Voices from Solitary: Welcome to the SHU. Don´t forget Humans in Shadow, often in very, very deep shadow…
Voices from Solitary: Welcome to the SHU –
Karl ChuJoy is currently serving three years in solitary confinement in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) of Elmira Correctional Facility in upstate New York, for possessing a laptop computer. He writes in a letter to Solitary Watch:
“I’ve been incarcerated since I was fifteen (15) years old.
I am now thirty-six (36)…I’m halfway through these three (3) years [in the SHU]. I’ve been in SHU before, quite a few times. But this is the first time in five (5) years. My introduction to SHU began when I was sixteen (16) years old, in 1993. I’ve since learned to sidestep the bullshit in prison and stay out of trouble (but can you really pass up a laptop in prison? Come on, think about it).” The following are further excerpts from his letter. He welcomes letters at the following address: Karl ChuJoy, #94-A-5418, Elmira Correctional Facility, PO Box 500, Elmira, New York 14902-0500. –James Ridgeway
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Being alone is totally different than being lonely. Being alone signifies being physically apart from others. Being lonely is complete a state of mind: “feeling” alone. The latter holds all of the negative aspects of solitude. In the SHU this feeling is magnified exponentially due to the constricted lack of freedom and relative lack of brain-stimulating activities.
Mail is manna from heaven. When I hear the squeak, squeal and rumble of the mail-cart being pushed down the gallery, I start saying to myself, “You’re not getting any mail, so don’t even expect it. Nobody knows you anymore. No one wrote, so stop it!” Then, as the cart squeaks and squeals and rumbles a bit louder as it gets closer, I’ll jump off the cot and start pacing. Then I’ll squat in front of one of my spiders (the SHU Prisoner’s Loyal Pet) and I’ll start talking to it (you talk to your pets, too, don’t you?!) I’ll say, “Come on! Hope with me that we get a piece of mail. Come on! If you hope with me then we’re guaranteed a letter,” and I’ll do a little fist pump. I get real animated. I won’t do it everyday, though. It becomes a quotidien ritual when I haven’t received a letter in a month or more, because I’ll start to worry. Only my mother and sister write to me, once a month usually…
Literary media is the lifeblood of a sane mind in the SHU. Reading makes on think outside the box. National Geographic Magazine is my Travelocity, my trips to the Museum of Natural History, my Smithsonian, my MOMA and the Louvre, my trips to the Bronx Zoo and Sea World; GQ is my afternoon window-shopping stroll down 5th Avenue;…Popular Mechanics and Scientific American are my brain snacks–I was super excited when it was announced that circumstantial evidence was detected of the existence of the Higgs boson particle. Will I be able to open a wormhole in my call and go on a furlough one day? Quantum mechanics offers infinite possibilities, so I’ll keep my antennas up!
Book! Books! Book! A man in SHU lives on books as much as on food (and they taste better). Non-fiction has the potential to feed one’s knowledge pool. Fictoin has the potential to feed one’s empathy. Two different parts of the brain. Both necessary to build a fecund mind. I cannot say enough about books, my friends. I love books. I LOVE books. Books are my teachers, my guides, my companions. They enrich me with new [to me] concepts and ideas to digest. They take me to other worlds, lands, times, realities, life experiences. They introduce me to characters who become close friends….And my companions take me out of the SHU almost completely. Only my physical self is locked in a cell with the chaos around me. My spirit is elsewhere, walking through the woods, living vicariously, a silent partner. When I return, dusk may have turned to dawn and sometimes I’ll be surprised/confused when breakfast is being served. That’s the magic of books: they are teleportation machines for the spirit.
