In support of the California hunger strike

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Solitary is torture

Image: Francisco Quinones

 

The Correctional Association of New York (CA) stands in support of the 30,000 people incarcerated in Pelican Bay and other California prisons who have peacefully and collectively put their bodies and their lives on the line to challenge the pervasive use of solitary confinement and other abusive conditions.

With thousands of people tortured in solitary confinement units across California prisons for 22- to 24-hours a day for months, years, or decades, the situation has become so dire that the people subjected to these conditions decided that they had no other alternative than to risk their lives to draw attention to their plight. While this collective resistance has been non-violent, there has been a repressive retaliatory response by California authorities, with reports of blanket denials of access to lawyers across the prison system, blasting of ice cold air, denial of medical care, and transfers to even more torturous isolation.

As an agency with a legislative mandate to monitor prison conditions in New York State since the 1840’s, we understand the particularly egregious harm that can occur when there is a combination of abusive conditions and denial of access to people outside the system. The Correctional Association join the call for California officials to end their abusive retaliation and accede to the five core demands of the people who are on hunger strike: 1) eliminate group punishments; 2) reform the processes whereby people are currently deemed gang members and sent to indefinite isolation; 3) end long term solitary confinement; 4) provide adequate and nutritious food; and 5) create and expand constructive programming.

Unfortunately, the torturous use of solitary confinement is not unique to California. In New York, there are thousands of people, disproportionately people of color and including particularly vulnerable groups like youth and people with mental illnesses, in isolated confinement, sometimes held there for decades. As part of the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC), the CA calls upon New York officials to end this torture by: 1) dramatically reducing the number of people who are separated from the general population by restricting the criteria used; 2) ensuring that members of vulnerable groups do not spend any time in isolation; 3) drastically reducing the length of time any person spends in isolation; 4) fundamentally transforming the response to individual’s needs or problematic behaviors from inhumane and ineffective isolation and deprivation to additional therapeutic and rehabilitative support, programs, and services that address the underlying needs or causes of behavior.

  • For more information about the NY Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement, please visit: www.nycaic.org.
  • For more information on solitary confinement in New York, visit the Correctional Association’s Solitary Confinement issue page.