Summer Heat Kills Inmates in Prisons, and That Needs to Change

From: University of Texas – Austin

June 26, 2014

By Ariel Dulitzky, Director of the Human Rights Clinic; Alex Goeman & Samantha Chen, Students of the Human Rights Clinic

Searing heat and suffocating humidity levels are upon us here in the Southern states. In Texas, residents know that summers are brutal, but while we may be proud of our ability to withstand such extreme conditions, that cold blast of air conditioning when we walk indoors is a welcome respite from the heat outside. In fact, prolonged exposure to temperatures as low as 90 degrees Fahrenheit, when combined with high humidity levels, can put even the healthiest individuals in extreme danger. Despite knowing of these dangers, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has declined to provide air conditioners in most inmate housing areas, or even to set maximum temperature standards in these areas. This needs to change.

Every summer, the TDCJ subjects its prisoners to deadly temperature and humidity levels, and violates prisoners’ human and constitutional rights and their rights to health, life and dignity. Some note that many law abiding Texans do not have air conditioning in their homes. However, these individuals have the freedom and capability to escape deadly summer heat by entering air-conditioned buildings such as libraries or movie theaters. They can take showers and drink water as many times as they want. TDCJ inmates, on the other hand, spend much of their time locked in enclosed concrete and metal structures, where temperatures often exceed 100 degrees during the summer months.

As we noted in our report “Deadly Heat in Texas Prisons,” at least 14 heat-related deaths have been documented at TDCJ facilities since 2007. Many of these inmates had pre-existing health conditions or were taking medications that rendered them heat-sensitive, yet the TDCJ did not properly provide cooled living areas. While the TDCJ uses ventilation and fans indoors, these measures do not protect against heat illnesses in high temperatures and humidity. To the contrary, fans can accelerate heat-related illnesses in such conditions.

Read more at: http://www.utexas.edu/know/2014/06/26/summer-heat-kills-inmates-in-prisons-and-that-needs-to-change/

California suppressed consultant’s report on inmate suicides

This comes from the LA Times:

Feb. 28th, 2013
By Paige St. John, Los Angeles Times

The report warned that California’s prison suicide-watch practices encouraged inmate deaths. Gov. Brown has said the state’s prison care crisis is over.

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown has pointed to reams of documents to make the case in court and on the stump that California’s prison crisis is over, and inmates are receiving good care.

But there is at least one document the administration wanted to hide.

New court filings reveal that the state suppressed a report from its own consultant warning that California’s prison suicide-watch practices encouraged inmate deaths.

Lindsay Hayes, a national expert on suicide prevention in prisons, told corrections officials in 2011 that the state’s system of holding suicidal inmates for days in dim, dirty, airless cells with unsanitized mattresses on the floor was compounding the risk that they would take their own lives.

His report described in detail inmates being divested of their clothes and possessions and robed in a “safety smock.” Hayes concluded that such conditions encouraged prisoners to declare they were no longer suicidal just to escape the holding cells. Many of them took their own lives soon after.

The state asked Hayes to create a short version of his report that omitted his damaging findings, to give to a court monitor and lawyers for prisoners, the court documents show. Hayes complied, but when inmate attorneys obtained a complete copy, the state asked a U.S. District Court to order it destroyed. The judge refused.

The report says the state’s handling of suicidal inmates is “seemingly punitive” and “anti-therapeutic.” Hayes noted that guards, not mental health workers, dictate many of the conditions of suicide watches, such as whether to allow daily showers. Hayes alleged prison workers sometimes falsified watch logs showing how frequently those inmates were checked.
Hayes found that in 25 of the cases he reviewed, seven prisoners had killed themselves within hours or days of being released from suicide watch. He found lapses in care — lengthy delays in checking on the prisoners, failure to attempt CPR — in 68% of the cases he studied. Hayes did give the state high marks for compiling exhaustive reports after an inmate’s death.

Contract records show that corrections officials recruited Hayes, a former consultant for inmate plaintiffs, to begin in 2010 a three-year project on suicide prevention, demonstrating the state’s resolve to improve inmate mental health care.

