Seven Days in Solitary [3/30/22]
Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement
• The Lens NOLA reports about two bills that have been introduced in the Louisiana legislature to protect the health of incarcerated people, one to create a medical advisory council to approve policies, and another to eliminate co-pays. In 2016 Solitary Watch’s Katie Rose Quandt and James Ridgeway wrote about substandard medical care at Angola prison for In These Times. One man described Angola’s healthcare system saying: “They put you on a ward on a bed and let you die.”
• The CT Mirror reports on 27 letters from incarcerated people to Connecticut lawmakers in support of ending solitary confinement in the state, after Governor Ned Lamont vetoed a bill last year that would have ended the practice. One of the letters, from Victor Jordan, insists, “I have come to the conclusion and belief that I became a worse criminal and person because of the treatment [I was] subjected to.”
• Lawyers representing five men accused of participating in the September 11th attacks have just finished their first round of plea deal negotiations to determine what their sentences in US military custody will look like, according to the New York Times. Defense attorneys have been working to ensure that these five men will be permitted to, “eat and pray communally, as they have done in recent years, rather than in solitary confinement,” which they were subjected to while held at Guantánamo Bay.
• The City reports that a $2.1 settlement has been reached in the case of a man who died due to medical neglect at Rikers Island in 2017. Just a day earlier, the New York City jails commissioner requested to hire thousands more officers at a city budget hearing, purportedly to implement long-delayed restrictions on solitary confinement. The chair of the Criminal Justice Committee insisted that, “Adding staff has been proven not to address the underlying issues in the department or improve conditions in Rikers.”
• The Washington Post reports that ACLU-DC and the Public Defenders Service for D.C. have reached an agreement with the Department of Corrections (DOC) that transgender individuals will no longer be shackled and secluded when they arrive at the D.C. jail. Last summer, the DOC instituted a policy that put transgender individuals in protective custody, which many alleged was solitary confinement. People held in protective custody must be shackled throughout the rest of the jail, and lawyers were able to successfully argue that this constituted gender-based discrimination.
• In Florida, attorneys for the Department of Corrections have filed a motion requesting that Department of Corrections Secretary Ricky Dixon, former Secretary Julie Jones, and Thomas Reimers, the department’s health services director, not be required to testify in a case regarding the use of solitary confinement. As reported by Creative Loafing, the lawsuit, “contends that the department has overused solitary confinement, including for inmates diagnosed with mental illnesses.” The motion insists that depositions from these individuals would be “burdensome.”
• The Bangor News Editorial team published an article insisting that clearly defining solitary confinement is crucial to ending the practice of inhumane isolation in Maine. Bill LD 696, recently amended in January to define solitary confinement and restrict the practice, was rejected by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. Recently, backers of the bill have been requesting solitary confinement be formally defined, in the face of the Maine Department of Corrections’ insistence that it never use solitary confinement.
• The Durango Herald reports about a woman in San Juan County jail who filed a tort claim notice alleging that the jail has threatened her with solitary confinement for voicing her concerns about her lack of adequate medical care. Aurelia Hernandez, who is diabetic, describes bringing up concerns over insulin with one of her nurses, who warned her that if she persisted in her complaints, she would “be removed to a lock-down cell and that Ms. Hernandez will lose privileges.”
• In an interview with the Marshall Project, Douglas Ray Stankewitz, California’s longest-serving person on death row, described the isolation of the past 43 years. At one point he was sent to the isolation unit for seven years for refusing to cut his hair. “I’m Monache and Cherokee. They punished me despite the fact that it’s my tradition and spiritual belief as a Native American to grow my hair long.” He describes other injustices associated with being Native while in prison, including poorly facilitated religious ceremonies and restricted contact with his community on the outside.
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