Hundreds of Doctors Urge Biden to End Solitary in ICE Facilities…and Other News on Solitary Confinement This Week

Seven Days in Solitary for the Week Ending 6/5/24

by | June 5, 2024

New from Solitary Watch: 

Incarcerated writer and Ridgeway Reporting Grant recipient Kwaneta Harris shares her experience with women’s solitary confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Harris highlights the rampant sexual abuse against women and girls inside TDCJ prisons perpetrated by staff and maintained through threats of solitary confinement. Beyond intimidation, Harris exposes how staff at TDCJ prisons prey on those isolated by solitary and use the harsh conditions to further remove them from any supportive contact. However, despite the terrible environment of solitary and prison, chosen families provide support for those suffering inside. Scalawag Magazine 

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

In a letter addressed to President Biden on Tuesday, 475 doctors and other health professionals called for an end to the use of solitary confinement in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers. During his 2020 campaign, President Biden pledged to move towards an end to the use of solitary in ICE facilities; however, the practice is still widely used. Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign promises a significant increase in incarceration and deportation of undocumented immigrants, posing a major threat of the expansion of solitary and unlivable conditions at ICE facilities. The health professionals recognize that solitary is a dangerous, abusive, and potentially deadly practice, and state that time is running out for the Biden administration to act.  TruthoutPhysicians for Human Rights 

A recent investigation found that at least 220 people have died in Ohio jails over the past four years. Jail staff ignored serious mental and physical health conditions, suicidal behavior, and withheld potentially lifesaving medicine and medical treatment from incarcerated people in their facilities. The investigation covers several cases in which incarcerated people exhibited serious risk behavior, including severe addiction withdrawals and suicidal actions. Those identified to be at risk of suicide were placed on “suicide watch,” which is solitary confinement. The Cincinnati Enquirer | Last year, Solitary Watch Senior Writer Katie Rose Quandt documented how suicide watch often becomes a death sentence for incarcerated people with mental health needs. The Nation

The battle to end solitary confinement continues in the U.S. Congress, where several members have introduced bills in the Senate and House of Representatives restricting the practice. However, prison officials say that they are unable to maintain safe conditions in prisons without it, despite clear evidence that solitary confinement increases violent behavior and exacerbates mental and physical health issues. Formerly incarcerated social justice advocate Shaka Senghor shared his experience in solitary in Michigan and pointed out that, despite small reforms, state officials have failed to create livable conditions in their solitary units.  Medill on the HillThe Detroit News 

Dozens more individuals who were incarcerated as young people filed lawsuits against Illinois youth detention centers seeking damages for sexual abuse. Some of these suits date back to the 1990s, showing the ongoing and severe sexual violence perpetrated by staff against incarcerated children. These suits are part of a developing movement exposing sexual violence against minors in detention centers nationwide. U.S. News 

Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison is notorious for its terrible conditions. In response to recent abuses, people incarcerated there have staged a hunger strike, alleging that prison officials deliberately cut water supplies for cells, forcing people to drink from toilet bowls. This is one instance of several in which staff at Red Onion are accused of deliberately neglecting or harming people incarcerated there. News 18

Beverly Brewster, a former Presbyterian minister who works with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, makes a moral argument against the use of solitary confinement. Sharing her experience touring a prison and spending time inside of a solitary confinement cell, Brewster calls on fellow Presbyterians and Christians to recognize the practice as unethical, and to support a resolution condemning it. The Presbyterian Outlook

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