His first report was filed in August 2011. Hayes said in a deposition that none of the follow-up reports and consultations called for in his contract occurred.

“When your report landed, it was not roundly applauded and in fact was buried,” Robert Canning, a prison official overseeing Hayes’ work, wrote in a June 2012 email to the consultant. There were 32 prison suicides in California in 2012, above the national average.

Other new filings show that the staffing shortage at one prison psychiatric hospital is so critical the psychiatric staff has declared they have been working since Jan. 23 “under protest.”

The doctors in Salinas Valley State Prison’s psychiatric program, run by the Department of State Hospitals, say they routinely juggle caseloads of up to 60 patients a day, and in some instances have been assigned wards containing as many as 120 patients a day.

Read the rest here

Pelican Bay: This is what Democracy Looks Like…




Please continue to support the California Hunger Strikers. See their five core demands below and sign the petition here if you haven’t yet already.

—————- from Truthout—————–

California Prison Hunger Strike Ends, Conditions of “Immense Torture” Continue

by: Victoria Law, Truthout | Report


Imagine a concrete room no more than eight by ten feet. It has no windows, only a perforated steel door facing a solid concrete wall. Fluorescent lights stay on 24 hours a day.

Now imagine being locked in that room.

This is the reality for 1,111 people locked in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) of California’s Pelican Bay State Prison. The SHU comprises half of the prison. It is explicitly designed to keep prisoners in long-term solitary confinement under conditions of extreme sensory deprivation. Men are locked into their cells for at least 22 hours a day. Food is delivered twice a day through a slot in the cell door. They are allowed five hours a week of exercise in a cement yard the length of three cells with a roof only partially open to the sky.

Prison administrators place men in the SHU either for a fixed term for violating a prison rule or for an indeterminate term because they have been accused of being prison gang members, often by confidential informants and highly dubious evidence. Prisoners who have been “validated” as gang members are released from the SHU into the general prison population only if they “debrief” or provide information incriminating other prisoners. Debriefing can be dangerous to both the prisoner who debriefs and his family on the outside. In addition, prisoners are often falsely identified as gang members by others who debrief in order to escape the SHU. One does not necessarily need to be a gang member to be sent to the SHU: jailhouse lawyers and others who challenge inhumane prison conditions are disproportionately sent to the SHU. Mutope DuGoya is one of those men: he states that, in 2001, despite his work with Code 4, the prison’s Scared Straight program and his record of remaining free of violations for six years, he was placed in SHU on the word of a confidential informant. (Letter from DuGoya, dated September 21, 2011.) Another prisoner, who has been in SHU for 21 years, writes, “Because I am here with people who the CDCR [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] have labeled as being gang-involved, the CDCR uses that to confirm that I am involved with a gang.” (Letter from person in Pelican Bay SHU, dated September 26, 2011.)

These atrocities are not limited to Pelican Bay. California holds nearly 4,000 people in SHUs and nearly 14,500 in other forms of segregation within its prison system. Over 240 of these people are women, who are often guarded and watched by male staff, even when they are undressing, showering or on the toilet. Transgender and transsexual prisoners are often likely to be placed in isolation.

Pelican Bay State Prison opened in December 1989. Almost immediately, prisoners began filing complaints about abusive conditions.

In 1993, over 3,500 prisoners signed onto Madrid v. Gomez, a class-action lawsuit that charged prison officials with abuse and violation of their human rights. In 1995, the federal court issued injunctions aimed at eliminating excessive force, improving health care and removing prisoners with mental illness from the Security Housing Unit. Although he stated that conditions “hover on the edge of what is humanly tolerable,” the presiding judge stopped short of declaring the physical structure of long-term solitary confinement unconstitutional.

