Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Torture: The Use of Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons

Strongly believe solitary confinement  is a mental health issue.

How we treat the least of us is a reliable measure of just how human we are.

I’ve been know to take to the streets, so to speak, against war & the death penalty.
Most recently at the Supreme Court at the annual Starvin’ for Justice event this past June/July.
These days, when I don’t take to the streets I voice through other means, including this blog.

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From https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=516200851781018&set=a.509091729158597.1073741827.184364598297980&type=1&theater

That’s me on the left holding up the sign.  Kirk Bloodsworth, the speaker, is the first person exonerated from death row using DNA technology. The gentleman on the right holding up a sign is another Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (the preferred title of those of us who served). We shared stories, and perhaps reflected on how our overseas service shaped our views on peace and justice.

(For anyone who would say “get a job”, well my reply is witnessing against injustice is my job.)
(Oh, and for the record, I am now gainfully employed for the first time in three long years of job hunting.
Being unemployed against one’s will certainly is a mental health issue, but nothing compared to greater injustices)

The Hole

The Hole (Photo credit: Chris.Gray)

From the Web Page of the Center for Constitutional Rights

….

Ever since solitary confinement came into existence, it has been used as a tool of repression. While it is justified by corrections officials as necessary to protect prisoners and guards from violent superpredators, all too often it is imposed on individuals, particularly prisoners of color, who threaten prison administrations in an altogether different way. Consistently, jailhouse lawyers and jailhouse doctors, who administer to the needs of their fellow prisoners behind bars, are placed in solitary confinement. They are joined by political prisoners from various civil rights and independence movements.

CCR’s Challenges to Solitary Confinement

In May 2012, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a lawsuit against the state of California for its use of prolonged solitary confinement in the infamous Pelican Bay prison. Ruiz, et al. v. Brown, Jr., et al., is a federal class action challenging prolonged solitary confinement and deprivation of due process, based on the rights guaranteed under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, at Pelican Bay. The case challenges inhumane, unconstitutional conditions under which thousands of prisoners live. Ruiz reasserts the importance of fundamental human rights and the Constitution’s guarantee that no one may be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, and that all are entitled to the due process of law.

CCR’s case against solitary confinement at Pelican Bay is the latest in a long history of challenges to the use of isolation in prisons. InWilkinson v. Austin, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in support of CCR’s claims that prison officials cannot confine prisoners in long-term solitary confinement in a
super maximum prison without first giving them the opportunity to challenge their placement. CCR has engaged in solidarity efforts alongside hunger striking prisoners, as well as engaged in advocacy and education efforts around the impact of the use of isolation in prisons.

Solitary Confinement is Torture

The devastating psychological and physical effects of prolonged solitary confinement are well documented by social scientists: prolonged solitary confinement causes prisoners significant mental harm and places them at grave risk of even more devastating future psychological harm.

Researchers have demonstrated that prolonged solitary confinement causes a persistent and heightened state of anxiety and nervousness, headaches, insomnia, lethargy or chronic tiredness, nightmares, heart palpitations, and fear of impending nervous breakdowns. Other documented effects include obsessive ruminations, confused thought processes, an oversensitivity to
stimuli, irrational anger, social withdrawal, hallucinations, violent fantasies, emotional flatness, mood swings, chronic depression, feelings of overall deterioration, as well as suicidal ideation.

Exposure to such life-shattering conditions clearly constitutes cruel and unusual punishment – in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Further, the brutal use of solitary has been condemned as torture by the international community.

A Growing Human Rights Movement against the Use of Solitary Confinement

Across the United States and the world, there is an emerging movement calling for the end of solitary confinement.

In the U.S., prisoner-led movements have attracted media attention and public scrutiny to harsh conditions of confinement, including overcrowding, the use of isolation, deplorable health conditions, substandard medical care, and the discriminatory and careless treatment of people with mental illnesses. Several prisoner-led hunger strikes have drawn attention to these harsh
conditions, including efforts in Georgia, Ohio and California. Advocates have joined in solidarity and alongside prisoners to protest the use of solitary confinement.

International human rights experts and bodies have also condemned indefinite or prolonged solitary confinement, recommended that the practice be abolished entirely and argued that solitary confinement is a human rights abuse that can amount to torture. In August 2011, Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, concluded that even 15 days in solitary confinement constitutes torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and 15 days is the limit after which irreversible harmful psychological effects can occur. However, many prisoners in the United States have been isolated for far longer.

Read more at http://ccrjustice.org/solitary-factsheet

October 23, 2013 - Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology, Public Health | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on http://www.HumansinShadow.wordpress.com.

    Comment by curi56 | October 27, 2013 | Reply


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