Seven Days in Solitary [11/16/2022]

Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement

by | November 16, 2022

New from Solitary Watch: 

 On November 16th at 6 PM EST, join Solitary Watch Director and Langeloth Grantee Partner Jean Casella in a discussion of new initiatives from Solitary Watch during the last Live with Langeloth of 2022. 

 Solitary Watch has released a new fact sheet that documents the psychological effects of solitary confinement. According to the fact sheet, “A growing body of research has found that solitary confinement not only further exacerbates the symptoms of mental illness in individuals already diagnosed with psychiatric conditions, but also creates new mental health issues in people with no previous history of mental illness.”

Our pick of other news about solitary confinement:

 In an article for The Nation, Solitary Watch contributor Victoria Law reports on the four states where voters approved ending the practice of involuntary labor and slavery as punishment for a criminal conviction. Law shares the stories of Terrancė Atkins and Amie Little, both previously incarcerated in prisons in Tennessee, who have been working on the measure passed last week. Their stories reveal how more than a century after slavery was abolished, the legacy of slavery persists in modern-day punishment. “If you refuse to work, you can lose your sentencing credits or go to solitary confinement,” Little told The Nation. 

 An article for the Seattle Medium looks at how the trauma associated with social isolation in prison has led to larger questions about the advocacy and support necessary for incarcerated people. Trauma therapist Ashley McGirt-Adair, who works with current and previously incarcerated people, describes “data that correlates with isolation trauma in higher suicide rates, homicides, drug use, all of these are direct consequences or ways to cope.”  “I think it is important that we advocate against having people in solitary confinement,” she says.

 King 5 News reports that the time spent behind bars in Washington state for people who are mentally ill and waiting for court-ordered treatment is at an all-time high. Despite a 2014 court ruling that mentally ill defendants must receive a bed at a state psychiatric hospital within seven days, there are currently people waiting nearly seven months. “For people who are mentally ill, the longer they’re in isolation oftentimes the more entrenched their mental illness becomes. So people are decompensating” said ACLU of Washington Legal Director La Rond Baker. 

 New York Focus reports that Anthony Annucci, acting commissioner for New York’s state prison agency, issued a memo that illegally ordered thousands of incarcerated people to be shackled to desks for hours a day. Citing an “escalation of violence” in isolation units to justify the order, Annucci issued the memo with a critical omission of the “individual assessments” required under the HALT Solitary Confinement Act. State senator Julia Salazar, the prime sponsor for the law that limits the use of solitary confinement, argues that the order is illegal. “This is clearly a violation of the law as written,” she said.

 The Prism reports on the activism brewing within Alabama prisons where incarcerated people previously went on a work strike, demanding institutional changes ranging from sentencing laws to labor conditions. Incarcerated organizers have described the strike as having “merely been paused” as a larger push towards decarceration takes place. According to those who are incarcerated, the despair that comes with long, indefinite sentencing is the “essential ingredient” to making Alabama’s prisons the deadliest in the nation. Advocates believe that the strike is ultimately an attempt to provide thousands of people with expanded avenues toward freedom.


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