For the uninitiated in society who want to know somewhat how the SHU experience feels: go to your bathroom and lock yourself in there (a regular 10′ x 6′ sized bathroom, not a mansion sized one). Then truly imagine being locked in there for days, weeks, months…years–with no way to get out. All your meals are slid under the door. You don’t see anyone, but you hear others. Although, you wish you didn’t…
Because all day, and parts of the night, you are being assaulted by the deafening sounds of others yelling at each other to be overheard, chess players shouting numbers a hundred feet apart from each other, others screaming the foulest profanities and threats at each other for ten hours non-stop to emerge the victor in the argument/mouthfight. The worst are the ones who scream at the top of their lungs at 2 AM, 3 AM, 5 AM, as if they’re on fire just ’cause they’re assholes, and others who growl-yell-scream as if they’re transforming into werewolves of battling a demonic entity in their cell at 2 or 3 in the morning, while others start barking like large dogs. Yes, actually barking for a minute at a time…like a Rottweiler. You can wake up and really believe you died in your sleep and you’re in hell. But nope…you’re just in the SHU. Welcome.
By: DON THOMPSON (AP)
SACRAMENTO, Calif.Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.
Only some lines:
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A federal judge approved a request from California and federal officials on Monday to force-feed inmates if necessary as a statewide prison hunger strike entered its seventh week.
Officials say they fear for the welfare of nearly 70 inmates who have refused all prison-issued meals since the strike began July 8 over the holding of gang leaders and other violent inmates in solitary confinement that can last for decades….
The highest-ranking gang leaders are held in what is known as the “short corridor” at Pelican Bay. Four leaders of rival white supremacist, black and enemy Latino gangs have formed an alliance to promote the hunger strike in a bid to force an end to the isolation units….
- US judge approves force-feeding California inmates (krem.com)
- California hunger strike: judge approves force-feeding (theguardian.com)
- New Post on Solitary Watch: Day 41 of California Hunger Strike… (inprisonedwomen.wordpress.com)
- California to force-feed hunger-striking inmates (davidicke.com)
- Sacto 911: Calif. wins federal court approval to feed hunger-strike inmates (blogs.sacbee.com)
- US judge approves force-feeding California inmates (sfgate.com)
- Request granted to force-feed California inmates on weeks-long hunger strike (theprovince.com)
- Judge rules California inmates can be force-fed (foxnews.com)
- Calif. wins federal judge’s approval to feed hunger-strike inmates (sacbee.com)
- US judge approves force-feeding California inmates (cnsnews.com)
Jam-packed or alone
Overcrowding and solitary confinement, in California and beyond
JEFFREY BEARD, California’s prisons chief, boasts that the number of inmates in the state’s prisons has fallen by 43,000 since 2006. But unlike other states that have seen big drops, California’s hand was forced: in 2009 federal judges were so concerned by overcrowding that they ordered the state to cut prison occupancy to 137.5% of design capacity (at one point it exceeded 200%). The ruling has been upheld over the laments of officials, most recently by the Supreme Court on August 2nd. An appeal is pending.
California has not reduced numbers simply by setting people free. Rather, it has sent lots of non-serious offenders to county jails instead of state prisons (a policy called “realignment”). To meet the court-decreed target by the end of the year, the state must find another 7,000 or so prisoners to offload, says Mr Beard. His department hopes to do this mainly through “capacity options”, such as dispatching prisoners to costly private lock-ups in other states….
Please, read more: http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21583657-overcrowding-and-solitary-confinement-california-and-beyond-jam-packed-or-alone?utm_source=buffer&utm_campaign=Buffer&utm_content=buffer2062d&utm_medium=twitter
AlterNet: Is New York Lying in Diagnoses So it Can Lock Mentally Ill Inmates in Solitary Confinement?
Is New York Lying in Diagnoses So It Can Lock Mentally Ill Inmates in Solitary Confinement?
When Amir Hall entered New York state prison for a parole violation in November 2009, he came with a long list of psychological problems. Hall arrived at the prison from a state psychiatric hospital, after he had tried to suffocate himself. Hospital staff diagnosed Hall with serious depression.
In Mid-State prison, Hall was in and out of solitary confinement for fighting with other inmates and other rule violations. After throwing Kool-Aid at an officer, he was sentenced to seven months in solitary at Great Meadow Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in upstate New York.
Hall did not want to be moved. When his mother and grandmother visited him that spring, Hall warned them: If he didn’t get out of prison soon, he would not be coming home.
