Tag Archive: torture

Chelsea threatened with indefinite solitary confinement

chelsea-manning

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…)

Prison Architecture and the Question of Ethics

A death-row jail cell in Huntsville, Tex. The design of such quarters has raised questions.

A death-row jail cell in Huntsville, Tex. The design of such quarters has raised questions.

From The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — Faced with lawsuits and a growing mountain of damning research, New York City officials decided last month to ban solitary confinement for prison inmates 21 and younger. Just a few weeks earlier, the American Institute of Architects rejected a petition to censure members who design solitary-confinement cells and death chambers.

“It’s just not something we want to determine as a collective,” Helene Combs Dreiling, the institute’s former president, told me. She said she put together a special panel that reviewed the plea. “Members with deeply embedded beliefs will avoid designing those building types and leave it to their colleagues,” Ms. Dreiling elaborated. “Architects self-select, depending on where they feel they can contribute best.”

What are the ethical boundaries for architecture? Architecture is one of the learned professions, like medicine or law. It requires a license, giving architects a monopoly over their practices, in return for a minimal promise that buildings won’t fall down. Raphael Sperry, the Bay Area architect who spearheaded the petition to the institute, thinks the public deserves more in return for that monopoly. (more…)

Record 346 inmates die, dozens of guards fired in Florida prisons

Jerry Washington (left); Latandra Ellington (middle); Randall Jordan-Aparo (right). All died in prisons at the hands of guards in the most unjust ways imaginable.

Jerry Washington (left); Latandra Ellington (middle); Randall Jordan-Aparo (right). All died in prisons at the hands of guards in the most unjust ways imaginable.

From Daily Kos

The United States has a prison crisis of epic proportions. With just five percent of the world population, but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, the United States has, far and away, the highest incarceration rate, the largest number of prisoners, and the largest percentage of citizens with a criminal record of any country in the world.The highly respected Prison Policy Initiative breaks it down:

The U.S. incarcerates 716 people for every 100,000 residents, more than any other country. In fact, our rate of incarceration is more than five times higher than most of the countries in the world. Although our level of crime is comparable to those of other stable, internally secure, industrialized nations, the United States has an incarceration rate far higher than any other country.Nearly all of the countries with relatively high incarceration rates share the experience of recent large-scale internal conflict. But the United States, which has enjoyed a long history of political stability and hasn’t had a civil war in nearly a century and a half, tops the list.

If we compare the incarceration rates of individual U.S. states and territories with that of other nations, for example, we see that 36 states and the District of Columbia have incarceration rates higher than that of Cuba, which is the nation with the second highest incarceration rate in the world.

Now, what we are learning is that the United States is not just imprisoning people at an outrageous pace, but that men and women are dying in these prisons at all-time highs, often at the hands of guards, in the most awful and brutal ways imaginable. The state of Florida, it appears, is ground zero for the deaths of prisoners, and the crisis is so deeply corrupt and out of hand that it needs immediate national intervention.In 2014, Florida recorded at least 346 deaths inside of their prison system, an all-time high for the state in spite of the fact that its overall prison population has hovered around 100,000 people for the five previous years. Hundreds of these deaths from 2014 and from previous years are now under investigation by the DOJ because of the almost unimaginable role law enforcement officers are playing in them.

Below the fold I will highlight some of the most egregious stories.

(more…)

Prison worker dismissed for inmate’s death has new position

michael_kerr_webFrom The Indy

At least one North Carolina prison official who lost his job following the death of inmate Michael Anthony Kerr has a new position in the Department of Public Safety.

DPS spokeswoman Pam Walker confirmed this week that John Monguillot, the former assistant director of mental health in the prison system’s western region, received a demotion after Kerr’s death. He is now the psychological services coordinator at Marion Correctional Institution in western North Carolina, where he oversees mental health services at the facility.

As a result, Monguillot’s annual salary dropped from $93,786 to just under $80,000. Walker did not offer any additional comment on Monguillot’s demotion. (more…)

Prison captain fired over inmate death wants job back

kerrFrom WRAL

A corrections captain fired earlier this year after a mentally ill inmate died of thirst appeared in court this week to fight for his job.

Shawn Blackburn, formerly a captain at Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville, N.C., was dismissed for “grossly inefficient” job performance in April amid an investigation into the death of inmate Michael Anthony Kerr. Correction officials found Kerr dead in the back of a van March 12 after the inmate was transferred from Alexander to Central Prison in Raleigh. The state medical examiner later found Kerr died of dehydration.

The former captain is one of at least nine Alexander employees fired in the wake of Kerr’s death. At least two others resigned, and the N.C. Department of Public Safety says close to 30 people have been disciplined or demoted in some form. Like Blackburn, many are appealing their dismissals.

Although the hearing is a quasi-judicial process that takes place in a courtroom environment, it is not a trial. Rather, Blackburn was making the case he should not have been fired for Kerr’s death. Others investigating the matter for possible criminal conduct include a federal grand jury and the State Bureau of Investigation, which is overseen by the same administrative department as the prison system.

Corrections officials say Blackburn violated policy and demonstrated poor judgment when he left Kerr, who suffered from schizoaffective disorder, confined in handcuffs for five days in solitary confinement, where the inmate had been segregated for more than a month.

“Yes he was an inmate, but he was a human being,” Assistant Attorney General Tamika Henderson, arguing for the state, said. “It comes down to fact that while in control of the Department of Public Safety, a man died after being handcuffed for five days in a segregation cell sitting in his own urine and feces.” (more…)

Is Solitary Confinement Torture? New Report From UNC School Of Law

solitary censoredFrom The State of Things

Long-term solitary confinement is a cruel, inhumane and degrading form of punishment, according to a new report from The University of North Carolina School of Law.

The 225-page report, Solitary Confinement as Torture,  identifies torture as the infliction of severe pain- physical  or psychological- for the purposes of punishing an individual for something they have done or are accused of doing. Lead author Deborah Weissman told The State of Things host Frank Stasio that solitary confinement is a form of punishment “beyond the bounds of human decency.”

It’s a form of punishment “beyond the bounds of human decency.” – lead author of Solitary Confinement as Torture, Deborah Weissman

Students who worked on this report went to prisons and spoke with prisoners who had been in solitary confinement. They listened to narratives from other sources, listened to what experts had to say on the issue and looked for other alternatives. (more…)

NC agencies lock down info on inmate’s death from dehydration

kerrFrom News and Observer

Michael Anthony Kerr spent the last five days of his life handcuffed in a prison cell, unresponsive, off his mental health medicine, and lying in his feces and urine. An hour or two before the former Army sergeant died, officials at Alexander Correctional Institution put him into a wheelchair and drove him 2-1/2 hours east to a prison hospital in Raleigh.

When Kerr, 53, arrived at Central Prison, his body was cold.

Somewhere between Taylorsville and Raleigh, as the prison vehicle passed emergency rooms at eight hospitals, Kerr died of dehydration.

“They treated him like a dog,” said Brenda Liles, his sister.

The state Department of Public Safety has released almost no information to the public on Kerr’s March 12 death. Secretary of Public Safety Frank Perry declined to discuss the facts of the case but said he called in the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the death. (more…)

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…)