Most Immigrant Deaths in ICE Detention Were Preventable…and Other News on Solitary Confinement This Week

Seven Days in Solitary for the Week Ending 7/3/24

by | July 3, 2024

New this week from Solitary Watch:

For Solitary Watch readers who are inspired to take action against the pervasive practice of solitary confinement, the Resources section on our website (see top menu) now includes Resources for Action. This curated selection of national organizations and state campaigns offers a starting point for getting involved in the movement to end solitary. Solitary Watch

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

The majority of immigrant deaths in ICE custody were preventable, a new report by the ACLU, Physicians for Human Rights, and American Oversight found. The study, Deadly Failures, found that ICE systematically failed to care for immigrants in its care, with medical staff making wrong or incomplete diagnoses, delaying emergency care, and offering inadequate mental health support. In one such case, staff interpreted one woman’s health concerns as suicidal thoughts and placed her in solitary confinement, where she died from liver failure—a mistake which a later ICE investigation failed to disclose. Mother Jones | In an interview with The Conversation, emergency physician and researcher Cara Buchanan discussed the report and its proposed reforms, which include a solitary confinement ban. The Conversation

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A class-action complaint filed in Nashville last week claims that the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services is abusing children in state custody. Allegations include physical abuse, such as pepper spray and beatings, denial of proper medical care, and the  use of solitary confinement, which is banned by state law. The complaint argues that while the department knows about these issues, a “policy of inaction” permits continued harm towards children in juvenile justice facilities, including many who live with disabilities. WPLN | Tennessee Lookout  

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A new report by the National Immigration Justice Center, Immigration Equality, and Human Rights First found that LGBTQ+ and HIV-positive immigrants face abuse while in U.S. custody. Forty-one surveyed participants shared experiences of harassment, physical attacks, and medical neglect—often after fleeing violence and unsafe environments in their home countries. Over half said they have spent time in solitary confinement, sometimes after expressing suicidal idealations due to continued abuse, or as a way to escape abuse itself. Newsweek  

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Activists rallied at the Michigan House of Representatives Building, calling for legislation to reform the state’s criminal justice system. Speakers advocated for various bills, including a proposed ban on life without parole for minors and a complete ban on solitary confinement. Charmie Gholson, a representative for Citizens for Prison Reform, advocated for the solitary ban, arguing that the Michigan Department of Correction hides the extent and damage of the practice. WLNS

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Media personality Paris Hilton testified before Congress on her experiences at a residential youth treatment camp, detailing years of alleged abuse that included solitary confinement. Hilton’s testimony comes amidst increased scrutiny of the “troubled teen” industry, a range of programs that profess to rehabilitate struggling teenagers. Many states, however, do not adequately oversee these treatment programs or track allegations of abuse, resulting in a push for greater federal oversight. “These programs promised ‘healing, growth, and support’ but instead did not allow me to speak, move freely, or even look out a window for two years,” Hilton said. Teen Vogue

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In Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center, a January 6 defendant is currently on a hunger strike while in solitary confinement as a protest against the jail’s infraction system. The defendant, who is charged with attacking police officers with a baseball bat during the January 6 U.S. Capitol attack, began his protest after receiving an infraction which he claims is untrue. A filing by his defense further alleged threats of force-feeding and a cut-off water supply. Raw Story   

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In a written interview, filmmakers JoeBill Muñoz and Lucas Guilkey discussed the creation of their recent feature documentary The Strike, which follows a 2013 prison hunger strike that began in a California supermax prison. Over 30,000 incarcerated people—the largest hunger strike in U.S. history—protested prison conditions, particularly the mass-scale use of solitary confinement. The ensuing scrutiny resulted in a five-year limit on solitary confinement stays. Yet Muñoz and Guilkey explained that the fight for reform is ongoing, as five-years is a “far cry” from a 15-day limit on solitary. “This is the political battle the protagonists of our film are now fighting in the present day,” they wrote. Berkeley Journalism 

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