Seven Days in Solitary [11/9/22]
Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement
New from Solitary Watch:
• In an essay for our Voices from Solitary series, Raymond Williams writes about his experience as a 17-year-old incarcerated at Washington Corrections Center, where he was held in solitary confinement for a year. Now an adult incarcerated at the same facility, Williams makes the case that the legal system should redress the harms inflicted on people who were put in solitary as youth, including through post-conviction relief. Any assessment of such individuals, Williams writes, “should include consideration of how crippling such policies were.”
Our pick of other news about solitary confinement:
• Pete Quandt’s short film “Tuesday Afternoon,” co-produced by Solitary Watch, was featured as last week’s Short of the Week. The film follows Jack Powers on his first day of freedom after three decades of incarceration, including 22 years in solitary confinement. “As much as anything, the film is a meditation on lost time,” writes Short of the Week staffer Georg Csarmann. “[Tuesday Afternoon] continues to remind viewers of the power of forgiveness, redemption, and second chances.”
• The Lens reports that the use of extended lockdowns and inadequate mental health care at Louisiana’s David Wade Correctional Center have been ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. Because staff often responded punitively to symptoms of mental illness, the judge found, it was not unusual for people with mental health needs to remain on extended lockdown for months or even years. “The Court finds that the conditions [at DWCC] have the mutually enforcing effect of depriving individuals of basic mental health needs and exposing them to mental torture,” the judge wrote.
• In an article for New York Focus and the Intercept, frequent Solitary Watch contributor Victoria Law investigates retaliation faced by victims of sexual assault in prisons. Law examines the case of Robert Adams, a man incarcerated in New York, who was sexually assaulted by a guard and sentenced to six months of solitary after the assault. Multiple witnesses who testified on Adams’ behalf were also put in solitary. “Each aspect of [Adams’] allegations,” Law writes, “reflects a self-policing prison system that has successfully insulated itself from oversight and accountability.”
• The New York Times has published an investigation into the abuse and negligence that has gone on for years at Ware Youth Center, a youth jail in Louisiana. The investigation details how guards sexually assaulted incarcerated children, kept children in prolonged isolation, and turned a blind eye to suicide attempts. Shortly after the publication of the Times probe, Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards announced he would request an independent investigation of the jail by the state’s inspector general.
• The Cheshire Herald reports that the Stop Solitary CT campaign held a rally last month to protest the ongoing use of isolation and lockdowns in Connecticut prisons. The PROTECT Act, which limits the state’s use of solitary confinement, was signed into law earlier this year, but Stop Solitary CT says prisons have continued to keep people locked in their cells for up to 23 hours a day. “Is this the way we should treat human beings?” asked Stop Solitary CT organizer Barbara Fair. “How dare they disobey the law without consequence.”
• WGLT reports on a recent lawsuit filed on behalf of people with mental illness in Illinois prisons. According to the lawsuit, Black people with mental health needs spend more time in solitary confinement and less time with therapists than their white counterparts. Several plaintiffs in the lawsuit described their mental health conditions worsening while in solitary, and others reported receiving little to no mental health treatment. The lawsuit comes after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a settlement that mandated improvements to Illinois’ mental health system behind bars.
• HS Today writes that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has rebuked Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for failing to collect sufficiently detailed information on its use of solitary confinement. According to a GAO report released last month, ICE did not adequately document circumstances that led to placements in solitary, and failed to track whether individuals had medical and mental health needs that would make them particularly vulnerable to isolation. “As a result, ICE can’t adequately oversee segregated housing,” the report concludes.
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