In 1994, Steven Castillo, who charges that prison administrators placed him in SHU in retaliation for his hunger strikes and numerous lawsuits against CDCR, filed Castillo v. Alamedia. Seven years later, in 2001, Castillo and approximately 1,000 other prisoners at Pelican Bay and a second California prison launched a six-day hunger strike, protesting the prison’s gang policy. The strike was suspended after California State Sen. Richard Polanco intervened and vowed to help broker a resolution. Although Polanco’s office convened several meetings between corrections officials and prisoners over the next year, no changes resulted. In 2002, Castillo and 60 prisoners at Pelican Bay again launched a hunger strike. The strike lasted three weeks, but no changes in CDCR’s debriefing policy occurred.

In 2004, ten years after Castillo v. Alamedia was filed, a settlement agreement was reached that, ostensibly, would reshape the debriefing policy governing release from SHU. However, the substantial changes promised never happened and, seven years later, conditions in SHU remain fundamentally unchanged.

In 2010, prisoners at Pelican Bay drafted and sent a Formal Complaint about conditions to lawmakers, prison and CDCR officials and then-Governor Schwarzenegger. “CDCR’s response was ‘file a grievance if you haven’t already,'” recalled Todd Ashker, a co-author of the Complaint. “Then we were locked down, even more, in our cells from July 2010 to February/March 2011.” During that time, the prisoners agreed that “something had to be done … It was agreed, a peaceful protest via hunger strike was our best option, the goal being to expose the illegal policies and practices to the mainstream media (and thereby masses of people) and, with outside support, pressure/force meaningful changes!” (Letter from Todd Ashker, dated September 25, 2011.)

On July 1, 2011, SHU prisoners began a hunger strike with five core demands:

  1. Eliminate group punishments for individual rules violations;
  2. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria;
  3. Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement;
  4. Provide adequate food;
  5. Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates.

“No one wants to die,” stated hunger-striker DuGoya. “Yet under this current system of what amounts to immense torture, what choice do we have? If one is to die, it will be on our own terms.”

Over the course of the three-week hunger strike, at least 1,035 of the SHU’s 1,111 inmates refused food. The strike spread to 13 other state prisons and involved at least 6,600 people incarcerated throughout California.

Outside prison walls, family members, advocates and concerned community members took action to draw attention to the hunger strike. In Oakland, supporters held a weekly vigil on Thursday evenings. On July 9, supporters organized demonstrations in cities throughout the US and Canada. On July 18, 200 family members, lawyers and outside supporters from across California converged upon CDCR headquarters in Sacramento, delivered a petition of over 7,500 signatures in support of the hunger strikers and then marched to Governor Brown’s office to demand answers. That same day, supporters in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York City and Philadelphia also held solidarity rallies.

On July 14, two weeks into the strike, CDCR Undersecretary of Operations Scott Kernan spoke to representatives of the Pelican Bay hunger strikers. He promised that their demands would be addressed and that the CDCR would enact positive changes over time.

On July 20, Kernan and other CDCR administrators again met with hunger strike representatives. Again, Kernan made assurances about positive changes to SHU and stated that he would provide specifics about their demands in a couple of weeks. The hunger strike representatives met and discussed Kernan’s proposals. They decided to temporarily suspend the hunger strike to allow CDCR a grace period to fulfill their promises.

The next month, on August 19, prisoner representatives met with Kernan and other administrators. Kernan had no specific plans regarding the hunger strikers’ core demands, but, as the prisoner representatives noted, offered only “very vague, general terms, about CDCR staff working to come up with some type of step down program for inmates to get out of SHU, which does not require debriefing-informant status.” The representatives asked that specific details be provided on paper to all SHU sections. Kernan agreed to begin providing documentation within two weeks.

Sparked by the hunger strike, its ensuing publicity and community pressure on legislators, the California Assembly’s Public Safety Commission held a hearing on SHU conditions on August 23. Former SHU prisoners, family members, attorneys, advocates and psychiatrists testified about the need for substantial changes to SHU policies and practices. CDCR Undersecretary Scott Kernan, who was a negotiator with the hunger strike representatives, also testified.

On August 31, SHU staff issued memos stating that prisoners would be allowed to have handballs on the yard and the ability to purchase sweatsuits. If they remained free of disciplinary violations for one year and gained committee approval, they would be allowed to have a yearly photo taken and to purchase art pens and drawing paper from the prison canteen. None of the core demands were addressed.

