NYAPRS Note: Supporting strategies to address the horror of up to 120,000 Americans, a large number of whom are diagnosed with a mental health condition, living each day in barbaric solitary confinements has long been a NYAPRS policy priority, dating back to our front and center support of the successful passage of New York’s SHU Exclusion Act of 2011 (with ‘Special Housing Unit’ as a euphemism for ‘the box.’
Read more about that law at http://www.correctionalassociation.org/news/isolated-confinement-the-facts.
This is why NYAPRS has continued to play leading roles in securing over $3.4 million for local Crisis Intervention Team diversion initiatives and last year’s approval for the restoration of Medicaid 30 days before prison/jail release for ‘high needs’ groups (awaiting CMS action).
And that’s why NYAPRS will be out front again in the coming state budget/legislative session working closely once more as a member of ‘Mental Health Alternatives to Solitary Confinement’ (MHASC) to seek passage of bills that will either virtually eliminate its use for, at minimum, people diagnosed with extensive mental health conditions.
Look for a flyer to come out shortly advertising our February 28th Annual Legislative Day in Albany!
Solitary Confinement: the Least Discussed & Most Unknown Public Health Crisis in America: A Conversation with Jean Casella (December 19th)
On any given day US prisons and jails hold between 80,000 and 120,000 men, women and children in solitary confinement. A significant percent of these individuals enter solitary with a mental disease and a similar percent of those held in isolation for extended periods of time develop severe psychiatric illnesses that include self amputation and suicidality. (US prisons and jails constitute the largest psychiatric hospitals in the country.)
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Juan E. Mendez, has concluded solitary confinement for more than 15 days constitutes torture. InHell is a Very Small Place, Voices from Solitary Confinement," edited by Jean Casella, James Ridgeway and Sarah Shourd, 16 former and current solitary confinement inmates discuss their experience in solitary and two physicians and three professors (in law, political science and philosophy) discuss its physical and psychological effects and legal justification.
During this 32 minute conversation, Ms Casella provides an overview ofHell Is a Very Small Place. She explains why inmates are placed in solitary confinement, for how long and describes conditions under confinement. She provides an overview of the psychological effects of solitary noted by contributing authors Dr. Stuart Grassian and Dr. Terry Kupers. She addresses whether solitary confinement constitutes torture, explains how inmates attempt to keep their sanity, explains to what extent private sector profit making contributes to the practice and discusses what continued progress, if any, may be made under a new, incoming administration.
Ms. Jean Casella is co-director of Solitary Watch, a web-based watchdog project that investigates, documents, anddisseminated information about solitary confinement in US prisons and jails. Prior to co-founding Solitary Watch in 2009, Ms. Casella managed several mission-driven book and magazine publishers including Thunder's Mouth Press and the Feminist Press. Jean's writing has appeared inThe Nation,Mother Jones,The Guardian,Al Jazerra, and other publications and media outlets. The Hell is a Very Small Placeanthology edited was published by The New Press in February. For her work on solitary confinement, Jean was awarded a Soros Media Fellowship in 2012.
For more information concerningHell Is a Very Small Placego to:http://thenewpress.com/books/hell-very-small-place.
The UN Special Rapporteur's report is at:http://solitaryconfinement.org/uploads/SpecRapTortureAug2011.pdf.
For another physician's review of solitary confinement, see, for example, Dr. Atul Gawande's essay titled,"Hellhole," in the March 30, 2009 issue ofThe New Yorker. At:http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/03/30/hellhole.