Seven Days in Solitary [5/4/22]
Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement
New this week from Solitary Watch:
• In the first of a series of monthly dispatches from Solitary Watch, Vaidya Gullapalli writes about the ineffective, inhumane use of punishment for rehabilitation in lock-up. She describes the extreme of this punishment, noting that “the response to difficult or dangerous behavior, acts of survival or resistance, or even benign rule-breaking, is more punishment and more deprivation, often in the form of solitary confinement.” Although alternative forms of rehabilitation have demonstrated results, Gullapalli notes that they have been disregarded in favor of this failed approach.
• James Byrd described his experiences in a piece for Solitary Watch’s Voices From Solitary series, writing that “political oppression and racism has been an intricate part of my life.” He is currently incarcerated in Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh, where he says, “Those who endure solitary confinement have long been buried, nameless and voiceless, in the dark heart of the Allegheny County Jail.” Byrd insists that no changes have been made, despite the recent vote to abolish solitary confinement in the facility.
Our pick of other news about solitary confinement:
• The CT Mirror reports that for the second time, the PROTECT Act banning solitary confinement is heading to Governor Ned Lamont’s desk. Last year, the governor vetoed a slightly different version of the bill. An op-ed in the CT Mirror urges the governor to sign the bill, insisting, “To make certain that isolated confinement is not abused in any correctional facility in Connecticut, he must sign SB 459 into law before this legislative session ends.”
• The Tampa Bay Times reports that a judge in Florida refused to allow Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Ricky Dixon and former Secretary Julie Jones to recuse themselves from testifying in a lawsuit concerning the provision of mental health treatment and abuse of solitary confinement in the state prison system. The judge insisted that “Plaintiffs have demonstrated a high degree of personal involvement of both Ms. Jones and Mr. Dixon over the course of many years.”
• The Marshall Project reports on a Louisiana bill, recently advanced out of a legislative committee, that would limit solitary confinement for young people. According to Rachel Gassert, policy director at the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, “The bottom line is that this is a terrible way to rehabilitate children.” KTBS 3 wrote about a recently released report from a state audit of these juvenile centers, outlining rampant fighting and room confinement (a euphemism for solitary) lasting up to seven days.
• WISTV reports that a disability advocates group in South Carolina filed a federal lawsuit against Richland County, claiming that individuals with disabilities in the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center are locked in solitary confinement for extended periods of time, denied medical care, and forced into tiny shower stalls without room to sit for up to 48 hours. The lawsuit alleges that “complaints from detainees, their attorneys and loved ones have been disregarded by the detention center for years.”
• WPLN News reports that Disability Rights Tennessee has released a report outlining extended periods of solitary confinement and abuse in violation of both state and federal laws at the Wilder Youth Development Center in Tennessee. The article notes that one child described “being in a solitary confinement cell for 23 hours a day, which smelled like urine and was infested with roaches.”
• The Week reports on a recent slate of executive orders pardoning three people and commuting the sentences of 75 others from President Biden, criticizing the administration for not living up to its larger promise for criminal justice reform, including “ending the federal death penalty and solitary confinement, and decriminalizing marijuana,” among others. The Week accuses the President of having “taken a cavalier attitude toward making good on the president’s once-urgent promises around criminal justice.”
• The NAACP released a press statement regarding a lawsuit it has filed against South Carolina Juvenile Justice Centers (DJJ), describing “nightmarish conditions.” It alleges that violence is rampant and that “DJJ has resorted to 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement as a default management tool, to house sick kids, ‘protect’ children from violence, or address even the most minor of infractions.”
• A HuffPost investigation into Mark Wilson, a man who was put in solitary confinement for 120 days after a toy phone was placed on his desk as a joke, discovered “a pattern of retaliation by DOC against one of its most effective incarcerated legal assistants.” Wilson is an individual who practices law while incarcerated, also known as a jailhouse lawyer, and his story features in a Solitary Watch report about the use of solitary confinement to silence jailhouse lawyers.
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