In addition, many strike participants were issued a disciplinary memo stating, “Your behavior and actions were out of compliance with the Director’s Rules and this documentation is intended to record your actions and advise that progressive discipline will be taken in the future for any reoccurrence of this type of behavior.”

Prison officials have retaliated against the hunger strikers in other ways. According to Carol Strickman, an attorney with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, “Prisoners are receiving serious disciplinary write-ups, usually reserved for serious rules violations, for things like talking in the library or not walking fast enough. It’s clear that prison officials are trying to intimidate these men and to make them ineligible for any privileges or changes that may be forced by the strike.”

On September 2, a memo entitled Gang Management Proposal (dated August 25) was issued to the four principal representatives of the hunger strike. Hunger striker Antonio Guillen wrote that the proposal is, “by far the most punitive and restrictive program I have ever seen. It is way worse than what we have in place now and that’s saying something because the current program is, in part, what prompted the hunger strike.” It also widens the criteria from “‘traditional prison gangs’ ” to “anyone they consider to be problematic.” (Statement from Guillen that came with a letter dated September 27, 2011.) Kernan himself alluded to this during his testimony on August 23: “We believe that the current process, which targets six prison gangs, needs to be modified and what we really need to do is identify security threat groups … our policies target just the prison gangs today and we’re not capturing the inmates that perhaps should be segregated from our population.”

Despite these threats, prisoners throughout California resumed their hunger strike on September 26. By the third day, nearly 12,000 were participating. The strike spread not only to 12 prisons inside California, but also to prisons in Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma that are housing California prisoners.

In response, the CDCR classified the strike as an organized disturbance and transferred hunger strikers form the SHU to Administrative Segregation, where they lose access to all of their personal possessions and are denied access to their mail (including legal mail). According to recent interviews with the men, they have only a jumpsuit, a mattress and a thin blanket. The transfer could also negatively affect parole decisions. The retaliation has caused the number of hunger strikers to drop. In addition, hunger strikers at other prisons report that the CDCR has been undercounting the number of participants, refusing to mark men as hunger strikers if they drink liquids or touch the food tray.

Prison officials have also retaliated against outside supporters: Carol Strickman and Marilyn McMahon, executive director of California Prison Focus, had been involved in extensive discussions with corrections officials, including Kernan and leaders of the strike. On September 29, the Department of Corrections placed them under investigation, alleging that they “violated the laws and policies governing the safe operations of institutions within the CDCR.” Both attorneys are banned from all California prisons until the investigation is concluded. Attorneys who were able to visit reported that the CDCR has the air conditioning on high in 50-degree weather.

On October 13, prisoners at Pelican Bay ended their nearly-three week hunger strike after the CDCR guaranteed a comprehensive review of every prisoner in California whose SHU sentence is related to gang validation under new criteria. Two days later, hunger strikers at Calipatria State Prison stopped their strike to allow time to regain their strength.

“This is something the prisoners have been asking for and it is the first significant step we’ve seen from the CDCR to address the hunger strikers’ demands,” says Carol Strickman, a lawyer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, “But as you know, the proof is in the pudding. We’ll see if the CDCR keeps its word regarding this new process.”

Victoria Law is a writer, photographer, mother, and Contributing Author for New Clear Vision. She is the author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles Of Incarcerated Women (PM Press, 2009), the editor of the zine Tenacious: Art and Writings from Women in Prison, and a co-founder of Books Through Bars — NYC. She is currently working on transforming Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind, a zine series on how radical movements can support the families in their midst, into a book.

