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March 22, 2010

Notable NYU event on solitary confinement

I am pleased to see here that an important prison issue which I fear gets too little attention, solitary confinement, will be the focus of a panel discussion hosted by New York University’s Wagner’s Students for Criminal Justice Reform on Tuesday March 23, 2010.  As detailed here, the panel discussion is titled “Segregation and Solitary Confinement: Cruel and Unusual Punishment?”, and the panel includes a host of leading experts on the topic.  Folks can RSVP here, and this text describing the issues to be covered comes from the event's promotionional materials:

More than 25,000 people are confined in solitary confinement in the United States. An additional 50,000 to 80,000 are kept in restrictive segregation units, many of them in isolation.

Prison officials say people are placed in isolation because they are the most violent, dangerous prisoners and that this practice protects other vulnerable populations. Opponents of solitary confinement assert that these policies are a form of cruel and unusual punishment and torture. People subjected to these conditions lack human contact, which can have a severe negative impact on a person’s mental state, leading to serious mental illnesses, such as depression and in some instances — death.

March 22, 2010 at 07:04 PM | Permalink

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Comments

I would appreciate the data supporting the idea that solitary confinement cause depression or death.

The alternative to segregation of ultra-violent prisoners is a higher staff ratio for greater supervision and physical control. There is an inherent economic conflict of interest among the speakers. This conflict makes this conference a propaganda exercise that is misleading. It is a stealthy sales job for higher costs of prisons.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 22, 2010 9:18:03 PM

It is located at a law school, notorious for its ultra-left wing bias. Why? If you mix the ultraviolent with the rest of the prisoners, you generate many injuries and lawsuits.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 22, 2010 9:20:28 PM

I am a graduate of Vanderbilt University (B.A. 1984) and the University of Virginia Law School (j.D. 1987). I served 8 years in 10 different Federal prisons (4 Lows, 4 Mediums and 2 Penitentiaries) between 2000 and 2008, for white collar criminal convictions. I had no prior criminal hisotry, not even a D.U.I. See, United States v. Bollin, Gormley & Tietjen, 264 F.3d 391 (4th Cir.2001). I was held in isolation in the Special Housing Units of these prisoons for 3 out of my 8 years in prison, either alone or with a single cellmate, in an 8' x 12' cell, for 23+ hours per day. One of the dirty little secrets of the federal prison system is how much they use solitary confinement on non-violent prisoners, for petty reasons. In my case, the B.O.P. hated the fact that I used my legal knoweldge and skills to help other inmates, which is expressly permitted by U.S. Supreme Court precedents and B.O.P. regulations. For example, when the 6th Circuit came down with its en banc decision in Rosales-Garcia v. Holland, I prepared 14 Habeas Corpus Petitions for Mariel Cuban I.N.S. detainees housed at F.C.I. - Manchester, Ky., leading to their release (one had been held in Federal prison for 17 years, as an I.N.S. detainee, without any Federal criminal charge or conviction). The Justice Dept. called the Warden to inquire why his prison was the only one in the Mid-Atlantic Region where all of the Mariel Cubans were in Court with Habeas Corpus Petitions within 2 weeks after the Rosales-Garcis decision. Who was doing all that legal work? I was placed in Administrative Detention and held there for more than 6 months. I was never released, but was finally transferred to another prison 5 days after I sued the Warden from "THE HOLE" (the Complaint was served upon him by the U.S. Marshals, upon the direction of a Federal Judge). You cannot imagine what that kind of social and sensory deprivation does to a person after months and years. I would like to attend and speak at the upcoming N.Y.U. Conference on Solitary Confinement, as a have a great deal of first hand knowledge on the subject.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Mar 23, 2010 9:06:27 AM

Jim is correct. There are many non-violent first time offenders serving time in the Federal System in a high security facility. These facilities are frequently in lock down with inmates confined to their cells for extended periods of times.

In many situations while federal prisoners are awaiting trial, non-violent inmates are housed in County Jails. They have none of the federal protections or rights in these facilities and can be totally isolated, denied family visits, frequently strip searched, awakened hourly, denied reading material.

Aside from what this says about the Criminal Justice System - the tax money spent on this confinement is enormous.

Posted by: beth | Mar 23, 2010 1:30:45 PM

Jim makes a good case for an accidental tumble down the metal steps. He is lucky. His disruptive conduct landed him in solitary confinement. Guards should have the power to cane prisoners without a hearing and a bunch of lawyers, to establish order in the prisons. The non-responders to three severe canings could then get solitary confinement. That is not a punishment, but a removal for physical safety of the other prisoners and the employees. There is no evidence of any adverse mental or physical health effects from solitary confinement.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 23, 2010 9:37:31 PM

SC just how do you get "disruptive conduct" last time i looked helping others file their legal papers was PERFECTLY LEGAL. Only problem here was HE WAS GOOD AT IT and made the nazi's running the FDOC look like the idiots they are.

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 24, 2010 1:01:32 AM

At one time, about 40% of the federal docket consisted of prisoner lawsuits. These generated defense costs, consumed judge time, and harassed prison authorities. They delayed justice for the other non-prisoner litigants.

By their indulgence, the judges allowed the prisoners to think they could use this avenue to retaliate against the authorities. Someone starts a fire, or clogs the plumbing so the pipes in the walls have to be replaced, we agree that is disruptive and retaliatory. These habeas petitions are the equivalent, pointless retaliation against prison authorities. The overwhelming majority of the law is make work for lawyers, and of no benefit to the public. I see no difference in the justification of harsh corporal punishment for the prisoner starting a fire or the prison lawyer generating pretextual claims. Corporal punishment works well, and is cheap.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 24, 2010 2:03:19 AM

At one time, about 40% of the federal docket consisted of prisoner lawsuits. These generated defense costs, consumed judge time, and harassed prison authorities. They delayed justice for the other non-prisoner litigants.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 24, 2010 6:29:55 AM

"It is located at a law school, notorious for its ultra-left wing bias."

Yet, the graduates of these law schools most favored by their ultra-left wing professors somehow end up overwhelmingly either defending the interests of big businesses in large law firms, or pushing for long sentences and law enforcement favorable interpretations of constitutional rights as prosecutors. We do live in odd world, don't we?

Posted by: ohwilleke | Mar 24, 2010 10:21:29 PM

horse pucky SC this alone statement alone shows you have no clue what your talking about in this case!

" For example, when the 6th Circuit came down with its en banc decision in Rosales-Garcia v. Holland, I prepared 14 Habeas Corpus Petitions for Mariel Cuban I.N.S. detainees housed at F.C.I. - Manchester, Ky., leading to their release (one had been held in Federal prison for 17 years, as an I.N.S. detainee, without any Federal criminal charge or conviction). The Justice Dept. called the Warden to inquire why his prison was the only one in the Mid-Atlantic Region where all of the Mariel Cubans were in Court with Habeas Corpus Petitions within 2 weeks after the Rosales-Garcis decision."

Since obviously the COURT and the JUDGES didn't agree with you about their being frivolous or useless.


i agree useless or do nothing cases need to be tosed and those who file them punished. INCLUDING of course DA's!

but cases like these where people would held for YEARS ILEGALLY hardly qualify!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 24, 2010 11:15:43 PM

I am a family member of a 22yr male will be serving a year in solitary confinment. He suffers from depression and i fear that he is at danger to himself now.
What happened to rehabilitation?

Posted by: pm | Jun 18, 2010 3:43:58 PM

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