Seven Days in Solitary [2/15/21]
Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement
• A US District Judge ordered the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) to “stop retaliation and threats of retaliation against incarcerated people” for participating in a lawsuit regarding the department’s use of solitary confinement. The ongoing lawsuit, which was filed in 2019 by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Florida Legal Services, and the Florida Justice Institute, alleges the FDC’s use of solitary confinement violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Eighth Amendment. At a recent hearing, individuals testified virtually from prison, recounting abuse and threats they have received at the hands of correctional officers, in retaliation for their participation in the lawsuit. Read the judge’s full ruling here.
• As the Spokesman-Review reports, Washington State Senator Claire Wilson (D-District 30) introduced a bill that would limit an individual’s time spent in solitary confinement to 15 consecutive days (or a cumulative 45 days in a single year). The bill also states that solitary may only be used when someone poses “a substantial risk of immediate serious harm to himself or another, as evidenced by recent threats or conduct, and a less restrictive intervention would be insufficient to reduce this risk.” Although Washington Department of Corrections Secretary Steve Sinclair said that the DOC is “not opposed” to the bill, he expressed concerns about the cost of implementation and told the Spokesman-Review he wished legislators had collaborated more with the DOC. However, advocates noted that the department was given plenty of time to weigh in on the bill before it was filed.
• The Hartford Courant reports that Connecticut’s notorious supermax prison, Northern Correctional Institution, will close on July 1. The closing, which will save the state $12.6 million per year, will be the second shuttering of a supermax facility in the country — and the first since Tamms Correctional Facility in Illinois shut its doors in 2013. In both cases, high costs and decreasing prison populations were cited as the reasons for the closings. However, as was the case with Tamms, it is likely that activism played a key role in the decision. When the Connecticut DOC previously announced its plans to close a facility after the pandemic, advocates from groups such as Stop Solitary CT joined state representatives in calling for the closure of Northern.
• News Channel Nebraska reports that State Senator Tony Vargas introduced a bill that would prohibit individuals from being placed in solitary confinement for more than 15 consecutive days. The move comes one year after Nebraska passed a bill that limited the use of solitary in juvenile facilities and treatment centers.
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