Seven Days in Solitary [11/30/2022]
Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement
New from Solitary Watch:
• In an essay for our Voices from Solitary series, Tashon Burke, a 30-year-old Black man with psychiatric disabilities, writes about the more than eight years he has spent in solitary confinement during his incarceration in Pennsylvania. In this anguished essay, Burke describes the mental and emotional trauma caused by his years in solitary confinement in prison, as well as his re-incarceration and subsequent lockdowns at the Allegheny County Jail.
Our pick of other news about solitary confinement:
• The San Diego Union Tribute writes about Robert Gadsden, a man incarcerated at the George Bailey Correctional Facility in San Diego. Gadsden’s story illustrates how abuses of power in jails have severe impacts for incarcerated people and their families. According to the lawsuit, a deputy told Gadsden he was sent to solitary confinement for six days due to an internal affairs complaint he filed over the circumstances of his initial arrest. Gadsden’s trial is scheduled for late 2023.
• Searchlight New Mexico reports that the Torrance County Detention Facility has a litany of unsafe and unsanitary conditions, according to an investigation from the US Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General. Conditions included in the report detail toilets that routinely overflow and send raw sewage seeping into the cells, running water that gives the detainees rashes and punitive discipline that includes throwing inmates in solitary confinement. In a letter to ICE Acting Director Tae D. Johnson, Senators Martin Heinrich, Ben Ray Luján, Dianne Feinstein, Elizabeth Warren, Edward Markey, and Alex Padilla write to “urge the transfer or release of eligible detainees… and immediate termination of ICE’s Torrance County Detention Facility contract with CoreCivic.”
• In a recent essay for Scalawag Magazine, Carla J. Simmons, a Life University student in the Chillion project at Lee Arrendale State Prison, writes about how the “volatility and disorder” of prison produces an incarceration-induced traumatic stress disorder. Of her own incarceration, she writes, “there is a part of me who thinks one day I will be reunited with the trees and the grass and the part of me that was free. But I know I will never be that person, not after all of this damage and disorder.”
• ABC News reports that Henry Hodges, incarcerated on Tennessee’s death row and held in solitary for nearly thirty years, recently self-mutilated his genitals, despite known concerns about his mental health among staff. Jon Hall, also incarcerated in Tennessee, spent nearly six years in solitary himself. He wrote of Hodges, “He’s suffered the most adverse unnecessary (sic) & wanton neglect, deprivals, & mistreatment I’ve seen on death row. It’s a miracle he’s not committed suicide.”
• Last week, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on the U.S. Navy and Department of Defense to cease the unconstitutional and illegal treatment of Staff Sergeant (SSgt) Nathaniel Jackson at U.S. Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston. SSgt Jackson, who maintains a beard in accordance with his Islamic faith, was placed in administrative and disciplinary segregation for almost a year and isolated from the general prison population. It was reported that many of these months were in complete solitary confinement. Despite Jackson having filed a request for a waiver in support of this religious practice, he continues to be held in isolation.
• Queens Daily Eagle reports that a new bill that builds upon the HALT Act is likely to pass within the New York City council. If passed, the bill would prevent incarcerated individuals from being held in an isolated cell for more than two hours per day within a 24-hour period, and for no more than eight hours at night. Correctional staff would also be required to meet with the incarcerated person at least once per hour to attempt de-escalation. Similarly, medical staff would be required to check on the incarcerated person every 15 minutes. The bill also requires that hearings be conducted to determine if subjecting the person to restrictive housing is justified.
• News12 Long Island reports that demonstrations across New York state are calling for sweeping changes to the inhumane conditions of the state’s jails and prisons. Outside of the Nassau Courthouse in Mineola, people rallied to share the harmful practices that restrict their contact with their loved ones inside. Regarding a new rule that restricts care packages to only two per incarcerated person per year, Skyler Johnson of New Hour for Women & Children said, “this is really bad for those who are incarcerated. We work with a lot of people who are in prison and these packages were their only source of joy sometimes for months at a time.”
• The Brunswick News reports that the three Camden County Sheriff’s Office deputies who beat Jarrett Hobbs in a Georgia jail on September 3 have been fired. Hobbs was denied medical treatment and was instead held in solitary confinement for two weeks until his injuries healed. “This is just the first step toward justice,” said Harry M. Daniels, an Atlanta-based civil rights lawyer. “Convictions and imprisonment are the final acts.”
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