[Ppnews] New Ban on Solitary Confinement for Child Prisoners in Mississippi

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Feb 29 17:18:07 EST 2012

New Ban on Solitary Confinement for Child Prisoners in Mississippi

February 29, 2012
Casella and James Ridgeway

The United States, alone among industrialized 
nations, incarcerates thousands of juveniles in 
adult prisons, after trying and sentencing them 
as adults. We also lead the world in the practice 
of solitary confinement. These two facts have 
come together to create a horrifying reality: 
hundreds of children languishing in isolation cells.

This week, the American Civil Liberties Union and 
Southern Poverty Law Center announced that after 
years of litigation, they had reached an 
agreement with the state of Mississippi that will 
end juvenile solitary confinement in its prisons. 
According to a post on the 
“Blog of Rights”:

On March 22, 2012, a federal court in Jackson, 
Mississippi, will enter 
groundbreaking consent decree, believed to be the 
first of its kind in the nation, banning the 
horrendous practice of subjecting kids convicted 
as adults to solitary confinement
While in 
solitary, the youth are held in almost complete 
isolation and sensory deprivation with virtually 
no human contact, without books, paper or pens, 
radios, pictures, access to television or any 
kind of recreational activity, and are denied all 
visits, telephone calls and even mail from their 
families. If prison staff tags a kid as suicidal 
­ which they often do with punitive motives ­ 
that kid is stripped naked except for a paper gown and denied a mattress.

It’s been known for a long time that 
solitary confinement inflicts intense suffering, 
worsens pre-existing mental illness and causes 
psychiatric breakdown even in mature healthy 
adults ­ let alone in emotionally vulnerable 
kids. International law recognizes that solitary 
confinement can rise to torture and, furthermore, 
that kids under the age of 18 are particularly 
vulnerable to the damaging effects of solitary. 
These effects are so well understood that 
international law now prohibits solitary 
confinement of any person under the age of 18, 
strongly condemning it as a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

According to the 
Clarion Ledger, the groups’ lawsuit, filed in 
November 2010, challenged what it called “brutal, 
unconstitutional conditions” at Mississippi’s 
Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility. WGYCF, 
which houses male prisoners ages 13 to 22, is 
operated by the GEO Group, America’s second 
largest private prison company. In addition to 
placing kids in solitary confinement, the suit 
alleges that “guards beat inmates, smuggled drugs 
to the youths and engaged in sexual acts with 
them,” as well as allowing older inmates to prey 
on younger ones. In an incident two years ago, 14 
young inmates were injured, including one who 
suffered brain damage. The consent degree 
announced this week will also ban the placement of juveniles at WGYCF.

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