Incarcerated Children Face Isolation, Abuse, and Scorching Heat…and Other News on Solitary Confinement This Week

Seven Days in Solitary for the Week Ending 7/26/23

by | July 26, 2023

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

Children incarcerated in the former death row unit of Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, an adult maximum security prison, are being held in dangerous conditions as heat indexes in the state reach up to 133 degrees. According to the ACLU of Louisiana, the mostly Black youth are confined to windowless cells for up to 24 hours a day without air conditioning. In recent court filings, one child states that he was maced in his cell the day after receiving open wounds on his back from being thrown against a wall by staff. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards stated that placing children in the adult maximum security facility was a temporary solution to problems at existing youth facilities. However, the state has since invested millions of dollars in keeping the children at Angola. As a local advocate notes, Louisiana has historically relied heavily on the overuse of unlawful solitary confinement” on youth. In addition, “The vast majority of youth in the Louisiana youth incarceration system are Black teens, including many who have behavioral and mental health issues and have experienced trauma. Black youth are six times more likely than White youth to face incarceration.” Truthout | Times-Picayune

• • •

Past its vibrantly colored hallways and communal garden, children incarcerated at the Bernalillo County Youth Services Center (YSC) are housed in harsh and dehumanizing conditions similar to solitary confinement. According to the facility’s director, approximately 70 percent of staff positions at YSC are unfilled. The chronic understaffing has resulted in some children being held in temporary booking cells without toilets or sinks for weeks at a time. Additionally, despite the facility’s investment in two contraband detection machines, children at the facility are routinely subjected to strip searches. Alex Padilla, 21, stated that she was strip searched over 150 times during her three year sentence at YSC and if she refused she would be locked in her cell until she consented. Searchlight New Mexico

• • •

Incarcerated transgender people face high rates of physical and sexual assault due to their gender identity. However, bias and neglect from correctional officials often means being placed in solitary confinement instead of receiving protection from staff. A recent Bureau of Prisons report shows transgender people in federal prisons are two to three times more likely to be placed in solitary confinement than their cisgender counterparts. According to a lawyer at the Transgender Law Center, placing transgender people in solitary confinement “treats the trans person as the problem rather than the violence as the problem.” The Nation

• • •

As the relentless heat wave continues, incarcerated people in Texas face skyrocketing water prices and increasingly dangerous conditions. One incarcerated woman with asthma stated she has watched her food melt inside her cell and that the “heat has [taken] a toll on me mentally because I feel as if I can’t think straight, and I get angry.” According to data from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice 68 of the 100 facilities without air conditioning recorded average temperatures above 85 degrees. Despite the rising temperatures, the commissary vendor contracted by TDCJ has raised the price of bottled water from $4.80 per case of 24 bottles to $7.20 per case as of June 27. KUT | Insider | Kwaneta Harris, an incarcerated writer held in solitary confinement, reports that she is “not even allowed to shade my window from the blazing sun” because it is deemed a “security threat.” She continues: “Once, when I fainted, medical staff recorded my cell temperature at 129 degrees. During heat waves, I pour tepid tap water on the cement floor and my underclothes and lie in it very still. Being sautéed wasn’t part of my plea bargain.” Dallas Morning News

• • •

As a result of ongoing litigation in Federal Court, the Rhode Island Department of Corrections has announced major changes to its solitary confinement policies. The most significant change is the implementation of a 30-day confinement limit for the most serious disciplinary offenses and a 15-day limit for all other offenses. Additionally, incarcerated individuals must now undergo medical and psychiatric evaluations prior to placement in solitary confinement. The new policies also prohibit the stacking of disciplinary charges to prevent people from being held in isolation past 30 days. Once placed in solitary confinement, individuals are now required two hours of out of cell time per day for the first 15 days of their sentence, and three hours out of cell time each day after 15 days. After the 30-day maximum has been reached, individuals held in solitary must either be returned to general population or placed in a new step-down program called the “Restorative Housing Program.”  Uprise RI

• • •

Recent research shows that the use of solitary confinement in prisons echo entrenched patterns of racial discrimination responsible for the mass incarceration of people of color. Although there is no evidence showing that people of color are more likely to commit misconduct while incarcerated, they are more likely to be sentenced to solitary confinement than their white counterparts. However, the structure of solitary confinement increases animosity between incarcerated people of color and majority white correctional staff. These systems of inequality in prison that result in solitary confinement mirror those which criminalize poverty in communities of color across America. The Fulcrum 

• • •

Officials at the Boulder County Jail continue to place people with mental illness in solitary confinement despite a 2021 law prohibiting the practice. Although more than half the population of the Boulder County Jail have diagnosed mental illnesses, officials cite staffing shortages, design limitations, and overcrowding as the reasons why many people are left alone in their cells all day. Despite having allocated almost half-a-million dollars in county funds for mental health staff, the facility has hired one person. KUNC

• • •

In a recent essay, solitary survivor and Voices From Solitary contributing writer Ray Williams describes the impact of his incarceration on his memories and relationships. The powerful piece highlights the role abuse at home plays in childhood incarceration and William’s struggle to be a father while incarcerated. Throughout the piece Williams uses flashbacks to relate his emotional experience to the memories of his journey through the justice system. Spectre Journal

• • •

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