Hunger Strike Against Solitary in Texas Prisons…and Other News on Solitary Confinement This Week

Seven Days in Solitary for the Week Ending 1/11/23

by | January 12, 2023

New from Solitary Watch: 

Katie Rose Quandt, senior contributing writer at Solitary Watch, reports on Republicans’ complaints on the treatment of January 6 defendants at the D.C. Jail. Republican legislators have vocally criticized the use of solitary confinement on those allegedly involved in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, but have remained silent on conditions faced by others incarcerated at the jail, who are mostly Black. While they are correct that the conditions are torturous, Quandt writes, “They are wildly wrong—or just plain disingenuous—to assert that this treatment is somehow unusual or unique to the January 6 defendants.” Solitary Watch / Truthout

Our pick of other news about solitary confinement: 

Hundreds of incarcerated people across Texas plan to launch a hunger strike this week. Strikers plan to protest Texas’ solitary confinement policies, which experts say are among the most restrictive in the United States. Their demands include an end to placements in solitary for alleged gang membership, as well as limits to how long people can remain in solitary. “This kind of indefinite placement in these settings is truly a form of torture,” said Michelle Deitch, a senior lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin.  Texas Tribune

Incarcerated writer Raymond Williams examines how COVID precautions are used to punish and isolate people behind bars. Williams considers the case of Anthony Clemons, who was isolated in his facility’s quarantine unit and later moved to its most restrictive solitary confinement unit after his fiancée inadvertently broke COVID rules by kissing him during a visit.  The Progressive | More: Williams wrote about his experiences in solitary confinement as a teenager in a recent essay for Solitary Watch’s Voices from Solitary series.  Solitary Watch

A new report from Disability Rights Washington looks at the various forms of isolation in Washington State prisons, including administrative segregation, suicide watch, and medical isolation units. “The thousands of people who have experienced these isolated settings will tell you unequivocally: these are just other faces of solitary confinement,” the report states. The report further notes that many promised reforms to restrictive housing have never been implemented, and argues that Washington State must end long-term solitary confinement.  Disability Rights Washington | Video from DRW

Forced prison labor in Louisiana continues in the wake of a rejected ballot measure intended to end slavery as punishment for a crime. Incarcerated people in Louisiana work for little or no pay inside prisons and off prison grounds, including as cafeteria workers at the state Capitol. The mother of one cafeteria worker, Jonathan Archille, said her son was put in solitary confinement as retaliation for speaking to the press. “[Prison officials] said they didn’t want him talking to you guys and that’s why he’s on lockdown,” she said.  Washington Post

Activists in Pennsylvania’s Lackawanna County, home to the city of Scranton, are awaiting a hearing on a referendum on solitary confinement. Northeast PA Stands Up had gathered over 13,000 signatures to put a referendum that would limit solitary confinement on the November 2022 ballot, but county commissioners blocked the referendum from appearing on the ballot. The hearing, scheduled to take place at the end of the month, will determine whether the referendum can appear on a future ballot in 2023.  WVIA

Durham County residents sent an open letter with over 350 signatures calling for decarceration and an end to prolonged isolation at North Carolina’s Durham County Detention Center. The letter states that people at the jail have been locked in their cells between 21 and 23 hours a day due to staff shortages, and that reducing the jail population by at least 100 individuals would allow people to have more time out of cell. “This letter is not a request for increased staffing but a response to a crisis situation,” the authors wrote.  The News & Observer

Incarcerated teens who were moved to a controversial new youth facility at Louisiana’s Angola prison allege they have been subjected to guard brutality and extended lockdowns at the facility. “About 3 or 4 times our whole pod has been locked down and we are not able to leave our cells except to shower,” said a 15-year-old identified by the pseudonym Daniel D. in a statement. “They would keep us locked in the whole weekend.” The constitutionality of the decision to transfer youth to Angola is being challenged in an ongoing lawsuit.  Louisiana Illuminator

An investigation details how county jails across the United States are using pepper spray, stun guns, and solitary confinement on people with mental health conditions. The investigation found that 1 in 5 use of force incidents in Pennsylvania jails were directed towards an incarcerated person who was attempting suicide or self-harm. According to Mariposa McCall, a psychiatrist who has studied solitary confinement, incarcerated people with psychiatric disabilities are often held in isolation for up to 23 hours a day, which “virtually guarantees that vulnerable people will spiral into a crisis.”  NPR and WITF

Sociologists Jason Schnittker, Michael Massoglia, and Christopher Uggen look at the contradictions underlying healthcare in prisons and jails in their new book, Prisons and Health in the Age of Mass Incarceration. The authors highlight protective custody, a form of solitary confinement, as an instance where the contradictions are especially stark. Though protective custody is intended to protect incarcerated people from harm, the authors write, “the idea is a contradiction if custody itself is harmful.”  Penn Today 


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