Update on Political Prisoner Robert Seth Hayes – June 2017

This was emailed by Prisoner News, and the link to where it was originally posted is here, by Jericho Movement.

For more information on political prisoner Robert Seth Hayes, who has been in prison since 1973, check out this video/audio.
Or read this bio on Prisonersolidarity.

As people know, Seth has been having serious problems with his blood sugar levels in the past month, especially since finally receiving the insulin pump. While the process of properly calibrating the pump is rather complex, there has also apparently been some medical incompetence in the use of the pump (without the monitor).

Seth’s sugars have, if anything, always tended to run too low, leading to incidents of him passing out, having “Code Blues” called, and being rushed to an outside hospital on an emergency basis. However, since the installation of the pump, his sugars have been running high (in the 200+ to 400+ range). In one recent incident, the infusion set was improperly inserted, and Seth was receiving no insulin whatsoever. His sugars were in the 500-600 range, which is life-threatening.

After one of the nurses arbitrarily removed the pump more than a week ago, stating that Seth was “too delicate” to have it, Dr. Wolf (the prison doctor) has been very concerned, since this is totally undermining her authority as a physician. This occurred during a weekend, when Dr. Wolf is not at Sullivan. (Also, the pump was removed, but the infusion set was still inserted into Seth’s body for 2 days after that. Luckily, he did not develop an infection.)

Dr. Wolf had Seth in the “infirmary” all last week, and that is where I visited him on Father’s Day. The last time I visited Seth when he was in the “infirmary,” he was allowed to come up to the regular visiting room. However, this time I had to visit in the “infirmary,” which was an educational experience for me. When I arrived to the visiting room, the Sergeant called down to the “infirmary” to ask if Seth could come up to the visiting room. I also asked if I could at least bring down some water and light snackage, and was told that I could not.

When I was on the elevator to the infirmary, I asked the CO, who was not wearing his name badge, when visiting was over, and he told me “We will kick you out of here at 2 p.m.” This was fine with me, as the bus driver had requested we all come out with the 2:30 escort.

So Seth and I are in a locked glass-walled small visiting room right in front of the COs’ desk. At around 11:30 a.m., the technician came to do the finger stick. He was very professional, placing the vial of insulin on the table so Seth (and I) could see exactly what he was being injected with. Seth stated that his sugars had been at 70 in the morning, but the fingerstick monitor showed his sugars were 280+. The technician then injected him with 6 cc’s of insulin.

So, the standard practice is that the patient is to eat shortly after receiving the insulin, even if the sugars are high. This is to prevent a precipitous drop and allow for a gradual decline in the sugars. Since the food cart had gone by shortly before that, we had to make sure that Seth got his lunch. Luckily, one of the nurses happened to arrive at that time, and I knocked on the glass to gain her attention. I asked for the lunch tray, but she could not hear me, so I made an eating motion, and she went down to the hall to speak with the COs, and then shook her head. So I made the motion of Seth getting an injection, and she nodded her head and the CO arrived with the food tray within 5 minutes. So kudos to the nurse who did the right thing and did not let herself be intimidated!

So I finally got to see the infamous “Class B” diet that Dr. Koenigsmann insists is an adequate diabetic diet. I don’t know where he went to medical school, but he obviously doesn’t know much about diabetes and nutrition. The lunch consisted of white pasta, a large hamburger on a white roll (with ketchup), and beets, all of which were cold by the time Seth got to eat. (Of course, since Seth’s sugars are high, let’s make sure we give him even more sugar!)

Since they keep giving Seth milk with every meal even though he is lactose intolerant (Seth has had diarrhea off and on for almost a week), I took the little milk container. This caused the CO (same one who brought me down to the infirmary on the elevator: a tall, slim white guy with glasses) to leap out from behind the desk, rush into the visiting room and come within an inch of physically assaulting me. He was screaming at me “That’s what I thought! You did this on purpose so you can eat his food!” with his fists up as if he was going to hit me. I haven’t seen anyone so enraged in a long time. I remained calm and replied, “I was told when I came in that I could not bring anything to eat in here. I’m only drinking the milk because Seth is lactose intolerant, and this gives him diarrhea.” The thought of anyone actually wanting to eat this food (which I would not serve even to a rat) was so hilarious that Seth and I burst out laughing. We couldn’t help ourselves. We were laughing so hard we were practically in tears. Meanwhile, CO FNU LNU (First Name Unknown Last Name Unknown) quickly locked the bathroom door before once again locking us into the visiting room and Seth literally forced himself to eat the hamburger and some of the beets.

