Yet another chilling story, this time from Florida’s Dade Correctional Institution, An Inmate Dies After Being Locked in a Scalding Shower for Two Hours. His Guards Won’t be Charged. The brutality and inhumane treatment is shocking, but what’s worse is the lack of accountability and proper oversight.
In a recent article in the Daily News, The Prisoners We Should Put on Rikers, Pace Law Professor and nationally recognized expert on prisoners’ rights Michael B. Mushlin writes that although Mayor de Blasio’s announcement endorsing the recommendation of an independent commission to close the Rikers Island jail complex is a step in the right direction, the better solution might be to keep Rikers operational to house prisoners from the five boroughs who would otherwise be sent upstate.
Prof. Mushlin points out:
For example, 58% of incarcerated individuals from the city’s metropolitan region are in prisons more than 200 miles from their homes. And remarkably, 27% of the entire state prison population is more than 300 miles from the county of commitment.
The location of New York prisons so far away makes maintaining meaningful family ties almost impossible. These ties are strongly associated with successful reintegration, lower recidivism rates and improved behavior while incarcerated.
In a Netflix original documentary titled 13TH, to signify the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery, scholars, activists and politicians discuss and analyze the criminalization of African Americans in the United States. This thought-provoking film argues that the mass incarceration of African Americans across the United States is in fact an extension of slavery. See NPR Review. The filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s website features the documentary’s official trailer along with a list of reviews from variety of newspapers. Check it out!
On January 23, 2017, ACLU filed a class action suit against Wisconsin officials alleging severe human and children’s rights abuses. The complaint’s introduction states:
The State of Wisconsin operates the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and the Copper Lake School for Girls, which incarcerate approximately 150-200 youth who are as young as 14 years old, in remote northern Wisconsin. The State routinely subjects these youth to unlawful solitary confinement, mechanical restraints and pepper spraying. Prior to state and federal raids on the facility at the end of 2015, staff also regularly physically abused youth in the facility. Currently, Wisconsin’s juvenile corrections officials lock up approximately 15 to 20% percent or more of the facilities’ young residents in solitary confinement cells for 22 or 23 hours per day. Many of these children are forced to spend their only free hour of time per day outside of a solitary confinement cell in handcuffs and chained to a table. Officers also repeatedly and excessively use Bear Mace and other pepper sprays against the youth, causing them excruciating pain and impairing their breathing. These practices constitute serious violations of the children’s constitutional rights, including their rights to substantive due process, as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and their right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, as guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
- J.J. et al. v. Litscher et al., No. 3:17-cv-00047 (W. D. Wis. Jan 23, 2017) (Complaint).
- ACLU, CAGED IN: Solitary Confinement’s Devastating Harm on Prisoners with Physical Disabilities (Jan. 2017).
- Erica Danielsen, Prof. Mushlin Testifies in Favor of Oversight in NY State Prisons, Pace Criminal Justice Blog (Dec. 8, 2015).
- Jason M. Breslow, What Does Solitary Confinement Do to Your Mind?, PBS Frontline, (Apr. 22, 2014).
- ACLU, Change is Possible: A Case Study of Solitary Confinement Reform in Maine (March 2013).
- ACLU, Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States (2012).
- Solitary Watch Blog
Michael B. Mushlin, Professor of Law at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, Scholar, and Renowned Expert on Prisoners’ Rights, testified on February 7, 2017 before the Connecticut Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights as part of their scheduled Briefing on Solitary Confinement.
Prof. Mushlin has been advocating for more humane conditions in state and federal prisons and jails, he has testified in the past, and written extensively on the topic. He has been consistently calling to ban the use of solitary confinement in prisons and jails coupled with instituting an external and independent oversight to ensure the reform is sustained.