Victims of Sexual Abuse by Prison Staff Face Additional Punishment…and Other News on Solitary Confinement This Week

Seven Days in Solitary for the Week Ending 11/1/23

by | November 1, 2023

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

A new series from The Guardian explores the widespread sexual abuse by prison staff at California Central Women’s Facility. Analysis of court records and misconduct reports reveal a system that allows some guards to prey on incarcerated women, and silences the women with threats of disciplinary write-ups and solitary confinement. Since 2014, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has moved to terminate approximately 17 officers accused of sexual misconduct. However, only four were successfully terminated—the other thirteen retired or resigned before being found guilty. One officer, Gregory Rodriguez, is currently awaiting trail after pleading not guilty to 96 sexual abuse charges. Rodriguez has been accused of sexually assaulting more than 22 incarcerated women over the last decade. According to one of Rodriguez’s accusers, “we’re not only prisoners in here, we’re women, and we’re reminded of that through widespread male violence.” | The Guardian 

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In the North Unit at Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center, a child sits naked and covered in feces in an isolation cell. Outside, a female staff member films the child through a window in the door, but doesn’t intervene. Even as the child begins to harm herself, no one helps her. This is just one example in the decades-long history of abuse and neglect at Vermont’s only youth correctional facility. Despite the documented evidence of mistreatment, the Vermont state legislature and attorney general’s office have shown little interest in intervening at Woodside. | Seven Days Vermont 

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Following a report from the Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Task Force, legislation was introduced  to make significant changes to the state’s juvenile justice system. In a recent webinar, the Youth Safety Caucus announced that HB 1381 has passed the House Judiciary Committee. Among other things, the bill would prohibit youth from being placed in solitary confinement and prioritize diversion programs. | WHYY

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In a recent op-ed, Stop Solitary CT lead organizer Barbara Fair describes why it is necessary to pass legislation establishing independent oversight of Connecticut’s correctional facilities. The Protect Act was passed in May 2022, limiting the use of solitary confinement in Connecticut. However, without independent oversight, facilities have often failed to fully implement and adhere to the law. | Hartford Courant

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According to a new report, incarcerated people with dementia are frequently housed in isolation in Baltimore jails. One man with dementia was sent to isolation after being assaulted in general population. Prior to being sent to isolation, he was evaluated by a psychiatrist who noted potential cognitive issues, but instead of sending him to the infirmary the man was put on psychotropic medication and returned to general population. The independent doctor assigned to monitor medical care within the Baltimore jail system stated that the state correctional department should review all such cases to determine “how someone with dementia was sent to general population housing.” | The Baltimore Banner

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Penpal programs often act as a lifeline for incarcerated people, especially vulnerable individuals like members of the LGBTQ+ community. The Massachusetts organization Black Pink developed their penpal program to provide support for LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS positive incarcerated people. According to the organization’s leader, Michael Cox, the presence of a penpal can sometimes prevent incarcerated people from being targeted. Cox states, “It does sort of form this unspoken, intangible little shield around people—not a real one, not impenetrable—but guards would think twice, right?” | WGBH | Solitary Watch’s penpal program Lifelines to Solitary plays a similar role for those in solitary confinement.

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