Since the inside bathroom was locked, I asked to use the bathroom and thus got an informal tour of the infirmary. One thing I can certainly say is that it is freezing in there. Seth said that luckily, since all the beds are not occupied, he can grab an extra blanket from one of them.

Since I had been told by this same CO when I came in that visiting in the infirmary ended at 2 p.m., I was not concerned about the time, but it certainly seemed longer than it should have been. (There is no clock.) When the escort came to get me, it was already 3 p.m., so of course that meant I was late for the bus. I guess this was FNU LNU’s petty revenge for me having made sure, with the assistance of the nurse, that Seth was given his food (if you can call it that) in a timely manner.So I commented to the escort that I was late for my bus, and she replied, “That’s your responsibility.’ I replied, “Well, since I was told that infirmary visitation ends at 2 p.m., and since I have not yet developed the ability to pass through locked doors and walls, there wasn’t too much I could do about it.”

So I went back up to the regular visiting room with this young woman CO and waited for the rest of the visitors who were there. As we were walking out, we visitors were conversing. People asked where I had been, and I explained that we were visiting in the infirmary, where visitation is supposed to end at 2 p.m. I also commented the FNU LNU seemed to be hyperactive and extremely aggressive and possibly should be given some antipsychotic medication to calm him down.

When I finally arrived outside, it was 3:15 p.m. and the bus was not there. Since the prison now insists we cannot even put our cell phones in the lockers, my phone was also on the bus. I nice woman offered me a ride if I was going toward Albany, and I replied: “Oh, the bus probably went to Woodbourne to pick up people there and will come back for me.” Then I saw the bus coming up the hill. Jeff, the bus driver, said the COs said to leave me behind, and I said, “Yes, they did that once at Mohawk when a visitor was caught in the count and they wouldn’t let him leave. I went inside to see what the delay was, and the COs said to leave without him. I replied; “You are COs. You do that. We are community; we don’t leave our people behind.” Jeff smiled and said, “Exactly. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and have never left anyone stranded in the middle of nowhere!”

Seth called as I was getting off the bus in the Bronx to see how I was doing. He was concerned because I had not had anything to eat. So I told him not to worry about that and asked what his sugars were at 4 p.m. At that time, his sugars were at 202, but if he hadn’t eaten, they probably would have been at around 60 or 70. Seth is to see Dr. Wolf today, June 19, 2017, to discuss the current situation and see what next steps are. Of course, Seth wants to have the insulin pump and monitor and so does the endocrinologist at Coxsackie.

We have an update from Seth this evening, Monday, June 19, 2017 on the outcome of that conversation with Dr. Wolf. When I asked him what his sugars were today, he told me that not everyone is as professional as the technician who was there on Sunday, and he was not told what his glucose level was. He is still in the infirmary, but hopes to be out of there soon. In the meantime, people can write to Seth:

Robert Seth Hayes #74A2280
Sullivan C.F.
P.O. Box 116
Fallsburg, NY 12733-0116

Send him a get well card or write him a letter. Seth loves corresponding with people, and it also shows the prison that people are paying attention.

Also, you can call the facility at 845-434-2080. Ask to speak with the Superintendent and state you are concerned about Robert Seth Hayes #74A2280. Be polite but firm and say you are calling to make sure Seth gets the insulin pump and monitor returned to him as a life-saving measure for his diabetes.

Anne Lamb
NYC Jericho Movement

Seth wants to start a campaign about the issue of the COs, not the doctor and nurses, making medical decisions in the infirmary. Sullivan is supposed to be a regional medical hub, but the doctor and nurses are mostly upstairs in the clinic, and the COs are running the show in the infirmary. I will write this up in a follow-up shortly.

To contribute to ongoing efforts supporting Robert Seth Hayes, please donate online at:
https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/810a58

NYC Jericho received word on May 9, 2017 from Seth’s lawyer, Eve Rosahn, that his Article 78 appeal of his parole denial was also denied. You can read the decision here.


This is from Prisonersolidarity.net:

Seth has always maintained his innocence.

Life in Prison

Jailed for over 30 years, Seth has long since served the time he was sentenced to and while in prison he has worked as a librarian, pre release advisor, and AIDS councilor. He has remained drug and alcohol free throughout his entire period of incarceration and has maintained a charge free record in prison. Seth first came up for parole in 1998, but prison officials refused to release him and gave him another two years, after which he was again denied parole. Prison officials are effectively punishing him for having been a member of the Black Panther Party, and of having remained true to his ideals after 30 years behind bars.