“There was somebody who looked defeated, like the life was beat out of him,” said his sister Shaleah Hall. “I don’t know who that person was. The person in that video was not my brother.”
Multiple  studies  have shown that isolation can damage inmates’ minds, particularly those already struggling with mental illness. In recent years, New York state has led the way in implementing policies to protect troubled inmates from the trauma of solitary confinement .
A 2007 federal court order  required New York to provide inmates with “serious” mental illness more treatment while in solitary. And a follow-up law  enacted in 2011 all but bans such inmates from being put there altogether.
But something odd has happened: Since protections were first added, the number of inmates diagnosed with severe mental illness has dropped. The number of inmates diagnosed with “serious” mental illness is down 33 percent since 2007, compared to a 13 percent decrease in the state’s prison population.
A larger portion of inmates flagged for mental issues are now being given more modest diagnoses, such as adjustment disorders or minor mood disorders.
The New York Office of Mental Health says the decrease reflects improvements to the screening process. Efforts to base diagnoses on firmer evidence “has resulted in somewhat fewer, but better-substantiated diagnoses” of serious mental illness, said a spokesman for the office in an emailed statement.
In Hall’s case, prison mental health staff never labeled his problems as “serious.”
Instead, they repeatedly downgraded his diagnosis. After three months in solitary — during which Hall was put on suicide watch twice — they changed his status to a level for inmates who have experienced “at least six months of psychiatric stability.”
Two weeks after his diagnosis was downgraded, and two days after he was transferred to solitary at Great Meadow, guards found Hall in his cell hanging from a bed sheet.
As part of a report issued on every inmate death, the Corrections Department’s Medical Review Board found no documented reason behind the change in Hall’s diagnosis .
A 2011 Poughkeepsie Journal investigation detailed a spike in inmate suicides  in 2010, which disproportionately took place in solitary confinement. Death reports from the state’s oversight committee obtained by the Journal  suggest several inmates who have committed suicide in recent years may have been under-diagnosed.
Hall’s family is suing the Corrections Department and the Office of Mental Health, among other defendants, for failing to treat his mental illness and instead locking him in solitary.
New York State’s Office of Mental Health, which is in charge of inmates’ mental health care, declined to comment on Hall’s case, citing the litigation.
Amir Hall (or Mir, as his family calls him) was originally arrested in October 2007, for the unarmed robbery of a Verizon store. He made off with $86. Released on parole, he lived with his sister Shaleah Hall and her two sons while working at a local Holiday Inn and studying to become a nurse.
“Sometimes I sit there thinking that he’s going to walk through the door and make everybody laugh,” said Shaleah, who has “In Loving Memory of Amir” tattooed in a curling ribbon on her right bicep. “He was the life of the party. If you met him, you would just love him.”
But Hall’s mood could shift in an instant, Shaleah said. He was often paranoid, worried that people judged him for being gay. He would snap, then apologize repeatedly for it afterward.
“You had to walk on eggshells sometimes, because you never knew if he was going to be happy or sad that day,” Shaleah said. “It was like this ever since we were kids.”
One of those outbursts landed Hall back in prison for violating parole, after he got into a fight with Shaleah’s friend.
Knowing her brother’s history of mental illness, Shaleah said solitary confinement must have “drove him crazy.”
“I feel like they treated him like an animal,” she said. “They just locked him away and forgot about him.”
The lawsuit over Hall’s death claims mental health and prison staff ignored recommendations that he receive more treatment, and that staff members failed to properly assess his mental health when he arrived at Great Meadow.
In a response  to the state oversight committee’s assessment of Hall’s case, the Office of Mental Health said they were retraining staff on screening for suicide risk. The Corrections Department said they were working to improve communication when inmates are transferred to new facilities.
Sarah Kerr, a staff attorney with the Prisoners’ Rights Project of the Legal Aid Society, noted Hall’s case during a Senate hearing on solitary confinement . “The repeated punitive responses to [Hall] as he psychiatrically deteriorated in solitary confinement exemplify the importance of vigilance and monitoring, and the need for diversion from harmful solitary confinement,” she wrote.
Kerr points out that significant improvements have been made for inmates diagnosed above the “serious” mental illness line. The new mental health units provide at least four hours of out-of-cell treatment a day, and speed up an inmate’s return to the general population.
“I don’t think those improvements should be taken lightly,” said Kerr. “In terms of mental health policy, we’re way ahead of the country.”
But when it comes to solitary confinement, “New York is among the worst states,” said Taylor Pendergrass of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which is suing the state  over its use of isolation. “Even if you’re totally sane and you go into solitary, it’s incredibly hard to deal with the psychological toll of that,” he said.
Solitary confinement is used in jails and prisons across the country, though there’s no reliable data to compare its prevalence among states. Experts say New York stands out for sentencing inmates to solitary for infractions as minor as having too many postage stamps or a messy cell. A report from the NYCLU  found that five out of six solitary sentences in New York prisons were for “non-violent misbehavior.”
Under the state’s new law, all inmates housed in solitary — known in New York as Special Housing Units, or SHU — receive regular check-ins from mental health staff. The screenings are meant to catch inmates not originally diagnosed with a disorder who develop problems in isolation.
But Jennifer Parish, director of criminal justice advocacy at the Urban Justice Center, said she thinks many staff members still view inmates’ symptoms as attempts to avoid punishment. “If you don’t believe that being in solitary can have detrimental effects to a person’s mental health, you’re going to see someone who just says, ‘I want to get out of here,'” she said.
Beck has seen the same skepticism in conversations with some prison staff. “There’s a bias in the system that looks at the incarcerated population as anti-social, malingerers, manipulators,” Beck said. “I hear that all the time.”
When inmates ask to see mental health staff, “we have found far too often that it appears security staff really resent people asking for these interventions,” Beck said. “We have in a few facilities what I think are credible stories of individuals being beaten up when they want to go to the crisis center.”
As Sarah Kerr sees it, “if mental health staff are overly concerned that people are feigning illness, that they’re conning their way out of special housing … that will lead to tragedies.”
The Corrections Department says any unusual behavior by inmates or attempts to hurt themselves are reported to mental health staff. A spokesman for the Office of Mental Health said “inmates reporting psychiatric symptoms are taken seriously and assessed carefully.”
Donna Currao said prison staff ignored her and her husband, Tommy Currao, when he attempted suicide at least 10 times over the course of 10 months in solitary confinement. According to his wife, Currao had been sent to solitary after testing positive for heroin.
Currao’s first suicide attempt in solitary was in July 2012, when he tried to overdose on heroin. That October, guards found him attempting to hang himself in his cell. While on suicide watch after he tried again to overdose, Currao broke open his hearing aid and used the metal inside to cut his wrists. (He received a bill of $500 for “destruction of state property,” Donna said.)
Both the Corrections Department and the Office of Mental Health declined to comment on Currao’s case.
According to the Corrections Department, an inmate can be returned to solitary confinement after being on suicide watch if they’re cleared by the Office of Mental Health. In 2011, 14 percent of the 8,242 inmates released from New York’s mental health crisis units were sent to solitary confinement.
After just three weeks in isolation, Donna noticed a dramatic change in her husband. He “was withdrawn, all he would do is apologize,” Donna said. He was no longer laughing with her, playing cards or chatting with other inmates. She watched him drop from 240 pounds to 160.
Currao stopped writing the almost daily letters he’d sent for 13 years. When Donna persuaded him to start again, as a way to escape, he talked of an overwhelming sadness.
Donna says she repeatedly called the prison. She faxed them copies of Currao’s suicidal letters. But he remained in isolation.
“I don’t know if they don’t want to spend the money, or think it’s a joke,” she said. “They still thought he wanted out of solitary. He wanted out of the picture is what he wanted.”
A survey  by the state’s independent oversight committee found many family members who said prison officials didn’t listen to concerns about inmates’ psychological wellbeing. None of the mental health files reviewed by the oversight committee contained information from family members about a prisoner’s psychiatric history.
The Office of Mental Health says it’s working on creating new procedures to “insure that the call is responded to promptly and in a manner that addresses the family member’s concern as best as possible.”
Prisoner rights advocates are also working on a new legislative proposal to ensure that mentally ill inmates get the treatment they need. A coalition of groups  is drafting a new bill, which would expand protections from solitary for inmates with mental illness, and put a limit on solitary confinement sentences for any prisoner, whether or not they’re diagnosed with a disorder.
“Even though there’s a law that says you can’t do this for people with serious mental illness, it hasn’t stopped [Corrections] from using solitary,” said Parish. “I think they just replaced it with lower-level tickets instead of some of the most serious ones.”
In May, Donna’s persistence in trying to get her husband treatment finally saw results. Currao met with a psychologist, and was diagnosed with “serious” anti-social personality disorder and dysthymic disorder. He was moved out of solitary confinement and into one of the 170 Residential Mental Health Treatment beds created under the recent law.
Currao “seems to be 1,000 times better” since entering treatment, Donna said. He talks about wanting to become a counselor when he’s released.
But Donna wonders why it took so many suicide attempts and nearly a year of pressure to get her husband a proper diagnosis and the treatment he was legally owed. “They are not enforcing this law,” she said. “Why do we have to fight so hard to get them evaluated?”
Hall’s family is left with the same questions as they search for answers about his death. “How many more people have to die?” Shaleah asked. “They need help. Locking them away is hurting them more.”
Support “Hunger for Justice”
Apoyo “Hambre por la Justicia”
On July 22, Billy “Guero” Sell, a prisoner held in solitary confinement at Corcoran State Prison and a participant in the 3-week-long hunger strike that has shaken the California prison system, passed away. Sell’s death is being ruled a suicide by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).
Fellow prisoners reported that Sell had been requesting medical attention for several days prior to his death. Attorneys received numerous reports of medical neglect of the health needs of the strikers, and these reports have generated an outcry from the medical community. Over 100 health care providers have signed onto a letter denouncing the CDCR’s failure to provide appropriate medical care to the strikers.
The prisoners are still committed to continuing the strike until California Governor Jerry Brown and the California Department of Corrections take decisive action to meet their demands.
Today is Day 23 of the hunger strike, and CDCR continues to retaliate against prisoners participating in this peaceful protest while refusing to negotiate. It is important that we continue to show our support & keep the pressure on Gov. Brown and the CDCR!
We have over 5,000 people that have signed the petition to Governor Brown. Now we need 30,000 CALLS for 30,000 Hunger Strikers!
JOIN US and USE YOUR POLITICAL POWER!
1) DAY 23: Call Governor Jerry Brown
Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160
Suggested script: I’m calling in support of the prisoners on hunger strike. The governor has the power to stop the torture of solitary confinement. I urge the governor to compel the CDCR to enter into negotiations to end the strike. RIGHT NOW is their chance to enter into clear, honest negotiations with the strikers to end the torture.
2) Make sure you send this email to your friends, families, and networks. Ask them to stand in solidarity with us – sign the petition today and help us reach 30,000 calls
3) Support the Day Long Hunger Strike this Wednesday! “Hunger for Justice” will have convenings throughout California. We fast in solidarity with the demands of the hunger strikers. And we fast to get justice for Trayvon and for people of every gender, race, and religion who have been killed by state and vigilante violence.
– Wednesday, July 31st All Day Community Education (Pick up Materials at SubRosa Community Space & Cafe: 703 Pacific Ave Santa Cruz, CA 95060 and Mobilize at 6:30pm at Santa Cruz Downtown Clocktower on Ocean st. & Pacific St.)
Thank you for your commitment. Ya Basta!
El 22 de julio, Billy “Guero” Vender, un preso recluido en régimen de aislamiento en la prisión estatal de Corcoran y participante en la huelga de hambre por 3 semanas de duración que ha sacudido el sistema penitenciario de California, falleció. La muerte de Venta se descarta un suicidio por el Departamento de Correcciones y Rehabilitación de California (CDCR).
Sus compañeros de prisión informaron que venden había estado pidiendo asistencia médica durante varios días antes de su muerte. Abogados recibieron numerosos informes de negligencia médica de las necesidades de salud de los huelguistas, y estos informes han generado la protesta de la comunidad médica. Más de 100 profesionales de la salud han firmado una carta denunciando el fracaso del CDCR para proporcionar atención médica adecuada a los huelguistas.
Los presos se han comprometido a continuar la huelga hasta que el gobernador de California Jerry Brown y el Departamento de Correcciones de California toman medidas decisivas para satisfacer sus demandas.
Hoy es el día 23 de la huelga de hambre, y el CDCR sigue tomando represalias contra los presos que participaron en esta protesta pacífica mientras niegan a negociar. Es importante que sigamos para mostrar nuestro apoyo y mantener la presión sobre el gobernador Brown y el CDCR!
Tenemos más de 5,000 personas que han firmado la petición al gobernador Brown. Ahora necesitamos 30,000 llamadas para los 30,000 huelguistas!
¡únase con nosotrxs y usen su poder político!
1) Día 17: Llamen al gobernador jerry brown
teléfono: (916) 445-2841
FAX: (916) 558-3160
Guión Sugerido: Estoy llamando porque apoyo a los presos que participan en la huelga de hambre. El gobernador tiene todo el poder para eliminar la tortura de aislamiento en solitario. Yo insto al gobernador a que exija al CDCR entrar en negociaciones claras y honestas con los huelguistas para poner así fin a la huelga. AHORITA MISMO es su oportunidad de negociar y terminar con la tortura injustificada.
2) Asegúrese de enviar este correo electrónico a sus amigos, familias y redes. Pídales que ser solidarios con nosotros – firmar la petición hoy y ayúdenos a alcanzar 30,000 llamadas
3) Apoya el día de huelga de hambre este miércoles! “Hambre de Justicia” tendrá eventos en California. Ayunamos sabiendo que la criminalización que mató a Trayvon Martin, y la criminalización que justifica la tortura de prisioneros en confinamiento solitario son unidos, y ayunamos en solidaridad con las demandas de los huelgistas de hambre. También ayunamos para lograr justicia por Trayvon y personas de cualquier genero, raza, y religion que ha sido asesinados por la violencia estatal o vigilante.
– Miércoles, 31 de julio a las 11am (Oscar Grant Plaza :14th and Broadway, Oakland, CA)
– Miércoles, 31 de julio a las 12pm (Downtown Los Angeles Federal Building, 300 N. Los Angeles St. LA 90012)
– Miércoles, 31 de julio Educación de la Comunidad durante todo el día (Puedes recoger los materiales en SubRosa Community Space & Cafe: 703 Pacific Ave Santa Cruz, CA 95060 y Participar en el evento a las 6:30pm en Santa Cruz Downtown Clocktower on Ocean st. & Pacific St.)
Gracias por tu compromiso. Ya Basta
In solidarity/En solidaridad,
Annie Banks, Californians United for a Responsible Budget” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- CA Prisoners’ Hunger Strike Day 23: Call Today and Strike Tomorrow in Solidarity! (indybay.org)
- “Man Down!” (inprisonedwomen.wordpress.com)
- Around 30.000 inmates held in prisons across California have taken the first steps towards …the largest hunger strike in state history (inprisonedwomen.wordpress.com)
- Suicide of California Hunger Strike Participant Draws National Attention to a Broken System (solitarywatch.com)
- Mass Hunger Strike by California Prisoners Continues Despite Retaliation by Authorities (dissidentvoice.org)
- California Hunger Strikers Enter Third Week, Face Retaliation by Victoria Law (zcommunications.org)
- California prison hunger strike is call for justice | Sadhbh Walshe (guardian.co.uk)
- Did California Inmate Die From Hunger Strike or Suicide? (blogs.sfweekly.com)
- Cdcr Punishes Hunger Strikers, Brown Goes on Vacation (aboriginalpress.wordpress.com)
With 80.000 Prisoners in Solitary Confinement, the U.S. Holds More People inSegregation Than Other Countries Have In Their Entire Prison Systems
Check out this great video I am watching over at
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A federal civil rights investigation has concluded that a state prison in western Pennsylvania kept inmates with serious mental illness in solitary confinement for months or even years at a time.
The State Correctional Institution at Cresson violated the constitutional rights of inmates with mental illness and intellectual disabilities by keeping them in their cells 22 to 23 hours a day, the U.S. Justice Department said Friday. It said the prison used solitary confinement as a means of warehousing mentally ill inmates because of serious deficiencies in its mental health program.
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections plans to close Cresson, but the Justice Department said the misuse of solitary confinement could extend to prisons statewide. The department is expanding its probe to include all state prisons.
The administration of first-term GOP Gov. Tom Corbett said it will review the findings and continue to cooperate with the Justice Department probe.
Corbett’s Corrections secretary, John Wetzel, identified mental health as an area needing improvement early in the governor’s tenure, and has been working on improvements, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Susan McNaughton said Friday night.
Cresson’s misuse of solitary caused mental strain, depression, psychosis, self-mutilation and suicide, the investigation found. Cresson also denied the prisoners basic necessities and used excessive force, the federal agency said.
“We found that Cresson often permitted its prisoners with serious mental illness or intellectual disabilities to simply languish, decompensate, and harm themselves in solitary confinement for months or years on end under harsh conditions in violation of the Constitution,” Roy L. Austin Jr., deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights, said in a statement.
The Justice Department said Wetzel and his staff are cooperating fully with the probe and have been receptive to the agency’s concerns.
McNaughton said the staff has been trained in crisis intervention for mentally ill offenders, and that a new policy will place seriously mentally ill inmates in treatment when they first enter the system, among other improvements.
“Systemic improvements do not and cannot occur overnight, but we have a better system today than we did a year ago, and we are confident we will have a better system next year than we do today,” McNaughton said via email.
- Inmates With Serious Mental Illness Kept In Solitary Confinement For Years (huffingtonpost.com)
- Prison Misused Solitary Confinement: Feds (abcnews.go.com)
- Pennsylvania prison misused solitary confinement for mentally ill inmates, feds say (pennlive.com)
- Feds say Pa. prison misused solitary confinement (khou.com)
- Feds say Pa. prison misused solitary confinement (cnsnews.com)
- Feds say Pa. prison misused solitary confinement (heraldonline.com)
- Feds say Pa. prison misused solitary confinement (kansascity.com)
- Feds say Pa. prison misused solitary confinement (miamiherald.com)
- Prison Misused Solitary Confinement: Feds (abcnews.go.com)
- Solitary Confinement Misused In Pennsylvania Prison: Feds (huffingtonpost.com)
The Worst of the Worst (Yale Visual Law Project)
See on Scoop.it – up2-21 thank You!
When you are on top of the world, everyone wants to be your friend, and everyone wants to ride
the train until you make an error in judgment, or make a mistake, then you find out who your
real friends are. Something that has always stirred my insides, is how quickly people will
rush to judgment of others, without knowing all the facts, or hearing all sides of an argument.
When I look at a blog, or news website, I like to look at the comments being made by individuals,
in regards to a certain subject that piques my interest. I quit looking at many blogs, simply
because much of the information given is worse than a gossip column, and many comments made by
people in regards to blogs, and some news articles are poorly worded, incoherant tirades, that
have no meaning,or bearing. Everytime I look online at some article about some kid, who has been
thrown in jail over some act, I am appalled at the sheer negativity, of a large portion of those
comments being made. Don’t get me wrong, there will be a few positive one’s being made, but most
of them will be bad, and what is troublesome, is many individuals making the comments don’t know
jack about it, and are just making an off-the-cuff remark, without considering anything. Since
I have had the pleasure of reading Damian Echols book “Life after Death” I fully agree with him
in regards to what he has to say about hate mail, and or negative online comments. I quote from
the book “Hate mail comes from people who haven’t actually stopped to learn the facts of my case
and never get past the initial knee-jerk reaction. Most people who spew hatred aren’t very intelligent
or motivated. They tend to be lazy. They never take the time to research a case.” I myself have been
subject to first hand to some of these gossip column tirads, and so have all kids in the court system,
including James Prindle and Blade Reed.
James Prindle received a 22 year prison sentence, for a crime he didn’t commit. Blade Reed received a 30
year sentence, for his crime, was only 14 when sentenced as an adult, and was never in any trouble
To these individuals who spew hatred,or don’t know heads or tails of what they are commenting on, I
say this. You have to experience something for yourself, or you’ll never comprehend it.
If they did, there would be many more second chances, and compassion. Unless your child, best friend,
or someone very close to you experiences it, you will never know what it is like. Your feelings
will never be the same.
Found this Website with a lot of informations about Bipolar Disorder. Could be very interesting for …
please, see the Article in Mother Jones, too!
“How Crazy Is Too Crazy to Be Executed?”
The question in the title of this post is the main headline of this new Mother Jones essay authored by capital defense attorney Marc Bookman. The lengthy piece carries this summary subheadline: “The voices told Andre Thomas to gouge out his eyes. But even that hasn’t convinced the state of Texas to reconsider his death sentence.”
This companion piece, also authored by Marc Bookman, is headlined ” 13 Men Condemned to Die Despite Severe Mental Illness: If juveniles and intellectually disabled people are ineligible for execution, why not paranoid schizophrenics?”. Here is how that piece gets started as an introduction to summaries of 13 capital cases involving defendants with severe mental illness:
Just how crazy must a person be to be ruled incompetent for execution in the United States? Being profoundly mentally ill is not enough. You have to be deemed legally “insane.” At trial, the insanity defense generally hinges on a person’s inability to distinguish right from wrong or understand the “nature and quality” of his act. In the context of an impending execution, insanity means you cannot rationally comprehend that you are being put to death as a consequence of the crime you committed.
In 2005, a Texas jury found that Andre Thomas, the subject of my in-depth companion piece (see box below), was not insane at the time of his crime. To put this in context, consider that Thomas was then, and still is, a delusional paranoid schizophrenic who hears voices — from God, he believes — telling him to do things. He carved out the organs of his four-year-old son, his estranged wife, and her 13-month-old daughter, and took them home in his pockets, believing that this would kill the demons inside them. In the days following his arrest, he insisted to a jailhouse nurse that his victims were still alive.
And that’s not even the weirdest part of the story. Thomas’ case is on appeal in federal court, and as it stands, the courts cannot even address the question of whether he is competent to be executed until he is about to be. But should someone as obviously crazy as Andre Thomas be facing execution at all? Over the past decade, US courts have barred the death penalty for the intellectually disabled and for juveniles — the Supreme Court found that they have less culpability due to their lower mental functioning and immaturity. Many legal observers believe that barring the death penalty for the severely mentally ill, given their dissociation from reality, is the next frontier in capital jurisprudence.
Over the years, governors from both parties have seen fit to commute the death sentences of profoundly mentally ill prisoners, even in conservative states. But authorities in Texas have shown little mercy: The state Board of Pardons and Paroles has recommended clemency based on mental illness in only one case since 1977, when the death penalty came back into use (see Kelsey Patterson below) — and Gov. Rick Perry denied it.
February 12, 2013 at 05:35 PM | Permalink
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference “How Crazy Is Too Crazy to Be Executed?”:
- 13 Men Condemned to Die Despite Severe Mental Illness (motherjones.com)
- “How Crazy Is Too Crazy to Be Executed?” (sentencing.typepad.com)
- How Crazy Is Too Crazy to Be Executed? (motherjones.com)
- Warren Lee Hill: Petition which could save his life. Please, sign! (inprisonedwomen.wordpress.com)
- Too crazy to execute? Man killed family because ‘God said’ they were ‘Jezebel,’ ‘AntiChrist’ and a demon (thesunnews.typepad.com)
- Convicted killer’s former attorney testifies (billingsgazette.com)