Tag Archives: maximum security

CA: Solitary confinement case set to expand

From the article: “A federal judge Thursday said she is likely to allow a lawsuit alleging that solitary confinement conditions at Pelican Bay State Prison amount to psychological torture, to be expanded from the cases of 10 prisoners to include about 1,100 inmates now held in indefinite isolation.”

According to the article, there are 500 men who have been held in solitary confinement (defined in the article as 22.5 hour per day lockdown) for more than a decade.  Unbelievable.

Read more from the article here.

The reality is that not all solitary confinement is created equally.  Speaking from my state, some segregation units are relatively humane, with inmates who have access to adequate food, lighting, recreation opportunities, reading material, and who report few concerns.  Other segregation units (I am thinking of one in particular) are the not-so-good scenario, with inmates who are in a sensory-deprived environment, where they can only get books if they pay off a porter, recreation is limited, etc.

What makes the difference?  Well, I can tell you.  The first issue is overcrowding.  Segregation is a microcosm of prison and just as on the compound, overcrowding taxes staff resources and makes staff go into “survival mode,” where they do even less than they might have otherwise done for a population that they could handle.  This results in a negative spiral, as inmates’ issues are not addressed, so they become frustrated, so they act out, so staff react negatively, etc.

The second issue is the time that inmates are kept in segregation, which is not always (sometimes not even frequently) within the control of staff, particularly if inmates are waiting for a disciplinary transfer.  They could be back there for months, or even a year.  This results in a huge amount of frustration (understandably, in my opinion).  Staff feel helpless.  Again, a negative spiral.

The third issue is in fact the type of inmate that you’re housing, although in my opinion this is less of an issue than the above two.  The inmate is in the most secure environment, so security classification seems less of an issue.  However, it is certainly the higher security inmates who engage in the most disruption (breaking off sprinkler heads, flooding the range, creating a disturbance, etc).

So, is it always psychological torture?  I would say no when you are talking about a short term stay in an under-capacity unit with a manageable population.  But a definitive yes to the overcrowded, under-resourced segs where inmates just sit with nothing to do for months.  The only question is, what do you do with the inmates who have legitimately misbehaved in order to place themselves in the unit?

h/t Vera Institute

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OH: TOCI inmate dies after beating in prison yard

A third inmate dies at the Toledo facility in a year.  He was beaten by metal baseball bats by two other inmates on the recreation yard.

Read more here, here, and here.

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Calif. inmate hunger strike heads into 7th week

From the article: “Lawyers and advocates said that the roughly 70 inmates who have refused prison meals since July 8 want to start taking a liquid diet that includes fruit and vegetable juices, just as they said hunger-striking terrorism suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay are allowed to do. But California corrections officials define fruit and vegetable juices as food, and thus would reclassify inmates as not being on a hunger strike if they started drinking them.”

Interesting.  I think I would have to say that my first inclination is to side with California, at least regarding the calories.  How about you?

Read more of the article here.

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Calif. Prison Hunger-Strikers Being Blasted With Cold Air, Lawyers Say

From the article: “About 1,450 California prisoners participating in a mass hunger strike continued to refuse meals on Thursday, with some inmates alleging that prison officials are trying to break the campaign by blasting cells with cold air, according to lawyers and relatives.”

Read more here.

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CA: Inmate hunger strike wanes, but thousands continue refusing meals

From the article: “The number of inmates refusing meals as part of a statewide hunger strike has continued to drop, falling to 2,572 on Monday.”

Read more here.

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Calif. prison chief: Inmate hunger strike will harm cause

From the article: “The strike is the largest of three hunger strikes protesting conditions in California prisons in the last two years. After the earlier, smaller strikes, the department began its program giving gang members a way out of the isolation units. About half of the nearly 400 inmates considered so far have been or will be let out of solitary confinement, while another 115 are in a program in which they can work their way out of the units.”

Read more here.

I hate to be a little cynical here, but since the only benefits of the hunger strike are accruing to the state’s most powerful gang leaders, makes me wonder how many of the hunger strikers are under strict orders to refuse food.  Then again, that doesn’t mean that the goal isn’t worthy.

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CA: Prison hunger strikes begin at High Desert

From the article: “Thornton would not provide a copy of the prisoners’ list of demands, but said they include ‘larger food portions, more cleaning supplies, more access to the law library, the ability to purchase more soup, soap, coffee, snacks and food items from the canteen; and more TV channels. They also have concerns about the laundry and want the canteen to stock a wider selection of headphones and ear buds.'”

Inmates in other prisons have also threatened to hunger strike.  A particular complaint is the use of indefinite administrative segregation for gang members.

Read more here.

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OH: Toledo inmate indicted in prison attack, murder

From the article: “Dustin Lynch, 26, was indicted on two counts of aggravated murder in the March 17 death of Arturo Lopez, 43. Lynch also was indicted on one count of felonious assault for a March 10 attack on inmate Christopher Trent, 40. The attacks were part of a rising wave of violence at the prison since 2011 when the population increased and inmates were doubled up in single cells.”

Read more here.

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OH: Inmates moved after two assaults on MANCI guards

From the article: “Two reported assaults on Mansfield Correctional Institution guards didn’t surprise a former employee.

“That place is a ticking time bomb,” said Jerry Campbell, a former 17-year-guard at the Mansfield prison. “It’s been brewing over there for a very long time. I’m surprised it hasn’t blown up yet.”

Read the article here.

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Justice Department Finds Pennsylvania State Prison’s Use of Solitary Confinement Violates Rights of Prisoners Under the Constitution and Americans with Disabilities Act

A lot of attention on the use of solitary confinement and administrative segregation…which is a good thing.

From the press release: “Today, the Justice Department issued a findings letter detailing the results of its investigation into the use of solitary confinement on prisoners with serious mental illness at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Cresson in Cambria County, Pa.  The department found that Cresson’s use of long-term and extreme forms of solitary confinement on prisoners with serious mental illness, many of whom also have intellectual disabilities, violates their rights under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).”

Read more here.

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