Seth has been diagnosed with Hepatitis C and adult onset Diabetes since the year 2000. Unfortunately, despite his repeated requests Seth has not been receiving adequate health care from Clinton Correction Facility, (the prison where he is currently being held) and his condition has steadily deteriorated.

New York City Mayor: We Need to Address Mentally Ill Inmates in Jail

Reblogged from: The Epoch Times | November 20, 2014

Written By Annie Wu for The Epoch Times

NEW YORK—At a Thursday press briefing on the Department of Correction’s planned reforms of jail conditions at Rikers Island, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte expressed that their biggest challenge is how to provide for mentally ill inmates.

The mayor said the high proportion of inmates with a mental illness—at 40 percent of the total population at Rikers Island—was a reality that the Corrections Department failed to address, and was at times unwilling to. Half of all violent incidents reported at Rikers involved mentally ill inmates.

“There was no public acknowledgement that the problems on Rikers Island were first and foremost a mental health problem,” the mayor said. “We literally as a city, didn’t diagnose the problem until now.”


He added that a “culture change” was necessary to bring about effective reform in an agency where there existed “practices that were shockingly outmoded, things that went unsaid, things that went unaddressed.”

Cecily McMillan (OWS Activist) Released from Rikers Island: Uses Platform to Challenge Systemic Injustices Incarcerated Women Face Daily

This is from: SparrowMedia, July 2nd 2014

[NEW YORK, NY] Imprisoned Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan was released from Rikers Island on Wednesday morning, July 2nd, after serving 58 days. She spoke publicly at a 1pm press conference outside the jail’s outer gates on Hazen Street.

This was the first time she was able to speak publicly after testifying in her trial. Cecily’s controversial trial garnered international media attention. She was supported by elected officials, community leaders, and celebrities. While serving her term at Rikers Island she was visited by members of Russian rock group Pussy Riot, themselves unjustly imprisoned in 2012.

The Following is Cecily’s Statement as read to members of the press at 1pm EST:

“Fifty nine days ago, The City and State of New York labeled me a criminal. Millionaires and billionaire–who had a vested interest in silencing a peaceful protest about the growing inequalities in America–coerced the justice system, manipulated the evidence, and suddenly I became dangerous and distinguished from law-abiding citizens. On May 5th, the jury delivered its verdict, the judge deemed me undesirable, and officers drove me across that bridge and barred me within. On the outside, I had spent my time fighting for freedom and rights. On the inside, I discovered a world where words like freedom and rights don’t even exist in the first place. I walked in with one movement, and return to you a representative of another. That bridge right there, that divides the city from Rikers Island, divides two worlds – today I hope to bring them closer together. Crossing back over, I have a message to you from several concerned citizens currently serving time at the Rose M. Singer Center.

“Incarceration is meant to prevent crime. Its purpose is to penalize and then return us to the outside world ready to start anew. The world I saw at Rikers isn’t concerned with that. Many of the tactics employed are aimed at simple dehumanization. In the interests of returning the facility to its mission and restoring dignity to its inmates, we, the women of Rikers, have several demands that will make this system more functional. These were collectively drafted for me to read before you today.

“First of all, we demand that we be provided with adequate, safe, and timely healthcare at all times. That, of course, includes mental health care services and the ability to request female doctors if desired at all times for safety and comfort. We often have to wait for up to 12 hours a day for a simple clinic visit, and occasionally 12 hours a day for up to a full week before we see anyone.

“The women of Rikers feel a special sense of urgency for this demand because of a particular event that occurred recently. About a week ago, our friend Judith died as a result of inadequate medical care. Judith had been in RSMC for a while, but was transferred to our dorm 4 East A, where I was housed, only a few days before her death. She had recently been in the infirmary for a back problem, and had been prescribed methadone pills for the pain for quite a while. A few days before she died, they decided to change the medicine to liquid despite her dissent. They gave her a dosage of 190mg, which any doctor will tell you is a dangerous dosage, far higher than what anyone should be taking unless it is a serious emergency. Judith was not allowed to turn down the medicine or visit the clinic to get the dosage adjusted.

