New this week from Solitary Watch:
• Solitary Watch reports on the latest Census of State and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities, data collected by the federal government’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), reports 75,505 people were held in solitary confinement in state and federal prisons in 2019. This was the first BJS census to ask prisons about placement in solitary in 14 years. Like previous censuses, it does not include information from local jails or immigration detention facilities, ensuring the actual number is even higher.
• Solitary Watch has launched a new series of fact sheets, with the first one focusing on “Racism and Solitary Confinement.” It outlines the disproportionate use of solitary confinement for people of color behind bars, and the disparity between how mental health issues are treated based on race. It states, “The systemic discrimination that has led to the mass incarceration of people of color has replicated itself within solitary confinement.”
Our pick of other news about solitary confinement:
• The Washington Post profiles Andrew Johnson, an Army veteran who spent 16 months in jail in solitary confinement while awaiting trial. When a jury finally heard the evidence against him, they took less than two hours to acquit him on all charges. Johnson describes how, “When they put you in solitary confinement, you’re no longer thinking clearly. You’re thinking, ‘Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. I’m trapped.’”
• An ACLU report describes the unethical use of incarcerated workers, focusing on labor exploitation during the COVID-19 pandemic. “76 percent of incarcerated workers surveyed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics say that they are required to work or face additional punishment such as solitary confinement, denial of opportunities to reduce their sentence, and loss of family visitation.”
• Gothamist reports on newly introduced legislation from Public Advocate Jumaane Williams that would prohibit the use of solitary confinement at Rikers Island Jail. The federal government (DOJ) has stalled intervening at Rikers in order to give the city more time, although a federal monitor is currently installed. Williams says, “…if everyone’s agreeing that there’s problems of minimum standards, there’s problems of staffing, solitary confinement makes all of those things worse.”
• The Roanoke Times reports that in Virginia, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that twelve incarcerated people who have been held in solitary confinement “have adequately pleaded both that they suffered extreme injuries and that Defendants were aware of them.” Virginia has two supermax facilities, without enough people to fill them both, the lawsuit alleges. Instead, people are being “warehoused” to justify the expense of the facilities.
• The Intercept reports that four individuals held in Guantanamo, who have not been charged with a crime, have contracted COVID-19. The four are being held in Camp Six with increased restrictions. According to Mansoor Adayfi, a former detainee at the prison, ”Camp Six doesn’t have any windows, except for small slits of light near the high ceilings. You feel like you’re in a deep pit. It’s a building within a building.”