“Mind Blowing Because I’m a Kid”

This was reblogged from SolitaryWatch.

The following comes from Joe (pseudonym), a minor who has been incarcerated since last summer, held in solitary confinement for over six months. In his letter to Solitary Watch, he describes his life on 23-hour-a-day lockdown in a jail where he has no access to any rehabilitation or other programs, classes or church. He recounts in detail in his letter the conditions to which he is exposed on a daily basis; the jail is windowless, without sunlight or fresh air. Joe talks about a “waiver,” by which, in this case, he means going before a judge, who, considering his age, will order he be treated as a minor.

Following Joe’s letter is an “inventory of grievances” he prepared regarding the conditions he endures. His list states that, in this jail, which he describes as hot and filthy, he is on some days denied his hour out, refused any sort of mental health services, and is provided with no opportunities for outside recreation. He writes, ”Experiences like this, I promise you, I am never locking up an animal or anything living in a box, tank, or cage.” –Lisa Dawson

Waking up almost every day at around 2 or 3 am, the first thing I see is the wall my bed is connected to. When I see this, I sigh and say, “I’m still here.” Another day, is the only way I can put this without actually trying to calculate my last days. Oh, by the way, it’s 23/1 lockdown where I am housed. That’s the best they have for juveniles. I’ve been on lockdown for 7-1/2 months and counting. How do I do it? The strength of my almighty Father God, the support from my loved ones, and the determination to become something great. I can help other kids in my position.

I don’t get any programs, school classes, or church, because I’m 17. Crazy, right? Well if you think that’s crazy, check this out: the location in the jail I am housed in, there’s no sunlight, no windows, no fresh air, and no outside rec. The only times I get to see the sun is on court dates (for about 10 minutes, altogether).
It’s funny, because a lot of adults, grown men, who come in and out of jail/prison ask me, a 17 year old kid, how I stay sane without my natural resources and on lockdown. “It is what it is,” is usually what I tell them.

Every day I’m in here, I try to plan my hour out of the cell: who am I going to call, how long will the call be, how long can I walk around, and how long will my shower take. Even when I get back to my cell, I plan: how long should I read this book, how long should I study the books a friend gave me, how long should I spend writing my life stories, how long will I draw, etc. If you try to read all day, you’re setting yourself up for failure, because once you’ve finished the book(s), you have absolutely nothing to keep you occupied, and you slowly lose your mind. Many people would say sleep, ha! You can only sleep so much, and if you do sleep all day, the next day is going to be a long 23 hours for you.

It’s amazing how the jail is getting away with this. Mind blowing, really, because I’m a kid, surviving without my daily needs ever day, while some adults can’t even do this for one week.

Read the rest here.

Isolated confinement [Editorial]

This comes from the Baltimore Sun, March 31, 2014:

Our view: Maryland claims it does not use solitary confinement to discipline inmates, but isolating convicts alone or with another inmate in the same cell for protracted periods amounts to the same thing

March 31, 2014
In January, Rick Raemisch was brought shackled and handcuffed to a state penitentiary in Colorado and deposited in a 13-by-17-foot cell with nothing in it except a bed, toilet and sink screwed to the floor. His restraints were removed, the door slammed shut behind him and then he was alone.
Mr. Raemisch had committed no crime. He was, in fact, the recently appointed head of Colorado’s corrections department, and as he later wrote in a New York Times op-ed, he hoped that by putting himself in an inmate’s place he might get “a better sense of what solitary confinement was like, and what it did to the prisoners who were housed there, sometimes for years.” For the next 20 hours, his life was hell.
The American Civil Liberties Union estimates that at any given time in the U.S. there are least 20,000 inmates, and possibly more, in solitary confinement — a cruel form of extreme punishment that isolates some prisoners from any human contact for months, years or even decades, and that the United Nations Human Rights Council has condemned as torture by another name. The American Psychiatric Association calls for banning the practice beyond 30 days because of the damage prolonged sensory deprivation and lack of stimulation cause to inmates’ brains, which is similar to that seen in victims of other forms of traumatic brain injury.
In Maryland, corrections officials deny using solitary confinement to discipline unruly or troublesome prisoners. But the techniques it uses to control inmates amount to virtually the same thing — the polite term for the practice is “segregation.” Moreover, while other states are moving to ban or limit the practice of isolating prisoners for prolonged periods — either alone or with another inmate in the same cell — Maryland has resisted acknowledging it has a problem or collecting the kind of data that would indicate its scope and impact.