Tag Archive: prison industrial complex

Mentally ill North Carolina inmate held in solitary confinement dies of thirst

michael_kerr_webMedical Examiner’s Office said Anthony Michael Kerr died of severe dehydration in March of this year

From The Guardian

A North Carolina inmate with mental illness who had been held in solitary confinement died of thirst, according to an autopsy report released Thursday.

Anthony Michael Kerr, 53, was found unresponsive in the back of a van on 12 March after being driven roughly three hours from Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville to a mental hospital at Central Prison in Raleigh.

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety subsequently fired a captain and four nurses at Alexander. A nurse and a staff psychologist resigned.

At the time, Public Safety Secretary Frank L Perry pledged an “an aggressive, yet thorough internal investigation” into Kerr’s death. However, nearly nine months later the agency has not made public any results of that probe.

In the North Carolina Medical Examiner’s Office report, pathologist Dr Lauren Scott says a senior prison official allowed a “witnessed review” of an internal review into Kerr’s death, though the medical examiner’s office was not permitted to keep a copy. Scott wrote that the report left unanswered key details about the circumstances leading to Kerr’s death, including when the inmate last had access to food and water. (more…)

How Can The Atlantic Give Us 5,000 Words on Prison Life Without Interviewing Prisoners?

solitary_630_2From Mother Jones/ by Shane Bauer

As someone who writes about prisons, and who two spent years behind bars, I devour nearly everything written about it, especially the long-form stuff. So I was excited when I saw that The Atlantic’s latest issue had a major story called “How Gangs Took Over Prison.”

Then I read it. Anyone who has ever survived anything traumatic—domestic abuse, rape, torture, war—knows the particular jolt that happens in the body when someone makes light of that thing that you once thought could destroy you. I am a former prisoner—I was held captive in Iran from 2009-2011—and a survivor of solitary confinement. In my experience as a reporter who writes about prisons, it is surprisingly rare that I come across people outside of the prison system who justify long-term solitary confinement. Even within the world of prison administrators many are against it. The last two times I’ve attended the American Correctional Association conferences, there have been large, well attended symposiums on the need to curb the use of isolation.

Graeme Wood, the writer of the Atlantic story, gives a different impression of the practice. He visits Pelican Bay State prison, which probably has more people in solitary confinement for longer periods than any other prison in the world. He goes to the Security Housing Unit, or SHU, where people are kept in solitary confinement or, as he gently puts it, are “living without cellmates.” When he enters, he says it’s “like walking into a sacred space” where the silence is “sepulchral.” The hallways “radiate” and the prisoners are celled in the “branches of (a) snowflake.” Beautiful.

It’s difficult to understand why Wood does not find it worth mentioning that the cells in those snowflakes are each 7×11 feet and windowless. Men literally spend decades in those cells, alone. I’ve been to Pelican Bay, and wrote a story about it in 2012. I met a man there who hadn’t seen a tree in 12 years. Wood tells us categorically that everyone there is a hard-core gang member. This is what the California Department of Corrections consistently claims, but if Wood did a little digging, he would find that number of the prisoners locked away in the SHU are jailhouse lawyers. (more…)

From One North Carolina Prison, Reports of an Eight-Month Lockdown

Scotland CI

Scotland CI

From Solitary Watch/ by Lisa Dawson

Across the United States, even prisoners who have not been placed in solitary confinement or any form of “segregation” can be subjected to a “lockdown” in which they may be held in solitary-like conditions, confined to their cells nearly round-the-clock. Brief lockdowns are a common occurrence, and lockdowns lasting months or more are not unusual. Individuals subjected to lockdown are generally denied even the pro-forma review processes afforded to most others placed in solitary confinement.

In the “Close Custody” unit–a single celled, high-security unit–at North Carolina’s Scotland Correctional Institution, nearly 800 men have been on indefinite lockdown since December 28, 2013. Individuals subjected to the lockdown have been confined to their cells for 22 to 23 hours a day for eight months and counting.

When asked by Solitary Watch about the status of Scotland, North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NC DPS) spokesperson Keith Acree stated that he was unaware that the prison was on lockdown. (more…)

In Legal Battle Over Grand-Jury Secrecy, Ninth Circuit Court Sides with The Stranger

The doors of the Ninth Circuit courthouse in downtown Seattle—the same courthouse that was vandalized on May Day 2012, sparking very aggressive law-enforcement activity over people's political beliefs.

The doors of the Ninth Circuit courthouse in downtown Seattle—the same courthouse that was vandalized on May Day 2012, sparking very aggressive law-enforcement activity over people’s political beliefs.

From The Stranger

Well, the court sided with The Stranger for the most part.

Last Friday, the Ninth Circuit published its opinion about our ongoing fight with the federal government over how secret its grand jury proceedings should be. The short version: They wanted automatic and almost total secrecy and opacity, we wanted transparency—or at least some clearly argued standards about why certain documents should be sealed and kept away from the public. On Friday, the court found in our favor. We won. Mostly.

The background: In the summer of 2012, law-enforcement officials began handing subpoenas to activists around the Northwest, ordering them to appear before a federal grand jury in Seattle. These weren’t all polite knocks on the door—in some instances, agents battered their way into activists’ homes before sunrise with guns drawn. The grand jury was supposedly investigating what happened on May Day, 2012, when demonstrators in an anti-capitalist march smashed out the windows of stores, banks, and the Ninth Circuit Federal Courthouse downtown.

The investigation landed several political activists in jail for months. Some, like Matthew Duran and Katherine “Kteeo” Olejnik, spent a few of those months in solitary confinement for reasons the federal government and the detention facility still refuse to explain.

These activists weren’t accused of any crime—prosecutors acknowledged they weren’t even in town on May Day. They were imprisoned because they appeared before the grand jury as ordered but refused to answer troubling questions about other people’s social habits and political opinions. (more…)