Play reveals injustice of solitary confinement
From Lake Placid News:
Imagine living in and being confined 23 hours a day to an 8-by-14-foot space, which includes your bed, wash basin and toilet. Imagine living there anywhere from 30 days to 30 years.
In New York state prisons, more than 4,000 men and women are living in such conditions, nearly 1,000 in the North Country. The United Nations has declared over two weeks in solitary as torture and called for an absolute ban on solitary lasting more than 15 days.
One might think that people living in solitary are all there as punishment for some heinous crime, but according to Tyrrell Muhammad of the Correction Association of New York, that’s often not the case. He should know, as he spent seven of his 23 years in prison in solitary, the first time because someone gave him an extra blanket instead of the regulation one per inmate. The extra blanket was considered contraband, and that cost him six months in the box.
Two years ago, Sara “Mariposa” Fonseca, then a month away from release after serving 12 years, threw a cup of water at a male nurse. She was sent to solitary, given four extra years, and since has received two more.
Solitary results in sensory deprivation, the lack of normal human interaction, and extreme idleness. The outcomes can be severe physical, emotional and spiritual damage. No one comes out untouched.
Forty percent of prison suicides in 2014 and 2015 took place in solitary. Nationally, according to the Yale Law School and the Association of State Correctional Administrators, approximately 80,000 inmates are living in solitary, about 5 percent of the prison population. Of those in solitary, 66 percent are people of color. At, 16 percent, Louisiana has the highest percentage living in solitary while New York has 9 percent.
Around 2 to 3 percent are sent into solitary for protective reasons and 28 percent for disciplinary reasons. The vast majority are sent to and kept in solitary for “administrative segregation,” a catch-all phrase that covers minor infractions to disruptive behavior often determined by the corrections officers, such as Muhammad and Fonseca’s offenses. Administrative solitary rarely has a fixed length of stay and once in, an inmate’s time is often increased. Recently a few states, such as North Dakota, have begun developing guidelines to set lengths of stay for administrative segregation infractions. Nationwide, pressure has been building for the reform or elimination of solitary.
Muhammad felt that it was a corrections officer who slipped him magazines that kept him sane and enabled him to survive his time in the box.
Read the full article here.
The CA has been monitoring the high rates of suicide and self-harm in the state prisons for more than a decade and has repeatedly drawn attention to excessively high rates of harm at certain prisons and in specific locations, such as solitary confinement and residential mental health units, to the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), the Office of Mental Health (OMH) and the legislature in the CA’s reports and legislative testimonies. DOCCS suicide rate from 2010-16 was 56% higher than the national average for all US prisons.Read More
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“Solitary at Southport: A 2017 Report Based Upon the Correctional Association’s Visits, Data Analysis, & First-Hand Accounts of the Torture of Solitary Confinement from One of New York’s Supermax Prisons”
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