Seven Days in Solitary [12/7/22]
Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement
• The Hill reports that four states voted last month to remove language that allows slavery as punishment for a crime from their state constitutions. Now, advocates are seeking to pass the Abolition Amendment, which would fully abolish slavery at the federal level. Bianca Tylek, executive director of Worth Rises, told The Hill that incarcerated people are often forced to work under threat of punishments such as beatings and solitary confinement. “These are punishments that actually date back to antebellum slavery,” Tylek said. “People were placed in what was called ‘a hole’ or ‘the box’…colloquially, solitary confinement is still referred to as the hole or the box in prison.”
• Jezebel reports that the United States House of Representatives has passed the Pregnant Women in Custody Act (HR 6878), which would establish baseline standards of care in federal prisons. Among other provisions, the bill requires facilities to provide pregnant people with medical and mental health services, and bans them from placing pregnant people in solitary confinement during their third trimester. The bill was passed 324-90 last Thursday, with 90 Republicans voting against it, and will move to the Senate for consideration.
• WHYY reports that a federal appeals court has ruled that the family of Angelo Lee Clark, a Delaware man with schizophrenia, can pursue a lawsuit against the state for placing Clark in solitary confinement for seven months in 2016. A district judge had given the state qualified immunity against Clark’s allegations of cruel and unusual punishment, but the appeals court ruled that the district judge had been wrong. According to Dwayne Bensing, legal director of ACLU Delaware, the ruling will set precedent and have “broad implications beyond Delaware.”
• New York Focus reports on the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision’s (DOCCS) failure to adopt internal rules that conform to the HALT Solitary Confinement Act. In June, 56 state legislators signed onto public comments expressing “grave concerns” about DOCCS’ non-compliance with HALT, but DOCCS, in violation of state law, has refused to respond to the comments. The New York Civil Liberties Union has demanded that DOCCS announce a plan for how it will address the comments by December 9, and members of the public may also sue the department.
• Gothamist writes that a report released by the New York inspector general has found stark racial disparities in discipline in New York prisons. According to the report, Black people were nearly 22% more likely to be reported for misbehavior than white people, and Hispanic people were 12% more likely to receive such citations. “This report further reveals the state prisons for what they are: a system of rampant and overt racist oppression,” said #HALTsolitary and the Release Aging People in Prison campaign in a joint press release. “The need for action by the executive and legislative authorities is clear.”
• The Los Angeles Times reports that the former warden of a federal prison in Dublin, California went on trial last week for sexually abusing women under his charge. The warden, Ray J. Garcia, is accused of molesting incarcerated women and forcing them to strip naked. According to prosecutors, Garcia was responsible for overseeing compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act at the same time he was committing abuse, and was known to have sent women to solitary or transferred them to other prisons after they reported abuse by staff.
• Prism reports that asylum-seekers at two New Mexico ICE facilities in Torrance and Cibola County have launched a hunger strike to protest dangerous and inhumane conditions. At least two men have been deported as retaliation for participating in the strike, and several others have been put in solitary confinement. “We don’t deserve to be treated like this; we deserve to be released,” said Juan, one of the lead organizers of the strike.
• Mississippi Today reports on the death of Eli Marrero, a 21-year-old who committed suicide in January while being held in solitary confinement while jailed pretrial at Mississippi’s Stone County Correctional Facility. According to the latest federal data, nearly one third of all jail deaths nationwide are suicides. Marrero’s mother said she was kept in the dark about her son’s condition in the period leading up to his death. “Nobody would tell me anything,” she said. “Every time I asked why he was in solitary confinement, they said he’s not fit for general population.”
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