One Prison Strike Ends; Another May Begin…and Other News on Solitary Confinement This Week

Seven Days in Solitary for the Week Ending 1/4/23

by | January 4, 2023

Incarcerated individuals at Nevada’s Ely State Prison have ended a month-long hunger strike. The strike participants, who began refusing food on December 1st, used the strike to call attention to a list of demands that include improved food and living conditions, an end to extended solitary confinement, and independent oversight of the state prison system. Though prison officials have indicated that they have begun auditing food portions, they have not commented on the strikers’ other demands.  Las Vegas Review Journal

Incarcerated workers in Pennsylvania plan to launch a statewide strike this Friday. The strike is intended to show solidarity with incarcerated workers in Alabama who went on strike for three weeks last November.  Truthout | The demands put forth by the Subaltern Peoples Abolitionist Revolutionary Collective (SPARC) in Pennsylvania echo those of the Alabama strikers and include sentencing reforms, higher wages for workers, and an end to abuse in solitary confinement.  SPARC | Context: Incarcerated people often face backlash for organizing, with punishments ranging from reduced meals to being put in solitary confinement.  OnLabor

A Washington State legislator named Tarra Simmons proposed a bill that would require incarcerated workers to be paid the state’s minimum wage. Currently, incarcerated people in Washington State are typically paid less than a dollar per hour for their work and are often put in solitary or threatened with loss of visitation if they refuse to work. “This is already a very highly traumatized and marginalized population and then this system and these policies are further traumatizing and marginalizing people,” said Simmons, who was formerly incarcerated herself.  The Olympian

Zachary Swain filed a lawsuit against the Maine Department of Corrections (DOC) for violating his constitutional rights while he was incarcerated in solitary confinement. Swain spent more than 3½ years in solitary, where his mental health deteriorated and he attempted suicide and self-harm numerous times. “My primary intention with the lawsuit is to do whatever I can to make sure the things that happened to me don’t happen or are significantly less likely to happen to the next person,” said Swain, who was released from Maine State Prison in February.  Bangor Daily News

A commentary by Nate Lindell draws upon his experiences of incarceration in Wisconsin to argue that all incarcerated people who need it should have access to PTSD treatment. Lindell, who was diagnosed with PTSD before he was incarcerated, recalls how his PTSD was exacerbated by traumatic experiences in prison, including solitary confinement. “My repeated requests for help with my greatly worsened PTSD symptoms were denied and my grievances were dismissed,” he writes of his time in solitary. “Everyone—perhaps especially those of us who committed grave wrongdoing—should have access to treatment.”  Finger Lakes Times

Connecticut legislators undermined a component of the PROTECT Act, legislation that limits solitary confinement and creates oversight of Connecticut prisons through an ombudsman and advisory committee. Though the committee originally had no positions reserved for prison staff, a bill unrelated to prison oversight was altered to create two positions on the committee for staff. The move may undermine the committee’s ability to independently oversee solitary confinement reforms and other improvements to prison conditions. In her op-ed, Stop Solitary CT organizer Barbara Fair calls it “obstructionism at its finest.” CT Mirror

The Kite Line podcast commemorated the first anniversary of the death of Black liberation activist Russell Maroon Shoatz. After two escape attempts, Shoatz was held in solitary confinement in Pennsylvania for more than 22 years before he was granted compassionate release in 2021. Shoatz’s long solitary confinement sentence, according to Kite Line, “reflected the personal offense taken by prison officials, who were embarrassed both by his ease in escaping, and his sharp critiques of the American prison system.”  WFHB | Context: Prison escapees are often put in solitary for decades, and sometimes even indefinitely.  Solitary Watch


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