Seven Days in Solitary [8/17/22]

Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement

by | August 17, 2022

New this week from Solitary Watch:

In an article co-published by Solitary Watch and The Nation, Victoria Law looks at how many correctional officers’ unions are pushing back against prison reforms, including new laws restricting the use of solitary confinement. She focuses on New York, where the state correctional officers’ union, NYSCOBA, has mounted a campaign against implementation of the HALT Solitary Confinement Act, despite a lack of credible evidence that it threatens either their jobs or their safety.

In an essay for our Voices from Solitary series, Edee Allynnah Davis recounts her experience in a “step-down program” at the Clements Unit, a men’s maximum security prison in Amarillo, Texas. Davis, who is a 61-year-old trans woman, describes being denied adequate medical and mental health treatment and spending nearly every day locked in her cell. “That is as real as it honestly and truthfully gets,” she writes. 

Our pick of other news about solitary confinement:

The New York Times reports on Assembly Bill 2632, which aims to curb the use of solitary confinement in California. Modeled after the HALT Solitary Confinement Act in New York, the bill would ban solitary confinement for vulnerable populations and limit it to 15 consecutive days for everyone else. The bill passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee last week and is headed to the Senate floor. 

In an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer, John Thompson describes the 14 years he spent in solitary confinement and explains why Philadelphians should mobilize to ban the practice. “Each time I went to solitary confinement, it was clear that it was meant to control my every move and not to help me or others stay safe,” Thompson writes. Now an organizer with the Abolitionist Law Center, Thompson is working to end solitary confinement across the state. 

Grid News reports on a lawsuit filed on behalf of individuals detained at the St. Louis Jail, which alleges that they were subject to “persistent and widespread torture practices” including the indiscriminate use of pepper spray. One man was pepper sprayed after he had been confined in his cell for two weeks and had flooded his cell in hopes of being let out. “My body was burning. My eyes were burning. I couldn’t breathe,” he wrote in a statement included in the lawsuit. 

Ms. Magazine profiles three women formerly sentenced to death who had each spent years in solitary confinement. The women describe the strategies they used to survive their time in solitary, as well as the lasting harms they suffered from it. After being caged in a six-by-nine-foot cell, said one woman profiled in the article, “You’re never the same.” 

AM New York Metro reports that the family of Brandon Rodriguez has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against New York City on the first anniversary of his death. At a vigil marking this date, friends and family recounted how jail staff “did nothing” to prevent Rodriguez from taking his life while he was detained pretrial on Rikers Island. Rodriguez had been locked in a caged shower cell as punitive segregation at the time of his death. 

The Daytona Times writes that the Southern Prisons Coalition has submitted a report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on the disproportionate harms of incarceration on Black people in the United States. The report discusses the devastating impacts of solitary confinement, noting that Black people are 8 times more likely to be placed in solitary and 10 times more likely to be held there for excessive periods of time. “This report serves as a sobering reminder of how far we need to go,” said Antonio L. Ingram II of the NAACP. 

Consortium News reports that immigrant workers at two ICE detention centers in California are on strike to protest low wages and dangerous working conditions. According to one striker, workers at the detention centers currently get paid $1 a day, while “a video call costs about $2.50 for 15 minutes and a bag of beans is about $2.” Two workers have allegedly been placed in solitary confinement as retaliation for participating in the strike. 

The Guardian reports on the launch of the Visiting Room, an oral history project featuring interviews with more than 100 individuals at Louisiana’s Angola prison who are serving sentences of life without parole. As the largest known collection of interviews with people serving this sentence, the project aims to “allow people to see the inhumane consequences” of policies that enable such prolonged confinement. 


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