Seven Days In Solitary [4/6/22]

Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement

by | April 6, 2022

 The Vera Institute of Justice published a report outlining their guidelines for humane and ethical medical quarantine, insisting that because of COVID-19, “far too many people were left behind in unsafe facilities that have used solitary confinement cells and implemented solitary confinement conditions in regular cells.” Among their list of requirements are a sanitary living space, free access to resources that can make their separation psychologically bearable, and removal from isolation when medical staff deem it is appropriate.

 Documented NY reports on a recently leaked video depicting guards violently assaulting a black asylum seeker in a Louisiana detention facility. The man’s lawyer said that “after 7 years of practice, I can confidently say that the Black clients…whose representation I have supervised are consistently subjected to greater degrees of abuse.” According to other immigration defense lawyers, black ICE detainees have faced a higher rate of solitary confinement, and struggle to access basic supplies like soap and food.

 Maine Public Radio reports that a bill defining solitary confinement as “confinement in a cell for more than 22 hours per 24-hour day” has passed in the House. The Maine Department of Corrections insists that it does not use solitary confinement, which is why sponsor of the bill, Rep. Grayson Lookner, insisted that a baseline definition is necessary. The bill is heading to the Senate for approval. 

 US News and World Report writes that the family of Angelo Lee Clark, a Delaware man who claimed that he was deprived of his right to adequate medical care while in solitary confinement in WHAT facility, is filing in federal appeals court after the jury ruled in favor of prison officials last year. Clark alleged that “his placement in solitary confinement was in retaliation for his mental illness, loud voice, and minor rule infractions.” The earlier trial judge had ruled that officials could not be held liable for placing him in solitary confinement, due to qualified immunity.

 Honolulu Civil Beat reports that the estate of Hawaii man Joseph O’Malley, who died by suicide while in isolation in Halawa prison, was awarded $1.375 million in damages. O’Malley was placed on suicide watch several times before he died, and was put into solitary confinement for ‘observation.’ According to the case investigation, “to a ‘shocking’ degree, the Halawa staff who were questioned in the case were unaware of the prison policies and procedures they were supposed to follow.”

 The Dallas Observer reports on an investigation into the death by suicide of Terry Stewart in a Dallas County Jail suicide watch cell. Stewart died while in solitary confinement in the cell, amid a staffing crisis at the facility and just weeks after the Texas Commission on Jail Standards gave the jail its second failing grade on an annual inspection. According to Krishnaveni Gundu, [ID this person], Stewart’s death is one of 31 deaths in Texas jails [in what time frame], and reflect “a symptom of a growing humanitarian crisis in our overcrowded jails which is a result of gross overcharging by prosecutors.”

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