Living in a box: Solitary confinement is an American human-rights scandal…”


Living in a box

By Alex Hannaford              Photos by Adam Voohres           07 November 13

Solitary confinement is an American human-rights scandal, recently prompting hunger strikes across Californian jails in protest. Think you could survive being isolated in a tiny, windowless, concrete cell, 23 hours a day? GQ prepares to experience lockdown…

On 8 July 2013, 30,000 inmates throughout California’s prison system refused to eat. Many of the men were incarcerated at the state’s notorious Pelican Bay State Prison – an enormous grey fortress built on a 275-acre clearing in a pine forest near the coast, six hours north of San Francisco. Charles Manson was once locked up there, as was notorious Cripps gang member “Monster” Kody.

There, 1,500 of its 3,000 prisoners were in cells within an X-shaped cluster of white buildings known as the Secure Housing Unit. It depends what state you’re in, but secure housing, special housing, administrative segregation – all are solitary confinement by another name. In an extraordinary show of solidarity, inmates across the state joined the Pelican Bay protestors in their hunger strike to demonstrate against California’s practice of locking up its inmates for 22 out of 24 hours in isolated, windowless, concrete cells that measure about 11ft by 7ft (3.35m by 2.13m), often for years at a time. By the time August had rolled around, the California Department Of Corrections And Rehabilitation had won the legal right to force-feed around 70 of the remaining hunger strikers. By then, however, the world was watching.

Solitary confinement has become the United States’ next great human-rights scandal. Inmates can be put in solitary for a number of reasons, including violating prison rules, if they’re deemed an escape risk, because they’re a danger to other inmates, or for their own protection. And it’s not just California that excels at the practice. According to Solitary Watch, an independent body that collects information about solitary confinement, at least 44 states within the US federal system now have “supermax prisons”, most of which almost entirely comprise solitary confinement cells. Although Solitary Watch says it’s difficult to determine just how many people are currently held in solitary in the US due to a lack of reliable state-by-state information, a 2005 census of state and federal prisoners conducted by the Bureau Of Justice Statistics – considered the most accurate – found more than 81,622 inmates were held in “restricted housing”.

As far as Britain is concerned, a spokeswoman for the UK’s Ministry Of Justice told GQ the government didn’t have details of the number of people in solitary, but a report for Solitary Watch said even though Britain had the highest per-capita incarceration rate in Europe (153 out every 100,000 people), it “pales in comparison to the US”. By some estimates, about 500 people are housed in solitary in the UK at any one time, but even then it’s not for extensive periods. The Solitary Watch report noted that “overcrowding, brutal use of segregation and general mismanagement sparked extreme violence in British prisons throughout the Seventies and Eighties … [and] by 1998 solitary confinement was reduced in favour of Close Supervision Centres … designed to combine isolation with engagement … education programmes, libraries and daily exercise.” Compared to the US, then, our own prison system seems somehow progressive.

The 2013 California prison protests – which ended on 5 September – and the media coverage they attracted shone a light on an otherwise covert, unregulated corner of the US justice system: that placing prisoners in solitary is often an arbitrary arrangement, conducted at the discretion, some would say whim, of the individual prison warden. According to James Ridgeway, co-director and editor-in-chief of Solitary Watch, there’s rarely, if any, judicial oversight on imposing solitary confinement. “Placing an inmate in solitary is not determined in court – it’s determined by wardens and a self-serving committee of guards,” he says. “Unfortunately the American public has an appetite for retribution and that’s not going to change overnight.”

The unpalatable truth is that solitary confinement is tantamount to torture. Studies have proved that the practice of isolating prisoners for extensive periods of time can precipitate a descent into madness. Devoid of human contact for so long, often with just a handful of books and possibly a radio for company, many inmates in isolation scream out in the night; some lie naked in their recreation yards, urinating on themselves; smearing excrement over their bodies; indulging in often gruesome bouts of self-mutilation with razor blades or shanks fashioned from items in their cell.

In June 2012, Dick Durbin, a Democratic senator for Illinois, chaired the first ever congressional hearing on solitary confinement. “America has led the way with human rights around the world,” Durbin said in his introductory remarks. “But what do our prisons say about our American values?”

The US has five per cent of the world’s population, but a shocking 25 per cent of the world’s prison population. That’s 2.3 million inmates. And the US leads the world in incarcerating some of those prisoners in isolated boxes, often for decades. As David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) National Prison Project told me, the US is a “global outlier” in that respect, and no other democratic country comes close.

During the senate hearing, Craig Haney, a psychology professor at the University Of California, Santa Cruz, told the room that solitary confinement could lead to psychosis, mutilation, and suicide. As one of the country’s leading experts on inmate mental health, Haney wrote in a paper he published on the psychological impact of prison that it was in the mid-Seventies that the US moved from a society that saw incarceration as a means of facilitating “productive re-entry into the free world” to one that “used imprisonment merely to inflict pain on wrongdoers”. Studies have found those in solitary confinement develop psychopathologies at higher rates (28 per cent to 15 per cent) than those in the general population and are much more likely to engage in self-mutilation. Solitary Watch says suicide, too, is a consistent trend among inmates in isolation.

Wherever American penal law is applied, of course, solitary confinement – the practice, plus the scandal – travels. In February this year, 100 detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, embarked on a hunger strike for several months, protesting their continued incarceration without trial. They were force-fed by the US Military. I visited Guantánamo in July 2010 and was shown how detainees are fed Ensure, a powdered nutritional supplement, using a tube inserted into their nostril and down their oesophagus. I was also shown the tiny solitary cells, with beds formed from concrete. Approximately 70 per cent of the men detained there are still in solitary confinement. One described his cell as his “tomb”.

Juan Méndez, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture, has called on all countries to ban the solitary confinement of prisoners except in exceptional circumstances, and even then for 15 days at most. He also called for an outright ban in the case of juveniles and the mentally ill. The United States has yet to take Méndez up on his suggestion.

PLEASE, read whole article here:  http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/comment/articles/2013-11/07/solitary-confinement-american-human-rights

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Mental Illness Soars In Prisons, Jails While Inmates Suffer


Rethink Mental Illness

Rethink Mental Illness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

trauerkerze  Rest in Peace, Tony Lester!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/04/mental-illness-prisons-jails-inmates_n_2610062.html?view=print&comm_ref=false

Mental Illness Soars In Prisons, Jails While Inmates Suffer

Posted: 02/04/2013 12:58 pm EST  |  Updated: 02/04/2013  3:33 pm EST

Mentally Ill Inmates

Tony Lester committed suicide while incarcerated.

Armando Cruz tied a noose around his neck and hanged himself from the ceiling of his prison cell. He left a note that ended in two chilling words.

“Remember me.”

His mother Yolanda, who was shown the note after her son’s death, wants to make sure no one forgets.

“They took away my only son,” she says, her voice breaking.

Cruz killed himself on Sept. 20, 2011, during his incarceration at California State Prison in Sacramento, after a long history of mental illness. His story, first reported by the blog Solitary Watch, is an example of how the criminal justice system is ill-equipped to handle people with mental health issues.

Cruz spent years in solitary confinement and died while locked in a tiny solitary cell. The rates of suicide in solitary confinement tend to be higher than in the general prison population.

Suicide is the number one cause of death among inmates in local jails and in the top five for state prisons, according to a federal report.

Yolanda Cruz describes her son as a warm, funny person who was an easy child to raise. When he became a teenager, he began to change. He started to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Then, he was arrested for stealing tools from his neighbor’s garage.

When he was 15, he admitted that he heard voices in his head. Psychiatrists first diagnosed him with psychosis. Later, he would be diagnosed with schizophrenia.

A 2006 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that over half of all jail and prison inmates have mental health issues; an estimated 1.25 million suffered from mental illness, over four times the number in 1998. Research suggests that people with mental illness are overrepresented in the criminal justice system by rates of two to four times the normal population. The severity of these illnesses vary, but advocates say that one factor remains steady: with proper treatment, many of these incarcerations could have been avoided.

“Most people [with mental illness] by far are incarcerated because of very minor crimes that are preventable,” says Bob Bernstein, the Executive Director of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. “People are homeless for reasons that shouldn’t occur, people don’t have basic treatment for reasons that shouldn’t occur and they get into trouble because of crimes of survival.”

Bernstein blames these high rates on a lack of community mental health services. In the past three years, $4.35 billion in funding for mental health services has been cut from state budgets across the nation, according to a recent report. Because of the cuts, treatment centers have had to trim services and turn away patients.

State hospitals have also been forced to reduce services. A report by the Treatment Advocacy Center even found that there are more people with severe mental illness in prisons and jails than in hospitals.

Yolanda Cruz tried for years to get her son the right kind of care. But it wasn’t easy. She says that the first doctor she took him to refused to prescribe him any kind of medication, saying that he was only getting into trouble because he was using drugs and hanging out with the wrong kind of people. Other doctors would later prescribe him a host of medications but the one that eased his symptoms the most left him nearly catatonic.

In 2000, when Armando Cruz was 17, a local police officer was attacked with a knife from behind. His throat was cut but he survived. Cruz confessed to the crime and was arrested. To this day, his mother swears he was manipulated by the voices in his head or by the real perpetrator.

The courts didn’t see it that way. Cruz was convicted of the attempted murder of a police officer and sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole after 8 years. Three years had passed between his arrest and his sentencing, most of which he spent in county jail.

Eric Balaban, an attorney with the ACLU’s National Prison Project, said that mentally ill people who have contact with the criminal justice system are too often incarcerated while awaiting trial, rather than sent to hospitals or treatment centers.

“There has been a very disturbing recent trend to keep them in jails and not send them to a hospital which is done as a money saving measure,” said Balaban. “They’re not receiving the appropriate level of care.”

Once people with mental illness are incarcerated, Bazleon’s Bernstein says, it becomes a tough cycle to break.

“Most people are there for minor crimes but then they deteriorate,” he explains. “They can’t follow the rules there and so they stay a long time, and they become difficult to release.”

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics report, most inmates with mental illness don’t receive treatment while in prison.

Patti Jones’ nephew Tony Lester was sent to state prison in Tucson, Ariz., for aggravated assault. Like Armando Cruz, Lester heard voices. He told his aunt that before he was incarcerated, he had only heard two voices. After he was admitted, there were seven.

Lester was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was prescribed medication but didn’t always take it while in prison, Jones said. Lester was placed among the general prison population with little treatment available.

His symptoms grew worse.

“He started saying he thought his attorney was the Antichrist,” Jones says. “He thought Obama was an alien. He thought he was a time traveler.”

Jones says she begged the jail to force him to take his medication, but staff told her he was allowed to refuse treatment.

In June 2010, Lester stopped taking his medication completely. After he told a guard he was contemplating ending his life, he was placed on suicide watch. On July 9, he was deemed stable. On July 11, his roommate woke up to Lester’s blood dripping on him. He had stabbed himself vigorously in the neck, wrist and groin with a razor.

“Treating the mentally ill is different than acting with a normal population,” says Joe Baumann, a corrections officer at the California Rehabilitation Center. “The problem is there’s so many of them either self-medicating or not taking medication at all. No one monitors whether inmates take their medication.”

Corrections employees are not properly taught how to recognize and handle mental illness, he says.

“There’s a lack of any real training to identify specific issues and how to deal with them,” says Baumann, who says he only receives a few hours of mental illness training each year and it isn’t enough. “There’s a lack of direction from management.”

Corrections officers on staff at the time of Tony Lester’s death said that when they arrived at his cell, they weren’t sure what to do, according to a state investigation of the incident. One officer said that he “was never trained on how to apply pressure to a wound.” Lester bled to death while the officers struggled to deal with the situation.

Donn Rowe, president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, says that mentally ill inmates place a huge strain on the corrections facilities and their employees.

“It’s very challenging on our members,” he says. “They need much more attention than your average inmate population. It’s a very expensive and very demanding job to manage these people.”

The expense is high, to be sure. The average inmate in New York costs the state over $60,000 per year, according to a report by the Vera Insitute of Justice. That figure doesn’t take into account the extra resources that mentally ill inmates require. Experts say that funding mental health services for these inmates would cost less than imprisoning them and could help prevent many incarcerations in the first place.

According to a Bazelon Center report, the annual cost of case management for mentally ill people in Michigan is $2,165 per person. A more intensive program, the popular Assertive Community Treatment, costs the state $9,029 per person per year. In contrast, the average Michigan inmate cost the state over $34,000 last year.

But mental health services are dramatically underused. Over half of inmates with mental health problems never received treatment prior to incarceration, according to a Department of Justice report.

“We’re paying criminal justice and other costs, we’re investing there and we really should be investing in the services that could prevent that whole trajectory to begin with,” says Bernstein.

Not all mentally ill inmates’ stories end like Lester’s or Cruz’s. But the figures are too high to ignore. In 2010, 520 inmates committed suicide in local jails and state prisons. To the loved ones and advocates of these inmates, their deaths were avoidable.

“When Tony was on his meds, he was our Tony,” says Jones. “If he’d had access to care, he would have lived.”

              

MISERICORDIA


Yet another prisoner, held in a different section than A. and L., has reported being placed in on strip cell status 15-20 times across three years in solitary confinement. P., who is currently serving a 15-year prison term for robbery, has spent three years in Uinta One for “not listening to officers, a weapons write up, and refusing to move.” He is currently held in a less restrictive section of Uinta One, and is allowed more privileges, such as visitation, than prisoners in other sections. He recalls his time in one section as “pain and misery,” where “you get to move to the shower with a dog leash every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.”

“You get only four pairs of socks and underwear, you can only buy stamps, the soap they give you doesn’t work, and they use strip cell as a punishment for everything”, he writes of his situation.

http://asolitarytorture.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/chaney.jpg?w=900&h=675

Utah Supermax Prisoners` Report


Promontory Unit of the Utah State Prison

Promontory Unit of the Utah State Prison (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

uinta1cellPrisoners at Utah State Prison, Draper’s supermax Uinta One facility have reported numerous abuses to Solitary Watch. The Uinta One facility has a design capacity of 96, and is divided into eight sections with twelve cells each, with approximately 90 prisoners currently held in solitary confinement for reasons varying from short-term disciplinary action to protective custody.

Prisoners in Uinta One may receive only 3 hours a week of time out of their cell to shower or exercise alone in a concrete yard. The cells are small, and some are fitted with cameras. The windows on the cell doors are covered by a steel flap that guards routinely peer through. Sand bags line the doors to prevent “fishing,” or communications being passed from cell to cell, and cell flooding.

Reports prisoner Brandon Green, who has spent five years in Uinta One, “Bugs get trapped under these and set up little colonies and infiltrate our cells. Most of these toilets do not flush correctly and most cell toilets stink with green moss inside the bowls. Most air vents are clogged and one can taste the city exhaust smoke as one chews ones carrots.”

One prisoner has called Uinta One a “place of pain and terror,” while another has commented “no wonder there are so many suicides.”

Individuals in Uinta One have written Solitary Watch about the frequent use of strip cells as a disciplinary measure and response to suicidal ideation. A strip cell is a cell without anything beyond a concrete bedding area, toilet, and sink. Prisoners in these conditions wear a smock, a tear-resistant gown. (Solitary Watch has previously reported on the use of strip cells at Utah State Prison.)

L., who spent 33 months in Uinta One in total as of October 2012, told Solitary Watch that  “if someone is gonna kill themselves they take them and out to a strip cell and you sleep on the hard floor and treated like a dog.” A., in protective custody for one year following his decision to leave  gang life, reported that “if I lose control because of something I have no control over, they’ll punish me and put me on strip cell for three days…when a mentally ill inmate feels suicidal, they send us to the infirmary to be on suicide watch…then we get from suicide watch back to Uinta 1 and the staff put us back in the strip cell when we get back to Uinta 1.”

Mental health treatment is reportedly abysmal. “Only medication. And nothing else. It’s all about money with these people. They charge you money only to see a mental health worker for one or two minutes and they’ll walk away and do nothing for you,” reports A.

A. has further written that the use of strip cell is “for punishment purposes. Otherwise, why would they put someone on strip cell? For simply calling the officers names or an inmate who can’t emotionally deal with this place goes on strip cell. When some of us feel suicidal, the officers say ‘Please don’t do anything on my shift. Wait until I leave and you can do whatever you want.’ Their policy states that they must carry themselves in a professional manner, but it’s ok for them to go against policy, but if we do that it’s hell to pay and strip cell to see.”

Yet another prisoner, held in a different section than A. and L., has reported being placed in on strip cell status 15-20 times across three years in solitary confinement. P., who is currently serving a 15-year prison term for robbery, has spent three years in Uinta One for “not listening to officers, a weapons write up, and refusing to move.” He is currently held in a less restrictive section of Uinta One, and is allowed more privileges, such as visitation, than prisoners in other sections. He recalls his time in one section as “pain and misery,” where “you get to move to the shower with a dog leash every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.”

“You get only four pairs of socks and underwear, you can only buy stamps, the soap they give you doesn’t work, and they use strip cell as a punishment for everything”, he writes of his situation.

With regards to strip cells, he writes that the protocol following suicidal ideation is being sent to the infirmary, where prisoners are placed on strip cell as they receive psychiatric attention. They are then returned to Uinta One, where they are placed on strip cell.

“For 24 hours you’re with a smock to cover your self up,” P. writes, “You get only 6-12 sheets of toilet paper, depending on the officer.”

As others have described, P. reports being treated like an animal. “You have to kneel down in the back of your cell to get your white sack thrown on the floor (treated like an animal). But they let you come to the door for pill line or trash call…You have to earn your meals, but not pills. Go figure.”

While on strip cell, “if you go 24 hours without a negative event you’ll be able to get a mattress. After 24 more hours you’ll get your stuff back…they throw all your stuff together, clean with dirty clothes, sometimes throw your stuff away.”

Like others in Uinta One, he reports being verbally abused by guards. “I’ve been called a lame bitch, punk, case, worthless, etc. by officers. They threat you like an animal and when you go off they act like they didn’t do nothing.”

Solitary Watch will continue to provide updates on Uinta One as information becomes available.

Review of Solitary Confinement Practices


U.S. Bureau of Prisons to review solitary confinement

Feb04
2013
Written by admin
 

NEW YORK |
Mon Feb 4, 2013 9:54pm EST

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Federal Bureau of Prisons has agreed to a comprehensive review of the use of solitary confinement in its prisons, including the fiscal and public safety consequences of the controversial practice, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said on Monday.

A spokesman from the bureau confirmed that the National Institute of Corrections plans to retain an independent auditor “in the weeks ahead” to examine the use of solitary confinement, which is also known as restrictive housing.

“We are confident that the audit will yield valuable information to improve our operations, and we thank Senator Durbin for his continued interest in this very important topic,” spokesman Chris Burke said in a statement.

Prisoners in isolation are often confined to small cells without windows for up to 23 hours a day. Durbin’s office said the practice can have a severe psychological impact on inmates and that more than half of all suicides committed in prisons occur in solitary confinement.

In Durbin’s state of Illinois, 56 percent of inmates have spent some time in segregated housing.

“The United States holds more prisoners in solitary confinement than any other democratic nation in the world, and the dramatic expansion of solitary confinement is a human rights issue we can’t ignore,” said Durbin, who chaired a Senate hearing on the use of solitary confinement last year.

“We can no longer slam the cell door and turn our backs on the impact our policies have on the mental state of the incarcerated and ultimately on the safety of our nation.”

The federal prison system is the largest in the country and includes some 215,000 inmates.

News of the review was welcomed by the American Civil Liberties Union – a strong critic of the nation’s use of solitary confinement.

“We hope and expect that the review announced today will lead the Bureau to significantly curtail its use of this draconian, inhumane and expensive practice,” David Fathi, director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project, said in a statement.

(Reporting By Edith Honan; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)

 

Federal Bureau of Prisons to Undergo Review of Solitary Confinement Practices

February 5, 2013 By

Cell at ADX federal supermax

On Monday, the office of Illinois Senator Dick Durbin put out the following press release, announcing that the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) had agreed to submit to a review of its solitary confinement practices.

In 2010, a spokesperson for the BOP said that federal prisons held approximately 11,150 prisoners in some form of segregated “special housing.” This figure includes the 400 men held in ultra-isolation at the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum (ADX) in Florence, Colorado, which is currently the target of federal lawsuits claiming conditions there lead to mental illness and suicide, and violate the Constitution.

The planned review follows on the first-ever Congressional hearing on solitary confinement, held last June by a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee chaired by Durbin. It is described as a “comprehensive and independent assessment,” though it will be carried out by the National Institute of Corrections, which is an agency of the BOP.

Solitary Watch will report further on this story in the coming days, including the BOP’s assertion that it has already “reduced its segregated population by nearly 25 percent.”

DURBIN STATEMENT ON FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS ASSESSMENT OF ITS SOLITARY CONFINEMENT PRACTICES

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) released the following statement today announcing that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has agreed to a comprehensive and independent assessment of its use of solitary confinement in the nation’s federal prisons. This first-ever review of federal segregation policies comes after Durbin chaired a hearing last year on the human rights, fiscal and public safety consequences of solitary confinement. Last week, Durbin and Bureau of Prisons Director Charles Samuels discussed the assessment, which will be conducted through the National Institute of Corrections.

“The announcement by the Bureau of Prisons that it will conduct its first-ever review of its use of solitary confinement is an important development,” Durbin said. “The United States holds more prisoners in solitary confinement than any other democratic nation in the world and the dramatic expansion of solitary confinement is a human rights issue we can’t ignore. I am confident the Bureau of Prisons will permit a thorough and independent review and look forward to seeing the results when they are made public. We can no longer slam the cell door and turn our backs on the impact our policies have on the mental state of the incarcerated and ultimately on the safety of our nation.”

In his hearing last year, Durbin emphasized the importance of reforming the way we treat the incarcerated and the use of solitary confinement in prisons and detention centers around the country. Following that hearing, Durbin has twice met with Bureau of Prisons Director Samuels to push for additional reforms and encourage a sufficiently robust assessment of the Bureau’s segregation practices.

Since Durbin’s hearing, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has reportedly reduced its segregated population by nearly 25 percent. In addition, it has closed two of its Special Management Units, a form of segregated housing, due to the reduction in the segregated population.

The National Institute of Corrections, through which the assessment will be conducted, assisted states like Mississippi and Colorado in reforming their solitary practices. After assessing its practices, Mississippi reduced its segregated population by more than 75 percent, which resulted in a 50 percent reduction in prison violence.

During the last several decades, the United States has witnessed an explosion in the use of solitary confinement for federal, state, and local prisoners and detainees. Today, more than 2.3 million people are imprisoned in the United States. This is – by far – the highest per capita rate of incarceration in the world.

Solitary confinement – also called supermax housing, segregation and isolation – is designed to separate inmates from each other and isolate them for a variety of reasons. Originally used to segregate the most violent prisoners in the nation’s supermax prisons, the practice is being used more frequently, including for the supposed protection of vulnerable groups like immigrants, children and LGBT inmates. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the United States holds over 80,000 people in some kind of restricted housing. In Illinois, 56% of inmates have spent some time in segregated housing.

Prisoners in isolation are often confined to small cells without windows, with little to no access to the outside world or adequate programs and treatment. Inmates are confined to these cells for up to 23 hours a day.  Such extreme isolation can have serious psychological effects on inmates and can lead to mental illness, self-mutilation and suicide. According to several state and national studies, at least half of all prison suicides occur in solitary confinement.

In addition to the impact solitary confinement has on inmates, there are also public safety and fiscal concerns with the practice. The bipartisan Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons found that the use of solitary confinement often increased acts of violence in prions. Further, it is extremely costly to house a prisoner in solitary confinement. In Tamms, Illinois’ only supermax prison, it cost more than $60,000 a year to house a prisoner in solitary confinement while it was operational, compared to an average of $22,000 for inmates in other prisons.

Video from Durbin’s June hearing on solitary confinement can be found at www.judiciary.senate.gov. /  

SOLITARY WATCH

‘Companionship or Death’: Jewish Engagement With the Injustice of Solitary Confinement


Cousin Uri and Savta Etka

Cousin Uri and Savta Etka (Photo credit: Whistling in the Dark)

 

‘Companionship or Death’: Jewish Engagement With the Injustice of Solitary Confinement

Talmud (Ta’anit 23a), “Either companionship or death.”

http://newvoices.org/2013/01/22/a-jewish-approach-to-prisoners/

Op-Ed, Opinion | January 22, 2013 by  

Advocates set up a mock solitary confinement cell during the first ever congressional hearing on the subject of solitary confinement [CC: Dolores Panales]

If community is a foundation of Jewish life, what does Judaism have to say about solitary confinement, the forcible separation of a person from the community? A few months ago I began an internship with Solitary Watch, an investigative news organization dedicated to reporting on solitary confinement. Once I got started, I became interested in learning more about the work the American Jewish community organizes around this issue. 

It turns out there is a lot of work being done, though it started quite recently. Beginning in 2012, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights (recently renamed from Rabbis for Human Rights-North America), a coalition of 1,800 rabbis, and Uri L’Tzedek, a prominent liberal Modern Orthodox social justice organization, have both made the issue of solitary confinement a prominent part of their advocacy efforts.

Solitary confinement is a form of imprisonment where individuals are subjected to approximately 22-24 hours per day of isolated lockdown in tiny cells. Many Americans mistakenly believe that solitary confinement is used sparingly, only for the most dangerous or threatening prisoners. However, according the American Civil Liberties Union, there are more than 80,000 men, women and children currently in some sort of solitary confinement in United States prisons. Many have a mental illness or cognitive disability, and the majority has been placed there for nonviolent violations of prison rules.

The costs of solitary confinement are much higher than housing inmates in the general prison population. Mississippi recently reduced the number of prisoners it holds in solitary from 1,000 to about 150, and closed down their high-security Supermax unit. According to the ACLU, the reforms are saving Mississippi’s taxpayers approximately $8 million per year.

That economic perspective on solitary confinement is important, but there is a moral perspective to consider as well – and that is where the religious community can add a unique voice to the national conversation.

“We’re looking to provide some moral weight to the solitary confinement conversation by applying Jewish values,” said Shlomo Bolts, a prison consultant from Uri L’Tzedek.

“Sympathy for prisoners is not the most common sentiment amongst the American public. People do not want to be seen as weak or soft on crime,” said Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. “In the Torah however, it clearly says that if someone asks for forgiveness three times and you don’t forgive them, then the onus is on you. In Judaism we believe in repentance and that punishments don’t go on forever.”

While Uri L’Tzedek and T’ruah approach the issue of solitary confinement from a distinctly Jewish perspective, the scope of both groups’ work on the issue extends well beyond the Jewish community.

“We don’t want to make this a Jewish issue. We want to make it an American issue. As Americans we’re allowing for it to happen, we’re paying for it with our tax dollars,” said Kahn-Troster.

“We want to apply the Jewish values we learn to help all people,” said Bolts.

The two groups are part of a growing movement against solitary confinement. A feeling that the status quo is simply untenable is circulating in religious communities and among the politically engaged in general; change, while it may not be imminent, feels inevitable.

“This is an exciting time. We really do see ourselves as being a force to help pass legislation to abolish or reduce solitary confinement,” said Bolts.

In June, Senator Dick Durban (D-IL) led a congressional hearing on solitary confinement, the first in American history. The hearing focused on the human rights issues associated with isolation, the economic implications of solitary confinement and the psychological impact on inmates during and after their imprisonment.

Both T’ruah and Uri L’Tzedek contributed written testimony to the hearings. They also participated in the National Day of Fasting, an interfaith effort to raise awareness of the significance of the congressional hearing.

“Fasting serves as a way to repent and bear witness. For me to be at the congressional hearing, sitting with a group of religious leaders fasting was a very powerful experience,” said Rabbi Kahn-Troster.

Fasting also serves as an act of solidarity with prisoners in solitary confinement, for whom hunger strikes are often the only available form of protest.

“I think about the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay [a California Supermax facility]. They get poor food, and then they refuse to eat it in order to draw attention to their situation. When I fasted it really hit home what these people must be going through,” said Rabbi Kahn-Troster.

T’ruah and Uri L’Tzedek are also working with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. Founded in 2006 and comprised of more than 300 religious organizations, the campaign organizes protests against different forms of torture employed by the U.S., including those used at sites like Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.

Turning her organization’s focus toward solitary confinement now “seems like a natural outgrowth of our torture work,” said Rabbi Kahn-Troster.

Uri L’Tzedek and T’ruah now face the task of motivating American Jews to get more involved with the issue. Despite a history of involvement in a wide variety of social justice causes, the American Jewish community has generally avoided issues of prison reform.

“There is this misconception that Jews are somehow not incarcerated, yet Jews go to prison for the same reasons as everyone else,” said Chaplain Gary Friedman, chairman of Jewish Prisoner Services International, an organization that provides advocacy and spiritual services to Jewish prisoners and their families. Friedman estimates there are approximately 12,000-15,000 Jews in American prisons today, including some in solitary confinement.

Uri L’Tzedek’s approach to raising awareness is a mix of traditional advocacy combined with social science research led by the Tag Institute, a British-based think tank drive

‘Companionship or Death’: Jewish Engagement With the Injustice of Solitary Confinement

Op-Ed, Opinion | January 22, 2013 by | 0 Comments

Advocates set up a mock solitary confinement cell during the first ever congressional hearing on the subject of solitary confinement [CC: Dolores Panales]

If community is a foundation of Jewish life, what does Judaism have to say about solitary confinement, the forcible separation of a person from the community? A few months ago I began an internship with Solitary Watch, an investigative news organization dedicated to reporting on solitary confinement. Once I got started, I became interested in learning more about the work the American Jewish community organizes around this issue. 

It turns out there is a lot of work being done, though it started quite recently. Beginning in 2012, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights (recently renamed from Rabbis for Human Rights-North America), a coalition of 1,800 rabbis, and Uri L’Tzedek, a prominent liberal Modern Orthodox social justice organization, have both made the issue of solitary confinement a prominent part of their advocacy efforts.

Solitary confinement is a form of imprisonment where individuals are subjected to approximately 22-24 hours per day of isolated lockdown in tiny cells. Many Americans mistakenly believe that solitary confinement is used sparingly, only for the most dangerous or threatening prisoners. However, according the American Civil Liberties Union, there are more than 80,000 men, women and children currently in some sort of solitary confinement in United States prisons. Many have a mental illness or cognitive disability, and the majority has been placed there for nonviolent violations of prison rules.

