Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Posts Tagged ‘maine

New York Times: “Prisons Rethink Isolation”

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In light of the recently filed lawsuit against Arizona alleging overuse of solitary confinement, the New York Times has some timely reporting on other states that have decided to reduce their use of isolation as punishment — including Mississippi, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Washington State, and most recently, California:

The efforts represent an about-face to an approach that began three decades ago, when corrections departments — responding to increasing problems with prison gangs, stiffer sentencing policies that led to overcrowding and the “get tough on crime” demands of legislators — began removing ever larger numbers of inmates from the general population. They placed them in special prisons designed to house inmates in long-term isolation or in other types of segregation.

At least 25,000 prisoners — and probably tens of thousands more, criminal justice experts say — are still in solitary confinement in the United States. Some remain there for weeks or months; others for years or even decades. More inmates are held in solitary confinement here than in any other democratic nation, a fact highlighted in a United Nations report last week.

In particular, the article discusses the evidence that prolonged isolation can cause and/or exacerbate mental illness:  Read the rest of this entry »

“The Anti-Supermax Battle Broadens”

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That’s the headline from this article at The Crime Report, by Guggenheim Fellow Lance Tapley. The article discusses a shift in strategy from individual lawsuits challenging specific prisoners’ solitary confinement, to legislative reform campaigns and efforts to get supermax confinement declared torture under international law. From the article’s opening paragraphs:

New to the fight are the four-year-old National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) and 24-year-old Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). In recent years both have played major roles in denouncing the federal government for torturing prisoners at locations overseas.

NRCAT, an alliance of more than 280 religious groups across the country which cut its political teeth on the Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib controversies, announced a drive early this year to end prison solitary confinement in the United States. Citing studies that show periods of enforced isolation can aggravate and even create mental illness among inmates in supermax prisons, NRCAT says it wants to be consistent in opposing torture at home and abroad.

Working with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has a history of suing states on this issue, NRCAT is trying to get legislatures to require state corrections departments to rethink their dependence on solitary confinement. For years the ACLU has been part of a loose coalition — including Human Rights Watch and the American Friends Service Committee — attacking supermax conditions.

The ACLU’s and NRCAT’s first battleground was Maine, where their affiliates and other groups convinced the legislature on April 6 to order a study of solitary confinement.

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