“After three days on that dosage, Judith could no longer remember who or where she was and had begun coughing up blood, accompanied with what we believe were chunks of her liver. We attempted unsuccessfully to get her medical treatment for the entire day, at one point being told that this was “not an emergency,” despite the fact that Judith was covered in blood. That night they finally removed her to the hospital, where she remained in critical condition before passing away a few days later. This was a clear case of medical malpractice, both with the ridiculously high dosage of methadone and the refusal of adequate treatment. Stories like this are far too common in Rikers Island, and we demand that no more of our sisters be lost to sickness and disease as a result of inadequate medical care.

“Our next demand is that Corrections Officers should be required to follow the protocol laid out for them at all times, and that at some point soon that protocol should be examined to make sure that all rules and procedures are in the best interests of the inmates. We also demand that we have a clear and direct means to file a grievance that will be taken seriously and examined fully, so that Officers can be properly disciplined and removed from the area quickly when they abuse or endanger us.

“Recently my friend Alejandra went to file a grievance about being denied access to medical treatment for a concussion until she awoke one morning unable to move. When she met with the captain after filing the grievance, she was presented with a different sheet and a different complaint than the one she had provided and was forced to sign it. Inmates should be able to trust that situations like that will not concern, and that our safety and dignity be respected by those designated to supervise us. There is a clear protocol for officers already laid out in the inmate handbook, but it is seldom followed. Officers are allowed to make up the rules as they go and get away with it, which we find unacceptable.

“Our final demand is that we be provided with rehabilitative and educational services that will help us to heal our addictions and gain new skills, and that will make it much easier for us to adjust to the outside and achieve employment when we are released. Specifically, for our education we would like access to classes beyond GED completion, maintenance, and basic computer skills, access to a library, and English classes for those attempting to learn the language. We feel that the addition of these programs would significantly help us prepare for release and reentry into the world, which would lower re-incarceration rates.

“We also feel strongly that Rikers Island needs to have much better drug rehabilitation programs. Many women who come through here are addicts, and many women are imprisoned here because they are addicts. That’s the area in which reentry rates seems to be the highest. This is likely a direct result of the failure of the meager programs that we are given. Thus, it seems only logical that serious and effective drug rehabilitation programs be provided to those who need them, assuming that the Department of Corrections would like to help work to achieve a better, healthier society and keep as many people as possible out of jail.

“Working with my sisters to organize for change in the confines of jail has strengthened my belief in participatory democracy and collective action. I am inspired by the resilient community I have encountered in a system that is stacked against us. The only difference between people we call “law-abiding” citizens and the women I served time with is the unequal access to resources. Crossing the bridge I am compelled to reach back and recognize the two worlds as undivided. The court sent me here to frighten me and others into silencing our dissent, but I am proud to walk out saying that the 99% is, in fact, stronger than ever. We will continue to fight until we gain all the rights we deserve as citizens of this earth.”

Cecily McMillan is a New York City activist and graduate student wrongfully imprisoned for felony assault of a police officer after an incident at an Occupy Wall Street event on March 17, 2012. Officer Grantley Bovell grabbed her right breast from behind and lifted her into the air, at which other officers joined Officer Bovell in beating McMillan until she had a series of seizures. She was convicted on May 5th after a trial in which Judge Ronald Zweibel disallowed key pieces of evidence from the defense. On May 19th she was sentenced to a 90-day sentence and 5 years of probation after a large public campaign for leniency, which included an appeal to the judge signed by 9 of the 12 jurors, who thought she should be given no further jail time. The sentence on this charge is typically a term of 2-7 years of incarceration.

New York Lawmakers Introduce Sweeping Reforms to Use of Solitary Confinement in Prisons and Jails

