Seven Days in Solitary [11/25/18]

Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement

by | November 25, 2018

• Crosscut reported that Amar Mergensana, a 40-year-old asylum seeker from the Russian Republic of Buryatia in Siberia, died this week after he committed suicide in the custody of Northwest Detention Center, an ICE facility operated by GEO Group in Tacoma, Washington. The immigrant advocacy organization NWDC Resistance called for an investigation into his death, claiming that Mergensana had been placed in solitary confinement “as retaliatory punishment for asserting his dignity by hunger striking” and was denied medical treatment in the days before his death. Mergensana is the second to die in ICE custody since the government’s new fiscal year began in October, while ICE reported the deaths of twelve people in their custody last year.

• The Boston Globe covered the story of Shaquille Brown, a man born with a neurodevelopmental disability who first entered the criminal justice system at age 13. In his early twenties, Brown spent ten months in solitary confinement, referred to as the Departmental Disciplinary Unit (DDU), at MCI-Shirley in Massachusetts, despite later being found innocent of the charges that landed him in solitary. A social worker said that Brown’s placement in solitary worsened his psychological conditions in an “act of gross negligence.” Brown was released in 2017 with virtually no mental health treatment or re-entry support, and was plagued by fear and anxiety. Within months he was back behind bars, charged with murder.

• According to the Pantagraph, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mihm, who ordered the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) to overhaul their mental health care system in 2016, has received an influx of letters from people incarcerated at IDOC facilities describing abusive conditions, solitary confinement, suicide attempts, and inadequate mental health care, in violation of the judge’s order. While the IDOC claims all grievances are being reviewed and handled, the lawyers for incarcerated people are calling for Mihm to follow up on his order by imposing deadlines for the IDOC and placing limits on the time that people with psychiatric disabilities can be held in solitary.

• The Marshall Project published an article revealing that since the implementation of a 2014 policy meant to improve care for people with mental illness in the federal system, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has greatly reduced the number of people it deems mentally ill—thereby avoiding a need to provide increased services or expend increased resources. In February 2018, the BOP designated only 3 percent of people in its custody to have a mental illness serious enough to require treatment. In contrast, California reported 30 percent of incarcerated people to have a “serious mental disorder,” and New York reported that 21 percent of incarcerated people receive mental health treatment. Among other things, the under-diagnosis of people with mental illness allows such individuals to be placed in solitary confinement, with little to no mental health treatment.


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