[Pnews] Groundbreaking New Report Exposes Impact of Solitary Confinement in Louisiana State Prisons

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jul 1 13:39:49 EDT 2019


https://solitarywatch.org/2019/06/25/groundbreaking-new-report-exposes-impact-of-solitary-confinement-in-louisiana-state-prisons/ 



  Groundbreaking New Report Exposes Impact of Solitary Confinement in
  Louisiana State Prisons

June 25, 2019
------------------------------------------------------------------------

In response to requests for comment by media, LADOC spokesperson Ken 
Pastorick accused the report authors of publishing “propaganda,” and 
questioned the veracity of survey respondents’ accounts. He also 
challenged the numbers included in the report, though they were based on 
the latest comprehensive data made available by the state through public 
records requests, and on figures published in the recent report by the 
Vera Institute for Justice, which is working in partnership with LADOC 
to reduce its use of solitary confinement.

In a statement, Pastorick said that “the state’s latest figures show 
1,184 inmates are in restrictive housing,” representing “about 3.75% of 
the inmate population.” These figures are highly misleading. The 1,184 
figure includes only individuals housed in state prisons, while well 
over half of all state-sentenced individuals are housed in local parish 
jails. As the report explains, there is no reliable data on how many 
people are held in solitary confinement in parish jails, thus they are 
not included in any counts. Yet Pastorick, knowing this, still 
calculated his percentage of 3.75 based on the total state-sentenced 
population, including those housed in jails.  This percentage would be 
accurate only if there were absolutely no state-sentenced individuals in 
solitary in parish jails, which we know to be false.

As a share of people in state prisons, the 1,184 individuals LADOC says 
are currently in solitary constitute approximately 8 percent—still 
double the national average, and among the very highest in the country. 
In addition, reports from advocates and incarcerated individuals suggest 
that some of the people moved out of restrictive housing units, 
primarily the notorious Camp J, remain in conditions that would qualify 
as solitary confinement under internationally accepted definitions.

Nonetheless, as acknowledged in the report, the reductions are 
significant, as is the closing of Camp J. By cooking the numbers in its 
statement to the press, LADOC only undermines its genuine achievements 
in reducing the use of solitary confinement in its state prisons, 
and dilutes the sense of urgency to implement further reforms. /— Jean 
Casella/

_______________________________________________________________

/Solitary Watch, the ACLU of Louisiana, and the Jesuit Social Research 
Institute/Loyola University New Orleans issued the following press 
release on the morning of June 25. /

NEW ORLEANS, June 25, 2019—A morning press event on the campus of Loyola 
University marks the release of a new report that includes harrowing 
first-hand accounts of prolonged isolation in Louisiana’s state prisons, 
where at last count the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and 
Corrections (LADOC) held at least 17 percent of people in some form of 
solitary confinement—some 3,000 individuals in all. This percentage was 
double the next highest state’s, and nearly four times the U.S. national 
average, making Louisiana an outlier state in an outlier country when it 
comes to the use of solitary confinement.

The report, /*LOUISIANA ON LOCKDOWN: A Report on the Use of Solitary 
Confinement in Louisiana State Prisons, With Testimony From the People 
Who Live It,*/ is published by *Solitary Watch, the ACLU of Louisiana, 
and the Jesuit Social Research Institute at Loyola University New 
Orleans*. More than two years in the making, it is based primarily on a 
survey completed by 709 people in solitary in all nine of Louisiana’s 
prisons, the largest ever survey of people living in solitary.

“For decades, solitary confinement occupied one of the darkest corners 
of the U.S. criminal justice system,” said *Jean Casella, Co-Director of 
Solitary Watch*, a national watchdog group that investigates and reports 
on the subject. “Even now, most of what we know is based on data 
provided by corrections departments. That information is incomplete 
without the testimony of people who know what it means to live for 
months, years, or even decades in a 6-by-9-foot cell, cut off from 
nearly all human contact.”

The responses to the survey paint a grim picture of long stretches of 
time spent in small cells that are often windowless, filthy, and/or 
subject to extreme temperatures, where individuals are denied basic 
human needs such as adequate food and daily exercise, and subject to 
many forms of abuse as well as to unending idleness and loneliness, 
resulting in physical and mental deterioration.

“These cells drive men mad,” wrote Carl, who reported spending years in 
solitary. “I have personally witnessed one man take his life, another 
tried to by running the length of the tier and smashing his head into 
the front bars, sadly for him he still lives, if you can really call it 
that…” Those who survive the isolation, Carl wrote, are nonetheless 
destroyed by it: “Too much hurt, too much pain, too much confusion, we 
are lost, lost from God, lost from reality.”

