Seven Days in Solitary [12/15/21]

Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement

by | December 20, 2021

 Christopher Blackwell, incarcerated journalist, and Jessica Sandoval, director of the Unlock the Box national campaign to end solitary confinement, published an commentary in Inquest outlining how solitary confinement dehumanizes and traumatizes people. Blackwell and Sandoval write, “A dirty secret of solitary confinement is that it’s not generally used in response to the most dangerous behaviors, but it’s instead a control mechanism for dealing with minor rule infractions.”

 The Georgia Department of Corrections settled a case brought by the family of a transgender woman who killed herself in solitary confinement after the facility failed to respond to her repeated threats of suicide, reports CNN. The Department has agreed to pay her family $2.2 million. The Justice Department is currently engaged in a statewide investigation into Georgia facilities, looking into, “prison staff shortages, inadequate policies and training and the lack of accountability.”

 NPR Illinois reports that a federal jury awarded $400,000 to Anthony Rodesky, a man currently incarcerated in Illinois who lost a leg to poorly treated diabetes while incarcerated in Tamms supermax facility. The medical contractor that failed to provide Rodesky with adequate care, Wexford Health Sources, has been a co-defendant with the Department of Corrections hundreds of times, and has paid out in well over 100 settlements.

 Newsweek reports that over the last two years, more than 430 individuals have come forward to accuse staffers of the Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester, New Hampshire of abuse, spanning 60 years. The allegations include cases of burnings with cigarettes, beatings, and children being shackled and locked in solitary confinement for months. The facility has downsized and is set for replacement in the state budget by 2023, but it still operates, currently housing 17 individuals.

 The Connecticut Mirror published an opinion piece about the failure of Governor Lamont’s executive order to reduce the use of solitary confinement in Connecticut, which he issued after vetoing the much more comprehensive PROTECT Act. Author Jason Althurier writes, “in failing to provide for external oversight of the DOC, the executive order has no teeth. In letting the DOC continue to monitor itself, Lamont has done nothing to hold it accountable.”

 Jessica Phoenix Sylvia published an op-ed in Truthout about her experience as a transgender woman in a male prison in Washington State, and about how the recent ban on disciplinary segregation in the state barely scratches the surface of the reforms necessary to end the use of solitary. She says, “All of the prisoners I talked to agree with me that disciplinary segregation is the least harmful brand of segregation used. This means that its elimination feels like insignificant incremental change.”

 The Tennessean reports that CoreCivic will pay $150,000 after settling a lawsuit from 2017 brought by 20 people who were medically neglected during an outbreak of scabies in Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility in Tennessee. The lawsuit alleged that staff at the detention center began retaliating against women who asked for help by threatening time in solitary, restricting phone privileges, and punishing those who sought outside medical assistance. The lawsuit further alleged that medical staff were chronically absent from the jail, leading to medical negligence and mismanagement of medication during the outbreak.

 The family of a man who died by suicide in a San Francisco jail have filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging that he was kept in solitary confinement and neglected despite a clear history of mental health issues, reports the SF Chronicle. Despite repeated threats of suicide, Markwhan Kitcher-Tucker was ignored, and instead of being hospitalized was put in a poorly monitored solitary confinement “safety cell.” The suit claims that prison staff “knew or had reason to know [Kitcher-Tucker] was suffering from serious psychiatric illnesses and consistently at a high risk of suicide,” and were “deliberately indifferent” to his pleas for help.

 Following the successful effort to extradite Julian Assange to the United States from the United Kingdom to face trial, Amnesty International’s Europe Director stated: “By allowing this appeal, the High Court has chosen to accept the deeply flawed diplomatic assurances given by the US that Assange would not be held in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison… If extradited to the US, Julian Assange could not only face trial on charges under the Espionage Act but also a real risk of serious human rights violations due to detention conditions that could amount to torture or other ill-treatment.” Assange will be the first publisher to face charges under the Espionage Act.

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