NY Mayor Adams Vetoes Bill Banning Solitary in City Jails…and Other News on Solitary Confinement This Week

News and commentary on solitary confinement for the week ending 1/24/24

by | January 24, 2024

New this week from Solitary Watch:

Dillion Compton was only 16 years old when he was first tried and convicted as an adult in Texas. While incarcerated Compton spent almost nine years in temporary and long-term solitary confinement, and he has been on Death Row for the last five years. In a recent essay, Compton describes solitary confinement as “a world of un-natural, debilitating pressure,” and discusses how he copes with the mental and physical effects of his current circumstances. Solitary Watch 

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

New York City Mayor Eric Adams vetoed recent City Council legislation, Intro 549A, banning solitary confinement on Rikers Island and other New York City jails. In his remarks, Adams doubled-down on his claim that solitary confinement does not exist in the city’s jails, and called the Council’s labeling of current segregation policies as solitary “misinformation at its worst.” amNY | The New York City Council, which reportedly has the votes needed to override the mayor’s veto, issued a statement in response to “misleading comments made by Mayor Adams,” noting that “solitary is replicated in various forms on Rikers,” and that two people have already died on the island in the three weeks since this year began. New York City Council | New York City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams also issued a statement, which referred to the veto as “cowardly, weak, shameful, and entirely expected from this version of this mayor.” He went on to state that the current use of isolation, whatever its name, makes the city jails less safe, and called for the appointment of an independent federal monitor. NYC Public Advocate In an op-ed, Dr. Bandy X. Lee and Dr. James Gilligan, both experts in violence prevention in prisons and jails, applaud the City Council’s bill, and write: “Solitary confinement, in addition to being inhumane and deadly, is counterproductive. Rather than reducing violence or recidivism, it makes harmful conduct more likely because of the mental health consequences, including cognitive distortions, hallucinations, overwhelming rage, and destructive behaviors that result directly from social isolation and sensory deprivation. This vicious cycle keeps incarcerated people and jail staff in a chronic state of war with each other, and increases violence after people return to the community.” New York Daily News

A recent lawsuit alleges that children detained at Adair County Youth Detention Center in Kentucky are subjected to extended periods of solitary confinement and to psychological torture. One child at Adair reported he spent weeks in solitary confinement, where his cell’s window to the outside was covered and staff played the Spanish version of “Baby Shark” on indefinite repeat. Another girl stated she was denied access to hygiene products and forced to sit “soaked in menstrual blood” while being ridiculed by staff. The lawsuit comes after a recent request by the ACLU of Kentucky for a federal investigation into the “unsanitary and nearly uninhabitable” conditions and staff misconduct at Adair. The Daily Beast 

For decades, survivors of solitary confinement in New Jersey have shared their stories in hopes of bringing attention to the lasting physical and psychological trauma caused by the practice. Although the state passed legislation in 2019  limiting the use of solitary confinement to rare circumstances, issues with implementation still leaves many to suffer in isolation. Due to self-reporting and lack of transparency from within the Department of Corrections, it is impossible to ensure facilities are adhering to the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act (ICRA). NJ.com

According to advocates, Pennsylvania public officials and members of the media  have not adequately considered the consequences of prosecuting children as adults. Prosecuting children as adults exposes them to the dangers of adult correctional facilities and often leads to long-term placement in solitary confinement for “protection.” Additionally, by widely publicizing these cases, the media places the children involved at risk of being targeted and of lasting notoriety which could affect their ability to eventually reenter society. National Press

Staff, incarcerated people, and the NAACP are pressuring the Arlington (VA) County Sheriff’s Department to address dangerous and deteriorating conditions at the county jail. Chronic staffing shortages have resulted in incarcerated people being confined in their cells for up to 21 hours a day, denied showers, and receiving incorrect dosages of medication. One incarcerated man died of cardiovascular failure while in isolation due to staff negligence and lack of medical care. Other incarcerated people recount similar experiences with staff refusing to address illnesses and medical conditions during the ongoing lockdowns. ARLnow

Incarcerated people at Red Onion State Prison in Virginia continue their hunger strike to protest the facility’s use of long-term solitary confinement. According to prison rights activist Phil Wilayto, the strike has resulted in one man being hospitalized. Advocates are concerned over the health and welfare of the strike’s organizer, Kevin Rashid Johnson, who is currently battling cancer. Rashid has been described as a “thorn in the side” of not only the Virginia Prison System, but six other states where he has been previously incarcerated. While the Virginia Department of Corrections claims only five men are striking for separate reasons, individuals in contact with the strikers report that up to fourteen incarcerated men are participating. WVTF Meanwhile, Virginia Public Radio also reported on a man who set his cell on fire and received third degree burns in a desperate effort to be transferred out of Red Onion, after being placed in solitary and threatened by officers. WVTF

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