Ninety Percent of Incarcerated Transgender People Report Experiencing Solitary Confinement…and Other News on Solitary Confinement This Week

Seven Days in Solitary for the Week Ending 4/10/24

by | April 10, 2024

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

A new report from the Vera Institute of Justice and Black & Pink documents the disproportionate abuse faced by transgender incarcerated people. Of the 280 respondents across 31 states, 90 percent stated they had been placed in solitary confinement. Current housing policies inadequately address the needs of transgender incarcerated people, and reforms are difficult to implement due to the group’s unique needs. While 66 percent of incarcerated trans women say they wish to be housed in women’s facilities, so do 58 percent of trans men. According to Jennifer Pierce, a senior researcher at Vera, addressing the needs of trans people in prison “goes against the way that prisons operate, which is having a single set of rigid rules that are applied unilaterally for everybody.” The Appeal

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The Federal Bureau of Prisons’ recent proposal to crack down on incarcerated people’s access to social media has been met with serious objections from civil rights groups. According to the proposed rule changes, “accessing, using, or maintaining social media, or directing others to establish or maintain social media accounts on the inmate’s behalf” would become a High-Level Security Violation and result in solitary confinement, damages to parole eligibility, and other punishments. The Appeal | Advocates have raised concerns that the policy would not only infringe on the First Amendment rights of incarcerated people but “would also seem to be an overreach by restricting the First Amendment rights of people who are not even in BOP custody.” In a statement, BOP spokesperson Kristie Breshears said that no changes are imminent and that the final proposal would be revised according to public comment. Reuters 

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In June 2022, after a decade of litigation, U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver found that the conditions of solitary confinement in Arizona violated the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. One year ago, she issued an injunction mandating that the Arizona Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (ADCR) bring their conditions of solitary confinement back in line with constitutional standards of basic human decency. Since then, the ADCR has made significant progress including preventing vulnerable groups from being subjected to solitary. However, there is still a long way to go to bring the state into compliance. ACLU 

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Although Colorado voted to eliminate forced prison labor from the state’s constitution in 2018, incarcerated people still face punishment for refusing to participate in work programs. Colorado Department of Corrections policies mandate incarcerated people to work unless they are participating in an approved training program. Pay for mandatory work ranges from 33 cents to $2 an hour and those who refuse to work can have their privileges revoked or be placed in solitary confinement. According to a 9News investigation, there have been over 700 documented cases of incarcerated people being punished for refusing to work since 2018. In response, some advocates are now turning to litigation to ensure CDOC is held accountable to the state’s constitution. Bolts 

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Illinois lawmakers are considering a law that would significantly limit the use of solitary confinement. The House Judiciary Criminal Committee recently passed the Nelson Mandela Act which would only allow a person to be placed in solitary confinement for 10 days in a 180-day time frame. After the 180-day period has passed, an individual could remain in disciplinary segregation but would be required to have at least 4 hours of out-of-cell time each day. WGEM 

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In a recent essay, incarcerated writer and Ridgeway Reporting Project Grant recipient Kwaneta Harris examines how the Texas Department of Criminal Justice tries to control women and their bodies by limiting access to knowledge. Throughout her time in solitary confinement, Harris has been denied access to a range of reading materials from copies of Good Housekeeping to books on healing childhood for containing content that violated TDCJ policies. By denying women in solitary access to reading material, TDCJ directly inhibits their abilities to improve their minds and sense of self. Lit Hub 

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