New York State has agreed to sweeping reforms intended to curtail the widespread use of solitary confinement, including prohibiting its use in disciplining prisoners under 18. In doing so, New York becomes the largest prison system in the United States to prohibit the use of disciplinary confinement for minors, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union . . . State correction officials will also be prohibited from imposing solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure for inmates who are pregnant, and the punishment will be limited to 30 days for those who are developmentally disabled, the court filing says.
The agreement imposes “sentencing guidelines” for all prisoners, specifying the length of punishment allowed for different infractions and, for the first time in all cases, a maximum length that such sentences may run, the civil liberties group said. No such guidelines exist, except in cases involving certain violent and drug-related offenses.
“Segregation, isolation, separation, cellular, lockdown, Supermax, the hole, Secure Housing Unit … whatever the name, solitary confinement should be banned by States as a punishment or extortion technique,” UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Méndez told the General Assembly’s third committee, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural affairs, saying the practice could amount to torture.
Solitary confinement causes and worsens mental illness and is an extreme punishment even for inmates with sound minds. Solitary confinement has caused much controversy in recent years. Prisoners in numerous correctional institutions united and staged hunger and labor strikes to protest solitary confinement and other harsh practices that are objectionable from a human rights standpoint. Some American inmates have been interned in tiny solitary cells for decades, including people who are generally considered to be political prisoners, like the Angola 3 in Louisiana.
A University of Michigan neuroscientist suggested Friday that the physical impact on the brain could be just as significant if not moreso, and could “dramatically change the brain” in just a matter of days. Speaking on a panel about solitary confinement, neuroscientist Huda Akil said a number of other studies have documented how each of the factors involved in solitary confinement change the physical shape of the brain.
Thanks to Elisa Obeso, who discussed her daughter, Bianca Marquez, on the "Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill (AIMI)" Blogtalkradio broadcast. We broadcast Wednesdays at 9pm PST. AIMI endeavors to decriminalize mental illness by exposing and opposing mistreatment of mentally dysfunctional people like Bianca, who is suffering in solitary confinement this very minute in Arizona State Prison - Perryville, the Lumley Unit.