Scott Watch: Unconstitutional Living Conditions

 Unconstitutional Living Condition ~ Unedited ~By Jamie Scott ~ Please Forward to Media Outlets
 
April 20, 2010
Jamie Scott # 19197
CMCF/2A-B-Zone
P.O. Box 88550
Pearl, MS 39288-8850

The living condition in quickbed area is not fit for any human to live in. I have been incarcerated for 15 years 6 months now and this is the worst I have ever experience. When it rain out side it rain inside. The zone flood like a river. The rain comes down on our heads and we have to try to get sheets and blankets to try to stop it from wetting our beds and personnel property. Because the floors are concrete and it have paint on it, it makes it very slippery when it rain and there have been numerous of inmates that have broke their arms and hurt there self do to this. Above our heads there are rows and rows of spiders as if we live in the jungle. There are inmates that have holds in there bodies left from spider bites, because once they are bitten it take forever to get to the clinic for any help. There are mold in the bathroom ceiling and around the walls and toilets. The toilets leak sewage from under them and they have the inmate men to come in and patch them up occasionally. The smell is awful. The showers are two circular poles with five shower heads on each pole. The floor in the shower is also concrete and slippery. There is nothing to hold on to when you exit the shower so there have been many inmates that have hurt there self in the process. Outside the building there is debirs where the unit is falling apart. Each day we are force to live in these conditions. The staph infection is so high and we are force to wave in toilet and sewage water when we have to go to the bathroom. I have witness to many inmates die at the hands of this second rate medical care. I do not want to be one of them. When this is brought to the health department or anyone attention. The MDOC tries to get the inmate to try to pamper it up so if someone comes in it want look as bad as the inmates said it did. I am fully aware that we are in prison, but no one should have to live in such harsh condition. I am paranoid of catching anything because of what I have been going throw with my medical condition. We are living in these harsh conditions, but if you go to the administration offices, they are nice and clean and smell nice because they make sure the inmates clean their offices each day. They tell us to clean the walls. Cleaning the walls will not help anything. Cleaning the walls will not stop the rain from pouring in. it will not stop the mold from growing inside the walls and around us. It will not stop the spiders from mating. They have 116 inmates on each wing, and we live not five feet from each other in order to pack us in. We have the blowers on the ceiling and if the inmates are acting crazy or the staff come in mad they use the blowers as a form of punishment. The taxes payers really are lead to believe we are been rehabilitated. That is a joke. All we do is sit in this infected unit and build up more hate. Rehabilitated starts within you. If you want to change you will change. One thing about MDOC, they know how to fix the paper work up to make it seen as if they are doing their job. You can get more drugs and anything else right here. I have witness a lot in my time here. Do I sound angry, I am not I am hurt and sick. Because they have allowed my kidney to progress to stage five which been the highest. They told me years ago I had protein in my urine, but I went years without any help. Now, it seen the eyes are on me because my family are on their case. Every inmate is not without family. Yes, you do have many inmates that family have giving up on, but my sister and I are not them. I do not want special attention; I want to treat, and to live how the state says on paper we are living. The same way when it is time for the big inspection we are promised certain food if we please clean up to pass this inspection. So I beg of anyone to please understand Mississippi Department of Correction is a joke. They will let you die or even kill yourself. We are told when visitors come into the prison do not talk to them. Well I have the right to talk to anyone and if the health department or anyone comes I will talk to him or her, because this is my life and I should or anyone else should be force to live like this. They use unlawful punishments to try to shut us up. I need help. I need a inmate to help me, but for some reason they will not allow me to move with my sister, so she can help me. There are mother and daughter, aunties, and nieces housed together and also there are a total of 12 inmates acting as orally for others inmates. I have all the names of the inmates acting as a orally if need to be giving. However, the subject of my sister is been danced around. A form of discrimination. My sister (Gladys Scott) and I were housed together for over ten years and not once have we ever caused any problem. We were spit up because in 2003 the Commissioner came with the order to separate all family members. Because its payback because my family is holding them accountable to do what they are paid to do. Also, do to the fact Mr. Daniels on it’s a New Day & Grassroots are keeping the supports inform that is been pointed out to me in a negative way. Now that I am sitting everyday because of my sickness I have time to use my typewriter. MDOC have gotten away with to much. In addition, some of the things that go on here I truly believe that Mr. Epps do not know.