The costs of solitary confinement are much higher than housing inmates in the general prison population. Mississippi recently reduced the number of prisoners it holds in solitary from 1,000 to about 150, and closed down their high-security Supermax unit. According to the ACLU, the reforms are saving Mississippi’s taxpayers approximately $8 million per year.

That economic perspective on solitary confinement is important, but there is a moral perspective to consider as well – and that is where the religious community can add a unique voice to the national conversation.

“We’re looking to provide some moral weight to the solitary confinement conversation by applying Jewish values,” said Shlomo Bolts, a prison consultant from Uri L’Tzedek.

“Sympathy for prisoners is not the most common sentiment amongst the American public. People do not want to be seen as weak or soft on crime,” said Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. “In the Torah however, it clearly says that if someone asks for forgiveness three times and you don’t forgive them, then the onus is on you. In Judaism we believe in repentance and that punishments don’t go on forever.”

While Uri L’Tzedek and T’ruah approach the issue of solitary confinement from a distinctly Jewish perspective, the scope of both groups’ work on the issue extends well beyond the Jewish community.

“We don’t want to make this a Jewish issue. We want to make it an American issue. As Americans we’re allowing for it to happen, we’re paying for it with our tax dollars,” said Kahn-Troster.

“We want to apply the Jewish values we learn to help all people,” said Bolts.

The two groups are part of a growing movement against solitary confinement. A feeling that the status quo is simply untenable is circulating in religious communities and among the politically engaged in general; change, while it may not be imminent, feels inevitable.

“This is an exciting time. We really do see ourselves as being a force to help pass legislation to abolish or reduce solitary confinement,” said Bolts.

In June, Senator Dick Durban (D-IL) led a congressional hearing on solitary confinement, the first in American history. The hearing focused on the human rights issues associated with isolation, the economic implications of solitary confinement and the psychological impact on inmates during and after their imprisonment.

Both T’ruah and Uri L’Tzedek contributed written testimony to the hearings. They also participated in the National Day of Fasting, an interfaith effort to raise awareness of the significance of the congressional hearing.

“Fasting serves as a way to repent and bear witness. For me to be at the congressional hearing, sitting with a group of religious leaders fasting was a very powerful experience,” said Rabbi Kahn-Troster.

Fasting also serves as an act of solidarity with prisoners in solitary confinement, for whom hunger strikes are often the only available form of protest.

“I think about the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay [a California Supermax facility]. They get poor food, and then they refuse to eat it in order to draw attention to their situation. When I fasted it really hit home what these people must be going through,” said Rabbi Kahn-Troster.

T’ruah and Uri L’Tzedek are also working with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. Founded in 2006 and comprised of more than 300 religious organizations, the campaign organizes protests against different forms of torture employed by the U.S., including those used at sites like Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.

Turning her organization’s focus toward solitary confinement now “seems like a natural outgrowth of our torture work,” said Rabbi Kahn-Troster.

Uri L’Tzedek and T’ruah now face the task of motivating American Jews to get more involved with the issue. Despite a history of involvement in a wide variety of social justice causes, the American Jewish community has generally avoided issues of prison reform.

“There is this misconception that Jews are somehow not incarcerated, yet Jews go to prison for the same reasons as everyone else,” said Chaplain Gary Friedman, chairman of Jewish Prisoner Services International, an organization that provides advocacy and spiritual services to Jewish prisoners and their families. Friedman estimates there are approximately 12,000-15,000 Jews in American prisons today, including some in solitary confinement.

Uri L’Tzedek’s approach to raising awareness is a mix of traditional advocacy combined with social science research led by the Tag Institute, a British-based think tank driven by Jewish social values. Among other things, Tag’s research seeks to generatIf community is a foundation of Jewish life, what does Judaism have to say about solitary confinement, the forcible separation of a person from the community? A few months ago I began an internship with Solitary Watch, an investigative news organization dedicated to reporting on solitary confinement. Once I got started, I became interested in learning more about the work the American Jewish community organizes around this issue.

It turns out there is a lot of work being done, though it started quite recently. Beginning in 2012, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights (recently renamed from Rabbis for Human Rights-North America), a coalition of 1,800 rabbis, and Uri L’Tzedek, a prominent liberal Modern Orthodox social justice organization, have both made the issue of solitary confinement a prominent part of their advocacy efforts.

Solitary confinement is a form of imprisonment where individuals are subjected to approximately 22-24 hours per day of isolated lockdown in tiny cells. Many Americans mistakenly believe that solitary confinement is used sparingly, only for the most dangerous or threatening prisoners. However, according the American Civil Liberties Union, there are more than 80,000 men, women and children currently in some sort of solitary confinement in United States prisons. Many have a mental illness or cognitive disability, and the majority has been placed there for nonviolent violations of prison rules.

The costs of solitary confinement are much higher than housing inmates in the general prison population. Mississippi recently reduced the number of prisoners it holds in solitary from 1,000 to about 150, and closed down their high-security Supermax unit. According to the ACLU, the reforms are saving Mississippi’s taxpayers approximately $8 million per year.

That economic perspective on solitary confinement is important, but there is a moral perspective to consider as well – and that is where the religious community can add a unique voice to the national conversation.

“We’re looking to provide some moral weight to the solitary confinement conversation by applying Jewish values,” said Shlomo Bolts, a prison consultant from Uri L’Tzedek.

“Sympathy for prisoners is not the most common sentiment amongst the American public. People do not want to be seen as weak or soft on crime,” said Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. “In the Torah however, it clearly says that if someone asks for forgiveness three times and you don’t forgive them, then the onus is on you. In Judaism we believe in repentance and that punishments don’t go on forever.”

While Uri L’Tzedek and T’ruah approach the issue of solitary confinement from a distinctly Jewish perspective, the scope of both groups’ work on the issue extends well beyond the Jewish community.

“We don’t want to make this a Jewish issue. We want to make it an American issue. As Americans we’re allowing for it to happen, we’re paying for it with our tax dollars,” said Kahn-Troster.

“We want to apply the Jewish values we learn to help all people,” said Bolts.

The two groups are part of a growing movement against solitary confinement. A feeling that the status quo is simply untenable is circulating in religious communities and among the politically engaged in general; change, while it may not be imminent, feels inevitable.

“This is an exciting time. We really do see ourselves as being a force to help pass legislation to abolish or reduce solitary confinement,” said Bolts.

In June, Senator Dick Durban (D-IL) led a congressional hearing on solitary confinement, the first in American history. The hearing focused on the human rights issues associated with isolation, the economic implications of solitary confinement and the psychological impact on inmates during and after their imprisonment.

Both T’ruah and Uri L’Tzedek contributed written testimony to the hearings. They also participated in the National Day of Fasting, an interfaith effort to raise awareness of the significance of the congressional hearing.

“Fasting serves as a way to repent and bear witness. For me to be at the congressional hearing, sitting with a group of religious leaders fasting was a very powerful experience,” said Rabbi Kahn-Troster.

Fasting also serves as an act of solidarity with prisoners in solitary confinement, for whom hunger strikes are often the only available form of protest.

“I think about the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay [a California Supermax facility]. They get poor food, and then they refuse to eat it in order to draw attention to their situation. When I fasted it really hit home what these people must be going through,” said Rabbi Kahn-Troster.

T’ruah and Uri L’Tzedek are also working with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. Founded in 2006 and comprised of more than 300 religious organizations, the campaign organizes protests against different forms of torture employed by the U.S., including those used at sites like Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.

Turning her organization’s focus toward solitary confinement now “seems like a natural outgrowth of our torture work,” said Rabbi Kahn-Troster.

Uri L’Tzedek and T’ruah now face the task of motivating American Jews to get more involved with the issue. Despite a history of involvement in a wide variety of social justice causes, the American Jewish community has generally avoided issues of prison reform.

“There is this misconception that Jews are somehow not incarcerated, yet Jews go to prison for the same reasons as everyone else,” said Chaplain Gary Friedman, chairman of Jewish Prisoner Services International, an organization that provides advocacy and spiritual services to Jewish prisoners and their families. Friedman estimates there are approximately 12,000-15,000 Jews in American prisons today, including some in solitary confinement.

Uri L’Tzedek’s approach to raising awareness is a mix of traditional advocacy combined with social science research led by the Tag Institute, a British-based think tank driven by Jewish social values. Among other things, Tag’s research seeks to generate quantitative survey data on the Jewish community’s perceptions of prisons and punitive punishment –and to find the most effective ways of organizing Jewish communities to advocate for humane alternatives to solitary confinement.

Meanwhile, T’ruah is mobilizing its network of 1,800 rabbis to raise the consciousness of members of their respective communities on the issue – and hopefully to inspire some activism about solitary confinement within their communities

As solitary confinement becomes an increasingly mainstream human rights issue, the work of the Jewish community is likely to grow and inspire further activism.

As it says in the TIf community is a foundation of Jewish life, what does Judaism have to say about solitary confinement, the forcible separation of a person from the community? A few months ago I began an internship with Solitary Watch, an investigative news organization dedicated to reporting on solitary confinement. Once I got started, I became interested in learning more about the work the American Jewish community organizes around this issue.

It turns out there is a lot of work being done, though it started quite recently. Beginning in 2012, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights (recently renamed from Rabbis for Human Rights-North America), a coalition of 1,800 rabbis, and Uri L’Tzedek, a prominent liberal Modern Orthodox social justice organization, have both made the issue of solitary confinement a prominent part of their advocacy efforts.

Solitary confinement is a form of imprisonment where individuals are subjected to approximately 22-24 hours per day of isolated lockdown in tiny cells. Many Americans mistakenly believe that solitary confinement is used sparingly, only for the most dangerous or threatening prisoners. However, according the American Civil Liberties Union, there are more than 80,000 men, women and children currently in some sort of solitary confinement in United States prisons. Many have a mental illness or cognitive disability, and the majority has been placed there for nonviolent violations of prison rules.

The costs of solitary confinement are much higher than housing inmates in the general prison population. Mississippi recently reduced the number of prisoners it holds in solitary from 1,000 to about 150, and closed down their high-security Supermax unit. According to the ACLU, the reforms are saving Mississippi’s taxpayers approximately $8 million per year.

That economic perspective on solitary confinement is important, but there is a moral perspective to consider as well – and that is where the religious community can add a unique voice to the national conversation.

“We’re looking to provide some moral weight to the solitary confinement conversation by applying Jewish values,” said Shlomo Bolts, a prison consultant from Uri L’Tzedek.

“Sympathy for prisoners is not the most common sentiment amongst the American public. People do not want to be seen as weak or soft on crime,” said Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. “In the Torah however, it clearly says that if someone asks for forgiveness three times and you don’t forgive them, then the onus is on you. In Judaism we believe in repentance and that punishments don’t go on forever.”

While Uri L’Tzedek and T’ruah approach the issue of solitary confinement from a distinctly Jewish perspective, the scope of both groups’ work on the issue extends well beyond the Jewish community.

“We don’t want to make this a Jewish issue. We want to make it an American issue. As Americans we’re allowing for it to happen, we’re paying for it with our tax dollars,” said Kahn-Troster.

“We want to apply the Jewish values we learn to help all people,” said Bolts.

The two groups are part of a growing movement against solitary confinement. A feeling that the status quo is simply untenable is circulating in religious communities and among the politically engaged in general; change, while it may not be imminent, feels inevitable.

“This is an exciting time. We really do see ourselves as being a force to help pass legislation to abolish or reduce solitary confinement,” said Bolts.

In June, Senator Dick Durban (D-IL) led a congressional hearing on solitary confinement, the first in American history. The hearing focused on the human rights issues associated with isolation, the economic implications of solitary confinement and the psychological impact on inmates during and after their imprisonment.

Both T’ruah and Uri L’Tzedek contributed written testimony to the hearings. They also participated in the National Day of Fasting, an interfaith effort to raise awareness of the significance of the congressional hearing.

“Fasting serves as a way to repent and bear witness. For me to be at the congressional hearing, sitting with a group of religious leaders fasting was a very powerful experience,” said Rabbi Kahn-Troster.

Fasting also serves as an act of solidarity with prisoners in solitary confinement, for whom hunger strikes are often the only available form of protest.

“I think about the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay [a California Supermax facility]. They get poor food, and then they refuse to eat it in order to draw attention to their situation. When I fasted it really hit home what these people must be going through,” said Rabbi Kahn-Troster.

T’ruah and Uri L’Tzedek are also working with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. Founded in 2006 and comprised of more than 300 religious organizations, the campaign organizes protests against different forms of torture employed by the U.S., including those used at sites like Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.

Turning her organization’s focus toward solitary confinement now “seems like a natural outgrowth of our torture work,” said Rabbi Kahn-Troster.

Uri L’Tzedek and T’ruah now face the task of motivating American Jews to get more involved with the issue. Despite a history of involvement in a wide variety of social justice causes, the American Jewish community has generally avoided issues of prison reform.

“There is this misconception that Jews are somehow not incarcerated, yet Jews go to prison for the same reasons as everyone else,” said Chaplain Gary Friedman, chairman of Jewish Prisoner Services International, an organization that provides advocacy and spiritual services to Jewish prisoners and their families. Friedman estimates there are approximately 12,000-15,000 Jews in American prisons today, including some in solitary confinement.

Uri L’Tzedek’s approach to raising awareness is a mix of traditional advocacy combined with social science research led by the Tag Institute, a British-based think tank driven by Jewish social values. Among other things, Tag’s research seeks to generate quantitative survey data on the Jewish community’s perceptions of prisons and punitive punishment –and to find the most effective ways of organizing Jewish communities to advocate for humane alternatives to solitary confinement.

Meanwhttp://newvoices.org/2013/01/22/a-jewish-approach-to-prisoners/hhttp://newvoices.org/2013/01/22/a-jewish-approach-to-prisoners/ile, T’ruah is mobilizing its network of 1,800 rabbis to raise the consciousness of members of their respective communities on the issue – and hopefully to inspire some activism about solitary confinement within their communities

As solitary confinement becomes an increasingly mainstream human rights issue, the work of the Jewish community is likely to grow and inspire further activism.

As it says in the Talmud (Ta’anit 23a), “Either companionship or death.”

e quantitative survey data on the Jewish community’s perceptions of prisons and punitive punishment –and to find the most effective ways of organizing Jewish communities to advocate for humane alternatives to solitary confinement.

Meanwhile, T’ruah is mobilizing its network of 1,800 rabbis to raise the consciousness of members of their respective communities on the issue – and hopefully to inspire some activism about solitary confinement within their communities

As solitary confinement becomes an increasingly mainstream human rights issue, the work of the Jewish community is likely to grow and inspire further activism.

As it says in the Talmud (Ta’anit 23a), “Either companionship or death.”

n by Jewish social values. Among other things, Tag’s research seeks to generate quantitative survey data on the Jewish community’s perceptions of prisons and punitive punishment –and to find the most effective ways of organizing Jewish communities to advocate for humane alternatives to solitary confinement.

Meanwhile, T’ruah is mobilizing its network of 1,800 rabbis to raise the consciousness of members of their respective communities on the issue – and hopefully to inspire some activism about solitary confinement within their communities

As solitary confinement becomes an increasingly mainstream human rights issue, the work of the Jewish community is likely to grow and inspire further activism.

As it says in the Talmud (Ta’anit 23a), “Either companionship or death.”

“SOLITARY 101″ PowerPointPresentation: From Solitary Watch


New from Solitary Watch: “Solitary 101″ PowerPoint Presentation

Our “Solitary 101″ PowerPoint, developed for the recent Midwest Coalition for Human Rights conference on Solitary Confinement and Human Rights, is now available online. The 60-slide PowerPoint includes sections on the history of solitary confinement, solitary as it is practiced in the United States today, and the growing movement against solitary confinement.

We encourage educators and advocates to use, share, and customize the presentation according to their needs (for non-commercial purposes only, with proper attribution to Solitary Watch). No advance permission is necessary, although we will appreciate hearing about how you are using the presentation, as well as any suggestions for improvement.

Solitary Watch’s ‘Solitary 101′ Powerpoint Presentation

Prisoners to Remain …


http://solitarywatch.com/2012/10/28/prisoners-to-remain-on-rikers-island-as-hurricane-sandy-heads-for-new-york/

 

Prisoners to Remain on Rikers Island As Hurricane Sandy Heads for New York

by Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

At a press conference this afternoon on New York City’s preparations for Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg was asked about the safety of prisoners on Rikers Island, which lies near the mouth of Long Island Sound, between Queens and the Bronx. Bloomberg appeared annoyed by the question, and responded somewhat opaquely: “Rikers Island, the land is up where they are and jails are secured.” Apparently unable to fathom that anyone’s main concern would be for the welfare of the more than 12,000 prisoners on Rikers, Bloomberg then reassured listeners: “Don’t worry about anybody getting out.”

The last time a major hurricane was headed for New York–Irene, in August of 2011–Bloomberg gave a similarly terse response to a question about the island prison. “We are not evacuating Rikers,” he declared even as other shoreline communities and City Island were cleared of residents. With little information forthcoming from the New York City Department of Corrections and Rikers left blank on the city’s Evacuation Zone maps, prisoners’ loved ones “were in a panic,” says Lisa Ortega, whose 16-year-old son was being held on Rikers at the time. A story originating on Solitary Watch, “Locked Up and Left Behind,” went viral, and thousands of readers expressed concern or outrage.

This time, the Department of Corrections (if not the Mayor) appears better prepared for inquiries about the status of Rikers in a hurricane. By Saturday, it had proactively posted a notice on its website stating:

Given its elevation, Rikers Island can withstand any storm up to and including a Category 4 hurricane. Rikers Island facilities are NOT in low-lying areas, and therefore like nearby small islands Roosevelt Island and City Island, is not seriously threatened by severe flooding.

The personal safety of New York City Department of Correction (NYCDOC) staff and the inmate population is clearly our top priority and in the highly unlikely event that an evacuation would become necessary, it would occur. The NYCDOC response to an unprecedented disaster of this magnitude would be integrated of course, into a city or region-wide strategy. The City has carefully reviewed Rikers Island, as it has done with the entire city, and no section of Rikers Island facilities are located in Hurricane Evacuation Zone A.

Be assured that NYCDOC staff will remain on Rikers Island and the facility is a fully self-sustaining entity, prepared to operate and care for inmates in an emergency if such an emergency develops.

Read more of this post