Federal Judge Orders Arizona to Fix Deadly Prison Conditions…and Other News on Solitary Confinement This Week

Seven Days in Solitary for the Week Ending 1/18/23

by | January 18, 2023

The Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Reentry (ADCRR) has been ordered by a federal judge to make “substantial” reforms to bring Arizona prisons in line with constitutional standards. In addition to mandating the increased provision of medical and mental health services, the remedial order requires ADCRR to ensure adequate staffing in solitary confinement units and to create a system to facilitate stepping down from solitary. “The trial laid bare the significant harm that living in isolation causes to people who are incarcerated,” said attorney Maya Abela. “With this order, ADCRR is required to take steps to address those harms.”  ACLU

Incarcerated people across Texas are continuing to participate in a hunger strike to protest the state’s policy of indefinite solitary confinement. While the Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirmed that at least 72 people were refusing food three days into the strike, outside activists estimate the number of participants to be closer to 120. “Our protest will remain peaceful and spans all races and religions to improve the conditions for ALL within the confines of the TDCJ,” said the organizers of the strike in a press release.  Texas Tribune 

A man with developmental disabilities starved to death in solitary confinement two years ago at an Arkansas jail, according to a federal lawsuit filed last week. Larry Eugene Price, Jr., who had schizophrenia and PTSD, was held pretrial at the jail for a year because he was unable to pay a $100 bail. “He was awaiting trial the whole time—for a crime that he wasn’t mentally capable of committing,” said Erik Heipt, a lawyer representing the Price family. “There is no excuse for an atrocity like this.”  Newsweek

A federal lawsuit claims that the isolation faced by men on death row at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. According to the lawsuit, the men are permitted to leave their cells only for a few hours each week and are generally denied programming and group activities. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Jurijus Kadamovas, who has been held in solitary confinement on death row since 2007.  Tribune-Star

The Washington State legislature is considering a bill that would restrict the use of solitary confinement to emergency use, medical isolation, or voluntary protective custody. At a hearing before the House Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry Committee last week, Kevin Light-Roth testified via video on how isolation had “insidious” effects on his mental health. “Every social interaction made me uncomfortable… I was continuously on edge, and I was afraid of myself,” said Light-Roth, who is currently incarcerated at the Washington Corrections Center.  Seattle Times

A bill that would limit solitary confinement to 15 consecutive days and restrict the cases in which people can be placed in solitary has advanced in the Virginia state legislature. The bill was approved by the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee in a 9-5 vote, and has been recommended to the full Senate for consideration.  Richmond Times-Dispatch | Solitary confinement was a focus of the sixth annual Virginia Prison Justice Rally, which was held on Saturday to highlight the need for improved prison conditions.  6 News Richmond

A “remedy phase” trial on conditions at Louisiana’s David Wade Correctional Center (DWCC) is scheduled to start this week. Last year, a federal judge ruled based on evidence from before March 15, 2020 that DWCC’s use of solitary confinement and lack of mental health services were unconstitutional. The upcoming trial will determine whether conditions at DWCC have improved since that date. Though lawyers for the state’s corrections agency argue otherwise, a report prepared on behalf of the plaintiffs states that people in solitary at the facility “reported that there had been little or no change in their day-to-day living conditions.”  The Lens

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the use of solitary confinement in Florida prisons after three years of litigation. The dismissal comes after the judge refused to grant class action status to the lawsuit in July.  WMNF | According to advocates, approximately one in eight incarcerated individuals in Florida are in solitary confinement, many of whom are young Black men.  Tampa Bay Times

In an essay, Jonathan Kirkpatrick reflects on his experiences in solitary confinement during the HIV epidemic in a Washington State prison and county jail. Kirkpatrick describes how he was put in solitary because he had been diagnosed with HIV and was considered a public health hazard by staff. “HIV terrified me, but it didn’t offend me,” Kirkpatrick writes. “What offended me was their decision to isolate me, to humiliate me, to be so uncomfortable with the idea of me that it wasn’t safe to go anywhere near me.”  Filter


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