Scott Watch: Unconstitutional Living Conditions

Unconstitutional Living Condition ~ Unedited ~By Jamie Scott ~ Please Forward to Media Outlets

 
April 20, 2010
Jamie Scott # 19197
CMCF/2A-B-Zone
P.O. Box 88550
Pearl, MS 39288-8850

The living condition in quickbed area is not fit for any human to live in. I have been incarcerated for 15 years 6 months now and this is the worst I have ever experience. When it rain out side it rain inside. The zone flood like a river. The rain comes down on our heads and we have to try to get sheets and blankets to try to stop it from wetting our beds and personnel property. Because the floors are concrete and it have paint on it, it makes it very slippery when it rain and there have been numerous of inmates that have broke their arms and hurt there self do to this. Above our heads there are rows and rows of spiders as if we live in the jungle. There are inmates that have holds in there bodies left from spider bites, because once they are bitten it take forever to get to the clinic for any help. There are mold in the bathroom ceiling and around the walls and toilets. The toilets leak sewage from under them and they have the inmate men to come in and patch them up occasionally. The smell is awful. The showers are two circular poles with five shower heads on each pole. The floor in the shower is also concrete and slippery. There is nothing to hold on to when you exit the shower so there have been many inmates that have hurt there self in the process. Outside the building there is debirs where the unit is falling apart. Each day we are force to live in these conditions. The staph infection is so high and we are force to wave in toilet and sewage water when we have to go to the bathroom. I have witness to many inmates die at the hands of this second rate medical care. I do not want to be one of them. When this is brought to the health department or anyone attention. The MDOC tries to get the inmate to try to pamper it up so if someone comes in it want look as bad as the inmates said it did. I am fully aware that we are in prison, but no one should have to live in such harsh condition. I am paranoid of catching anything because of what I have been going throw with my medical condition. We are living in these harsh conditions, but if you go to the administration offices, they are nice and clean and smell nice because they make sure the inmates clean their offices each day. They tell us to clean the walls. Cleaning the walls will not help anything. Cleaning the walls will not stop the rain from pouring in. it will not stop the mold from growing inside the walls and around us. It will not stop the spiders from mating. They have 116 inmates on each wing, and we live not five feet from each other in order to pack us in. We have the blowers on the ceiling and if the inmates are acting crazy or the staff come in mad they use the blowers as a form of punishment. The taxes payers really are lead to believe we are been rehabilitated. That is a joke. All we do is sit in this infected unit and build up more hate. Rehabilitated starts within you. If you want to change you will change. One thing about MDOC, they know how to fix the paper work up to make it seen as if they are doing their job. You can get more drugs and anything else right here. I have witness a lot in my time here. Do I sound angry, I am not I am hurt and sick. Because they have allowed my kidney to progress to stage five which been the highest. They told me years ago I had protein in my urine, but I went years without any help. Now, it seen the eyes are on me because my family are on their case. Every inmate is not without family. Yes, you do have many inmates that family have giving up on, but my sister and I are not them. I do not want special attention; I want to treat, and to live how the state says on paper we are living. The same way when it is time for the big inspection we are promised certain food if we please clean up to pass this inspection. So I beg of anyone to please understand Mississippi Department of Correction is a joke. They will let you die or even kill yourself. We are told when visitors come into the prison do not talk to them. Well I have the right to talk to anyone and if the health department or anyone comes I will talk to him or her, because this is my life and I should or anyone else should be force to live like this. They use unlawful punishments to try to shut us up. I need help. I need a inmate to help me, but for some reason they will not allow me to move with my sister, so she can help me. There are mother and daughter, aunties, and nieces housed together and also there are a total of 12 inmates acting as orally for others inmates. I have all the names of the inmates acting as a orally if need to be giving. However, the subject of my sister is been danced around. A form of discrimination. My sister (Gladys Scott) and I were housed together for over ten years and not once have we ever caused any problem. We were spit up because in 2003 the Commissioner came with the order to separate all family members. Because its payback because my family is holding them accountable to do what they are paid to do. Also, do to the fact Mr. Daniels on it’s a New Day & Grassroots are keeping the supports inform that is been pointed out to me in a negative way. Now that I am sitting everyday because of my sickness I have time to use my typewriter. MDOC have gotten away with to much. In addition, some of the things that go on here I truly believe that Mr. Epps do not know.

