Settlement Reached on Mental Health Treatment at Pennsylvania Jail…and Other News on Solitary Confinement This Week

Seven Days in Solitary for the Week Ending 3/27/24

by | March 27, 2024

New this week from Solitary Watch:

Incarcerated journalist and Solitary Watch contributing writer Kwaneta Harris has spent the last eight years in solitary confinement. Her powerful and shocking stories expose how the intersections of gender, race, and place contribute to state-sanctioned, gender-based violence. In a recent piece for Voices from Solitary, Harris explores the unique barriers to developing a mindfulness and meditation practice in solitary confinement. Solitary Watch 

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

Two pro-bono law firms have reached a settlement agreement that could resolve a 2020 class action lawsuit over the treatment of people with psychiatric disabilities at the Allegheny County Jail. According to the consent order, the jail would be required to implement measures to improve conditions by reigning in the use of force and meeting required staffing levels. Several plaintiffs in the case testified to their experiences with excessive use of force and prolonged solitary confinement at the jail. One expert who participated in an on-site investigation for the settlement called the jail’s treatment of incarcerated people with psychiatric disabilities “shockingly substandard.” Public Source

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In response to increased attention over the number of suicides in its facilities, the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) began putting up posters for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. The hotline has proved ineffective and there have been 150 suicides throughout the GDC since the posters went up in 2018. One of the main challenges to the hotlines is that the majority of suicides occur in solitary confinement where incarcerated people have no access to phones. Not only that, but incarcerated people in general population who may be suicidal don’t use the hotline out of fear that guards will place them in solitary confinement for mental health observation if they overhear the conversations. Filter 

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The New Hampshire Senate passed legislation to expand the scope of out-of-court settlements for victims of abuse at Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester. There are currently more than 1,200 lawsuits pending against the state alleging physical, sexual, and emotional abuse experienced at the facility over the last 60 years. The bill, which must still pass in the House, would establish a $100 million settlement fund with a two-year application period and raise settlement limits for a number of claims. Under the law, victims of sexual abuse would become eligible for up to $2.5 million in settlement money, victims of non-sexual abuse could receive up to $250,000, and individuals who claim they were held in solitary confinement could get up to $100,000. Valley News

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At least five suicides have occurred and more than 300 people have gone on hunger strike since Charles Leo Daniel died while in solitary confinement at Northwest Detention Center (NWDC). Although advocates suspect Daniel died by suicide, a preliminary report listed his cause of death as unknown and ICE officials are still conducting their own investigation. For years, NWDC has been involved in ongoing legal battles with Washington state over conditions at the facility. However, a judge blocked the state from enforcing oversight laws just days after Daniel’s death. Truthout

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Sterling Cunio was 17 years old when prosecutors deemed him “criminally old beyond his years” and a judge sentenced him to life in prison. However, Cunio was first arrested for the crime at 15 and spent the two years leading up to his trial alone in a mental health unit cell at the county jail. In a recent podcast episode, Cunio describes his first experience in isolation, the time he spent in solitary confinement later on in prison, and the important role reading played in mitigating the psychological effects of solitary. Cellblocks to Mountaintops 

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In 1993, Ricky Smith was placed in solitary confinement by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) after he attempted to escape prison. After spending the last 30 years in solitary, Smith is now petitioning TDCJ to be released into general population. However, TDCJ claims that they do not have solitary confinement, rather, they practice “security detention.” Regardless of the name, people in Smith’s unit are confined alone in their cells for 23 hours a day. Smith, now 56, argues that he no longer presents a security risk and cites a clean disciplinary record since his last escape attempt as the reason why he should be released. The Austin Chronicle

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1 comment

  • Suicide Supervision is solitary confinement. People on medications who act out because they haven’t been given their medications & threatens self harm are diagnosed as being a danger to themselves & are moved out of general population & kept in solitary confinement cells which contribute to their mental state, while correctonal guards & medical-staff ignore them. I have a personal interest in these articles because I lost a brother to a (supposed) suicide in NCCC/NUMC on January 3, 2011. I write ‘supposed’ suicide because my brother, Darryl Woody, was beaten by two NCPD detectives inside a police interview room on December 24, 2010, which had video cameras. When he was transferred to NCCC, Darryl was immediately placed on suicide watch [solitary confinement] to prevent him from dealing exposing what had been done to him by NCPD. Darryl was denied his medications while in solitary confinement despite begging for them. When he acted out to receive medical attention, Darryl was again beaten by 7 NCCC Sheriff’s Officer’s Association correctional union jail guards repeatedly throughout the night after the jail guards reported that Darryl had somehow climbed up to the ceiling in a suicide prevention cell and took apart a smoke detector and used it to slash his wrists & neck (supposedly). This is when the jail guards executed a cell extractions using blunt force & pepper spray to subdue Darryl. Darryl was said to had been taken to the medical unit after he was ( supposedly) showered for decontamination as reported by the attending nurse, who reported that Darryl was treated several more times after the 1st incident whi h led to the initial cell extraction on December 26, 2010. 18 hours later Darryl Woody, while still beaten Unconscious, was propped up & posed butt-naked with his hands behind his back, shackles on his ankles, placed up against a door frome in a fetal position with his head (neck) deliberately turned away from the camera & then photographed beaten & bloodied befire being transferred next door to NUMC & placed on 1to1 24 hour Constant Guard Suicide Supervision (suicide-watch) with a NCCC jail guard (supposedly) sitting 6ft away from his cell/location directly observing Darryl. 8 days later it was reported that Darryl committed suicide by hanging. His death was captured on 24 hour video surveillance camera monitoring recordings that were omitted from Darryl Homicide Investigation/Probe. Three video ps from NCPD, NCCC, & NUMC that were not disclosed during Woody’s family’s Discovery Hearings in the ongoing Matter of Darryl Woody’s $140 million Wrongful Death Civil Lawsuit filed against Nassau County, NCPD, NCCC, NUMC, & NYS. Case file #017721/2011. Nassau County, 12 years later, is hiding the truth by denying access to the three damaging videos that were criminally omitted from Darryl Woody’s Homicide Investigation/Probe. 12 years & 5 intimidated, unethical lawyers later, this case is still active/pending, but on stay in the Nassau County Supreme Courts in Mineola, N.Y. where a persistent, relentless Supreme Court Judge has repeatedly denied access to the three videos; Acting in concert, & in criminal collaboration with this continuing egregious miscarriage of Justice that’s still being perpetrated against Darryl Woody’s family more than 12 years later! “I Am My Brother’s Keeper!” I am also the Administrator of Darryl’s Lawsuit. I can’t get justice because my lawyers were too intimidated to go against Nassau County’s corrupt establishment. Video Surveillance Cameras in police lock-ups, jails, jail medical wards, prisons, police car/body-cam recordings don’t lie! Release the three video now! Justice Delayed is Justice Denied! There’s no voice for thise who have been silenced by solitary confinement & later suicide by the correctional system to hide the truth about the Culture of Brutality in the penal system. Maybe the author of this article can be the of change, transparency, and accountability for individuals like Darryl Woody who didn’t stand a chance in solitary confinement. People with mental illness should still have a voice when nobody’s listening! Case #017721/2011. “What About Darryl Woody!” ‘We can handle the truth!’ Release the videos_now! No Justice, No Peace!

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