Seven Days in Solitary [2/23/22]

Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement

by | February 23, 2022

 The Washington Post Editorial Board published an opinion piece discussing the ongoing, 27-year solitary confinement of Dennis Hope, stating, “Solitary confinement is a sanitized term for torture.” The article describes Hope’s pleas to the Supreme Court, and highlights that the last phone call he was permitted to make was in 2013, when Hope’s mother passed away. Noting that Hope’s case is extreme, the authors state, “Nonetheless, his situation underscores the barbarity of a practice that has made the United States an outlier in the global community.” 

 The Oregonian reports that a federal judge in Oregon has ordered that Lincoln County Jail move Andrew Laud Barnett, a man who was put into disciplinary segregation without the opportunity for a hearing, back into general population. The judge insisted that his “behavioral issues do not excuse or permit the violation of his due process rights.” The judge found that the county jail had regularly violated the constitution by only offering an after-the-fact appeals process. 

 Several advocacy organizations filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of people incarcerated in Illinois’ Northern Reception Center, reports JDSupra, alleging that the facility has incredibly poor conditions, and that the 1,000 people incarcerated there have had no outside recreation time since November 2021. One of the plaintiffs’ lawyers stated, “Prison officials have known how bad the conditions are for years but they’ve chosen to ignore the situation”

 The California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice published a press release in support of newly introduced legislation AB 2623, known as the “California Mandela Act.” The bill would define any stay of over 17 hours in a cell as solitary confinement, place limits on how long someone can be held in solitary, and outright ban the practice for vulnerable, disabled, or pregnant individuals. The press release describes their goal: “to shed light on the darkness that is solitary confinement, and continue to move towards the ultimate goal of liberation for all.”

 Blue Ridge Public Radio (WUNC) reports that around the beginning of November, individuals at North Carolina’s Alexander Correctional Institution began a hunger strike in protest of poor medical care, no recreation time, and inadequate COVID precautions. One individual who spoke with BRPR described trying to complain about the conditions to a correctional officer, saying, “’Yeah, I know if I write this grievance, y’all gonna put me [in solitary confinement].'”

 The Bangor Daily News published an op-ed outlining several common misconceptions people in Maine hold regarding solitary confinement. The author, who encourages readers to support pending anti-solitary legislation in the state, writes, “We can move towards solutions that are humane, safe, effective and that will provide a better chance for incarcerated individuals to get the support they need to be successful when they reenter our communities.”

 National Geographic published an article describing the mental health toll on elephants kept alone in small cages, noting that at least nine elephants are kept in private, unaccredited attractions around the country. In an effort to explain the damage this can cause the animals, Colorado College neuroscientist Bob Jacobs drew a parallel to the harm solitary causes the human brain, explaining: “From everything we know about the brain, there’s no reason to think that an elephant brain would react any differently to solitary confinement than a human brain.”

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