Reblogged from: Think Outside the Box

Press release from the New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement.
January 31, 10:30 am
New York — At a mid-morning press conference at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, New York legislators will join advocates, survivors of solitary confinement, and their families to announce the introduction of the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act (A08588 / S06466).
Introduced in both the Assembly and the Senate, the pioneering bill is being hailed by supporters as the most comprehensive and progressive legislative response to date to the nationwide problem of solitary confinement in prisons and jails. As written, it would virtually eliminate a practice that has been increasingly denounced as both dangerous and torturous, while protecting the safety of incarcerated individuals and corrections officers.
According to Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry, who is sponsoring the bill in the Assembly, “New York State was a leader for the country in passing the 2008 SHU Exclusion Law, which keeps people with the most severe mental health needs out of solitary confinement. Now we must show the way forward again, ensuring that we provide safe, humane and effective alternatives to solitary for all people.”
“Solitary confinement makes people suffer without making our prisons safer. It is counter-productive as well as cruel,” said Senator Bill Perkins, the bill’s Senate sponsor. “Solitary harms not only those who endure it, but families, communities, and corrections staff as well.”
Currently, about 3,800 people are in Special Housing Units, or SHUs, with many more in other forms of isolated confinement in New York’s State prisons on any given day, held for 23 to 24 hours a day in cells smaller than the average parking space, alone or with one other person. More than 800 are in solitary confinement in New York City jails, along with hundreds more in local jails across the state.
New York isolates imprisoned people at levels well above the national average, and uses solitary to punish minor disciplinary violations. Five out of six sentences that result in placement in New York State’s SHUs are for non-violent conduct. Individuals are sent to the SHU on the word of prison staff, and may remain there for months, years, or even decades.
The HALT Solitary Confinement Act bans extreme isolation beyond 15 days–the limit advocated by UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez, among others. It also bars vulnerable populations from being placed in solitary at all–including youth, the elderly, pregnant women, LGBTI individuals, and those with physical or mental disabilities.
“No person should be put in solitary confinement except when they are a risk to  someone else,” said New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm. “As a major opponent of the practice, I have introduced three pieces of legislation into the City Council. I applaud the proposed state legislation that sets parameters on who can and who cannot be placed in solitary confinement and limits the amount of time they are forced to stay there.”
For those who present a serious threat to prison safety and need to be separated from the general population for longer periods of time, the legislation creates new Residential Rehabilitation Units (RRUs)–high-security units with substantial out-of-cell time, and programs aimed at addressing the underlying causes of behavioral problems.
“Isolation does not promote positive change in people; it only damages them,” said Jennifer J. Parish of the Urban Justice Center’s Mental Health Project. “By requiring treatment and programs for people who are separated from the prison population for serious misconduct, the legislation requires Corrections to emphasize rehabilitation over punishment and degradation.”
“The HALT Solitary Confinement Act recognizes that we need a fundamental transformation of how our public institutions address people’s needs and behaviors, both in our prisons and in our communities,” said Scott Paltrowitz of the Correctional Association of New York. “Rather than inhumane and ineffective punishment, deprivation, and isolation, HALT would provide people with greater support, programs, and treatment to help them thrive, and in turn make our prisons and our communities safer.”
Many of those represented at the press conference are members of the New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC), which was instrumental in drafting the bill. CAIC unites advocates, concerned community members, lawyers, and individuals in the human rights, health, and faith communities throughout New York State with formerly incarcerated people and family members of currently incarcerated people.
“Solitary is torture on both sides of the prison walls,” said family member Donna Sorge-Ruiz, whose fiancé is currently in solitary. “Loved ones on the outside suffer right along with those in prison, every day that they endure this pain. It must stop!”
The widespread use of long-term solitary confinement has been under fire in recent years, in the face of increasing evidence that sensory deprivation, lack of normal human interaction, and extreme idleness can lead to severe psychological damage. Supporters of the bill also say that isolated confinement fails to address the underlying causes of problematic behavior, and often exacerbates that behavior as people deteriorate psychologically, physically, and socially.
In New York each year, nearly 2,000 people are released directly from extreme isolation to the streets, a practice that has been shown to increase recidivism rates.
“The damage done by solitary confinement is deep and permanent,” said solitary survivor Five Mualimm-ak. An activist with CAIC and the Campaign to End the New Jim Crow, Mualimm-ak spent five years in isolated confinement despite never having committed a violent act in prison. “Having humane alternatives will spare thousands of people the pain and suffering that extreme isolation causes–and the scars that they carry with them back into our communities.”
Several state prisons systems, including Maine, Mississippi, and Colorado, have significantly reduced the number of people they hold in solitary confinement, and have seen prison violence decrease as well. HALT takes reform a step further by also providing alternatives for the relatively small number of individuals who need to be separated from the general population for more than a few weeks. Advocates see the bill not only as a major step toward humane and evidence-based prison policies, but also as a model for change across the country.
“Article 5 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, states that ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment,’” said Laura Markle Downton of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. “As people of faith, we recognize the use of solitary confinement in a prisons, jails and detention centers fundamentally violates this prohibition against torture. Now is the time for New York to lead the way in bringing an end to this human rights abuse plaguing our justice system nationally.”
“The HALT Solitary Confinement Act implements rational humane alternatives to the costly, ineffective, and abusive use of long-term solitary confinement in New York prisons and jails,” saidSarah Kerr of the Legal Aid Society’s Prisoners’ Rights Project. “The need for reform is well-documented and the time for change is now.”
PRESS CONFERENCE DETAILS:
Date/Time/ Location: Friday, January 31, 10:30 am
Judson Memorial Church, Meeting Room Balcony
55 Washington Square South (between Thompson and Sullivan Streets)
Speakers:
Assembly Member Jeffrion L. Aubry (D, 35th District, Queens), Assembly sponsor
Senator Bill Perkins (D, 30th District, Harlem), Senate sponsor
City Council Member Daniel Dromm (D, 25th District, Queens)
Five Mualimm-ak, survivor of solitary confinement in New York prisons and Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement
Jessica Casanova, aunt of individual currently in solitary and Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement
Scott Paltrowitz, Correctional Association of New York and Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement
Claire Deroche, National Religious Campaign Against Torture and Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement
PRESS KIT INCLUDES:
Press Release
Fact Sheet on Solitary Confinement in New York State
Summary of the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act
Full Text of HALT Act (A08588 / S06466)
New York Voices from Solitary Confinement
“Solitary Confinement’s Invisible Scars,” op-ed by Five Mualimm-ak
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Scott Paltrowitz, 212-254-5700, spaltrowitz@correctionalassociation.org
Sarah Kerr, 212-577-3530, SKerr@legal-aid.org
Five Mualimm-ak, 646-294-8331, endthenewjimcrow@gmail.com
#  #  #