Experiment in Solitary: National Geographic

This show will air This Sunday, April 11 at 7pm Eastern Time on the National Geographic Channel.

———————————

As we wrote earlier, it’s hard to say whether the National Geographic Channel’s treatment of solitary confinement will do more harm than good. In addition to an upcoming episode of “Explorer” on the subject, the NG Channel is hosting an ”experiment” that promises to provide a “live window into the solitary experience,” in which three subjects spend a week in faux lockdown cells (unless they want to leave earlier), with cameras streaming live video to the public and the “prisoners” providing updates on Twitter.

The potential good comes from the evidence of psychological damage that will probably surface even in the fresh-faced young volunteers who spend a mere week in the pristine “cells.” (And to its credit, the NG Channel’s site makes an effort to put their experience in broader context.)

The potential harm comes from the audience thinking what they watch on the live video stream bears any resemblance to the actual experience of prisoners in solitary confinement–which is far worse, in ways too numerous to count. After observing the NG experiment for a week, viewers could easily conclude that solitary confinement is extremely unpleasant, but falls short of constituting cruel and unusual punishment–and is far from the torture some critics say it is.  If so, they would be basing their conclusions on faulty evidence.

First of all, hardly anyone spends just a week in solitary. Used for “disciplinary” purposes, spells in solitary can last anywhere from several weeks to several years. Many of the inmates who end up in solitary are mentally ill; others (including many children) are there for their own “protection,” but nonetheless endure the same cruel conditions.

In addition, some 25,000 American prisoners live in long-term or permanent lockdown, which often stretches to decades: Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, of the Angola 3, have spent most of the past 37 years in solitary; Tommy Silverstein has spent an uninterrupted 27 years in solitary under a “no human contact” order; Syed Fahad Hashmi, who is accused of offering material support (in the form of clothing) to terrorists, has spent nearly three years in ultra-isolation under “Special Administrative Measures,” though he has yet to be convicted of a crime…

(Worth the rest of the article to follow this back )

Experiment in Solitary: National Geographic

This show will air This Sunday, April 11 at 7pm Eastern Time on the National Geographic Channel.

———————————

As we wrote earlier, it’s hard to say whether the National Geographic Channel’s treatment of solitary confinement will do more harm than good. In addition to an upcoming episode of “Explorer” on the subject, the NG Channel is hosting an ”experiment” that promises to provide a “live window into the solitary experience,” in which three subjects spend a week in faux lockdown cells (unless they want to leave earlier), with cameras streaming live video to the public and the “prisoners” providing updates on Twitter.

The potential good comes from the evidence of psychological damage that will probably surface even in the fresh-faced young volunteers who spend a mere week in the pristine “cells.” (And to its credit, the NG Channel’s site makes an effort to put their experience in broader context.)

The potential harm comes from the audience thinking what they watch on the live video stream bears any resemblance to the actual experience of prisoners in solitary confinement–which is far worse, in ways too numerous to count. After observing the NG experiment for a week, viewers could easily conclude that solitary confinement is extremely unpleasant, but falls short of constituting cruel and unusual punishment–and is far from the torture some critics say it is.  If so, they would be basing their conclusions on faulty evidence.

First of all, hardly anyone spends just a week in solitary. Used for “disciplinary” purposes, spells in solitary can last anywhere from several weeks to several years. Many of the inmates who end up in solitary are mentally ill; others (including many children) are there for their own “protection,” but nonetheless endure the same cruel conditions.

In addition, some 25,000 American prisoners live in long-term or permanent lockdown, which often stretches to decades: Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, of the Angola 3, have spent most of the past 37 years in solitary; Tommy Silverstein has spent an uninterrupted 27 years in solitary under a “no human contact” order; Syed Fahad Hashmi, who is accused of offering material support (in the form of clothing) to terrorists, has spent nearly three years in ultra-isolation under “Special Administrative Measures,” though he has yet to be convicted of a crime…

(Worth the rest of the article to follow this back )