Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014, 4:48 pm · By Sarah Berlin
Every day, as many as 300 immigrant detainees in the United States spend 22 to 24 hours a day in complete social and physical isolation.
A new report released this month by the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) at the John Marshall Law School examines this use of segregation—the official term for solitary confinement—with immigrant detainees in light of a directive issued by U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) last fall.
Immigrant detainees often spend weeks or months in conditions that cause severe and irreversible psychological effects. And according to trauma experts, these psychological effects can be more profound for immigrants, many of whom are survivors of human trafficking, sexual assault, persecution, or torture.
Monday, Feb 24, 2014, 12:03 pm · By Alex Wolff
The controversial practice of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons was dealt a blow on February 19, when the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) agreed to halt litigation against the state’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) in exchange for sweeping reforms limiting extended isolation within New York prisons. Protecting the state’s most vulnerable prisoners, the deal will prohibit the solitary confinement of pregnant women and prisoners under 18 and ensure that people with disabilities spend no more than 30 days under such conditions. The agreement makes New York the largest prison system in the country to prohibit solitary confinement of minors.
The agreement is a major coup for human rights. Isolation in prison has been linked to severe mental illness and psychological trauma, and has been deemed counterproductive by studies connecting the practice to high recidivism rates.
A Senate judiciary subcommittee is holding a hearing on the topic this Tuesday; New York’s reforms are sure to frame the discussion there. Advocates are hopeful that these two developments signal a growing movement toward more humane incarceration standards. According to the ACLU, New York is the eighth state to take steps to reduce solitary confinement, and most of the other seven did so in the past few years.
Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014, 11:27 am · By Matt Stroud
Today is the 71st anniversary of the day Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered Japanese immigrants into prison camps during World War II. In remembrance of that day, Carl Takei, a Staff Attorney at the ACLU's National Prison Project, has written a short post for The Prison Complex about his and others’ efforts to end racial injustices in the U.S. prison system. That post is below.
Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014, 10:15 am · By Alex Wolff
The smuggling of cell phones into U.S. prisons has reached epidemic proportions, according to figures released this week. State corrections officers in Florida alone confiscated over 4,000 cell phones last year—nearly a dozen a day. Many media outlets are painting these figures—along with similar trends in other states—as indication of a burgeoning problem: When smartphones end up in the hands of criminals, they’re used to orchestrate further illicit activity, plot escapes and threaten lawmakers perceived as adversaries.
But while some prisoners may indeed be using cell phones for nefarious ends, many have been using them simply to communicate with loved ones to circumvent the historically exorbitant rates imposed on phone calls made through the prison network.
Friday, Feb 14, 2014, 2:47 pm · By George Lavender
“The Pit,” as Illinois’ Menard Correctional Center is sometimes known, saw a noisy show of support for some of its prisoners on Thursday night. About 20 people took part in a demonstration outside Menard's walls, banging pots and pans and chanting protest slogans. Some demonstrators said they were able to hear inmates calling out to them from their cells to ask “for due process.”
Inside, officials say, a single prisoner continues to refuse food a month after his hunger strike began. Started by more than a dozen inmates at the Administrative Detention Unit at Menard Correctional Center in southern Illinois, the strikers have taken a stand against what they call "inhumane" conditions in the unit, where prisoners are isolated from the general population and locked in small cells for 23 hours a day, with time out for showers and five hours of recreation a week.
Tuesday, Feb 4, 2014, 12:01 am · By Matt Stroud
A new report from the National Registry of Exonerations puts the total number of exonerations in the U.S. at 1,300. Read the report here. Some of the report's most surprising findings below.
Thursday, Jan 30, 2014, 4:06 pm · By George Lavender
When prisoners in the segregation unit at Westville Correctional Facility in Indiana received their lunch trays last Tuesday, it was, for some of them, a small taste of victory. While “savory stroganoff with noodles, mixed vegetables, and enriched bread” might not seem like much, the prisoners say it was their first hot weekday lunch in months, except on holidays. For the previous week, dozens in the unit had been protesting what they saw as inadequate food by refusing the cold sack lunches provided by the prison, according to two inmates who spoke to In These Times on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal from the prison .
“A lot of people didn't believe that we could win,” says “Jela,” (not his real name), one of the prisoners involved in the protest. “We proved them wrong.”
Monday, Jan 27, 2014, 9:00 am · By Matt Stroud
Pete Brook is a British, Portland, Ore.-based writer and curator of the excellent blog Prison Photography. In his words, that blog is built, first, on the premise that "the United States needs to pursue large-scale prison and sentencing reform," and second, on the idea that cameras in prisons provide an excellent viewpoint from which to consider how such sentencing reform might happen. Again, his words:
"Cameras and their operators function in recording, and to some degree, interpreting the stories of (and within) prison systems. How varied is the imagery? If a camera is within prison walls we should always be asking: How did it get there? What are/were the motives? What are the responses? What social and political powers are at play in a photograph’s manufacture? And, how is knowledge, related to those powers, constructed? Prison Photography also concerns itself with civil liberties, ethics and social justice as they relate to photography and photojournalism."
Monday, Jan 20, 2014, 9:00 am · By Matt Stroud
One of the strangest -- and longest running -- legal cases to emerge from Pennsylvania's use of solitary confinement is the Dallas 6 case out of the State Correctional Institution at Dallas, about 30 miles southwest of Scranton, Pa. In this case, six prisoners are charged with inciting a riot after covering their solitary confinement cell windows. The prisoners claim that they were mounting an act of protest in the wake of an advocacy group's report about harsh conditions and treatment at the prison.
Thursday, Jan 9, 2014, 8:00 am · By Matt Stroud
In April of last year, Temple University -- one of four "state-related" universities in Pennsylvania that receives millions in public funding every year -- revealed in a press release that researchers from its Center for Competitive Government had made surprising findings about the costs and benefits of private prisons. They found, for example, that governments will experience "long-run savings of 12 percent to 58 percent when comparing private and public" prison facilities, and that private prisons "generate significant savings without sacrificing quality." This was noteworthy, since previous research has tended to find no data supporting those conclusions at all. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance, for example, found that cost savings of private prisons are virtually nonexistant, and that the real benefit of private prisons is in threatening government administrators to use them: "the mere prospect of privatization had a positive effect on [public] prison adminstration, making it more responsive to reform." A 2011 New York Times report made similar conclusions, based on an Arizona auditor general's report finding that "it may be more costly to house inmates in private prisons” than in state-run prisons.