Seven Days in Solitary [12/10/17]
Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement
• Disability Rights Oregon released a report this week documenting the psychological harm children face at Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility (NORCOR) in The Dalles, east of Portland. Young people at the juvenile detention facility are held in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time without human contact and without the ability to read, write, draw, or ask what time it is. The report calls for NORCOR to implement the 2016 recommendation by the Oregon State Court Juvenile Mental Health Task Force, which advised, “all child-serving systems commit to employing evidence-based, trauma-informed practices.” The report additionally called for all juvenile facilities, which currently face no government oversight, to be regulated in order to prevent the use of solitary confinement and ensure proper healthcare.
• The New Yorker published the story of Jermaine Gotham, a boy who suffered several mental health concerns and learning disabilities, and was first placed in solitary confinement at Cayuga County Jail in Auburn, New York, when he was 16 years old. Gotham was later sent to Coxsackie Correctional Facility, where he spent another 300 days in solitary confinement, did not receive proper medication for his mental illnesses, and had to attend his G.E.D. classes in shackles. Gotham, still held in solitary at Coxsackie currently, recalled, “I’m not gonna lie, it never becomes easier. It messes with my mind. You become depressed, angry, aggressive. You think of killing yourself, though I would never tell anyone here that.” While New York State’s Commission on Correction issued new regulations for solitary confinement, including a mandate to notify the state when placing a juvenile in solitary, these standards will not go into effect for county jails until January, if approved.
• Politically Georgia reported that fourteen individuals have committed suicide in Georgia prisons this year, surpassing the national average by nearly two times. Some point to staff shortages and a lack of mental health care in the state’s prison system as contributing factors to the rise in suicides. According to Sarah Geraghty of the Southern Center for Human Rights, “The increase in suicides may be related to the GDC’s [Georgia Department of Corrections] increased use of solitary confinement” as individuals kept in isolation are often “delusional and have lost touch with reality, conditions that are likely exacerbated by prolonged solitary confinement.”
• According to Injustice Watch, 26-year-old transgender woman Strawberry Hampton, currently housed in the maximum security Menard Correctional Center for men in Illinois, has filed a motion seeking immediate transfer to a women’s facility, claiming that she has faced repeated sexual harassment, sexual assault, and physical abuse by Illinois Department of Corrections officers. Hampton was placed in solitary confinement in August, after she filed the complaint, and is set to remain in solitary until April 2018. Hampton recalls the guards’ words when she was transferred to Menard, “This is what happens when you f- with our staff.”
• The Marshall Project published the story of a young man from Washington, D.C., who was convicted of carjacking at age 16 and sentenced as an adult to 12 years. Since D.C. does not have prisons of its own (only jails), the boy was sent to a Bureau of Prisons-contracted juvenile facility in Montana, where “[he] was the only black person, period. There were no black inmates, no black COs.” He ended up in solitary confinement after another person held there accused him of making threatening comments. “There was no questioning; I was immediately sent to the hole. I had no say in my defense, no chance to explain what truly went down.” At 18 he was transferred to adult prisons, where things only got worse. “I saw grown men commit suicide because they couldn’t handle it. If prison does that to an adult, what does it do to a child?”
• VICE News reported that Pastor Lester Roloff’s Rebekah Home for Girls in Corpus Christi, Texas, allegedly used a legal loophole, which allowed religiously affiliated boarding schools to operate without registration or oversight, to enact abuses against the youth held in their facilities. One student recalled the “Get Right Room,” where children were held in solitary confinement and “brain-washed into thinking the abuse was good because the staff and the Lord loved your soul.” A recent law imposes new regulations on residential facilities, including those with religiously affiliations, though advocacy organizations continue to keep track of alleged abuses.
• A man formerly held at Houston’s Harris County jail filed a $1 million lawsuit, claiming that guards beat him up and dislocated his shoulder and then threw him in solitary confinement in an attempt to cover up the assault. Mark Tennyson’s lawyer described to the Houston Chronicle how the incident began, when a staff member “came and rounded up a group of about six or eight African-American inmates. Mr. Tennyson was one of those inmates and he let her know it was discriminatory,” at which point the beating began. Tennyson’s lawsuit was filed days after 5 jailers were indicted for a separate 2016 beating of an individual held at Harris County.
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I’m the mother of Jermaine I want people to know advocating for your loved one is important they failed say he helped the lady was injured by another. Her son a c.o. an my son was a target also they all are friends they put my son life an safety on line.he has been tortured behind the guard.wasnt to be held in solitary either which he was we had we first time his court papers also said at 17 also they couldn’t put him in solitary.making my son pay for another crime an bein c.o. is white an my son is bi-racial white& black they dont care his skin tone has a shade.i dont have money for a lawyer I’m his only support this is my fight. System is broken he has been beaten an tortured they lied about him being in solitary nobody listened. who an why allowed this torture to go on his rights were already violated. Or are they defending they fellow worker feeling sorry about his mother he knew my son helped her. The investigators dont follow thru with grievances for nobody enough is enough
“GDC” is the abbreviation for the Georgia Department of Corrections, Georgia Diagnostic and Classification prison is only one of their many facilities, they have implemented the “Tier Program” which is basically a long term solitary program which many think is a significant contributing factor to the increased suicides. The Tier Program exists at several facilities and Valdosta SP seems to be one of those yielding more suicides.
Thank you for the correction! We’d be happy to receive any additional information you have about solitary in Georgia prisons at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“GDC” is the abbreviation for the Georgia Department of Corrections, Georgia Diagnostic and Classification prison is only one of their manyfacilities, they have implemented the “Tier Program” which is basically a long term solitary program which many think is a significant contributing factor to the increased suicides. The Tier Program exists at several facilities and Valdosta SP seems to be one of the more deadly ones.