Staff Accused of Starting “Fight Club” at New Jersey Prison…and Other News on Solitary Confinement This Week

Seven Days in Solitary for the Week Ending 2/15/23

by | February 15, 2023

At the “Restorative Housing Unit” in New Jersey’s South Woods State Prison, staff have reportedly been using brute force and encouraging fights between incarcerated people. The so-called Restorative Housing Units were created in 2019 by the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act, which placed limits on solitary confinement, but advocates say the units are no different than solitary. “As far as we can tell, the only thing that the DOC did was to change the name,” said Amos Caley of the New Jersey Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement.  The Appeal

New York’s Greene County Jail, where several of the suicides have taken place

The New York Commission of Correction has completed investigations into at least 90 suicides that happened in New York prisons and jails between 2016 and 2021. A significant number of these suicides took place in solitary confinement. Dante Taylor, who committed suicide in 2017, spent four months in solitary before his death. “The thing about suicide is that it totally shatters everything,” said Maryanne Rappaport, whose son Adam took his own life in prison. “It’s like you have to start over with all of these little pieces and try to pick up all that broken glass.”  Times-Union

California lawmakers are reintroducing legislation to end prolonged isolation in the state after a version of the bill was vetoed by Governor Newsom last year. This year’s bill (AB 280), which defines solitary confinement as any form of isolation lasting longer than 17 hours a day, limits solitary to 15 consecutive days and bans it for certain vulnerable populations. “A comprehensive legislative solution is needed and oversight is needed—independent oversight,” said Hamid Yazdan Panah of Immigrant Defense Advocates. “You can’t send the fox to guard the henhouse.”  CapRadio 

A new study found that formerly incarcerated people who spent time in solitary confinement or on high security status were more likely to recidivate. While just under half of individuals released from North Carolina prisons in 2019 were rearrested within two years of their release, the number increases to 55% for people in solitary and 65% for people in close custody. People who held jobs or participated in educational programs had lower recidivism rates, according to the study, which was authored by the North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission.  NC Policy Watch

The editorial board of the San Antonio Express-News endorsed ending long-term solitary confinement in an op-ed. The commentary describes the harmful effects of solitary on incarcerated people, which have been underscored by the recent hunger strikes in Texas prisons. “How we treat them is a reflection of our values and humanity… it’s inhumane to employ solitary confinement in a way that experts say is torture,” the board writes.  San Antonio Express-News

People detained at the Northwest ICE detention center in Tacoma, Washington have suspended a hunger strike after several days of striking. They plan to resume the strike if their demands for better conditions are not met. Detainees have reported retaliation for their participation in the strike, including placement in solitary.  KUOW | Context: Solitary Watch’s Vaidya Gullapalli looked at the relationship between solitary and resistance in last month’s installation of The Word.  Solitary Watch

Incarcerated writer Rashaan Thomas examines the hardships experienced by Deaf people in California’s local jails. Thomas profiles Jamie Paredes, who was denied access to hearing aids at times during his eight years incarcerated at Ventura County Jail. Because Paredes couldn’t hear the guards and there were no interpreters at the jail, he was frequently ticketed for disciplinary infractions. Paredes received more than 1,400 tickets over the course of his incarceration, and was often put in solitary for these infractions.  Vera Institute of Justice

Eric Reinhart makes the case that the United States should invest in robust public health infrastructure to promote community care and address the lasting harms of incarceration, including those caused by solitary confinement. Reinhart suggests that this infrastructure could be funded by divesting from prisons and policing. “Public health and prison abolition are interwoven projects,” Reinhart writes. “The U.S. medical profession, which has long treated the harms inflicted by mass incarceration, could play a key role.”  New England Journal of Medicine


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