"If the Risk Is Low, Let Them Go": Efforts to Resolve the Growing Numbers of Aging Behind Bars

Reblogged from: Truth-Out
Article by Victoria Law
Jan. 10, 2014

Imagine your grandparents and great-grandparents in shackles or dying behind bars. By 2030, the prison population age 55 and over is predicted to be 4,400 percent more than what it was in 1981. Some state and federal prison systems look at alternatives.

The recent release of 74-year-old Lynne Stewart has made headlines. Stewart, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, was granted compassionate release December 31, 2013, after a protracted struggle by Stewart and supporters across the country. Stewart, whose cancer has spread to her lungs, lymph system and bones, will spend her remaining months with her family in Brooklyn.

But what about the aging and infirm people incarcerated nationwide who lack Stewart’s fame and support? The United States has some 125,000 prisoners age 55 and older, quadruple the number in 1995. Various human rights groups, including the ACLU, Human Rights Watch and the Vera Institute of Justice have issued warnings about the increased numbers of aging, elderly and incapacitated behind bars. In response to these increases, several states, such as Kansas, Mississippi and Tennessee, are in the process of building hospice and geriatric units within their prison systems.

But what other solutions are there?

“If the Risk is Low, Let Them Go”

In New York, advocates – including formerly incarcerated people – have launched the Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) campaign. More than 9,200 people (nearly 17 percent) imprisoned in New York are 50 or older. While the state’s prison population dropped this past decade – from 71,466 in 2000 to 56,315 in 2011 – the number of people 50 and older has increased by 64 percent.

Lead organizer Mujahid Farid knows the obstacles facing people seeking parole. Farid was arrested in 1978 and sentenced to 15 years to life for an attempted murder. By the time he was eligible for parole in 1993, he had earned four college degrees as well as certificates for numerous other programs. None of these accomplishments mattered. He was denied parole based on his 1978 conviction. Farid appeared before the parole board ten times over the next 18 years before he was granted parole in 2011.

“I realized it wasn’t personal,” he told Truthout. “They’re not looking at your personal development. They’re simply looking at your conviction.” After his release, Farid met with advocates, including other formerly incarcerated people, to discuss how to overcome the hurdle within the parole system. Out of these discussions came RAPP.  Under the slogan “If the risk is low, let them go,” RAPP mobilizes to change the routine in which parole and compassionate release are denied to those who have spent decades in New York’s state prisons.

Read the rest here.

Graying Prisoners

From:  New York Times
Aug 18th 2013, 
By Jamie Fellner, a senior adviser at Human Rights Watch, focusing on criminal justice in the United States.

MORE and more United States prisons resemble nursing homes with bars, where the elderly and infirm eke out shrunken lives. Prison isn’t easy for anyone, but it is especially punishing for those afflicted by the burdens of old age. Yet the old and the very old make up the fastest-growing segment of the prison population.

