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April 15, 2024

US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing set for "Legacy of Harm: Eliminating the Abuse of Solitary Confinement

Tomorrow morning, Tuesday, April 16, 2024, the US Senate Judiciary Committee has a hearing set for 10am titled "Legacy of Harm: Eliminating the Abuse of Solitary Confinement."  The hearing should be available to stream at this link, where this list of witnesses are set out:

Roy Boyd, Sheriff, Goliad County Sheriff’s Office, Goliad, TX

Katherine R. Peeler, MD, MA, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics; Medical Expert, Physicians for Human Rights, Harvard Medical School

Nicole Davis, Executive Director, Talk2Me Foundation

Gretta L. Goodwin, Director, Homeland Security and Justice, Government Accountability Office

Though I am not familiar with the work of these witnesses, the names of some of the organizations and the very title of the hearing certainly suggests that there will be considerable advocacy against solitary confinement.

April 15, 2024 at 05:12 PM | Permalink


I have personally experienced the BOP's abuse of solitary confinement in the Hole (in the Special Housing Unit), for the most petty and political of reasons. On one occasion, a Case Manager was never in her office during her scheduled Open House hours, when she was supposed to be there, available to meet with inmates to discuss their needs and concerns. One day, I had the gall to ask the Case manager why she was never in her office during her Open House Hours. She advised me that she did not really have fixed Open House Hours, and that I just needed to catch her in her office when I might find her there. She had just lied straight to my face. The written schedule of her Open House Hours was taped to the Office Window behind my head. I turned around, peel the schedule off the glass window and held it up before her face. I asked that if she didn't have fixed Open House Hours, what was the schedule of the Open House Hours, signed by her and our Unit Manager? She took the paper from my hand and fed it thru the shredder in her office. Then she called the Lieutenant on her radio and had me taken to The Hole, where I spent a week in solitary confinement for alleged "insolence to BOP staff". BOP staff are virtually unchecked in their ability to abuse sending people to solitary confinement.

I was also placed in solitary confinement for 6 months for assisting INS Mariel-Cuban detainees in filing Section 2241 Habeas Corpus Petitions for Release, following the Sixth Circuit's En Banc decision of "Rosales-Garcia v. Holland", 322 F.3d 386 (6th Cir. 2003) (En Banc) (providing that INS detainees could not be held in prison without convictions indefinitely. If the INS couldn't deport them back to their home country within 6 months of release from state prison, then they must be released onto the streets of America on Immigration Parole and be given work permits). My legal assistance to the Cubans was specifically permitted by U.S. Supreme Court precedent and by the BOP Program Statement on Inmate Legal Activities. Nevertheless, my Warden received a phone call from Main Justice in Washington, D.C., after we got 14 Petitions filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky within 3 weeks of the En Banc decision being rendered.
They got my Warden to lock me up in SHU "under investigation", to get me off the Compound and stop me from helping the Cubans. Initially, the Cubans Petitions were delayed while the DOJ sought Certiorari in Rosales-Garcia v. Holland. After Certiorari was denied by the Supreme Court, the Government said that the Judges should grant the Petitions and close the files. But I swa the trap. At that time, there was a split in the Federal Circuits about whether INS could hold the Cuban detainees indefinitely in Federal prison, without convictions, as Detainees, indefinitely or not. I knew that when the Cubans were released in Kentucky, they would travel to Little Havana in Miami, where their families and friends were located. And Florida is in the Eleventh Circuit, which was on the other side of the Circuit split from the Sixth Circuit. If the files were closed, then the DOJ would re-arrest these 14 men on the streets of Miami and reincarcerate them in BOP prisons located within the 11th Circuit. So, I wrote letters to the U.S. District Judges who had the cases and sent those letters out sealed, in legal mail, from The Hole. I suggested that they grant he petitions, but keep the files open to maintain supervision, so that the DOJ couldn't re-arrest these men in Miami. The 2 U.S. District Judges followed my suggestion, and these men were freed and not re-arrested in Miami. At the end of the maximum 6 months in The Hole under investigation, I was freed and returned to the Compound without being cited with any disciplinary infraction. The BOP routinely abuse solitary confinement.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Apr 16, 2024 7:50:30 PM

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