Man Freezes to Death in Alabama Jail…and Other News on Solitary Confinement This Week

Seven Days in Solitary for the Week Ending 3/1/23

by | March 1, 2023

New from Solitary Watch: 

A new fact sheet from Solitary Watch looks at the relationship between solitary confinement and prison violence. The fact sheet, written by Sara Rain Tree, draws from a broad range of research and reporting to debunk the myth that solitary reduces prison violence, and explores how limiting solitary can in fact make prisons safer. By failing to resolve the root causes of violence, the fact sheet states, prisons’ widespread use of solitary has “created a cycle within carceral facilities where both violent and nonviolent behaviors are punished with more violence.”  Solitary Watch

Our pick of other news and commentary about solitary confinement:

Anthony Mitchell, a 33-year-old man with a history of mental illness, died of hypothermia at Alabama’s Walker County Jail, according to a federal lawsuit filed this month. The lawsuit states that Mitchell had a body temperature of 72 degrees before his death, and was likely held for hours in the jail kitchen’s “walk-in freezer or similar frigid environment.”  Associated Press | Before he died, Mitchell was detained for two weeks in an isolation cell intended for temporary booking without a bed or other furniture.  Equal Justice Initiative

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COVID-19 continues to spread at California’s San Quentin State Prison, reports incarcerated journalist Steve Brooks. Housing units have been forced to quarantine, and incarcerated people have been “in and out” of solitary confinement as a result of contracting the virus. “The biggest danger to incarcerated people in San Quentin is no longer COVID-19; it is the prison officials’ response to the virus,” Brooks writes. “San Quentin is unable to keep us safe or to safely provide rehabilitation.”  Prison Journalism Project

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An investigation has found that Minnesota’s youth prisons have put children in solitary confinement over 7,500 times in the last five years. There are currently no limits on how long children can be placed in solitary in Minnesota, and unlike in the adult prison system, no required mental health screenings for children in solitary. “When I got out of jail I didn’t even know how to act,” said one boy profiled in the investigation who was held in solitary for about a year. “I didn’t know right from wrong.”  KARE 11

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Neli Latson, a Black autistic man who was incarcerated in 2010 at the age of 18, spoke about his life experiences at a Black History Month roundtable hosted by the White House last Thursday. Latson described how his disability contributed to his arrest and shaped his time in prison. “For years, when I was locked up in solitary confinement, I daydreamed about getting out and telling my story… so being here today at the White House really is that dream come true,” Latson said.  Washington Post | During his incarceration, Latson was punished with long stays in solitary for behaviors related to his disability.  ASAN

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Immigrants detained at two for-profit detention centers in Kern County, California have filed a lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) alleging retaliation for their participation in an ongoing hunger strike. According to the lawsuit, ICE and GEO Group staffers denied recreation and visitation privileges to strike participants, threatened them with solitary confinement, and lowered the temperature of their cells. Over 70 individuals are participating in the strike, which has lasted more than a week.  KQED 

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Individuals at Washington State’s Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) have suspended a hunger strike after winning promises from ICE to provide improved access to medical and dental care and real meat in meals. La Resistencia, a local advocacy group, has alleged that the hunger strikers have been met with pepper spray, tear gas, and solitary confinement. Mora Villalpando, an organizer with La Resistencia, noted that ICE’s use of solitary confinement underscores the punitive nature of civil detention. “These are not detention centers; these are prisons,” Villalpando said. “The model is an entire prison.”  South Seattle Emerald

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A proposed Massachusetts bill that would allow incarcerated individuals to donate organs for a two to 12 month reduction in their prison sentence is unethical, argues a commentary by Judith Levine. “[HD 3822] preconditions participation on free will and bodily autonomy inside an institution whose purpose is to seize freedom and control bodies and minds,” Levine writes. Wellpath, the healthcare contractor for Massachusetts prisons, has recently come under fire for its excessive use of solitary confinement and chemical restraints.  The Intercept


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