [3/12/2017]

Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement

by | March 12, 2017

•  New Mexico counties have been forced to pay more than $20 million in civil rights about solitary confinement thus far, and may pay out even more in the near future – five solitary confinement-related suits have been filed against the New Mexico counties in the last 18 months. George Abila recently won a $1.9 million judgment against Eddy County after he was held for six months in a suicide cell without a bed or toilet, in which fluorescent lights stayed on 24 hours a day.

•  Meanwhile, New Mexico’s House of Representatives has passed a bill that would prohibit jails or prisons from placing vulnerable populations in solitary, including children, people with serious mental health issues, or those who are pregnant. The legislation now moves to the state Senate for passage.

•  California will stop keeping people on death row in solitary confinement as a result of their purported gang affiliations. Under the recently announced legal settlement, people can still be sent to isolation, “if they are considered an immediate danger to the prison or others, or if they have at least three infractions within five years,” according to the AP. The maximum term for being sent to isolation will be five years, with reviews conducted every six months to determine who can be released.

•  The Supreme Court declined to issue a stay of execution for Rolando Ruiz, who was put to death by the state of Texas for a contract murder he committed in 1992. Justice Stephen Breyer dissented from the Court’s ruling. “Mr. Ruiz argues that his execution ‘violates the Eighth Amendment’ because it ‘follow[s] lengthy [death row] incarceration in traumatic conditions,’ principally his ‘permanent solitary confinement,” he wrote. “I believe his claim is a strong one, and we should consider it.”

•  The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General issued a report condemning the conditions at Theo Lacy Facility in Orange County, California, a jail that holds both immigrant detainees and those convicted of criminal offenses. According to the report, immigrants who broke the facility’s rules were placed in solitary confinement, sometimes for 24 hours per day, and denied access to visitors, recreation, a telephone or religious services.

•  The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina issued a report concluding that Mecklenburg County has excessively relied on solitary confinement to house 16- and 17-year olds, potentially causing “permanent damage” to the young people. Over 110 Mecklenburg teens spent time in isolation last year, including many youths who were awaiting trial.

•  Prison officials in Rhode Island are considering implementing changes in how they use solitary confinement, as a legislative commission in the state also takes steps to mandate reforms. The corrections department has already increased out of cell time for some people and allowed TV and radios in cells, according to the AP, and other proposals may also be put into effect.

•  The family of a man who died of dehydration while in solitary confinement at the Milwaukee County Jail has filed a lawsuit alleging he “was subjected to a form of torture.” According to the lawsuit, during his 10 days in isolation, 38-year-old Terrill Thomas pleaded for water but was ignored by jail staff.

•  Salt Lake City Weekly published a piece entitled, “Unlocking the box: as Utah State Prison moves beyond using solitary confinement as punishment, mentally ill inmates struggle with its legacy.” The piece focuses on the stories of several people with mental health issues and/or developmental disabilities who spent long periods of time in the box and struggled to survive once paroled.

•  In a new article, journalist Spencer Woodman analyzes hundreds of logs obtained from three immigration detention centers through a Freedom of Information Act Request. “The logs show that life inside the facilities can be so dangerous and hostile that numerous detainees have voluntarily admitted themselves to solitary confinement just to seek refuge from the general population,” he writes. “In other cases documented in the logs, detainees were disciplined with isolation for perpetrating acts of violence, sexual assault, or disruption; yet others were placed in solitary for more minor infractions, such as charging detainees for haircuts or ‘horse-playing.’”


Solitary Watch encourages comments and welcomes a range of ideas, opinions, debates, and respectful disagreement. We do not allow name-calling, bullying, cursing, or personal attacks of any kind. Any embedded links should be to information relevant to the conversation. Comments that violate these guidelines will be removed, and repeat offenders will be blocked. Thank you for your cooperation.

Leave a Reply

Discover more from Solitary Watch

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading