Seven Days in Solitary [9/30/19]

Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement

by | September 30, 2019

• Katherine Hawkins, the Senior Legal Analyst for the Project on Government Oversight, testified on Thursday before the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security about the conditions in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities. Hawkins cited a 2017 report by the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties that found “shockingly high” stays in solitary confinement at the Adelanto facility in California where “26 out of the 50 detainees in segregation had serious mental disorders.” Hawkins also referenced Jean Jimenez-Joseph and Efraín de la Rosa, both men with mental illness who died in solitary confinement at the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia. Despite several reports revealing inhumane conditions at ICE facilities, the Nakamoto Group, hired to conduct inspections of the facilities, found Stewart, Adelanto, and an ICE facility in Aurora, Colorado, to be in complete compliance with agency standards. Hawkins called on Congress to heighten its oversight of the ICE facilities to prevent further abuse.

• The Appeal reported that advocacy groups including the ACLU National Prison Project, the ACLU of Oklahoma, and the Prison Law Office sent a letter to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC), calling for an end to use of solitary confinement for all people held on death row. Currently, people on the state’s death row are housed on the H Unit, where they remain isolated for at least 22 hours a day in a cell with “two concrete bunks, a toilet, and sink” and no window to the outside. Director of the National Prison Project David Fathi said, “People in H Unit are literally buried alive…Hundreds of years ago, people who were sentenced to death would be physically tortured before their execution. Now we psychologically torture people before their execution.” The letter threatens to pursue legal action if the ODOC does not address the death row conditions.

• WTTW published an article on Albert Woodfox, the Angola Three member who spent nearly 45 years in solitary confinement at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Woodfox says officials isolated him for decades because of his political activity. “We were organizing inmates, both black and white. We were taking on the guard brutality, prisoner-on-prisoner crime, administrative corruption,” he said. Woodfox was released in 2016, and he has continued speaking out against the use of solitary confinement, the mistreatment of incarcerated people, and the systematic inequalities across American society. Woodfox wrote a memoir published this year entitled Solitary, recounting details from his life, including how he managed to survive four decades in solitary.

• The Daily Star reported that Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, now 62-years-old and sentenced to life in prison, has been transferred to the federal ADX Florence supermax facility in Colorado. The facility, which holds its population in 23-hour solitary confinement, subjects people to “more extreme conditions of isolation and sensory deprivation than any other facility in the country,” according to journalist Aviva Stahl. In an investigative piece in The Nation, Stahl reported that people held at ADX had even been subjected to force-feeding. Syracuse University professor Gladys McCormick said, “[El Chapo will] be outside for one hour a day, I think it’s highly unlikely that we will ever set eyes on him again,” just like the hundreds of other buy ambien fast delivery people held at the supermax facility.

• NBC7 San Diego published the story of Jimena, a transgender woman from Honduras, seeking asylum and detained at Winn Correctional Center in Louisiana. Jimena says she was locked down after she embraced another detained transgender woman who had just cut herself in a self-harm incident. After she tried to help the woman, a nurse allegedly struck Jimena in the back twice and she was placed in solitary confinement for a week. Jimena said the Winn facility, which now holds over 250 asylum seekers, makes people “feel like trash… like you don’t want to live anymore.” Jimena has since been released from Winn, but the Project on Government Oversight recently reported a 15.2 percent increase in the use of solitary confinement across ICE facilities in the beginning of Trump’s presidency.

• Fox5 Atlanta reported that in the case of Shali Tilson, a 22-year-old with bipolar disorder who died nine days after his arrival at the Rockdale County Jail in Georgia, a grand jury found that staff did not intentionally cause Tilson’s death. Tilson was placed in solitary confinement at the jail, where his family says he lost twenty pounds and ultimately died from severe dehydration in 2018. While the grand jury found the jail staff “failed to recognize and adequately address the mental state and physical decline of Shali Tilson” and the administration “failed to live up to its responsibility” to Tilson’s well-being, the jury did not find that the staff intentionally caused his death. The family of Tilson has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office.

• The Blue Ridge Public Radio reported an outbreak of mumps across dozens of immigration detention facilities, infecting over 900 detained immigrants. Epidemiologist at Brown University Dr. Jody Rich said, “Clearly by putting them in these facilities at risk for the spread of disease, we are putting them at risk for harm. And you’re going to get a lot more people with more serious disease.” After the medical wing at a Texas detention center became overcrowded, one man said he was placed in solitary confinement because staff suspected he had mumps. The man said his cell was 5 feet by 5 feet and freezing cold. While his test came back negative for mumps, the man had already spent over a week in solitary confinement and said he’s now “panicked, afraid.” He said he’s “not the same person since the experience.”

• The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) reported that Peter Kamau Mukuria has been held in solitary confinement at Red Onion State Prison in Virginia since the end of July, in what Mukuria claims is retaliation for his involvement in a lawsuit against the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC). The federal class action lawsuit, filed this past May, challenged the state’s use of solitary confinement as torture and claimed the VDOC step-down program continues to hold hundreds of people in solitary confinement. While the administration claimed Mukuria was placed in solitary confinement for “inciting a riot,” later modified to inciting a “group demonstration,” Mukuria claims no riot or demonstration ever occurred and if it had, there would be video evidence.


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1 comment

  • masven

    The cruelty of solitary confinement is unspeakable. It is barbaric with the only purpose being punitive. In this, it is completely counterproductive. It must be ended and those perpetuating it held accountable.

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