Today, the New York State Board of Parole is scheduled to decide whether to give medical parole to Anthony D. Marshall, who was convicted of stealing from his mother, Brooke Astor. Mr. Marshall is 89 and suffers from Parkinson’s and congestive heart failure. His lawyers say he cannot stand or dress himself. He is one of at least 26,100 men and women 65 and older incarcerated in state and federal prisons, up 62 percent in just five years.

Owing largely to decades of tough-on-crime policies — mandatory minimum sentences, “three strikes” laws and the elimination of federal parole — these numbers are likely to increase as more and more prisoners remain incarcerated into their 70s and 80s, many until they die.

I try to imagine my 90-year-old father in prison. His body and mind whittled by age, he shuffles, takes a painful eternity to get up from a chair and forgets the names of his grandchildren.

How would he fare climbing in and out of an upper bunk bed? Would he remember where his cell was in the long halls of many prisons? How would his brittle bones cope with a thin mattress and blanket in a cold cell in winter, or his weak heart with the summer heat. If he had an “accident,” would someone help him clean up? Unlike Mr. Marshall, some older inmates committed violent crimes, and there are people who think such prisoners should leave prison only “in a pine box.”


Read the rest here.

Prisoners Tortured Daily in New York State

This is an article in the February issue of Peace Newsletter, posted by the Syracuse Peace Council:

From the February 2013 PNL #821
by Amelia Ramsey-Lefevre

In March 2012 the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture called for a near-total ban on solitary confinement. Juan Mendez stated that “solitary confinement itself can amount to … torture as defined in Article 1 of the Convention against Torture.” The cited article defines torture as “… any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person.” Mendez contends that after 15 days some psychological effects resulting from solitary confinement (also called isolation or segregation) are irreversible.

Mendez also specifically condemned US reliance on the practice, which is utilized in all sectors of the US detention system. From immigration detention centers to psychiatric institutions, military prisons to even juvenile detention centers, solitary confinement is a standard feature of the imprisoned landscape. And the nation’s penal system is no exception.

There are 45 “super-max” prisons in the US. A super-max is a prison facility wholly devoted to holding inmates in solitary confinement. 44 of these are state-run and the lone federal super-max is in Florence, CO. In 2000, the US Department of Justice estimated that an average of 80,000 inmates are held in solitary confinement at any one time.

Solitary in NYS

NYS is the home of two super-max prisons, Southport in Chemung County (789 beds) and Upstate in Franklin County (1,040 beds). Additionally, there are around 3,000 Special Housing Unit (SHU) beds dispersed among 37 other prisons in New York. A 2012 snapshot of the solitary confinement population found 402 inmates under 20 years old, 83 of them 18 or younger. 86% of the prisoners at Southport and Upstate are Black or Latino. Many have been diagnosed with mental illness before or after their arrival in isolation. LGBTQ prisoners are particularly vulnerable to discriminatory isolation across the detention spectrum.

[24 hours in solitary]
Inmates in solitary are permitted one hour per day of
“recreation” in an outdoor cage. Image: NYCLU & Amelia
Ramsey-Lefevre

Inmates in solitary confinement spend 23 hours a day in a small cell alone or in close quarters with one other person (a condition given the conflicted name “double solitary”). One hour per day is allowed for “outdoor recreation.” Prisoners may go in handcuffs to a caged area smaller even than their cell, where other inmates can be heard but not seen. Some inmates reported to the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) that they declined recreation to avoid hearing the screams of other solitary inmates in the recreation cell.

Prisoners receive no training, work, or rehabilitation services and report insufficient access to medical and psychological care while in solitary confinement. No transitional services are available for those in solitary, even when inmates will be directly released from isolation. Despite the lack of services, SHUs and super-maxes are expensive to staff. NYS spends about $76 million each year to staff segregation units.

How does an inmate get to solitary?

Roughly 90% of placements in isolation are for disciplinary reasons, though solitary confinement can also be imposed if the inmate is perceived to be vulnerable or a threat to prison safety. The punitive system in NYS prisons allows each class of violation to be rated at varying levels of severity, granting corrections officials (COs) wide discretion as to the severity of the punishment. In fact every single rule violation in NYS prisons has the potential to be met with a solitary confinement sentence.

There is no limit to the amount of time an inmate can spend in solitary confinement. Once in isolation, an inmate’s sentence in the SHU can be extended to punish subsequent rule infractions. If the solitary sentence exceeds the remainder of the entire sentence, COs are authorized to enforce further punishment through deprivation of haircuts, clothing, recreation, and even nutritional food.

It is well documented that prolonged solitary confinement often leads to mental illness in previously healthy individuals and almost always exacerbates mental illness where it already exists. Inmates in isolation have higher rates of suicide and self-harm. COs also report adverse effects from working in such tension including depression, alcoholism and family problems.

Why solitary?

The question remains why solitary confinement is so heavily relied upon in the US despite its costliness compared to conventional prisons, its negative effects on inmates and COs, and its ineffectiveness in reforming criminals. How did we get to where we are today?

In 1890, the US Supreme Court concluded that “solitary confinement left prisoners in a semi-fatuous condition.” The practice was virtually abandoned in the US for nearly 90 years. Then, in 1983 a riot in a federal prison in Marion, IL prompted a state of emergency and permanent solitary lockdown for all inmates that lasted 23 years. By 1991, over 35 states had built or repurposed facilities to emulate the conditions at Marion. Between 1995 and 2000, the total US prison population grew by 28%; the population in isolation grew 40%. By 2000, the Justice Department estimated there were 80,000 prisoners being held in solitary at any one time in the US. The Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons claims the real number is much higher.

There is a clear connection between the invented Drug War and the resurgence of solitary confinement as an acceptable form of punishment. The NYCLU reports that the 346% increase in the prison population between 1973 and 1993 (correlated with vastly increased prosecution of nonviolent drug offenders) stressed the prison system with overcrowding that led to unprecedented management and control problems. Prisons responded to this stress by putting inmates in isolation.

Insubstantial Myths

Increased dependence on solitary confinement also mirrored a larger trend in the penal system toward punishment as opposed to rehabilitation. Just as policymakers waxed poetic about how they were “cracking down” on “hardened criminals”—language intended to make racist laws palatable to the public, as Michelle Alexander argues in her 2010 book The New Jim Crow—prison officials welcomed the construction of isolation units as proof of how “tough” their institutions were.

We are told that isolation is reserved for the “worst of the worst”—the most dangerous individuals in the prison population. Even the name of the solitary confinement prison—“super-max”—supports the notion that an extreme level of security is required to handle an extreme level of danger. But how can that be true if any violation can be punished with isolation? The NYCLU found that five out of six punitive isolation sentences are handed down for nonviolent rule infractions. The “worst of the worst” myth is simply not true.

Profit is the bottom line

The need for solitary confinement is a myth that supports a profit-driven prison system. Research shows that people released directly from solitary confinement are more likely to reoffend (and end up back in prison) than comparable general population prisoners. These crimes are also more likely to be violent and therefore garner a longer prison sentence.

This state of affairs is tragic, but it’s not surprising. The US prison system locks people up with no human contact and no meaningful work, denies them access to mental health care, and then releases them with no transitional programming whatsoever. The only beneficiary in this warped system is a prison system that profits from holding more inmates.

New Yorkers, our task is clear. We must stop torturing our fellow New Yorkers. We must reject the punitive, profit-driven imprisonment culture, and we must end the racist Drug War.

——

References

-National Religious Campaign Against Torture – www.nrcat.org; also powerpoint presentation in Columbus, GA in November 2012; also their film, “Solitary Confinement: Torture in Your Backyard.” SPC owns a DVD copy of this film. Contact Amelia to watch or organize a viewing.

-“Boxed In,” published by NYCLU, 2012, http://www.boxedinny.org/report/

– NYT Mar 10 2012 “Prisons Rethink Isolation, Saving Money, Lives and Sanity” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/11/us/rethinking-solitary-confinement.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

-“Invisible in Isolation: The Use of Segregation and Solitary Confinement in Immigrant Detention,” published by the Heartland Alliance’s National Immigration Justice Center & Physicians for Human Rights, 2012, http://www.immigrantjustice.org/publications/report-invisible-isolation-use-segregation-and-solitary-confinement-immigration-detenti#.UPHRXPLDkm8

-The Passion of Bradley Manning, Chase Madar, 2012.

-The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander, 2010.

Amelia’s education in prison justice was catalyzed by the tragic murder of Troy Anthony Davis on September 21, 2011. Thanks also to the inmate who wrote to the PNL recommending NYCLU’s report “Boxed In.”