Seven Days in Solitary [2/2/22]
Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement
• Peter Robbins, the original voice of the Charlie Brown cartoon, died by suicide last week, reports The Mercury News. After his release in 2019, he “expressed hope that he could turn his life around after struggling for years with mental illness, addiction and “manic,” threatening behavior.” But he also described his time in prison as a “trip through hell” with the “lowest” point being his time in solitary confinement. “These people were screaming all throughout the night,” Robbins said after his release.
• Despite Maryland outlawing isolation exceeding 30 minutes for children in schools, Disability Scoop reports that Frederick County Public schools have been regularly secluding children for years, many with learning disabilities. One student was placed in seclusion more than 80 times and the school recorded the time, which could run into hours, in half hour increments to avoid scrutiny. One of the parents of a student in the district said, “You’d say, ‘Well, how was school today?’ And he would just curl himself up in a ball and just cry.”
• Courthouse News and the Roanoke Times reported on a class-action lawsuit in Virginia that is alleging that dozens of individuals were kept in long-term solitary confinement even after a 2020 settlement. Lawyers for the ACLU say that the state has continued to violate incarcerated people’s rights, despite adopting a Step Down program. Judge Roger Gregory for the 4th Circuit called the segregation program a vicious cycle, stating, “it seems like the harm being caused is what keeps you [from getting] qualified to get out.”
• The Washington Post reports that a lawsuit against a sheriff in Georgia concerning the prolonged use of solitary confinement for women with mental illnesses in the South Fulton Municipal Regional Jail is headed to a settlement. The lawsuit alleged that women were held in their cells for at least 23 hours a day and time outside of the cells was devoid of meaningful social interaction. The sheriff has agreed to improve conditions, although specifics were not provided.
• Takeisha Brown, the mother of Tyquine Lee, a man who was held in solitary confinement for more than 600 days despite having documented severe mental health treatment needs, wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post criticizing proposed legislation in Virginia that aims to allow incarcerated people to bring their cases to court for re-evaluation. She claims that “the bill has extremely strict requirements for who can receive a second look, and my son, with his vulnerability, would be excluded.” Solitary Watch published a story in 2019 about the abuse Lee suffered in solitary confinement.
• In Cranston, Rhode Island, advocates from the groups Black and Pink Providence, Direct Action for Rights and Equality’s Behind the Walls Committee, and the Prisoner’s Family Union gathered around the Adult Correctional Institutions to call for increased programming and better COVID-19 precautions. The Providence Journal reported that the protestors insisted that COVID spread in the facilities was due to, “misconduct and longer term issues of neglect in the building, including a non-existent ventilation system.” Incarcerated people say they have been placed in solitary confinement for weeks if they report grievances or resist abuse.
• Juan Moreno Haines published an Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times about being one of 300 plaintiffs in California whose petition to decrease overcrowding in California prisons was rejected by a judge who insisted that vaccines would be adequate protection. Haines is a contributing writer for Solitary Watch currently incarcerated in San Quentin, has written about his experience with lockdowns at San Quentin during COVID, insisting that they did little to improve safety and effectively put his entire facility into solitary confinement.
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