The lonesome death of Emily Butler. It’s tempting to dismiss Emily Butler’s death as an unfortunate accident in an otherwise well run corrections system where such mistakes are rare. But the reality is this is the fourth reported case of an inmate committing suicide this year, and it appears to be part of a pattern linking such deaths to the kinds of physical confinement inmates experience behind prison walls. Read the entire article about Emily.
Abolish solitary confinement. For years civil liberties and human rights advocates have called for an end to the practice of holding federal and state prison inmates in solitary confinement, a form of extreme punishment that isolates individuals from all contact with other human beings for weeks, months or years at a time. The United Nations long ago condemned it as a degrading, inhuman form of abuse that amounts to little more than torture by another name, while the American Civil Liberties Union calls it a violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Yet thousands of inmates across the country continue to be mentally and physically brutalized by its use, despite the fact that it doesn’t increase prison safety and actually makes it more likely that inmates will re-offend when they get out. Read the full Baltimore Sun article.
Six Months in Solitary. Inside the story of one man’s life, Amy Fetting of the ACLU observes: “Lack of data and transparency is the baseline problem for systems across the country,” said Amy Fettig, senior staff counsel of the National Prison Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. “If a system is never held accountable for results it produces or if their results are so poor it’s in their interest not to track data, then you arrive at the systems we currently have — billions of dollars spent for no clear reason, with no evidence to support why American taxpayers are funding a practice.” Read the full article in the Washington Post.
What Can Reforming Solitary Confinement Teach Us About Reducing Mass Incarceration?
It’s not about non-violent offenders. And it won’t be cheap. Read the full report from the Marshall Project.
Safe Alternatives to Solitary Confinement: U.S. Leaders Share Progress and Insights. On September 29, 2015, the Vera Institute of Justice convened a short meeting to explore what a few states are learning about how to end over-reliance on extended solitary confinement in correctional systems. Researcher Craig Haney reminded attendees why this is essential. He noted that a robust literature on mental and physical harms of the practice shows it can lead to despair and anger, destabilization of the sense of self, and a loss of ability to relate to others. Read the full meeting report here.
What is solitary confinement? The American Friends Service Committee provides facts, a video, and resources.
IAHR. Interfaith Action for Human Rights focuses on reducing practices that violate human dignity within the mid-Atlantic region, including prolonged solitary confinement.
Is it torture? The National Religious Campaign Against Torture, a coalition of over 300 religious organizations – including representatives from Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox Christian, evangelical Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Quaker, Unitarian, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh communities– is committed to abolishing prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. This report to the United Nations explains why.