Tag Archive: solitary confinement

Two Years After Hunger Strike, California Settlement May Release 2,000 Prisoners From Solitary


From Truth Out/ By Victoria Law

Attorneys and family members announced on September 1 what they called a “landmark settlement” in the class-action lawsuit Ashker v. Governor of California. The settlement, stated lead attorney Jules Lobel, “is an important step in the growing movement to end solitary confinement.”

The settlement comes after months of negotiations between advocates and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). It also comes after years of agitation, including a lawsuit and three mass prison hunger strikes, aimed at ending California’s practice of placing prisoners in isolation for indeterminate periods of time. Advocates predict that between 1,500 and 2,000 people will be released from isolation in the coming months.

At issue is California’s security housing units (or SHU) and its practice of placing those accused of gang affiliation within these units for an indeterminate time period. Within the SHU, they are locked into windowless cells for at least 23 hours per day. When taken out of their cells – for a shower, a visit or an hour of recreation alone in an exercise pen – they are handcuffed and ankle chained. Two categories of people are placed in the SHU. Those who break prison rules are temporarily sent to the SHU for up to five years. The other category includes those who have been placed in isolation on accusations of gang involvement. For them, there is no fixed end date. Until recently, accusations that have landed them in the SHU often relied on confidential informants and circumstantial evidence, such as tattoos or associations with others. Until recently, one of the few ways to be released from the SHU was to “debrief” or provide information incriminating others, who are then placed in the SHU for an indeterminate sentence. They are the ones who have written manifestoes, filed lawsuits and repeatedly gone on hunger strike to protest their conditions of confinement.

In California’s Pelican Bay State Prison, 1,134 of its 1,181 prisoners were held in the SHU as of June 2015. Although CDCR insists that solitary confinement does not exist within its prison system, those within the SHU argue otherwise and, in 2012, went to court to prove it. (more…)

Chelsea found guilty of prison infractions, but no solitary confinement


From Chelsea Manning Support Network

We just heard from Chelsea following her hearing today before the Fort Leavenworth disciplinary board:

“I was found guilty of all 4 charges @ today’s board; I am receiving 21 days of restrictions on recreation–no gym, library or outdoors.”

So while she was convicted of all four charges (yes, even the expired toothpaste!), she did not receive any time in solitary confinement. We believe that had everything to do with the outpouring of support, and the attention focused on Fort Leavenworth… including the 100,000 folks who signed the petition organized by Fight for the Future.

Chelsea added, “Now these convictions will follow me thru to any parole/clemency hearing forever. Was expecting to be in min custody in Feb, now years added.”

So, this is good news, but not without significant ramifications.

Chelsea threatened with indefinite solitary confinement


From Free Chelsea Manning

August 12, 2015

Aside from her 35-year prison sentence, Chelsea Manning is now facing indefinite solitary confinement to be determined in a hearing next Tuesday, August 18.

Worse yet, Chelsea faces this incomprehensibly severe punishment as a result of ridiculously innocuous institutional offenses, including the possession of books and magazines related to politics and LBGTQ issues (which she received openly via the prison mail system), and having a tube of toothpaste that was past its expiration date (apparently deemed “medical mis-use”). The catalyst for this attack on Chelsea seems to have been an incident in the mess hall where she may have pushed, brushed, or accidentally knocked, a small amount of food off of her table. She then asked to speak to her lawyer when confronted by a guard. The absurd charges were tacked on later.

These charges obviously could never justify indefinite solitary confinement- one of worst forms of psychological torture. Chelsea is now regularly publishing op-eds in the Guardian newspaper, and recently won the ability to begin hormone therapy by threatening to sue the military. It’s clear this is an attempt to silence Chelsea’s voice.

Our friends at Fight for the Future (FFTF) have created a petition where you can sign on to a letter condemning the US Army’s treatment of Chelsea. (more…)

Hooray! Marius Is Out of the SHU!


From Marius Mason

We have good news! Marius was transferred out of the SHU (or Special Housing Unit) on Saturday, August 1st, after nearly a month and a half of solitary confinement.

At this time, we do not know how the alleged violation cited by prison officials as the basis for his punishment will affect Marius in the long term, but we do know that in addition to the time he spent in the SHU, more restrictions have been placed on him that further limit his already limited life in the Administration Unit at the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas.

While we are overjoyed that Marius is out of the terrible and dispiriting world of solitary confinement, we cannot forget where Marius is—prison. The Administration Unit at Carswell is gymnasium-sized, holds up to 20 prisoners, and is frequently and unpredictably locked down for hours on end due to violence and suicide attempts resulting from the claustrophobic and oppressive conditions.

We urge all of you to write Marius a letter or drop a line with a postcard. Your solidarity matters!

M Mason #04672-061
FMC Carswell
Federal Medical Center
P.O. Box 27137
Fort Worth, TX 76127

$2.5 Million Settlement Paid To Family Of Michael Kerr, Inmate Who Died Of Thirst In Solitary



— State officials will pay out a $2.5 million settlement to the family of a mentally ill prisoner who died of dehydration last year five days after he was left in handcuffs in solitary confinement.

Correctional officers found Michael Anthony Kerr dead on March 12, 2014, after transporting him from Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville to Central Prison in Raleigh.

An Army veteran who suffered from schizoaffective disorder that went untreated for at least six months, Kerr was serving a 31-year sentence at Alexander Correctional for firing a weapon at private property and repeated felony convictions. He had been held in solitary confinement for more than a month before his death. (more…)

Two Years After Pelican Bay Hunger Strike, What’s Changed for People Inside the Prison?

pelican bay

From Truth Out/ By Victoria Law

Two years have passed since people confined in California’s Pelican Bay State Prison initiated a 60-day hunger strike to protest the conditions associated with the prison’s “security housing unit,” or SHU.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) continues to claim that “there is no ‘solitary confinement’ in California’s prisons and the SHU is not ‘solitary confinement,'” but people inside the Pelican Bay State Prison’s security housing unit say they remain locked in for at least 23 hours per day.