These responses are consistent with a growing body of evidence showing 
the devastating and often permanent psychological and physical harm 
caused by prolonged isolation. In 2015, the United Nations called on 
countries to prohibit the use of solitary beyond 15 days, declaring it 
cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment that in many cases rises to the 
level of torture.

Among the report’s other disturbing findings are the following:

•   Most survey respondents believed their mental health had worsened 
during their time in solitary, describing symptoms including anxiety, 
depression, paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and difficulty 
interacting with others. Some expressed fear that they would “never be 
the same again.”

•  More than 77 percent of people who responded to the survey said they 
had been held in solitary confinement for more than a year, and 30 
percent said they had been there for more than five years. Nationally, 
less than 20 percent of individuals in solitary have been there for more 
than a year.

•  A majority said they were in solitary for breaking prison rules, 
including minor, nonviolent infractions, and many said they were there 
indefinitely, with no clear way of earning their way out through good 
behavior.

•  Approximately 80 percent of respondents reported that physical 
assaults at the hands of staff, as well as threats, intimidation, and 
racial intimidation, were common or very common in solitary confinement.

•  Most respondents said they had personally been subjected to 
additional punishments in solitary, including pepper spray or physical 
restraints, and a few described being punished by being placed in bare 
“strip” cells with only a paper gown to wear.

•  Over 25 percent of respondents reported engaging in self-harm, 
including cutting and head-banging, while in solitary, and most had 
witnessed it. But only 4 percent of those who had harmed themselves said 
they received counseling, while more than 26 percent said they were 
punished for it.

•  Nearly everyone who responded to the survey described serious neglect 
in the areas of medical and mental health care, which they said led to 
suffering, blindness, and even death.

“Solitary confinement raises significant constitutional concerns while 
undermining public safety and inflicting egregious harm on individuals 
and communities,” said *Congressman Cedric Richmond, a longtime advocate 
for ending the practice of solitary confinement.* “This report is a 
stark reminder of the devastating impact solitary confinement has on 
human beings and of the urgent need for reform. Americans have waited 
long enough for a prison system that reflects their values and respects 
human dignity. The time to end solitary confinement is now.”

“These powerful first-hand accounts describe in terrible detail how 
solitary confinement inflicts devastating physical and mental harm on 
those who experience it,” said *Katie Schwartzmann, Legal Director of 
the ACLU of Louisiana.* “Louisiana’s overuse of solitary confinement is 
well-documented, but by recounting these stories, this report has given 
people living in solitary confinement a way to share their experiences 
beyond the prison walls. We are hopeful that LADOC is listening.”

*/LOUISIANA ON LOCKDOWN/* provides a list of detailed recommendations 
that include immediate limits on the use of solitary that would 
drastically reduce the number of people isolated in Louisiana’s prisons:

•  An end to the use of solitary as a response to all but the most 
serious and violent prison offenses.
•  An immediate six-month limit on the length of all stays in isolation 
and ultimately for LADOC to comply with international standards, which 
limit detention in solitary confinement to 15 days maximum.
•  Creation of a transition program out of solitary.
•  Closure of lockdown units at two prisons.
•  A complete ban on solitary for minors under 18, people with mental 
illness, and other vulnerable individuals.
•  Creation of a task force that includes community members, as well as 
experts and prison officials, to bring Louisiana into compliance with UN 
standards.

Recognizing that the practice has adverse effects not only on 
incarcerated people, but on effective prison management and public 
safety, LADOC has recently shown a new openness to change. For several 
years, the department has been working in partnership with the Vera 
Institute for Justice’s Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative, 
which issued its own report last month. LADOC has implemented initial 
reforms recommended by the Vera Institute, and committed to further 
changes in the future.

*/L//OUISIANA ON LOCKDOWN/* is intended to add additional insights and 
an even greater sense of urgency to the push for change, said *Dr. Sue 
Weishar, Policy and Research Fellow for Loyola’s Jesuit Social Research 
Institute,* “It is our hope that this report ensures that the voices of 
some of the most forgotten members of our community are finally heard, 
and that the suffering they so poignantly describe is brought to an end. 
Louisiana’s correctional leaders must move forward with a renewed 
commitment to safeguarding the human rights and respecting the inherent 
human dignity of every person in their care and control.”

In addition to the report authors, the press event features *Dr. Ashley 
Howard, Assistant Professor of History at Loyola*, whose students 
inputted survey responses and who were “devastated and transformed” by 
what they learned. *Rev. Dan Krutz, Executive Director of the Louisiana 
Interchurch Conference,* whose members have issued a powerful statement 
calling for an end to prolonged solitary confinement in Louisiana 
prisons and jails, will also speak at the event.

