Seven Days in Solitary [10/19/22]
Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement
New from Solitary Watch:
• Angela Hattery and Earl Smith share an excerpt from their groundbreaking new book “Way Down in the Hole: Race, Intimacy and the Reproduction of Racial Ideologies in Solitary Confinement.” In this book, Hattery and Smith reveal the ways in which the structure of solitary confinement produces and fuels the conditions of white racial resentment.
Our pick of other news about solitary confinement:
• Last week, The City reported that New York Correction Department Commissioner Louis Molina has requested a reduction in the out-of-cell time for people in solitary confinement, contrary to the minimum standards laid down by the city’s jails oversight board. In the variance request, Molina claimed that this reduction was “not unreasonable” and does not violate state law. City Council member Tiffany Cabán, a former public defender in the Queens district, contests this change, “We have to stop leaning into failed strategies.” “There’s a lot of different ways the Department of Correction can ensure the safety of the people there” she said. A day later, likely in the face of the opposition it faced, reported the Daily News, the department withdrew the variance request.
• The Provincetown Independent remembers Robert F. Davis Jr., Tyler J. Gibbs, and David A Allain Jr, the three men who died this last summer while being held in Covid isolation units at Barnstable County Correctional Facility, and looks at the circumstances of their deaths. The limited oversight in these facilities has resulted in some sheriffs violating laws that ensure incarcerated individuals have access to proper resources. Bonnie Tenneriello, a senior staff attorney at Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, challenged the isolation policy stating, “the whole point was to recognize the permanent impact of solitary confinement on a population largely suffering from mental health and substance abuse.” “Most places do not do humane Covid isolation,” she said.
• In an article by Nonprofit Quarterly, Andrea Fionda and Scott Moyer of the Jacob and Valeria Langeloth Foundation call for eliminating the widespread use of solitary confinement saying that “there are individuals who are incarcerated right now that need relief. The daily suffering they face is not theoretical, but a tangible reality.” They highlight organizations (including Solitary Watch) that work to dismantle the punishment paradigm. “Preventative, not reactionary, justice is crucial, and funneling more resources into people—and less into the prison industrial complex —is the solution,” they write.
• It’s Going Down publishes statements from incarcerated individuals amidst the weeks-long strike against the inhumane conditions within the Alabama Department of Corrections. One individual who was sent to solitary for refusing to help break the strike shared, “They forced me to come over here from Decatur to put my life in jeopardy by working against the inmates, my own people, in this peaceful protest.” In a statement signed “Alabama confined citizens,” they say “by no means are we waiving a white flag of defeat. We are still demanding our concerns be heard before our legislators and other elected officials. We will continue to escalate our strike, peacefully, until our voices are heard.”
• In The Conversation, Angela Hattery and Earl Smith write about what they learned from interviewing 100 people—incarcerated people and staff—about their experiences with solitary confinement. (Solitary Watch published an excerpt from their book “Way Down in the Hole: Race, Intimacy and the Reproduction of Racial Ideologies in Solitary Confinement.”) Hattery and Smith found that both groups reported “solitary confinement is like being locked away out of sight, out of mind, and that the consequences of their physical and mental health were significant, and often stripped away their humanity.” “The picture that emerges from the interviews is one of a system that doesn’t serve the prison population or those employed to guard them,” they write.
• The Maroon reports that Tomarcus Porter, incarcerated at Rayburn Correctional Center in Louisiana, is suing the facility over the conditions he experienced while in solitary confinement. In the filing, Porter writes that these conditions fall within the scope of cruel and unusual punishment and states he hopes this will invoke reasonable change. According to the lawsuit, Porter attempted to report these conditions to the correctional center before filing the lawsuit. “I ask the wardens for change, and we inmates on disciplinary segregation still have not gotten the right change,” he writes.
• In an op-ed for the New York Times, Alexander Stockton shares how the troubled teen industry places children in solitary confinement as a form of punishment. Stockton reports that with “almost no rules” about the type of mental health care that these facilities provide, these facilities do not address the core problem, but attempt to use punishment as the solution. After more than 50 interviews with former patients and professionals in the industry, Stockton found that the “rules governing restraint and seclusion are often not followed.” “Sometimes they are treated in ways that are illegal to treat prisoners, let alone kids seeking mental health treatment,” he writes.
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