Torture By Design: Saying No to the Architecture of Solitary Confinement and Cruelty

An Interview with Raphael Sperry Friday, August 16 marked the 40th consecutive day of a multi-ethnic statewide prisoner hunger strike initiated from inside the Security Housing Unit (SHU) of California's Pelican Bay State Prison. When the strike first began on July 8, the 'California Department of Corrections and Reform' (CDCR) reported 30,000 participants statewide, which the Los Angeles Times wrote "could be the largest prison protest in state history." This week, as the striking … [Read more...]

How to End California’s Prison Hunger Strike

At least 300 inmates are now several weeks into a fast that could soon lead to organ failure and death for many of them. Events are moving rapidly, but as I write, nothing has been resolved. And, as California corrections chief Jeffrey Beard made clear recently in an LA Times Op-Ed, the sides are far apart. Beard, presumably reflecting Gov. Jerry Brown's views, paints the strike leaders as dangerous gang leaders who are pressuring inmates into a hunger strike to "restore their ability to … [Read more...]

California Inmates Protest the Abuse of Long-Term Solitary Confinement

Detainees in Guantanamo are not the only prisoners in US-run prisons on hunger strike. Nearly 7600 inmates in California prisons refused meals for the fifth day Friday to protest prison conditions and rules. Their five core demands center on California’s aggressive solitary confinement practices. Over 80,000 people are held in solitary confinement in US prisons on any given day—12,000 of them in California. California’s prisoners in solitary confinement spend 23 hours a day in Security … [Read more...]

California Facing More Prison Woes

Just six months after declaring “the prison crisis is over in California,” Gov. Jerry Brown is facing dire predictions about the future of the state’s prison system, one of the largest in the nation. A widespread inmate hunger strike in protest of California’s policy of solitary confinement was approaching its second week on Sunday. The federal courts have demanded the release of nearly 10,000 inmates and the transfer of 2,600 others who are at risk of contracting a deadly disease in the … [Read more...]

Light a Candle to Dispel the Darkness of Solitary Confinement

Almost two years have passed since the summer, 2011 hunger strikes initiated by men in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison. The peaceful hunger strikes (eventually joined by up to 12,000 prisoners in the state) were geared at the realization of five core demands all of which the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s top administrators admitted were reasonable at the time! Two years later, key demands have yet to be met!! Unless Governor Jerry Brown and the … [Read more...]

Solitary Confinement Limit Advances in Senate Immigration Bill

The immigration reform bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week includes an amendment that would curtail the use of solitary confinement on immigrant detainees. While the measure’s reach is limited, its passage by the Committee nonetheless represents a significant step for human rights activists working to help shape the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, which will be debated by the full Senate in June. The amendment, Blumenthal 2, was … [Read more...]

How Prison Policies Limit Media Access to Solitary Confinement

Journalists face serious obstacles to reporting on prisons–and even more to uncovering the truth about solitary confinement. (See James Ridgeway’s essay “Fortresses of Solitude.”) Public oversight of governmental institutions, which can help to prevent corruption and abuse by those in power, is seen as a hallmark of an engaged, democratic citizenry. However, when it comes to obtaining information about individuals kept in solitary confinement, the press, and by extension the public, are often … [Read more...]

Strategizing to Defeat Control Unit Prisons and Solitary Confinement

Author and longtime activist Nancy Kurshan’s new book, entitled Out of Control: A Fifteen Year Battle Against Control Unit Prisons, has just been released by the Freedom Archives.Kurshan’s book documents the work of The Committee to End the Marion Lockdown (CEML), which she co-founded in 1985 as a response to the lockdown at the federal prison in Marion, Illinois. It quickly turned into a broader campaign against control unit prisons and human rights violations in US prisons that lasted fifteen … [Read more...]

Lawsuit Challenges Solitary Confinement at Pelican Bay

Prolonged Solitary Confinement at Pelican Bay Is Cruel and Unusual Punishment, Torture, Lawyers Say May 31, 2012, Oakland – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison who have spent between 10 and 28 years in solitary confinement. The legal action is part of a larger movement to reform inhumane conditions in California prisons’ Security Housing Units (SHU), a movement dramatized by a 2011 hunger strike by … [Read more...]

Presbyterians Speak Out Against Solitary Confinement

At its meeting in Pittsburgh earlier this month, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted by an overwhelming margin to accept a resolution recognizing that the use of solitary confinement can be a form of torture. Further, the assembly resolved to call upon the elected political leaders in America to adopt different practices, and to accept the U.N.’s Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture. As evident in recent news, the Presbyterian Church is quite divided on … [Read more...]