Post-Traumatic Prison Disorder Could Impact Millions…and Other News on Solitary Confinement This Week

Seven Days in Solitary for the Week Ending 5/10/23

by | May 10, 2023

New From Solitary Watch:

In an article co-published with The Nation, Victoria Law reports on the serious discrepancy between the passage and implementation of New York State’s HALT Solitary Confinement Act. The law, which went into effect on March 1, 2022, strictly limits what acts allow prison officials to isolate someone for longer than three consecutive days or six days in a 30 day period. In the six month’s following the implementation of HALT, the DOCCS issued nearly 1,2000 disciplinary tickets that resulted in solitary confinement but did not meet the standards set by the law. On April 5, 2023, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit arguing “that DOCCS continues to subject hundreds of people to SHU sentences of more than three days for acts that are not explicitly listed by the law.” While advocates and currently and formerly incarcerated agree that there needs to be more vigilance regarding HALT implementation, Unlock the Box Campaign director Jessica Sandoval stated, “New York is better off with what is happening—even with problems in implementation—than they ever would have been without it.” Solitary Watch

Our pick of other news and commentary about solitary confinement:

In a letter, Members of Congress Ayanna Pressley (D-OH) and Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA) called on National Institutes of Mental Health director Joshua A. Gordon to “research post-traumatic prison disorder and share findings related to prevention and treatment.” When subjected to the traumatic conditions of confinement, incarcerated people can develop short-term and long-term mental health effects similar to the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Although they may share symptomatology, post-traumatic prison disorder is a unique condition that, when left untreated, can lead to substance use disorder and high rates of recidivism. As the article notes, “solitary confinement…[has] been shown to have particularly devastating effects” on people post-incarceration. In a statement, Representative Pressley stated, “research into PTPD is a critical step that would help inform responsive policies that support formerly incarcerated people as they reconnect with their families and communities.” The Appeal

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Kwaneta Harris, a former nurse held in segregation at Texas’s Lane Murray Unit, was threatened with criminal charges and further isolated for providing women on her cell block with information on abortion. What began as conversations on consent and STI and pregnancy prevention were quickly ended by guards when a woman asked Harris about “partial-birth abortions”—a non-medical phrase coined by the anti-abortion movement. While the Texas state legislature recently banned abortions past six-weeks of pregnancy, there are no laws criminalizing discussing abortion. The Nation

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Formerly incarcerated people testified at a UN panel probing abuse within New York City’s jail system. Aquirah Stanley, deputy director at Alliance for Families For Justice, testified that when she gave birth while incarcerated she “had the baby by myself in my cell because I didn’t want to be shackled during labor.” Others present at the panel explained the trauma associated with being gagged, shackled, and beaten while in custody. The testimony will be part of a report submitted to the United Nations and the State Department before being released to the public. The United Nations team, representing the UN’s Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement (EMLER), are investigating excessive force used against Black people since the death of George Floyd. PIX11

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Three people have died by suicide in the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institutions in the last 90 days. Although the Rhode Island Department of Corrections has released little information, it is known that two of the deaths occurred in solitary confinement and that one of the deceased was being held in solitary for nonviolent infractions. On May 9, the Stop Torture Coalition and family members of the recently deceased held a rally outside the State House to demand the General Assembly pass the Reform Solitary Confinement Act. The two Democratic legislators sponsoring the bill, Senator Jonathan Acosta and Representative Leonela Felix, stated, “These lives were lost in a publicly managed and operated system which means the blood is on public hands. We stand willing and ready to come to the table in order to produce legislation that does everything in our power to prevent the loss of another life on our hands.” UPRISE RI

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Jason Rothe’s death at New Hampshire’s Secure Psychiatric Unit on April 29 is just one of at least three deaths that have occured at the facility in the last decade. The unit is run by the New Hampshire Department of Corrections on the grounds of the state prison in Concord and is used for involuntary civilly committed patients who have been deemed security risks. A 2021 report from the New Hampshire Advisory Committee to the U.S. The Commission on Civil Rights described the unit as a “highly controlled, solitary-confinement environment, where security concerns must take precedence to clinical decisions.” Advocates and mental health experts argue that placement in a correctional setting is not only dehumanizing but fundamentally detrimental to treatment. Vermont Public Radio

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Since 2020, over 850 men and women have sued the state of New Hampshire alleging that they were abused at the Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester. While the case is not set for trial until March 2024, ten former workers at the center have been charged with sexually assaulting or aiding in the assaults of dozens of youth between 1994 and 2007. Concerns have been raised over the ability of the state’s attorney to simultaneously defend the state against the class action suit and prosecute the criminal charges against the workers without making contradictory arguments. New Hampshire Public Radio

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A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the family of Joshua Swann, who died in the custody of the Clay County (Florida) Sheriff’s Department. The suit alleges that Swann “was held in solitary confinement for undisclosed reasons” and denied food, water, and medical care before being found dead in his cell on March 6, 2023. At the time of his arrest for misdemeanor battery, Swann was voluntarily seeking psychiatric treatment at Orange Park Medical Center’s Psychiatric Ward. First Coast News

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Hayden Schuck, 22, died of dehydration six days after being moved into a single-cell at San Diego County Jail. A year after his death, Schuck’s family is suing San Diego County along with several of the guards and nurses responsible for his supervision while in custody. Although the jail officials stated that Schuck was examined multiple times by medical staff, some of the medical records do not match the timeline of his death. According to recent settlements San Diego County has paid over $37 million for injuries, suicides, and deaths in their facilities since 2018 alone. CBS8

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