Seven Days in Solitary [11/16/20]

Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement

by | November 16, 2020

• The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a second wave of the coronavirus is hitting Pennsylvania prisons and jails, despite a statewide lockdown in March, keeping people locked in their cells for over 23 hours a day. Claire Shubik-Richards, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society said, “What we’re seeing is a full-blown resurgence of coronavirus” across the state’s correctional facilities. Omar Hooks, held at State Correctional Institution (SCI) Chester, said many do not report that they are sick. “The 14 days without shower, phone, etc. deters people who are sick from coming forward,” Hooks said. Dave Disciullo, also held at SCI Chester, said under the lockdown, “Every two days we get out for 30 minutes to use the phone and get showers. I haven’t been outside in over 45 days.” So far, 17 incarcerated people have died from the coronavirus across state prisons, six of them since mid-October.

• According to the Kansas City Star, two incarcerated men have filed a lawsuit against the Kansas Department of Corrections, arguing that “automatically and permanently” placing people sentenced to death in conditions of solitary confinement violates the constitution. The ten people sentenced to death in Kansas have been held in administrative segregation for as long as 17 years. One 41-year-old plaintiff has been held in solitary for over 14 years at El Dorado Correctional Facility and another, a 39-year-old, has been in solitary for over 12 years at Lansing Correctional Facility. Currently, regardless of their behavior in prison, people can be placed in solitary for at least 22 hours a day in a cell the size of a parking spot, and the lawsuit calls for a “meaningful individualized placement procedure” for people with death sentences.

• The Maine Public reported that the state Supreme Court ruled that the Maine Department of Corrections violated Doug Burr’s constitutional rights when they placed him in solitary confinement at Maine State Prison for nearly two years on groundless charges. In 2014, Burr was accused of smuggling contraband and when he refused to admit the charges, he was thrown in solitary. A county superior court judge found that there was no evidence substantiating the claims against Burr but said the court did not have the authority to grant Burr relief. However, the Maine Supreme Court decided restore Burr’s earned “good time” credit and award an injunctive relief order requiring the Department of Corrections to establish an objective mechanism for people to be released from solitary.

• The Chief reported that the New York City Board of Correction has drawn up recommendations for a rule that would eliminate the use of solitary in city correctional facilities. Months earlier, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city would abolish the practice a year after transgender woman Layleen Polanco died of a seizure in solitary confinement at Rikers Island. The president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association removed himself from the working group that is drafting the recommendations, claiming that eliminating solitary confinement will increase jail violence. The oversight panel’s chair Jennifer Jones Austin said, “The final rule will reflect a shared desire to reform restrictive housing in a way that achieves our goals concerning accountability with humane treatment and safety for all.”



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