Category Archives: Solitary

Solitary Confinement posts.

The Guardian: Solitary Confinement’s Invisible Scars

October 30, 2013 – Five Omar Mualimm-Ak, a New York prison reform writer and activist, discusses the five years that he spent in solitary confinement in article for The Guardian. Mualimm-Ak’s painfully poignant experience has led him to echo the Special Rapporteur’s position that prolonged solitary confinement amounts to torture.  Mualimm-Ak was initially placed in solitary confinement for participating in a prison fight but continued to be kept there for nonviolent and nonsensical prison “violations.” The author describes the arbitrary process by which prison guards place prisoners in solitary confinement and how these decisions are rarely, if ever, subject to authoritative oversight.  Mualimm-Ak concludes that solitary confinement acts like an invisible scar in that it causes severe psychological damage that is no less permanent nor painful than a visible wound.

Special Rapporteur on Torture appears as Expert Witness before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on public hearing on the Human Rights situation of detainees in Guantanamo.

October 28 2013 – The Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Méndez, appeared as an expert witness before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on a public hearing on the human rights situation of detainees held in Guantánamo in which the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) acted as petitioners. In his submission to the IACHR, the Special Rapporteur called on the US government to grant access to the IACHR and other UN mechanisms, such as the Working Groups and the Special Rapporteurs, to Guantánamo to conduct visits and interviews of detainees without supervision. He also stressed that the conditions of detention in Guantánamo, including indefinite detention, solitary confinement,and forced feeding, amount to ill treatment and, under certain circumstances, constitute torture and need to be investigated in accordance with international law. He reiterated his call to prosecute or release prisoners and to take definite steps to close Guantánamo once and for all. A webcast of the hearing can be seen here.

Prominent Georgetown Professor Echoes Special Rapprteur’s Statement that Prolonged Solitary Confinement Can Amount to Torture

October 24, 2013 – Professor David Cole, a prominent constitutional law, national security, and criminal justice law professor at Georgetown University Law Center, quoted the Special Rapporteur’s position on solitary confinement in his Washington Post article.  Professor Cole discusses how prolonged solitary confinement can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by recounting the story of Henry Wallace, a man who spent forty-one years in solitary confinement after being deprived of his right to due process.

The Special Rapporteur Discusses Solitary Confinement, Hunger Strikes, Situation of Prisoners in California, U.S., During Interview

October 24, 2013 – In an interview with Huffington Post the Special Rapporteur on torture expressed concern over the extensive use of solitary confinement in the U.S., and particularly in the state of California, where prisoners went on hunger strike to protest the practice last summer. The Special Rapporteur noted with concern that there are very few regulations governing the use of solitary confinement, and discussed his recent interventions in the California cases, as well as his requests to visit prisons in California and Guantanamo Bay.

Catholic Online: Special Rapporteur says solitary confinement in the U.S. can amount to torture

October 23, 2013 – Catholic Online discusses the Special Rapporteur’s position on prolonged solitary confinement in its recent article. According to the Special Rapporteur, solitary confinement that exceeds fourteen days is considered torture because it may cause serious psychological trauma. The article refers to studies which show that solitary confinement can lead to long-lasting psychological damage by depriving an inmate of his or her natural instinct to socialize. These damages may make it substantially more difficult for prisons to integrate themselves back  into society upon their release.

Special Rapporteur Discusses Solitary Confinement in the U.S. During Panel Discussion Following Screening of Herman’s House

October 23, 2013 – The Special Rapporteur joined activists from the ACLU, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and the director of  the film Herman’s House, for a discussion of solitary confinement in the United States. The film featured the story of Herman Wallace, a former Black Panther who spent 40 years in solitary confinement in Louisiana’s Angola Prison.  A webcast of the panel discussion will be available here shortly.

Special Rapporteur Still Awaiting Permission to Investigate the Use of Solitary Confinement in California’s prison system.

October 21, 2013Despite the Special Rapporteur’s repeated requests to investigate California’s prisons after the state prisoner hunger strike this summer, the U.S. State Department and the governor of California have yet to issue an official response. The Rapporteur reiterates the importance of investigating prison conditions, especially in regards to the practice of solitary confinement, to evaluate whether California is violating international human rights norms.  While California’s governor Jerry Brown claimed to be unaware of the Rapporteur’s previous requests, the U.S. State Department told the LA Times that they may be open coordinating the Rapporteur’s visit. Read more here.

Special Rapporteur Seeks Access to California Prisons

October 19, 2013 – During his trip to California, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez discussed his recent efforts to gain access to and investigate conditions in California prisons with the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times. The Special Rapporteur expressed concern about the increasing use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, arguing that authorities should provide greater justification for placing inmates in solitary confinement. California currently holds approximately 10,000 prisoners in isolation units, some of whom can be held in solitary confinement for indefinite periods of time. In May of this year, the Special Rapporteur asked the government for permission to visit the state’s prisons and has yet to receive a response form either the U.S. State Department or the Governor of California. Read the full article here.

UN Rights Expert Deplores Prisoner’s Four Decades in Solitary Confinement as “Torture”

October 7, 2013 – The Washington Post reports on statements by Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez urging the United States to immediately end four decades of indefinite solitary confinement imposed on Albert Woodfox at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.  Mr. Woodfox, a former Black Panther, was convicted of murdering a prison guard along with Herman Wallace in 1972.  The Special Rapporteur stated that “keeping Albert Woodfox in solitary confinement for more than four decades clearly amounts to torture,” and urged the United States Government to adopt concrete measures to eliminate the use of prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement under all circumstances. He added that the circumstances of the incarceration of the “so-called Angola Three clearly show that the use of solitary confinement in the US penitentiary system goes far beyond what is acceptable under international human rights law.” Read the Special Rapporteur’s full press release on the United Nations website.

Special Rapporteur Juan E. Méndez Featured in New Film about Children in Solitary Confinement

September 2013 – U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez reiterates his position that the solitary confinement of juveniles should be prohibited under all circumstances in Todd Krainin’s new film, “For Their Own Protection”: Children in Long-Term Solitary Confinement.  According to the Special Rapporteur, literature shows that the effects of solitary confinement impact a juvenile’s brain and mind in a very different manner than an adult’s and that such confinement can impede a juvenile’s ability to function  successfully in the future.