New from Solitary Watch:
• The latest in our series of monthly dispatches, The Word from Solitary Watch, addresses the question “What Will It Take to End Torture in U.S. Prisons?” The piece identifies the widespread use of solitary confinement as “the largest incidence of mass torture in the United States today,” and explores why and how the practice will eventually be ended.
Our pick of other news about solitary confinement:
• The Associated Press reports that as of December 1st, people incarcerated at Ely State Prison (ESP) in Nevada have begun a hunger strike, citing inadequate and unsafe conditions inside the prison. According to the Nevada Department of Corrections, the hunger strike was in response to inadequate meal portions. According to the mother of Sean Harvell, one of the hunger strikers, food concerns were only one of the many reasons people inside decided to strike. Harvel described physical abuse by prison staff, excessive lockdowns, and unreasonably long periods of solitary confinement.
• Source New Mexico reports that in response to the continued and arbitrary use of solitary confinement, state lawmakers plan to strengthen restrictions on the use of solitary confinement. The proposed bill would change the legal definition of solitary confinement to require a minimum of seven hours a day out of their cell and institute a two-week limit. . Other changes include a ban on solitary for people under 21 and over 55, and for people with mental illness. One lawmaker asked that they go even further. “I would say we go for the whole shebang and just get rid of solitary confinement, period,” Patricia Roybal Caballero said.
• Patricia Warth, director of the New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services (ILS), describes how mental health treatment in our nation rests on a punishment paradigm. Warth provides a historical look at mental health facilities and how the criminalization of mental illness has been fueled by the long–standing failure to provide meaningful treatment options for people. Warth calls for a critical examination of how we incarcerate and urges the rejection of practices such as solitary confinement.