Meanwhile, in June 2015, the CDCR released proposed new regulations around its use of the security housing unit and administrative segregation – regulations that may, in part, curb participation in future strikes and other prison protests.

Among the proposed changes is a new subsection increasing the penalty for active participation in acts like a mass hunger strike. Noting that disturbances have “become an increasingly serious problem, often resulting in the serious injury of others,” the new regulations increase security housing unit sentences: Active participation in a disturbance, strike or riot, which currently carries two to six months in the security housing unit, will increase to three to nine months. (The penalty for leading a disturbance, strike or riot remains six to 18 months.) (more…)

Political Prisoner Birthday Poster For July 2015 Is Now Available


Hello Friends and Comrades,

1) Here is the political prisoner birthday poster for July. As always, please post this poster publicly and/or use it to start a card writing night of your own. There is only one birthday listed this month, so please also write to Delbert, Marius, and Barrett this month.

2) Earlier this week we found out that Delbert Africa was denied parole by the PA Parole Board and was given a two year hit. We are urging people to please take the time to sign this petition that we have aimed at the United States Justice Dept.

Also, please send a note of support to Delbert: (more…)

Marius Transferred to the SHU! Please Write Him a Letter!


From Free Marius Mason

On June 16th, we received notification from Marius that he has been transferred to the SHU—or Special Housing Unit, also known as solitary confinement—for, we believe, 30 days as a result of an alleged violation of prison disciplinary rules. We still do not know the basis of these allegations, but we believe they involve a violation of his right to counsel. At this point, Marius does not have all of his property in the SHU, and his normal phone privileges and all e-mail privileges have been suspended. Marius’s lawyer, Moira Meltzer-Cohen, has not yet received the incident report, but based on what she has has heard from prison officials, she believes the disciplinary action to be unjust.

Marius is currently in good spirits, but solitary confinement is a terrible and dispiriting form of punishment. Marius can still send and receive letters, so please show your support and solidarity by dropping him a line!

Please be aware that any mail sent to Marius will be under even more scrutiny than it was before, so we ask you to be cautious in writing to him about his situation. Also, mail addressed to ‘Marius Mason’ has been getting rejected, so we ask you to use the following address in your correspondence:

M Mason #04672-061
FMC Carswell
Federal Medical Center
P.O. Box 27137
Fort Worth, TX 76127

The Death Penalty Is Cruel. But So Is Life Without Parole.


From The New Republic / By Stephen Lurie

Prison cells don’t attract many spectators, but executions have always drawn crowds. Paradoxically, the names and identities of death row inmates only come to matter when their execution had been scheduled: from impending death we take a sudden interest in life.

Despite the incongruity, this isn’t all that surprising. Twenty-first century America is still susceptible to the time-honored spectacle of state-sanctioned death, even if much of the attention now scrutinizes, rather than cheers, the practice. Recently, there have been many stories typical of the current fascination with American capital punishment, most notably Ben Crair’s piece in this magazine and Jeffrey Stern’s in The Atlantic. Like other recent examinations of the death penalty, both accounts focus specifically on the act of execution by lethal injection; each covers botched executions and the question of cruel and unusual punishment in the death chamber itself. Stern’s story centers on the act and ramifications of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett’s execution: A paramedic—and later, a physician—fail to find a vein in a dozen stabs into Lockett’s flesh so the execution can proceed. (Which it does, equally gruesomely.) Crair’s investigation deals with the national execution drug shortage—including Lockett’s experience along with many others—and highlights Ohio prisoner Joseph Wood’s story; his execution was so mishandled that he “gasped and snorted for one hour and 57 minutes… the longest execution in modern history.”

For Stern and Crair, as well as many human rights-minded activists and advocates, the death chamber is a potent and useful example of inhumanity. Other, newer abolitionists—like the legislators in Nebraska that voted to abolish the death penalty there last month—focus on the act of execution as well. While the death chamber is itself horrific, abolitionists would be remiss to ignore the more common punishment: the immense cruelty of a prisoner’s long wait for execution. The “death row phenomenon” and associated prison conditions cause significant psychological and physical harm; a so-called “death before dying” is both internationally condemned and domestically pervasive. If the end to capital punishment in the U.S. is based on concern for human beings—whether in a religious or moral sense—the reform movement must be concerned with the prison conditions left when death is not on the table. (more…)

At Ohio’s Supermax Prison, a Hunger Strike Ends But Extreme Isolation Remains

COOEYFrom Solitary Watch

Last week, men incarcerated at Ohio’s supermax prison, the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, brought a month-long hunger strike to a close. Between 30 and 40 men had refused all meals since March 16 to protest new restrictions placed on already severely limited recreation and programming for those in solitary confinement. On Wednesday, April 15, all but one of the men agreed to suspend the hunger strike after a meeting with the warden at which the prison agreed to lifting some, but not all, of the new restrictions.

The Ohio State Penitentiary, or OSP, opened as Ohio’s first super maximum security facility in 1998. Conditions for the over 400 men held there are more restrictive than on Ohio’s death row. Even under policies that now exclude people with serious mental illness from placement there, the men incarcerated at OSP include those with mental health needs, including people with depression, dementia, cognitive and developmental disabilities.

Litigation by the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights about OSP’s conditions and the criteria for determining who was placed there went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2005. In that case, Austin v Wilkinson, the Court recognized that solitary confinement at OSP was an “atypical and substantial hardship.” The Court’s opinion, authored by Justice Antony Kennedy, included a description of the prison: (more…)