Anti-Solitary Bills Advance in California and Nevada…and Other News on Solitary Confinement This Week

Seven Days in Solitary for the Week Ending 6/7/23

by | June 8, 2023

New From Solitary Watch:

In the latest edition of our monthly dispatch “The Word from Solitary Watch,” director Jean Casella discusses the new report Calculating Torture, which undertakes the most complete count to date of people in solitary in prisons and jails, and lands on the shocking figure of 122,840. The numbers matter, she writes, in part because “every person in solitary confinement is a suffering human soul who, at the very least, deserves to be counted.” Solitary Watch

This week’s pick of news and commentary about solitary confinement:

The California Mandela Act on Solitary Confinement (AB 280) passed the State Assembly and is moving to vote in the Senate. If AB 280 becomes law, California will join just a handful of states in placing strict limits on why and how long a person can be placed in solitary confinement. AB 280 would completely prohibit the state from placing pregnant people, the elderly, and people with serious disabilities in solitary. A similar bill passed the legislature last year but was vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom. Assemblymember Chris Holden stated, “The community support for this bill has only grown because people are still suffering.” Pasadena Now

• • •

Nevada Bill SB 307 unanimously passed in the State Senate and awaits a vote from the Assembly Judiciary Committee.  It would allow facilities to hold someone in solitary confinement for only 15 days, unless officers determine an extension necessary to protect the safety of other incarcerated people. However, the bill stipulates that within 24 hours of the extension, a multidisciplinary team—including a mental health clinician, case worker, and associate warden—must file a report with the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) and continue to do so every subsequent 15 day period. Additionally, the bill requires the NDOC to submit an annual report to legislators including the number of people held in solitary throughout the year, demographic data for those held in solitary, the length of each solitary sentence, and a justification for each person held longer than 15 days. The Nevada Independent

• • •

Therapists and clinicians working in prisons and jails often face ethical dilemmas when assessing and treating people in solitary confinement, and can face “moral injury” when their obligations to their patients conflict with facility policy. Despite Colorado’s laws restricting the use of solitary, loopholes exist for people determined to be threats to themselves or others. In these cases, clinicians, particularly those who work in county jails, are forced to decide between placing someone with a serious mental illness in solitary or on suicide watch. Joel Watts, a therapist at Delta County Jail says that sometimes separating people with mental health issues is necessary for the safety of the patient and others, but “it’s a Catch-22. In putting them in isolation, we know they’re going to get worse.” Even persons who enter solitary without a mental illness will likely develop one by the time they leave. Colorado SunKUNC

• • •

Five employees at the federal prison FCI Dublin face charges of sexually abusing women in custody—and 26 of the women now facing deportation after complying with a federal investigation into the abuse at FCI Dublin. One woman, Haidi, says she was threatened with solitary confinement and potential harm to her children after refusing sexual advances from her work supervisor. “I felt like I had to let it happen….I didn’t want to go to the SHU, and I didn’t want to stay in prison longer.” Susan Beaty, the supervising attorney representing the women, has requested the U.S. Attorney’s Office grant them U Visas, which provide temporary immigration status to victims of sexual violence and trafficking. But despite the essential role they played in the case against FCI Dublin, 11 of the 26 women have already been deported. Beaty argues, “It is the responsibility of the federal government, including and especially the U.S. Attorney’s Office, to safeguard noncitizen survivors from indefinite detention, exile, and permanent separation from their families.” The Appeal

• • •

At this year’s annual synod, the United Church of Christ (UCC) will consider a resolution condemning solitary confinement as torture. In a recent commentary on the UCC website, Laura Markle Downton of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) issued a moral call for congregants to oppose the practice. In a recent film released by NRCAT, solitary survivor Antonne Henshaw states, “You should be concerned because it’s done in the interest of the citizens in …the state, or the county, [where] the person is being punished…And this is why it’s important to say, ‘no, I don’t need that kind of protection.” The commentary also offers action items for individuals and congregations to oppose solitary confinement locally and nationally. United Church of Christ

• • •

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, prolonged individual isolation and facility-wide lockdowns were justified as a medical necessity to prevent the spread of the disease in carceral facilities. During the pandemic, medical isolation in U.S. prisons and jails increased nearly 500 percent. Isolation under the guise of medical necessity was also used during the HIV/AIDS epidemic to separate people living with HIV. Despite contradicting public health information, 46 out of 51 states and federal prison systems instituted segregation policies for HIV. Although nearly half of states have introduced or passed some legislation regulating the use of solitary confinement, medical isolation continues to act as a legal loophole.  Health Affairs

• • •

Get this weekly roundup in your mail every Wednesday, covering the past seven days of solitary confinement news and commentary. Subscribe today.

The work we do is made possible by your support. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation—large or small—today.


Solitary Watch encourages comments and welcomes a range of ideas, opinions, debates, and respectful disagreement. We do not allow name-calling, bullying, cursing, or personal attacks of any kind. Any embedded links should be to information relevant to the conversation. Comments that violate these guidelines will be removed, and repeat offenders will be blocked. Thank you for your cooperation.

Leave a Reply

Discover more from Solitary Watch

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading