Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Lawmakers call for 'torturous' solitary confinement to end

Calling the practice torturous and degrading, a group of Pennsylvania lawmakers, clergy and prison reform advocates gathered in the state Capitol  to call for new laws limiting solitary confinement of prisoners across the state, reported The Pennsylvania Capital-Star.
The event took place the same day that advocates erected an 8×12 foot solitary confinement cell in the Capitol. Outfitted with just a sink and a bed, advocates said the replica shows the conditions inmates face when they spend months or years in so-called “restricted housing units.”
“Solitary confinement is a form of torture,” said Sen. Larry Farnese, D-Philadelphia, a sponsor of a Senate bill putting new restrictions on solitary confinement sentences. “It warehouses people with problems rather than addressing them before releasing people back to society.”
Secluding inmates is a common disciplinary tool in American jails and prisons, despite evidence that prolonged isolation causes depression, psychosis, and suicidal ideation. 
Solitary confinement is generally reserved for inmates who pose a danger themselves or others. But critics of the practice say it can be liberally doled out as a punishment for minor infractions, and that prisoners have no way to appeal a solitary confinement sentence. 
Confined inmates are also subjected to frequent strip-searches when they leave their cells to shower or eat, said Doug Hollis, a formerly incarcerated person who says he spent 30 days in isolation.
 “It’s a humiliating experience,”Hollis said. “You’re stripped of your dignity… whatever the reason [for being there], it’s dehumanizing and wrong.”
In Pennsylvania, 85 percent of inmates in solitary confinement were sent there for failing to obey an order, according to a news article shared by the state Department of Corrections. 
A 2018 report by The Appeal, a non-profit criminal justice news site, found that some of the more than 100 inmates in solitary confinement in Pennsylvania had been held in seclusion for months or years. 
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