American Psychological Association Resolution Calls for Ban on Youth Solitary…And Other News on Solitary Confinement This Week

Seven Days in Solitary for the Week Ending 3/13/24

by | March 13, 2024

New this week from Solitary Watch:

William Blake lived in solitary confinement for 34 years while incarcerated in the New York state prison system, an experience he wrote in the viral essay “A Sentence Worse Than Death.” In 2021, he was released into the general population without receiving any transitional support or mental health treatment for the three decades of torture he endured while in solitary. According to Blake, now 60, six months ago he experienced a psychotic break from the untreated effects of solitary which landed him back in isolation at Attica Correctional Facility. In the latest entry in our Voices from Solitary series, Blake writes about New York prison officials’ failures to adhere to the civil protections promised by the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act. Solitary Watch

Solitary Watch Editor-in-Chief Juan Moreno Haines and co-author Steve Brooks, recipient of a grant from our Ridgeway Reporting Project, have a new piece out on the New Republic entitled “Climate Change Is Turning Prisons Into Death Traps.” The authors, both journalists incarcerated at San Quentin, write: “Heat waves and floods are making Californian prisons increasingly unlivable. The state needs a better plan to address that.”

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

The American Psychological Association (APA) has adopted a resolution that calls for prohibiting youth from being placed in solitary confinement, except for emergencies where a young person is in immediate danger of serious physical harm to themselves and others. Other highlights of the resolution include limiting emergency placements to the shortest time possible, implementing alternatives to confinement, and emphasizing the importance of monitoring and ongoing mental health support for youth in isolation. The measure passed in a 154-2 vote by APA’s governing Council of Representatives, who cited the serious and lasting effects of solitary confinement on mental health and development. According to APA President Cynthia de las Fuentes, PhD, “APA stands firm in its opposition to the isolation of youth in juvenile justice settings.” American Psychological Association | The resolution comes as the Maryland legislature considers passing HB855 to limit the use of solitary confinement on incarcerated youth. Human Rights for Kids

A recent Louisiana bill changes sentencing requirements for 17-year-olds, moving them out of the juvenile justice system and into the adult system. When in adult facilities, teenagers are uniquely vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse and federal law requires that they be separated from the adult population, which in practice often means placement in solitary confinement. The passing of Senate Bill 3 will result in a massive increase in the overall prison population in Louisiana and a heavy reliance on solitary for teens due to a lack of adequate housing. Bolts

Native American activist Leonard Peltier has spent the past four of his 48 years incarcerated at USP Coleman in Florida on constant lockdowns in a maximum security isolation cell. The facility operates as a kind of “black site,” equipped with cellphone-dampening technology and heavily armed guards who perform gunfire “practice” sessions with live ammunition. Although the friends and family of people incarcerated at the facility report being unable to reach their loved ones and receiving no explanation for the lockdowns, the federal system’s culture of retaliation makes incarcerated people reluctant to discuss the dangerous conditions and treatment at the facility. Truthout 

In 2017, Craig Riley was beaten so badly by two Florida correctional officers that he was left paralyzed from the neck down. Riley maintains that the beating was retaliation for a complaint he filed against a guard who threatened him. Although the officers who beat Riley maintained the injury resulted from restraints, medical staff found evidence that one of them had stomped on his neck. Despite the severity of his injuries, twelve hours after the attack doctors at the Reception and Medical Center cleared Riley to be placed in solitary confinement instead of being transported to the hospital. Riley’s case is just one of many illustrating the inadequate and sometimes deadly state of healthcare in prisons and jails in Florida and beyond. Florida Trident/WGCU

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Muslim Air Force Airman incarcerated at Naval Base Charleston, who was placed in solitary confinement for refusing to shave his religious beard. According to the lawsuit, U.S. military officials violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by punishing the Airman with almost a year of isolation instead of accommodating the beard as is required by law. CAIR 

A 61-year-old immigrant man was found dead in his cell at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in Tacoma, Washington. Although medical examiners have not released the cause of death, local advocates state that the man was being held in solitary confinement. This death marks the third at the facility since it opened in 2004, including one suicide that took place in solitary confinement. The Spokesman-Review | The death comes on the heels of a recent report found that approximately 38,000 immigrants are currently housed in isolation at ICE facilities. Although ICE policy limits the use of solitary to 30 days, the investigation found the average length of solitary placements to be 55 days and some immigrants have been held in isolation for a year or more. WBUR

Two women incarcerated at the federal medical center FMC Carswell have filed lawsuits alleging that they were raped by a former employee at the facility. These lawsuits are the latest in a series of litigation bringing attention to rampant sexual abuse across the federal system. According to advocates, women who report sexual abuse are almost immediately placed in solitary confinement, deterring many from coming forward with their experiences. KERA News

California may face up to $40 million in fines due to failures to improve and maintain suicide prevention measures in its prisons. A U.S. District Judge has ordered the state’s correctional department to implement 15 suicide prevention protocols that have been lacking for nearly a decade. Among the protocols are safeguards for individuals housed in solitary confinement. According to the report, the state has continuously failed to house incarcerated people in suicide-resistant cells when they are first placed in segregation. California Healthline

Despite his numerous promises on the 2020 campaign trail, Joe Biden has failed to deliver reforms to the criminal justice system. Cassandra Greer, whose husband died in jail, argues that as November’s election approaches, the President has an opportunity to deliver on those promises, which include passing federal legislation limiting the use of solitary confinement. The End Solitary Confinement Act, which broadly bans the use of solitary confinement in federal prisons, jails, and detention centers, has broad support from a coalition of Democrats and would allow President Biden to increase support for his campaign from justice-minded voters. The Appeal 

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