Seven Days in Solitary [1/26/22]

Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement

by | January 26, 2022

 Intelligencer published an article covering the history of the anti-solitary movement at Rikers Island, where author Matt Steib concludes, “under Mayor Eric Adams, it appears solitary isn’t going anywhere.” AMNY reported on a January 20 protest against solitary outside City Hall. In The Nation, Victoria Law interviewed Candie Hailey, who was held pre-trial in solitary confinement in Rikers for more than two years, about the complicated policy process Adams would go through in repealing the New York Board of Corrections rule prohibiting solitary confinement. 

 In the latest installment of The Lens NOLA’s coverage of a class action lawsuit at David Wade Correctional, testimony from mental health experts asserts that healthcare in restrictive housing was “insufficient, and almost non-existent except for medication.” The Louisiana Illuminator wrote about the high price tag for this trial, which has already cost the state $2.9 million. One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Katie Schwartzmann, noted that “These are taxpayer dollars that should be spent on state programs, rather than on lawyers.”

 Although the omicron variant has caused spikes in cases in California prisons, Governor Gavin Newsom has sided with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in its fight against a vaccine requirement for prison workers, reports HuffPost. All prisons are currently on “modified programming,” prompting incarcerated host of the podcast “Ear Hustle” Rahsaan Thomas to say, “I feel like I’m being locked down because people don’t wanna take the vaccine.”

 The Los Angeles Times reports that six years after a settlement with the federal government, the Los Angeles County jail system is still out of compliance with a requirement to ensure that incarcerated people with mental illnesses “receive regular treatment, out-of-cell time and safe housing.” ACLU of Southern California chief counsel Peter Eliasberg stated, “We’re really talking about 25 years of violating the rights of some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”

 The Olympian reports that lawmakers in Washington have introduced legislation that would reform restrictive housing by classifying any individual held for 17 hours a day in a cell as being in “solitary confinement.” The bill would further require solitary be used only in emergency situations, limit its use for “vulnerable persons,” and require facilities to track its use. 

 PubliCola reports that unions representing Seattle and King County public defenders and correctional officers respectively sent a joint letter to elected officials asking for an immediate reduction of the jail populations. The letter reads, “COVID-19 should not be a death sentence for anyone held in a jail or anyone working in a jail.” The unions are petitioning for the county to stop booking people or issuing warrants for non-violent offenses, and to release as many people as possible.

 Virginia lawmakers have introduced a bill that would limit how long a person can be held in solitary confinement, which is currently headed for the Virginia State Department, reports Radio IQ. Although the last bill attempting to end long-term solitary in Virginia died due to its cost, Democratic Senator Joe Morrissey insists that, “Normally when you end a program, there are savings, not an additional cost.”

 The prison abolitionist coalition Food and Abolition posted an infographic on instagram illustrating the dehumanizing effect that poor prison nutrition has on those incarcerated in solitary confinement. One panel states, “The trauma of solitary confinement is made worse by the food people are given to eat. In the hole, folks are denied access to commissary — meaning that institutional meals are all people have to survive.”

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