Seven Days in Solitary [3/23/22]
Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement
• KTVH reports that the Montana Department of Corrections has settled a case with Disability Rights Montana, agreeing to provide people with “severe mental illness” with “appropriate care, treatment, and housing.” While the litigation was ongoing, 12 people with mental health issues died by suicide in the prison. Recently, the Western News reported on the “unreasonable delay” for inpatient psychiatric care in Montana, which leaves people suffering in jails and prisons for months with delusions and other serious mental health issues.
• The NW Local Paper profiles Arthur “Cetewayo” Johnson, a man who spent decades in solitary confinement in Philadelphia, despite proving many years later that he was wrongfully convicted. In a hearing describing his conditions, he said, “The guards would spit in your food. If it fell on the floor, they’d just put it back on the tray… to retaliate for some perceived slight or just because they didn’t like you.”
• Keri Blakinger reports for The Marshall Project about the rejected extradition of Daniel Magee by a judge in Edinburgh, Scotland. Judge Nigel Ross declined to send Magee to Texas to face trial because of the poor conditions of Texas prisons, raising concerns in his decision about understaffing, forced unpaid labor, overreliance on solitary confinement, and lack of independent oversight. Solitary Watch has previously covered controversies over extraditions of British subjects who faced solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, here, here, here, and here.
• The Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism profiled thirteen men who died in Allegheny County Jail since the beginning of the pandemic. One of the men, Robert Blake, died by suicide in May of 2020 after having been in solitary confinement. A referendum, passed before Blake’s death, bans solitary confinement, but the jail has thus far resisted implementation.
• Daily News reports that the families of 10 men who died in New York state custody wrote a letter to state senate leaders pressuring them to block permanent employment of the state’s acting prison chief, Anthony Annucci, citing abuse and a lack of accountability. One of the letter’s signers was the mother of Dante Taylor, a man who died by suicide in solitary confinement in Wende Correctional Facility in 2017. Annucci famously made light of spending time in solitary, featured in this video shared on Facebook.
• Just days before a scheduled state inspection, officials at Los Angeles County’s Central Juvenile Hall rapidly transferred all residents and closed the facility. The LA Times reports on the controversy, noting that the youth lock-up failed a September inspection due to problems such as failing to complete health assessments for newly admitted children, and providing insufficient documentation regarding the use of solitary confinement. Another inspection in February had revealed that problems continued to go unaddressed in the facility.
• The New York City Council has yet to introduce a bill that would ban solitary confinement, despite the legislative session opening with calls to end the practice from 29 of its members, reports The City. “Solitary confinement is torture — an abuse for all, a death sentence for some, and the practice has no place in our city,” said Jumaane Williams, a Public Advocate who is currently drafting new version of a bill to ban solitary confinement.
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