Georgia Jail Guard Used a Chain to Strangle a Man in a Solitary Cell…and Other News on Solitary Confinement This Week

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

by | April 24, 2024

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

In 2022, Appling County Jail officer William Rentz allegedly wrapped a chain around Tremar Harris’s neck while he and three other guards restrained Harris to a chair in solitary confinement. During the assault, Rentz, who is white, is also accused of telling Harris, who is Black, that he was “gonna put you back in the cotton field with the other boys.” Although Rentz was fired after the incident and is currently facing criminal charges, Harris recently filed a civil complaint against the other three guards present during the incident. According to the complaint, the failure of the other staff members to intervene amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Miami Herald | Video footage of the incident shows Harris restrained to a chair in solitary confinement with his eyes closed in mouth open when Rentz wrapped a loose leg restrain around his neck. The suit alleges that not only did the other three officers fail to intervene, but they also did not document or report the incident. WTOC

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According to a new lawsuit, staff at New York’s Broome County Jail use threats of solitary confinement and other punishments to force people in pretrial detention to submit to unpaid labor. In one case, a man was sent to solitary confinement when he refused to continue working after he worked more than 500 hours in the facility’s kitchen for free. A contract between Broome County and Trinity Services, which supplies food at the facility, requires the jail to provide at least seven incarcerated people to work in food service. The contract allows both the county and Trinity to avoid paying minimum wage and taxes by weaponizing “a culture of fear among [prison] workers.” The Appeal

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Paris Hilton recently testified at the California State Capitol in favor of a bill requiring increased transparency for youth treatment facilities. Senate Bill 1043 comes as a response to horrific accounts of psychological and physical abuse experienced by survivors of the troubled teen industry, including widespread use of solitary confinement. Hilton, who was held in a private Utah facility when she was 17, stated, “if I tried to tell my parents about the abuse, the staff would immediately rip the phone from my hand, disconnect the call and I’d be subject to violent physical restraints and solitary confinement.” If passed, SB 1043 would make available a database of all restraint and seclusion practices used by each youth treatment facility licensed in California. CBS Sacramento

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Paul Torres spent 90 days in solitary confinement in a federal jail for not wearing a shirt in his cell. He later stated that “in solitary, they are trying to break you without realizing that most people in [prison] are there because someone else already tried to break them.” Recounting Torres’s experience in a recent op-ed, U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-MD) called for the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and other jurisdictions to immediately reform the use of solitary confinement. Studies and testimony from other survivors of solitary show that time in isolation almost always makes existing behavioral problems worse and frequently creates new mental health issues. However, agencies like the BOP continue to fail to implement government recommendations for improving the treatment of incarcerated people.  The Baltimore Sun

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Five transgender and nonbinary people detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have filed a civil rights complaint for discrimination, harassment, and mistreatment faced while at Aurora Contract Detention Facility. According to the complaint, the individuals have faced inadequate gender-affirming care, dehumanizing housing conditions, and a lack of mental health treatment among other issues. Despite the facility having a housing pod specifically for trans and nonbinary detainees, some complainants stated they were placed in isolation for 23-24 hours a day. Gay City News

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