*Vanessa Spinazola, Executive Director of the Justice and Accountability 
Center of Louisiana* and a founding member of the Louisiana Stop 
Solitary Coalition, stresses that the kind of profound changes needed 
can never come entirely from within the corrections department. She 
notes that a grassroots movement that has come together to work toward 
an end to solitary confinement in Louisiana.

Among the leaders of this movement is *Albert Woodfox, also a founding 
member of the Stop Solitary Coalition, who spent more than 43 years in 
solitary confinement in Louisiana* and became known as one of the 
“Angola 3” before he was finally freed in 2016. Woodfox’s recently 
published memoir /Solitar/y has been called “a crushing account of the 
inhumanity of solitary confinement” (Publishers Weekly).

“I spent more than four decades in solitary and just celebrated my third 
anniversary of freedom,” Woodfox said. “But one thing that the three of 
us made a vow to do is that when we went free, we would be the voice and 
face of the men and women and children that are still hidden behind the 
walls of the prisons, and in the solitary confinement cells of this 
state and this country. Part of doing that is working with the Louisiana 
Stop Solitary Coalition. Solitary confinement is the most cruel form of 
torture there is, and we must abolish it.”

Many others with direct experience of solitary confinement will be 
present at the event, most of them members of VOTE (Voice of the 
Experienced), a New Orleans-based grassroots group “dedicated to 
restoring the full human and civil rights of those most impacted by the 
criminal (in)justice system.”

*Kiana Calloway,* a solitary survivor and the Housing Justice Campaign 
Organizer for VOTE, will describe his own experiences in isolation. He 
will be joined by *Rhonda Oliver,* Executive Director of Women 
Determined, which secures housing and other support for women returning 
from prison, to read narratives from the surveys of people in solitary.

The final narrative they plan to read captures the devastation caused by 
solitary confinement, not only for the individuals who endure it, but 
also for the corrections system and for the families and communities to 
which many will one day return.

“Have you ever seen how a dog becomes after being locked up for a 
while?” Marvin wrote. “When you let that dog out on society what usually 
happens? Trouble, right? Well being in segregation for long periods of 
time have the same effect on a man. When let out, anxiety is high, fear 
is through the roof. This leads to antisocial behavior, substance abuse 
to self medicate the new mental anguish acquired from being caged like 
an animal. This in turn leads to destructive sometimes criminal 
behavior, which in turn can lead back to the same cage the man just 
left. Isn’t this the definition of insanity? If so then it begs to 
differ that the system is INSANE! This produces men of insane minds, not 
productive citizens, who have been rehabilitated for society. I pray to 
God I will do good after being segregated for so long.”

*The full report is online at: solitarywatch.org/louisianaonlockdown 
<https://solitarywatch.org/2019/06/25/groundbreaking-new-report-exposes-impact-of-solitary-confinement-in-louisiana-state-prisons/solitarywatch.org/louisianaonlockdown>.*

•

Launch Event for *LOUISIANA ON LOCKDOWN: A Report on the Use of Solitary 
Confinement in Louisiana State Prisons, With Testimony From the People 
Who Live It*

Tuesday, June 25, 10:00—11:30 am, Loyola University New Orleans, 
Greenville Hall, 7214 St Charles Ave. (corner of Broadway and Pine 
Streets, set back from street). Parking available on Pine Street.

LIST OF EVENT PARTICIPANTS
Albert Woodfox, survivor of 43 years in solitary confinement in 
Louisiana state prisons; author of the new memoir Solitary; and founding 
member, Louisiana Stop Solitary Coalition
Jean Casella, Co-Director, Solitary Watch
Katie Schwartzmann, Legal Director, American Civil Liberties Union of 
Louisiana
Dr. Sue Weishar, Policy and Research Fellow, Jesuit Social Research 
Institute/Loyola University New Orleans
Vanessa Spinazola, Executive Director, Justice and Accountability Center 
of Louisiana, and founding member, Louisiana Stop Solitary Coalition
Rhonda Oliver, Executive Director, Women Determined
Kiana Calloway, solitary survivor; Housing Justice Campaign Organizer, 
Voice of the Experienced (VOTE); and Program Manager, Roots of Renewal
Rev. Dan Krutz, Executive Director, Louisiana Interchurch Conference
Dr. Ashley Howard, Assistant Professor, History, Loyola University New 
Orleans
Dr. Alí Bustamante, economist and former Research Fellow, Jesuit Social 
Research Institute/Loyola University New Orleans
Rev. Fred Kammer, SJ, Executive Director Jesuit Social Research 
Institute/Loyola University New Orleans

For more information, contact Channing Grate, channing at gpsimpact.com, 
401-286-7499,
or Jean Casella, jcasella at solitarywatch.org, 917-974-0529.

# # #

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